From Doug Hitchcox at Maine Audubon
Image wikicommons media
UPDATE – 9 Jan 2022: The Steller’s Sea-Eagle was reported again today, first seen at 7:10AM from the the Maine State Aquarium (currently closed) “heading towards Southport against the wind.” It was found again, perched on Southport Island, across from Mouse Island, at 8:50AM but was only seen for a short time before it was flushed by a passing non-birder. Last seen flying northeast, up Townsends Gut, toward Decker’s Cove, shortly after 9:00AM. There was also a report from ~9:30AM of it flying past the Southport Bridge. Despite lots of effort from birders spreading out across the region, there were no other sightings today.
UPDATE – 8 Jan 2022: First report of the Steller’s Sea-Eagle today was as it flew past the Public Boat Ramp on Landing Road (https://goo.gl/maps/Nvaab5M3CaBYcmbRA) in West Boothbay Harbor at 7:15AM. The eagle was seen flying south, and around 8:45AM it was found perched at the end of Pooler Road (https://goo.gl/maps/Ke9sv2qHaxpdta6o8). Many people were able to see it from roads to the southwest, like Pine Cliff Road, but as people approached Pooler on foot, the eagle was flushed by 9:10AM – a good reminder that people should give this bird plenty of space to avoid flushing it, which causes it to expend energy unnecessarily but also ruins the opportunity for many others trying to see the bird. The eagle settled across the harbor, here: https://goo.gl/maps/FFkWPTHJhVrR3CRS6 and was visible from the Maine State Aquarium (currently closed). By 9:40AM it moved back towards Pooler Road but was shortly after (9:58AM) reported as circling over Boothbay Harbor with ravens, where it was seen flying off towards the east. There were some other possible sightings through the morning, including a second-hand report from Barrett Park around 11:10AM, although the certainty of these, based on reports, seems less than 100%. No other confirmed sightings came in this afternoon.
Tips for Tomorrow: The lack of reports today, and them all coming from a new area, doesn’t help build a pattern that can be helpful. We’ve been suspecting it is roosting somewhere up the Sheepscot River, and the morning sighting of it flying through Townsend Gut seems to suggest that too. It is anyone’s guess, but I’d recommend starting early in an area with visibility towards Barters or MacMahon islands. Spreading out around Boothbay Harbor, or even back towards Five Islands (where it was originally found), or east towards the Damariscotta River (where it was last seen flying today) ought to increase the odds that someone finds it and can get the word out. The Maine Rare Bird Alert GroupMe is the best place for quick and timely updates. Instructions for joining that GroupMe can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/MaineRBAGroupMeRules
Side note: An immature Golden Eagle was spotted by Melissa Roach at 10:30AM, soaring south of Factory Cove in Boothbay. I’m pretty sure this is the first time three species of eagles have been seen at the same time in one place anywhere in the country! Which is pretty neat.
UPDATE – 7 Jan 2022: The Steller’s Sea-Eagle was found again today, by John Putrino, reported via his Instagram Live stream. He found it in the same area it was seen yesterday, by Thorpe Preserve in West Boothbay Harbor. Parking looks limited and the snow is going to make that even more challenging, but it appears the best place to park is at the Public Boat Ramp on Landing Road (https://goo.gl/maps/Nvaab5M3CaBYcmbRA). Despite a few folks braving the snowy weather, no one was able to relocate the eagle after this initial sighting.
UPDATE – 6 Jan 2022: After several days without confirmed sightings, Kaili Morgan photographed the Steller’s Sea-Eagle from private property in West Boothbay, around 4pm. The bird was reportedly “active, seen on a beach and in pine trees.” She said she watched it fly off to the northwest, in the direction of Barters Island (following the same pattern that was seen when it was viewed around Five Islands – presumably roosting somewhere up the Sheepscot River.) McKown Point Road, the road to West Boothbay Harbor, is very narrow and Kaili expressed concerned about traffic and congestion (especially because of the nearby Coast Guard Station). Do not park in areas that will block the road.
Tips for Tomorrow (1/7/22): Please beware of the Winter Weather Advisory in effect for January 7: Snow, mainly before 4pm. Patchy blowing snow after noon. High near 32. Northeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible. Drive safe and do not park in any area that may disrupt plow service. Below is a map Charles Duncan shared in the GroupMe showing the areas the Steller’s Sea-Eagle was seen last weekend (Five Island) compared to the sighting today. These sightings are geographically close as the eagle flies, but a challenging area to bird and access. Do not trespass!
UPDATE – 4 & 5 Jan 2022: No sightings throughout the day.
UPDATE – 3 Jan 2022: A confusing day for reports. There are very credible reports from Five Islands in the morning, but contradictory messaging on the GroupMe caused some confusion as photos of what appeared to be the eagle were found to actually be a bizarrely eagle-like part of a tree (with white in all the right places!) Given the lack of physical evidence (photo, video, etc.) we were calling this “not confirmed” but that doesn’t dismiss the sight-only reports that came from today.
Tips for Tomorrow: People should probably keep watch at the Five Islands wharf, Gray Havens Inn, and Reid State Park, but expanding the search may help. Here is a map of recent Bald Eagle sightings in the area, which could give hints of where to look for the Steller’s: Recent BAEA map
UPDATE – 2 Jan 2022: First reports from today were at 8:30AM, of the Steller’s Sea-Eagle perched on the north end of Wood Island, visible from the Gray Havens Inn on Seguinland Road (map: https://goo.gl/maps/SpUdVcRDT5L7K7Cd8). The bird flew north towards the Five Island wharf around 9:00AM, which caused a bit of confusion as people drove around to relocate it, but it was eventually found sitting on a rock outcropping in front of Pratt’s Island, which is located on the other side of the river. There is very little public access from Southport Island (the other side of the river) so all views were still had distantly from Gray Havens Inn, but fortunately birders with scopes were helpful and shared the views. There were reports it may have been flushed by a kayaker (and anyone attempting to approach by boat should make sure to give this bird plenty of space) but it relocated around 10:50AM back to Wood Island, right in front of the inn where most people were already looking. It moved around a bit from there, but remained visible from the inn through the afternoon. Shortly after 2PM it was seen flying west, in pursuit of a Bald Eagle carrying prey, “over 5 Islands Road, near the little ponds at Seguinland Road” but had returned towards Gray Havens by 3:00PM. Last reports from the day were just after 3:30PM when the bird had apparently been flying between Gray Havens and Reid State Park; last seen flying north.
DO NOT PARK “ON” SEGUINLAND ROAD – There have been two reports today of a sheriff coming by to ask people not to park “on” that road, with one threat of bringing a tow truck. There is plenty of parking at Reid State Park, which is just 1.8 miles south of the inn. *Updating this to specify parking “on” the road.* In the GroupMe Emily Stanislawski clarified: “he had said as long as you were parked all the way in the gravel on the side of the road, that was fine. Just not on the pavement, and stick to only one side. He wanted to be sure that the flow of traffic was not blocked.”
***PLEASE NOTE *** The local lobstermen are bringing in their traps and need to be able to maneuver long trailers down to the wharf. Please be mindful of the folks using this area for their livelihoods; give them the space needed and the right-of-way for accessing the wharf. We’ve heard that there was increased frustration from lobstermen on Saturday so everyone needs to do better to keep this a friendly place for visitors.
UPDATE – 1 Jan 2022: The Steller’s Sea-Eagle is back today, first reported from the Five Islands wharf at 9:07AM. The bird continued to be seen here through the morning, moving a bit, but around 10:45AM had moved to the back side of Mink Island, which isn’t visible from any publicly accessible land. A lobsterman has been offering rides in his boat for small groups, at no charge. Sometime around 1:00PM the bird moved south to Wood Island, where it was seen well by boat but also visible from land at the Gray Havens Inn on Seguinland Road (map: https://goo.gl/maps/SpUdVcRDT5L7K7Cd8) where the owners are “very welcoming” but reports emphasized being careful of where you park as the owners don’t want the lawn torn up (recent warm weather is making everything muddy). DO NOT go to The Mooring Bed & Breakfast, where the owners do not want birders on their property (though out-of-state birders may want to consider booking a room there!). The last report from today was that the eagle was seen flying north (towards Five Islands) around 3:00PM. This is around the time it left the area on the 30th, and only ~1h 20m earlier than yesterday, so it is presumably going to roost somewhere up the Sheepscot River.
Tips for Tomorrow: Again, please be very respectful of private property (DO NOT TRESPASS) and be aware of parking and not blocking narrow roads. Temps will be dropping tomorrow afternoon so beware of icing on the roads – there was one accident reported along Rt 127 today. A pattern is slowly emerging but with only a couple days (and the bird’s freewill) it is hard to say exactly where it’ll be tomorrow, but it moves into the Five Islands area around 9AM each day, apparently coming in from the north, then slowly island hopping until early afternoon before moving down river. It is hard to tell if this might be related to the tide or food availability as little foraging has been observed/reported (don’t worry, it has survived this long in North America, it is clearly eating something sometime), but it’ll be interesting to watch how these movements change over time and if there is any correlation to the tide cycle (and food availability).
Also, a GroupMe for Maine Rare Bird Alerts was started today, a group messaging app for people to send timely updates on the eagle. Read more here to join: https://groups.google.com/g/maine-birds/c/1l00QGAod70/m/iOV5gY8rAgAJ
UPDATE – 31 Dec 2021: The Steller’s Sea-Eagle was first found today perched on the south end of MacMahan Island at 8:20AM and slowly worked its way south to Crow Island around 9:10AM. It worked the trees back-and-forth from Crow Island to Gotts Cove (also labeled Golf Cove on Google Maps) but it should be noted that the vantage points here are all on private property and birders were asked to leave. Fortunately the bird started moving around at at 10:30AM was visible from the Five Islands wharf (43.8238825,-69.70953). It moved around the islands, often perching in one spot for 30+ minutes, and sometimes landing in areas where it wasn’t visible from the mainland. Around 1:40PM the bird flew south, following the shoreline down until we couldn’t follow it any longer – it was amazingly still visible (with a scope, and arguably still identifiable) even as it passed Outer Head, nearly 3 miles from the wharf! Many kudos to the birders who picked it up as it passed Reid State Park and settled on The Black Rocks (43.760423, -69.722549). It moved around a bit on these rocks, tussling with a Bald Eagle at one point, but remained there until the park closed, just after 4:00PM. The final report of the day was at 4:20PM, when the bird was seen flying back up the Sheepscot, towards Five Islands.
Many thanks to Lance Benner for making this map of the locations the eagle moved to today:
Tips for Tomorrow: First, please do not trespass. Although we don’t have enough data to establish a pattern, this bird clearly favors the Five Islands (esp Crow Island) so I suspect that being patient there (which is some of the only public access, and Ledgemere Preserve) is your best bet for seeing this bird. Parking is very limited so please be mindful of where you are parking and how much space you’re taking. The Town Parking Lot (see below) is still the best place but many people had to park along the road today which is quite narrow already. If that is your only option, perhaps try parking on only one side, and beware how wet and muddy the road sides are, especially if parking on the edge of a yard. Although it was hard to get definitive dates, some of the locals mentioned it has been around as many as four days, and these past couple the sightings have been at Five Islands from late morning through early afternoon.
And while I don’t want to encourage anyone to do any risky behaviors, I do want to give Zachary Holderby a major kudos for thinking to bring a kayak up to capture this amazing shot:
What? Chances are you’ve heard of the Steller’s Sea-Eagle, a resident of eastern Russia, that has been roaming around North America since the spring. This is big news, seriously: NPR, NYTimes, CBS News, CNN, Smithsonian Magazine, Huffpost, etc, have all been covering this bird, especially since it made its way south into Massachusetts last week. Well, as a surprise to no Mainers, its stay in Mass was short, and the Steller’s Sea-Eagle was found in Maine on December 30th!
Where? So far the only sighting in Maine has been at Five Islands in Georgetown (Sagadahoc County). It was found by a resident, Linda Tharp, who spotted it on the intertidal rocks and in the trees of Crow Island. The wharf at Five Islands (43.8238825,-69.70953) is the best public vantage point for this area. The Steller’s Sea-Eagle is likely to be found hunting almost anywhere you could find a Bald Eagle right now, and almost certainly will be around open water (for catching fish). Unfortunately this means there is a ton of space for this bird to move around and it’ll likely take a lot of effort from the birding community to cover the area and find it.
Side note: The Sheepscot (where it was seen), Sasanoa, and Kennebec rivers are the route of Maine Audubon’s annual “Bald Eagles of Merrymeeting Bay” cruise each year. This is a large area with lots of eagles, and this eBird map of recent Bald Eagle sightings may help identify areas to check.
Parking/Local Considerations: There is parking at the wharf, but Linda has suggested that birders park just up the road on the left as you approach the wharf, at the tennis court parking lots with the “Welcome to Five Islands” sign (this is also labelled “Town Parking Lot” on Google Maps). Apparently local lobstermen are bringing in their traps this week and need to be able to maneuver long trailers down to the wharf, and will need those close parking spots. Please be mindful of the folks using this area for their livelihoods; give them the space needed and the right-of-way for accessing the wharf.
Updates: (update to updates: A GroupMe group has been created as an easier way to frequent updates on eagle sightings, read details here on how to join: https://groups.google.com/g/maine-birds/c/1l00QGAod70/m/iOV5gY8rAgAJ)
I’d like to strongly encourage birders to post updates to the Maine-birds listserv. This
is was the most timely and direct way to get updates out to the community. eBird is of course a great place to report sightings and the default repository now for records, but these often don’t get posted or distributed as quickly as the listserv. The best place to see updates on eBird is by using the Sagadahoc Rare Bird Alert. Note there is a hotspot for Five Islands that will list recent sightings, but these only show up as they’ve been reviewed (and since reviewers may be out looking for the sea-eagle, it won’t be updated quite as timely). There are Facebook pages like the Maine Rare Bird Alert that will also be updated, but this is a less than ideal method for reporting timely updates.