Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cape May Point State Park to be CLOSED Thursday, October 1

We just learned that Cape May Point State Park will be closed for spraying of exotic invasive species, primarily Phragmites, on Thursday October 1. The gates will be closed, and when they reopen the park is open again - that may be as soon as noon Thursday.

No members of the public will be allowed in the park. CMBO's 8:30 a.m. walk will meet at the park entrance and bird around Cape May Point, which can be quite good for both hawks and perching birds. Parking in the "outer" lot at the park will be limited, so anyone coming on the walk is encouraged to find legal parking on the streets in Cape May Point and walk over to the lot, at the park entrance on the left, to meet the group.

We'll be sure to post here as soon as we learn when the park re-opens.

Excellent Hawk Flight, Low Number but High Quality Landbirds, and How Fast is a Peregrine?

An excellent hawk flight was underway this morning when I left the platform around 10:30 a.m. - one observer later remarked on having 7 species of raptors in one binocular field of view! This is not surprising given the west winds.

Land bird numbers seemed lowish, possibly because showers to the north blocked nocturnal migration (the high wind didn't help, either), but I heard of Connecticut and Wilson's Warblers and Winter Wren seen on the trails at Higbee Beach, and a delightfully cooperative pair of Cape May Warblers entertained many people in the cedars next to the pavilion near the hawk watch. I use the word pair intentionally, since a) it was a male and female, b) they stayed next to each other much of the time, and c) even touched bills at one point, possibly in a food exchange. Like most passerines, Cape May Warblers are thought to be seasonally monogamous, i.e. one male mates with one female for one breeding season (extra-pair copulations have been shown to be common in some species using this system), and I'm not really suggesting these two were traveling together, but perhaps they were.

I was over at Hidden Valley checking on the condition of the big fields there, which were sprayed last spring to control invasive woody plants prior to additional management. Bird activity in the fields was limited - I had Eastern Meadowlark in the back of my mind since one was seen at Morning Flight yesterday - but there were over a dozen Wood Ducks along the trail going into the woods at the very back (southwest) end of the fields. Also of note, funny enough, was the aggregation of 80 plus American Crows in the field across from the parking lot.

On the speedy Peregrine, swing counter Doug Gochfeld asked me how long I thought it took a Peregrine Falcon to cross the bay. He was setting me up, since he already knew the answer from staying in contact with Forrest over at Cape Henlopen, DE on occasional specific birds they both see. One Peregrine made the crossing in 16 minutes!!! That kicks the ferry's butt. Straight line distance from Cape May to Cape Henlopen is about 12 miles. Doug and Forrest clocked another Peregrine at 44 minutes - but it showed up in Cape Henlopen carrying prey! It's hard to know for absolute sure whether these are the same birds, since there's always the chance that a Peregrine could get to Cape Henlopen without being seen from the Cape May platform, but it seems likely they are the same.

Speed of flight can be a very useful bird i.d. clue, especially if you are familiar with a location and can accurately judge how long it is taking a bird to cover ground. Peregrines are deceptively fast when they are trying to make time, faster than Merlins despite the p-bird's slower wingbeat. Merlins in turn are way faster than kestrels. Like any behavioral clue, this has to be applied with caution because Merlins almost always seem to be trying to cover ground, while the other two falcons often take a more leisurely approach.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall has arrived

Tuesday 9/29/09

CMBO held a walk this morning at Higbee's Beach where the group was treated to a good number of mixed flocks of foraging birds. Several species of warblers were observed in tight groups working the sunny tree lines. Tennesse, Nashville, Bay-breasted, Black Poll, and few others were a nice treat. , Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grossbeaks, and Blue Grossbeaks were around in good numbers. 51 species were observed while on the walk with many good looks throughout the morning.

The hawkwatch was well attended today by those aware of the cold front that passed through and the winds turning around to the W then later WNW. Fairly strong winds kept birds down and provided great looks at Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, Kestrels and Bald Eagles. Towards the end of the day we had a terrific look at four Bald Eagles in perfect light and right above the platform. Two birds practically flew touching wings for a few seconds. Very cool. American Bittern, Common Nighthawks, and apparently a Virginia Rail on the park trials were also of note.

Pridictions for Wednesday are to be NW winds 10-15mph throughout the night with mostly sunny conditions during the day. Look for the the last push of the less common warblers and a good push of Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers. At the Hawkwatch look for Cooper's Hawks, American Kestrels and Peregrine Falcons to be abundant. Broad-winged Hawks could still be seen in good numbers as the favorable winds drive them down to the point. This would be a great day to be in Cape May if you can swing it. I suspect a few people might be catching colds tonight:>)
[Bald Eagles by Josh Lawrey]

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blustery Monday

9-29-09 Monday

The Monday morning walk that CMBO puts on had to be moved from the Meadows to the State Park due to temporary closure of the Meadow's trail area. With many in tow braving the strong winds, Pete Dunne led the group through the open areas of the State Park with good success. The walk included a variety of beach, marsh, and pond birds, with a good study of Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Foreter's, Common, and Royal Terns. A Parasitic Jaeger was seen by some working the Tern flock in the rips just out from St. Mary’s. Leaders were.(Pete, Karl, Chuck, Mary Jane, David, Carrie, Judy, Tom)

Hawkwatch notes:
Those that managed not to get blown off the platform enjoyed terrific views of Peregrine falcons ripping across the tree line and Merlins taking full advantage of some serious speed when barraging the starlings in the cedars.
We are all eagerly looking at the forecast for the next three to four days. If there is a way to get here, you should already be on your way!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Hawkwatch and Seawatch Excitemt

Sunday 9-27-09

Strong winds from the South kept movement down but Cape May never lets people down when it come to seeing raptors in action. One of our asteemed Interpretive Naturalist (Melissa) was pointing out the small variety of sparrows to a couple people that were hoping to get a look at the Clay-colored Sparrow and Lark Sparrow. When out of no where, a young Peregrine falcon stooped in and took a swipe at them. The platforms irrupted with oohs and awws at the display. Minus the people looking at the sparrows because they were all scattered to the wind

Seawatch News!

A fairly powerful storm pushed off the coast in the am and moderate SE winds kicked up the surf and pushed hard agains migrants. Small flocks of Scoters, Northern Gannets, Common Loons and Double-crested Cormerants did force their way through. The real excitement came in the latter part of the day with the Seawatch crew finding a Cory's and Greater Shearwater with the latter being a first for the Seawatch. The birds hung around for a few hours and provided visitors with some good looks. At one point a Greated Black Backed Gull and A Laughing gull chased the Cory's Shearwater not far off the watch. Photos have not come in yet. Very exciting!

Saturday at the Beanery

CMBO Walk - Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm - "The Beanery". Slow birding after yesterday's warbler fall out, but we did manage some good raptor sightings including 2 sub/adult Bald eagles.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Warblers, etc.: State Park boardwalk loop

Text and photos (all copyrighted) by Tony Leukering

After a nicely diverse morning flight (23 sp of warblers, etc., including the below Connecticut Warbler) at Higbees on 25 September, birders working the fields there were a bit

disappointed. In such conditions, some of the locals will tell you to check out the State Park. That is because it has a strong tendency to hold birds when Higbees doesn't, and yesterday's showing there was even better than usual! As Don noted below, some 21 species of warblers were found along the boardwalk loop in the trail system. One of the most interesting aspects of the show, and the main feature behind the attraction of birding the site, was that there wasn't a large number of birds present, but what birds were present were not going anywhere. One could ogle all the members of a small flock for long periods without worrying about one or more members slipping away unogled.

Though warblers were certainly the main draw yesterday, other winged beasties attracted attention, particularly a fairly obliging and well-marked Alder Flycatcher.

Red-eyed Vireo was one of the more numerous non-warbler species present, with this individual providing the best photo ops.

The warblers that were most obliging, for me anyway (particularly for interesting poses), were Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Pine, Western Palm, American Redstart, and Common Yellowthroat (immature and adult males).

White-throated Sparrow Arrival + More on the State Park

[Watching warblers at Cape May Point State Park yesterday. We're under the cedars just a little way down the right fork, and it's the cooperative first fall female Canada Warbler that's making us (front to back, Tony, Cameron and me) smile. Photo by Dale Rosselet.]

The warbler collection on the state park red trail was still there last night for the relocated CMBO walk - relocated from the meadows, that is, which are still closed. The walk finished with 9 Common Nighthawks in the air, according to Karl Lukens. The walk added Bay-breasted and Blackburnian Warblers to the list (see below); Doug Gochfeld had seen the Blackburnian earlier in the day.

In the pre-dawn hour the long, level sseeeet flight note of a White-throated Sparrow came in through the window, my first of the fall. The bird appeared under my feeder as the sun rose. Welcome back!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Question: Was this the day?

Answer, as Tony Leukering put it to Lee Smythe, who was asking at the hawk watch: It was A day. A really good one. Not epic, not record setting, just a good day to be a birder.

Nocturnal listening revealed a moderate and diverse flight between the early a.m. rain showers. The fields at Higbee were tough this morning - the CMBO walk found over 50 species but many were flybys or brief glimpses. The spectacle factor was high, however, with 100's of Cedar Waxwings and Northern Flickers, and many raptors.

The hawk flight was really good if not awesome, but the best part of the day, at least for me, was the little fallout of warblers and other birds at Cape May Point State Park, which remained active well into the afternoon, and featured. . .a lot of birds. At least 21 species of warblers were at the park (compared to 23 recorded at Morning Flight, including a long, good but of course flyby view of a Connecticut), but they were feeding actively and with patience gave some really, really good views. A group of us watched a Chestnut-sided Warbler down a gigantic caterpillar, at least 1.5 inches long and nearly 1/4 inch in diameter. Just by walking the red trail loop again and again, many folks came up with impressive lists of birds. The Canada Warbler in particular was another highlight, as it spent several hours working back and forth inside the dense cedars along the trail, reached by going right at the first fork from the parking lot.

A Clay-colored Sparrow appeared at the hawk watch, pointed out by Michael O'Brien for the delight of many. A White-winged Dove has been frequenting a private feeder along Bayshore Road south of the canal, so keep your eye out for that bird. And I just learned a Western Kingbird was briefly seen in Cape May City before it flew off towards the beach, and Upland Sandpiper was a flyover along Bayshore Road.

Here's my state park list from about 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with some species of interest bolded. This is all from the hawk watch plus the red trail:

Location: Cape May Point SP
Observation date: 9/25/09
Notes: Most warblers were on red trail. Cold front passed in middle of night and stalled just south of Cape May, with showers in pre-dawn and early morning. Partly cloudy. Activity remained good well into afternoon hours.
Number of species: 93

Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
American Wigeon X
Mallard X
Blue-winged Teal X
Pied-billed Grebe 3
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron X
Great Egret X
Snowy Egret X
Green Heron 2
Glossy Ibis 6
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey X
Bald Eagle X
Northern Harrier X
Sharp-shinned Hawk X
Cooper's Hawk X
Broad-winged Hawk X
Red-tailed Hawk X
American Kestrel X
Merlin X
Peregrine Falcon X
Common Moorhen X
Lesser Yellowlegs 10
Laughing Gull X
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Common Tern X
Forster's Tern X
Royal Tern X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Northern Flicker X
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Alder Flycatcher 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Red-eyed Vireo 6
Blue Jay 10
American Crow X
Fish Crow X
Tree Swallow 400
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 4
Cliff Swallow 1
Carolina Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 2
Brown Creeper 1
Carolina Wren 6
House Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 8
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 5
Northern Mockingbird 6
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing X
Tennessee Warbler 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Northern Parula 8
Yellow Warbler 2
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 5
Cape May Warbler 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 10
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Pine Warbler 1
Prairie Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 10
Blackpoll Warbler 2
Black-and-white Warbler 4
American Redstart 15
Northern Waterthrush 1
Common Yellowthroat 8
Wilson's Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 1
Clay-colored Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 3
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Indigo Bunting 3
Bobolink X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Baltimore Oriole 5
American Goldfinch 8
House Sparrow X

Thursday, September 24, 2009

[Osprey hunting bunker pond by Josh Lawrey]
Terrific evening Osprey and Kestrel activity. At one point there were five osprey simultaniously hunting Bunker Pond at the state park. The perfect light and fairly close looks added to the delight of the spectators and photographers putting in a little extra time at the point. Perhaps they are sensing the insuing front and stocking up on some food for when the winds turn in their favor. Kestrels moved well trhoughout the day and visitors were often treated with terrific looks at Cooper's and Sharp-shinned hawks together for comparison. Probably the treat of the day was the adult Peregrine Falcon sitting on the Cape May lite house for nearly three hours perhaps deciding what the next move should be in the stratagic game of migration. Tonight we are anticipating a good movement of songbirds and hopefully the woods will be filled again with hidden treasures.

Stilt Sandpiper +Forecast

[Karl Lukens photographed this Stilt Sandpiper in Cape May last week.]

A small hawk flight was developing at Cape May Point this morning, with the winds pretty much pure west by 10:00 a.m. The forecast is for the front to pass tonight, but the winds will not stay northwest through the night, and may have a strong east component by the predawn hours. East is less good, but there certainly will be new birds in Cape May tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Soggy Morning at the Point

It was a very rough walk this morning at the State Park. A few visitors braved the weather report and decided it was worth the risk. We were rewarded with a nice look at a Green Heron at the beginning of the trial and we fought hard for the rest. Caspian Terns in the bunker pond. Savanna Sparrow on the dunes were all soaking wet as were we after a good down poor. A few Yellow Warblers feeding in the bay berry and a large number of Tree Swallows rounded the day out. Outlook for the end of the week looks good it would be great to see some migration.

Stone Harbor Report

Mike Fritz sent the following about last evening's CMBO Stone Harbor Point walk: "There were an amazing number of shorebirds feeding along the tideline today including 28 Piping Plovers. There were probably another 6-10 birds further down the beach, this is one of the highest counts I've ever had for this location. Good weather and good birding overall."

Images from Around Cape May

[Marbled Godwit flying over the free bridge south of Nummy Island last Sunday. As many as 14 have been reported there this week. Photo by Don Freiday; click to enlarge all photos.]

Ten days in mid-September filled my Nikon's 2G memory card. Aptly named - some great memories. I hear yesterday was a pretty slow day in Cape May - not to fear, Friday is looking interesting, maybe Saturday too.

[Piping Plover at Stone Harbor Point, showing one reason this bird is so critically endangered. . .]

[Our two small banded plovers, Piping on the left and Semipalmated on the right, Stone Harbor Point at sunset.]

[American Oystercatcher flyby - note the wing molt proceeding from the inside out.]

[One of the record setting 46 Bald Eagles Monday September 14, this one a juvenile in "field conditions." ]

[More field conditions, this time a Cooper's Hawk.]

[This very juvenile Caspian Tern had to keep a careful eye on the sky over the parking lot at Cape May Point State Park on the 14th.]

[Standing room only on the platform, Saturday September 19.]

[American Kestrels at the Cape May lighthouse before sunrise September 14.]

[Field conditions, Morning Fight style, Higbee Beach. Can you identify this bird?]

[Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - short round wings, long thin tail with white outer tail feathers. Gnatcatcher migration is already past peak.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Clay-colored, Great Corm, Other News

[Karl Lukens photographed this Merlin during CMBO's Higbee walk this morning, which otherwise was pretty light in birds - but a Merlin adds considerable weight!]

Michael O'Brien found a Clay-colored Sparrow at the far dune crossover at Cape May Point State Park today, and a Great Cormorant was at Coral Avenue in Cape May Point.

The seawatch crew started today at Avalon, with. . . well, a light flight, but there were Black and Surf Scoters, indications of things to come. Gail Dwyer came by with the traditional opening day pizza, nice!

[Flyby female Belted Kingfisher at Cape May Point, by Tony Leukering. Kingfishers are migrating now; Josh Lawrey, Steve Kolbe and I saw 10 + around Heislerville, Cumberland County today. This species is a very scarce breeder in Cape May County. Josh will be at the Thompson's Beach platform on Saturday for an event 10-4 Saturday, stop by and see him and Bald Eagles, Clapper Rails, and others too! ]

Another bird that's moving now is Sora, and besides the reports of late south of the Cape May Canal, Karen Johnson just reported that a canoe trip led by her husband Brian in Cumberland County had at least 10!

Marbled Godwit Flyby, Arriving Waterfowl

I just got a text from Michael O'Brien (7:36 a.m.) that a Marbled Godwit flew by the dike just now.

Dave Lord has been working on the pontoon boat The Osprey, and reports that a summering Atlantic Brant in Cape May's back bays was joined by three others yesterday. I don't think I've mentioned this, but a tiny number of Snow Geese and Red-throated Loons were seen from the hawk watch last week, I'm not sure which days. Just in time for the Avalon Seawatch, which begins today, with Nick Metheny at the helm as the primary counter and Doug Gochfeld as Swing Counter. Steve Kolbe will be there as Interpretive Naturalist on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from now until the end of October. The sea watch runs until December 22.

NWS says the next cold front will cross the region Thursday night/Friday morning. The winds are forecast (again - sigh) to go rapidly to northeast after it passes, i.e. by Friday night. We'll see.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Local Reports and the Swainson's that Got Away

[The flooded field along Bayshore Road at the Beanery has accrued some interesting shorebirds of late, including Wilson's Snipe and Solitary Sandpipers, and is always worth a check. The species present change. Tony Leukering photographed this Pectoral Sandpiper there Saturday.]

Sunday was slower and today was slowish, although while swing counting at the hawk watch I had a lovely adult Parasitic Jaeger in the rips but close enough to shore to see the tail streamers.

Sharpies, Coops, kestrels, Merlins, a Peregrine - all in the first couple hours, so the diversity in the raptor department was certainly there.

Since TNC's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge is closed for spraying, maybe I shouldn't mention that that the Cinnamon Tealish bird was still there over the weekend, as was an American Golden-plover and Sora. Today's customary Meadows walk there diverted to the Beanery, where the group enjoyed nice looks at Bobolinks feeding in the weeds and pumpkins in the second field, according to Karl Lukens.

Kathy Horn reports that on Sunday's Butterflies and Dragonflies walk (Sundays 12-2 p.m., meeting at the State Park pavilion near the hawk watch), a sunny afternoon produced 15 butterfly species with highlights including a snout, a white M hairstreak and a fiery skipper. Will Kerlinger, butterfly expert and walk leader, noted that fiery skippers are rare locally, having once counted 74 skippers before finding a fiery.

Hawk count results through Sunday are now posted on View from the Field. Note that Delaware had a Swainson's Hawk Saturday, which is very probably a bird we missed in the stratosphere over Cape May.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good & Good

Meaning the passerine flight (especially morning flight) and hawk flight today. The former was diverse this morning, with Morning Flight observers enjoying about 20 species of warblers including the ever-elusive Connecticut, plus Wilson's, Bay-breasted and Blackpolls, BT Greens and Blues, Nashville, Tennesee, and Cape Mays. Mind you, these are flybys at the dike or the platform. In the fields at Higbee, much the same list was compiled, if you polled multiple observers and made their findings additive. A nice little pocket of birds entertained a bigger pocket of birders in the second field, northwest corner, including Northern Parulas, several Black-throated Green Warblers, a Tennesee, a couple Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and an Alder Flycatcher was just a little further south of there.

The flight was pretty wonderous in volume in the first hour or so after sunrise, in particular of Palm Warblers, virtually all western-type. Redstarts have noticeably thinned, and so the diversity was special too.

The hawk flight was in the ozone, thanks to clear skies and lots of thermals. But many birds could be found by careful scanning.

Maybe Not?

Maybe not today after all, at least for songbirds - only a call a minute overhead in the predawn hour this morning. Swainson's Thrushes, Veeries, Wood Thrush, redstart, Northern Parula. This was along the bay, perhaps others had different nocturnal listening results.

The wind was already NNE (as opposed to having a west component).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Long-billed Dowitcher

[There's always something to look at, even on slow days, e.g. this juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher photographed by Michael O'Brien up on the Higbee Beach WMA dike this morning. As always, we caution that the trail up to the Higbee Dike is treacherously slippery and steep, and not for everyone. Click to enlarge.]

So why is it a Long-billed? I watched this bird for quite a while this morning and it never appeared particularly round, the "swallowed a grapefruit" look Long-billeds sometimes give, but it does have a thickish neck and largish head (don't you just love those "ish" field marks?) and a longish, straight bill. Being a juvenile at close range makes the i.d. a cinch, just look at the plain tertials (as opposed to patterned ones on Short-billed). Long-billed Dowitchers tend to look very sooty gray in juvenal and non-breeding plumage, darker gray than Short-billeds. Juvenile Short-billeds tend to look very colorful, with brightly fringed upperparts feathers.

Best of all, when it flew past it said "keek!" A much different sound that Short-billeds' mellow chuckling whistles. Call is always best when it comes to dowitchers, and happily Long-billed Dowitchers call frequently, even while feeding but especially in flight.

Slowish Day, Owls, Teal; Forecast - Will Tomorrow be one of the Best Birding Days of the Fall?

This morning's Higbee Beach walk may have set the all time record for fewest species, with 33 bird species during the walk. South wind all night, what are you going to do? We did have nice looks at Black-and-white Warbler and Northern Parula, plus several Merlins and a number of flickers. And there are plenty of interesting plants to look at at Higbee!

Tomorrow, I daresay, will be a much different story, with a cold front crossing northern NJ tonight and reaching Cape May sometime around midnight. West-northwest winds from then 'til morning. . .sweet. Tomorrow should be a major Broad-winged Hawk day, somewhere. Not necessarily Cape May, however, though there will surely be Broad-wingeds here.

Hidden Valley had lots of raptors during the morning walk yesterday, including 15 American Kestrels. This morning I stopped in the pre-dawn at the Hidden Valley parking lot and had an owl "trifecta" - 2 Great-Horneds were hooting due south of the lot, a Barred Owl let loose a few times to the southwest, and a bit of whistling got an Eastern Screech-owl to reply.

The possible Cinnamon Teal remains at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, a.k.a. the meadows. Lloyd Shaw and I were looking at it with some other birders this morning, still along the west path, east side near the dune. It's pretty easy to pick out, in part because it has a warm tannish/cinnamony cast to its sides that appears to be staining, not a plumage feature. And it does have a plain face, with little in the way of a line from eye to bill, and it does have a big bill, though some of the Blue-winged Teal have bills at least approaching this one's. The jury is still out on this bird, with some birders convinced and some not. I do wish it had a red eye.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Probable Cinnamon Teal in the Meadows, and note about closures there

[This teal (right bird) was found by Chris Vogel yesterday and identified as a possible Cinnamon Teal. It has been studied by a slew of experts and the current concensus is that it probably is a juv. male Cinnamon Teal, with no obvious signs of being a hybrid. Photo by Michael O'Brien, click to enlarge.]
The Nature Conservancy has informed us that the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge a.k.a. the South Cape May Meadows will be closed for adaptive management practices (spraying of phragmites) beginning Monday, September 21. We'll provide updates as we hear of them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Notes on Flight

I heard 144 flight notes in 10 minutes of listening around 6:00 a.m. this morning at Norbury's Landing, Veeries still predominant but a significant number of Swainson's Thrushes, a few Wood Thrushes, and some warblers.

There's a good, low hawk flight happening now with cloud cover and northeast winds, and many raptors are hunting in Cape May. Songbirding has been slow today.

I understand the first Snow Geese of fall were seen yesterday from Morning Flight and the Hawk Watch, and 6 Mark Garland picked a flock of 6 Black Scoters going south off Cape May around noon today.

Our Biggest Dragonfly

[This Swamp Darner, the great big dragonfly species terrorizing lesser bugs around Cape May lately, paused for a rest at Stone Harbor Point Sunday night. Click to enlarge.]

Cackling Goose, Gray-cheeked Thrush, This-and-that, and some Challenging Little Flycatchers

[Mike Crewe photographed the Cape May Point State Park Cackling Goose. Small size, small bill, short neck, and dusky breast. Caution - there is at least one "small" Canada Goose on Bunker Pond. Click to enlarge.]

The landbird flight yesterday (Tuesday) was much smaller than Monday's, but in some ways more easily viewed. As is often the case on the "second day," the birds at Higbee were much less frantic, generally feeding and therefore viewable. One of our workshop's favorite birds was the Gray-cheeked Thrush that flew cooperatively up to an open limb along the dirt lane leading to the Morning Flight Platform. This area was the best overall, also holding double-digit Black-and-white Warblers, Tennessee, Magnolia, and others. A male Black-throated Blue-warbler was a highlight at the hawk-studded Beanery, where any time you wanted to study a raptor you could, and with choice: Bald Eagles, Broad-wingeds, Red-taileds, both small falcons, both small accipiters.

At Stone Harbor in the afternoon, the tide was weirdly high a full three hours before the forecast high tide, so there was no mudflat to speak of near the free bridge. Nummy Island, however, had a selection of shorebirds, including one of the Marbled Godwits which, unfortunately, was all the way to the east, nearly on the edge of Great Channel.

20 Piping Plovers remain on the beach at Stone Harbor Point, and with the high tide this spot was riddled with birds - Semipalmated Plovers, the three common "peep," knots, oystercatchers, big terns, and gulls. A flock of 22 Great Blue Herons flying south together at sunset capped another marvelous day.

[It's been a good empid fall, including Least Flycatchers (note the nicely displayed short primary projection). . .]

[Alder Flycatchers, note the longer primary projection and brownish cast. . . ]

[And Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, fat-headed plump little things with yellow right up to the chin. All photos by Michael O'Brien, click to enlarge.]

[A bird that sometimes stops birders for a second is Eastern Wood-pewee, especially juveniles. Our workshop studied a bird like this one at Higbee (this one was photgraphed by Tony Leukering at the state park), with a nearly completly dark bill. But it still has the long, pointy wings, dusky vest, nearly complete lack of an eye ring, and just a hint of a little pointy crestish thing at the back of the head. Click to enlarge.]

Monday, September 14, 2009

Harriers, One with a. . .

[Tony Leukering photo'd two of today's harriers, one carrying something. . .a Tree Swallow, perhaps? Click to enlarge.]

Yup, Epic All Right

At 1:38 p.m. I Tweeted "We're about to break daily BE record," thanks to a text from Tony Leukering. And we did, when Pete clicked # 40 on the day. The final Bald Eagle count today was 46.

A foraging frenzy of hundreds of aerial foraging gulls and terns at the hawk watch around 5 p.m. capped an amazing day of birding. I heard from Cameron that Morning Flight was crazy, with multiple Bay-breasted Warblers and a host of other good things. A Cackling Goose spend much of the day swimming its obviously lonesome way (i.e. it wasn't hooked in with any family group) amongst the Canadas on Bunker Pond. Mark Garland and I had. . . well, an interesting flycatcher flyby at the meadows, but unless it is found again by others it may remain no more than that, interesting.

Not Just Real Good - Epic

The sightings sheet at the Northwood Center has this entry for this (Monday) morning: "Great Songbird Flight. Everywhere."

It might depend on what you define as epic, but a morning that started with literally dozens of kestrels and Sharp-shinned Hawks circling high over the state park in pre-dawn has at least the makings of epic. Doug told me he counted something like 78 kestrels in the first hour, with many coming in off the water - they were clearly migrating in the dark. Speaking of the dark, the night flight must have been something - I had 3 species of thrush, a few warblers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak still descending into the state park woods at 6:30 a.m.

Aftern enjoying kestrels bumping one another off the spires at the top of the lighthouse in the warm dawn light, our workshop headed to Higbee Beach, narrowly missing Tony's Wilson's Phalarope on the Steven's Street pond. Higbee certainly had plenty of birds - plenty of hawks, and lots of landbirds including gnatcatchers, warblers including an adult male Hooded seen by part of our group and a number of others, a Connecticut seen only by me unfortunately (I think they had 3 at Morning Flight), Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Northern Parulas, and others. Flickers have started in earnest, with dozens flying around. Bob Fogg found a juv. Red-headed Woodpecker. A Philadelphia Vireo posed for the whole group at length, a real treat.

The hawk flight right now is high in the blue but still what people come to Cape May to see - all the regular September species were represented, and often 40 or 50 hawks could be found in a scan. A parade of Bald Eagles (10? 15?) shortly before noon included a mix of adults and hatch-years. We watched a Merlin pluck a Swamp Darner from the sky right over the pavilion.

"Wow!'s" all around, for sure.

Oh, the Sandhill Crane has been flying about this morning, last seen over Bunker Pond after a bit on the meadows' gull island.

Villas WMA Report

[A Merlin that clearly found something more substantial than a dragonfly to eat! Photo by Tony Leukering.]

Villas WMA had some good birds yesterday; here's Kathy Horn's report: "Under a drab sky, mixed warbler flocks held 11 species including a 1st-year Cape May warbler, and Nashville, Prairie and Palm warblers. Bobolinks frequently 'binked' overhead and many snags held kestrels and Northern Flickers. Number of species: 59. - Leaders: Horns, Sluggs, Weiss, Bamfords, Bell "

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not Epic - Just Real Good

Golden-winged Warbler at Higbee, a decent hawk flight plus an occasionally glimpsed American Bittern from the hawk watch, Least Bittern at the meadows, an ever-increasing assortment of ducks including both teal, American Wigeon, Gadwall, and Northern Pintail, and odds and ends migrants all over Cape May summarizes today - though I haven't heard final results from the hawk watch or morning flight yet.

Now, tomorrow. . . September 14, northwest winds overnight, what more could we ask for? Mark Twain said "Predictions are hard, especially concerning the future," but I am excited about the conditions for the start of CMBO's second 3-day Fall Migration Workshop of the year.

I just returned from Stone Harbor Point, where 2 Peregrines and 3 Merlins played with many Semi-palmated Plovers, Western Sandpipers, oystercatchers, gulls, and other assorted birds including a nice count of 25 Caspian Terns. Just a lovely show on a lovely evening. At one point one of the Peregrines, a dark apparent female, blew through crashing waves and a flock of 300 wheeling sanderlings, a scattering of birds and light in the setting sun. At least 10 Piping Plovers linger on the beach at Stone Harbor Point.

Sandhill and Stilt Sandpiper Photos

[Here's yesterday's Sandhill Crane, photographed by Michael O'Brien. As anyone who saw this bird, in the back field of the beanery, can verify, it was difficult to get a photo of it without one of the goose decoys it was standing amongst! Late yesterday evening, Tony Leukering reported that the crane was over the hawk watch, so who knows where or if it will be seen on Sunday.]

[One of yesterday's flyby flocks of shorebirds at the hawk watch. Can you find the Stilt Sandpiper? Stilt Sands look smaller than you would think, especially in flight when their long legs only trail behind, rather than make them look tall as they do when Stilt Sandpipers forage next to dowithchers or Lesser Yellowlegs. Photo by Michael O'Brien.]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hudwits, Wilson's Phalarope, Parasitic Jaeger, Sandhill Crane. . .

The text messages from Cape May kept rolling in this morning: 2 breeding plumage Hudsonian Godwits, then a Wilson's Phalarope, then an American Bittern, all seen from the hawk watch. Adult Parasitic Jaeger in the rips. Sandhill Crane, probably Doug's bird from a couple days ago, at the Beanery in the back field.

Eventually I tracked down the crane, at least, but my morning was spent up at Hereford Inlet. it was great, actually, starting with a surprising Yellow-breasted Chat that dove into a bit of shrubbery next to a hotel near the North Wildwood Sea Wall. Viewing from the sea wall looking north into Hereford Inlet, an array of shorebirds spread out in front of me, including 460 Red Knot, 207 American Oystercatchers, 66 Black-bellied Plover, 24 Western Willets, and an assortment of other shorebirds, gulls, and terns, including 4 Caspian Terns.

At the the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary, the first bird to hit my binoculars was a Philadelphia Vireo - neat, especially when followed shortly thereafter by a Yellow-throated Vireo, a Warbling Vireo, and of course Red-eyed Vireos and a selection of warblers including Black-throated Green, Magnolia, and maybe 5-6 other species. Not huge numbers, but it is great viewing at this often overlooked migrant trap. A Marbled Godwit was again easily seen from the free bridge.

It apparently was an interesting and somewhat unusual flight in Cape May Point, as songbirds seemed to concentrate on the west side of the point, and several people reported good numbers, with lots of orioles, a mix of warblers, and at least 2 Lark Sparrows included in the mix. As was clear from the next messages I kept getting, Tony Leukering et al were enjoying a strong shorebird movement at the hawk watch.

Be sure to check out View from the Field, for reports from our seasonal monitoring program staff, and photos of the recent flood in Cape May.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shorebirds at the Airport; Roseate; Pipit; 4 Dead Tree Swallows. . .

Richard Crossley had the insight to check Cape May County Airport today after we got close to 6 inches of rain last night, and found a Ruff with over 400 Black-bellied Plovers and multiple Buff-breasted Sandpipers, along with smaller numbers of other shorebirds. Later in the day, numbers diminished and the Ruff was not seen again, but American Golden-plover was detected by me around 4 p.m. and later by Tony Leukering, along with 3 Buff-breasted Sandpipers. It was neat to see this array of shorebirds, which also included Pectoral Sandpipers, a lost-looking Ruddy Turnstone, adult and juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers, and yellowlegs, Semi-palmated Plovers, and Least Sandpipers, as they sometimes stood right on the airport runways. Access the airport by following the signs west from Railroad Ave, head for the museum and diner, and look east and especially north from the parking area there.

Tony and Bob Fogg detected an adult Roseate Tern, still with some pink blush, on the beach at 2nd Ave. in Cape May City in the afternoon, viewed from the pavilion there late in the day.

Glen Davis et. al had 2 Parasitic Jaegers from various places at Cape May Point today, surprisingly the first, at least that I've heard of, after so many days of east winds.

The hawk flight was unsurprisingly small given the weather, but some Merlins were perfecting their hunting techniques on Tree Swallows over Bunker Pond, and according to the CMBO Interpretive Naturalists stationed on the hawk watch, at least 4 Tree Swallows are fuel for Merlins now.

Winds are forecast to be SW tonight going to pure west by noon tomorrow, then northwest the rest of the day, which should bring some hawks here Saturday afternoon. West winds, even southwest, could push passerines to the coast overnight, too.

Looks like NW winds well into Sunday morning, which ought to bring landbirds to Cape May overnight for a good morning of birding Sunday, and NNW Sunday, which means a whole lot of people will be looking skyward here for hawks and other things.

Waterthrush Morning

Torrential rain, high winds, flooding, power outages, tornado warnings. . . perfect weather for a bird walk at Higbee, no?

Remarkably, 5 people joined CMBO's Friday morning walk, including friends from Delaware Ornithological Society, and amidst periodic torrential downpours we actually enjoyed some good birding. Northern Waterthrushes were everywhere - and why not, since the whole peninsula is waterthrush habitat right now? Plenty of Veeries called from the woods, and warbler highlights included a Canada, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, redstarts, and of course the abundant waterthrushes. The full list is below - shows why it pays never to sleep in!

Location: Higbee Beach
Observation date: 9/11/09
Notes: Torrential rain much of the time. CMBO Higbee Walk.
Number of species: 47

Wood Duck 2
Mallard 3
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 2
Green Heron 1
Osprey 2
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Sanderling 20
Semipalmated Sandpiper 10
Least Sandpiper 10
Laughing Gull 20
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 40
Common Tern 10
Royal Tern 2
Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Empidonax sp. 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 10
White-eyed Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 8
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 5
Carolina Chickadee 3
Carolina Wren 5
House Wren 2
Veery 10
Northern Parula 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2
Magnolia Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 4
American Redstart 8
Ovenbird 2
Northern Waterthrush 20
Common Yellowthroat 10
Canada Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Field Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 3
Bobolink 40
Baltimore Oriole 2

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Buff-breasted and Golden-winged Warbler

A Buff-breasted Sandpiper was found at the meadows today by someone who reported it at the hawk-watch platform. Michael O'Brien just refound it on "Gull Island," the island east of the east path out towards the ocean. Doug Gochfeld reports a lot of Pectoral Sandpipers were around today, too.

Michael et. al. also re-found the Golden-winged Warbler this afternoon, which was apparently originally discovered by Mark Garland. The bird was in the first field at Higbee Beach on the right (west) side, but close to the parking lot.

Marbled Godwits, Red Knots, State Park Report

I checked the area around the free bridge from Stone Harbor to Nummy Island this morning before work. Low tide was at 5:22 a.m., but with the persistent (emphasis: persistent!) northeast winds of late, plus the recent full moon, most of the mudflats were already covered. The one remaining little island south/ocean side of the bridge, however, had two Marbled Godwits standing on it, with a few Western Willets and other shorebirds. As the tide came in, the flats on the north/inland side of the bridge accumulated shorebirds until they, too, were covered. These including the two relocating godwits, 120 Red Knots, 10 or so Western Willets, and small numbers of peep, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, and American Oystercatchers. Two Caspian Terns joined the Royals, Forsters and Commons.

I was birding from the Stone Harbor side of the bridge, which has good light conditions in the early morning - just watch for traffic, which has delightfully diminished after Labor Day. By 7:45 a.m., about 2 hours 20 minutes after the forecast low tide, there was almost no shorebird habitat left. Normally this area seems at its best at mid tide or a bit later, i.e. at least 3 hours before or after low, when there is plenty of habitat still exposed but not so much that birds are dispersed.

Off Stone Harbor, the ocean held. . .nothing. Only Great Black-backed Gulls were braving the wind. There was a decent Tree Swallow tornado moving around the parking lot, maybe 1000 birds and one of my favorite fall spectacles.

I heard someone had a Golden-winged Warbler at Higbee today. Karl Lukens sent the following report from the state park: "The state park was fairly active this morning with numerous Gnatcatchers, Red-eyed Vireos, Redstarts, and Baltimore Orioles. Several Empidonax Flycatchers were seen but only one, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, was ID'ed. Many Bobolinks flying overhead. -Karl (Steve, Warren, Kathy, Roger, Tom)"

I've been bumping into Northern Waterthrushes everywhere - in my yard, next to the Stone Harbor parking lot, next to the Dennisville WaWa, here at CMBO-CRE. NOWA numbers are peaking now, and that's a lot - thanks to this bird's vast breeding range.

There isn't a west wind in sight, well, a front may cross the area something like next Tuesday and bring west winds after it. However, winds will be north and skies clear on Saturday, or so says the forecast right now, thus the prospects are improved for hawks during the day, and maybe a landbird flight Saturday night.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Bit of Rain, a Few Migrants, Yellow-headed Continues

[Roger Horn achieved this photo of the sometimes easy, sometimes elusive Yellow-headed Blackbird in the Meadows. It skulks like a rail sometimes, along the east path on the ocean side of the observation platform - near an obvious clump of yellow flowers, if that helps.]

A small but powerful rain cell narrowly missed Cape May Point proper while I counted hawks this morning at the state park , but it apparently hammered the central part of the county. Not surprisingly, there were few raptors to be had, just a couple American Kestrels, a couple Merlins, a tiny light blue male Peregrine, a Northern Harrier, Ospreys, a few Sharp-shinned Hawks, and the adult Bald Eagle that has taken to sitting on the osprey platform at the meadows, visible (with an American flag in Cape May City waving in the background!) from the hawk watch. Three Pectoral Sandpipers flew by the watch, and first thing in the morning an American Wigeon flew over into Lighthouse Pond. The rips were active, but without jaegers or anything else on the rare side. A couple Common Nighthawks were around, and I heard and Glen Davis and Doug Gochfeld briefly glimpsed a bird that probably was a Clay-colored Sparrow, though I'm not satisfied enough with the call and my view to say for sure. A few Northern Waterthrushes, Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts were flying around.

Later, hoping the east winds would yield interesting shorebirds, and a high tide driven by northeast winds would concentrate them, I checked the Wetlands Institute and Nummy Island. Most of the herons were easy to find both places with the high tide, including Tri-colored, Little Blue, and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. At the Institute, 40 or so Greater Yellowlegs were roosting, and Black-bellied Plovers and miscellaneous other shorebirds flew past. On Nummy, 33 wintry-pale "Western" Willets roosted together. None of the scarcer shorebird species were evident.

The Yellow-headed Blackbird in the meadows was refound today in essentially the same spot. I hear Vince Elia had a Hooded Warbler at Higbee this morning.

Karl Lukens sent the following report from the CMBO Morning Walk at the meadows: "A good variety of birds this morning including American Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, and both teal. Waders included a "white" Little Blue Heron, and 5 Green Herons. Other water birds were Pied-billed Grebe, and Common Moorhen. An adult Bald Eagle sat on the Osprey platform for great looks and remained there for the whole walk! A couple of pockets of warblers were a good change of pace. Shore birds included 2 Solitary Sandpipers feeding together. The Yellow-headed Blackbird was NOT relocated during the walk [it was later in the morning - DF].- Karl (Pete, Judy, Chuck, Mary Jane, Lynne, Marc, Steve, David, Tom)"

The Villas WMA walk on Sunday featured great looks at American Kestrel, according to Chuck Slugg et. al. It has been heartening to see these declining birds regularly in the early migration. A vanguard Yellow-rumped and a Yellow-throated Warbler were also detected at Villas, I wonder if the latter was one of the birds that was at Higbee in the early morning.
[Here's that adult Bald Eagle, viewed from the meadows side, by Karl Lukens. This bird is a problem for the official hawk watchers; I didn't count it this morning.]

[American Kestrel at Villas WMA Sunday, photo by Karl Lukens.]

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yellow-headed Blackbird

A Yellow-headed Blackbird, probably an immature female, appeared on the east path of the meadows south of the observation tower today. The bird was in bad shape, with missing feathers, and skulked like a rail immediately next to the path on the right (west) side as you face offshore.

Vince Elia and I also had 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the beach off the meadows, the one largely bather-less place at the beach today. One of these was a full adult, with clean yellow bill and no black "where it wasn't supposed to be." A Least Bittern called from the east side of the east path as well.

Another Big Flight!

Everyone who listened last night - me, Michael O'Brien, Vince Elia, Mark Garland, Cameron Cox - heard many, many flight notes in the pre-dawn hours, with Veery still dominant but a very much more diverse cast of characters than yesterday's nocturnal flight. Michael and I both heard both bitterns, and Mark detected Gray-cheeked Thrush. The dominant nocturnal migrants at Norbury's Landing from 5:25-6:10 a.m., after Veery, were Common Yellowthroats, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, and Wood Thrush, with Swainson's Thrushes and diverse others. Interestingly, when I listened last night at 11:00 p.m., I heard no migrants whatever, though a Great-horned Owl responded to hooting by flying over my head, easy to see with the full moon. This morning there were often 50 and sometimes 100 or more notes per minute.

At Higbee Beach WMA, the dike was rocking - eBird totalled 92 species on the checklist I submitted, and that list did not include the Connecticut Warbler that flew past while I was experimenting with a different spot to watch from, nor the Lark Sparrow Michael's group had from the platform. The dominant warblers were American Redstart, Yellow, Black-and-white, Northern Waterthrush, Northern Parula, and Black-throated Blue, but Magnolias, Black-throated Greens, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Prairies, Cape Mays, Ovenbird, a single Wilson's, and a Yellow-throated Warbler (seen from the platform as a flyby, then another was seen perched later in the morning) added to the diversity. Definitely 20+ warblers were detected. A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was around the base of the dike, and Mark told me he had another, along with a Warbling Vireo, on the trails. Veeries could be heard everywhere, with a few Wood Thrush and Swainson's Thrushes. A Red-breasted Nuthatch in the woods and a Purple Finch over the platform added a northern flavor, and several Dickcissels flew over. All six swallows appeared.

Most of the above was from the dike and vicinity, but brief conversations with other birders indicated the woods and fields at Higbee were active, too. This was the weekend of the CMBO Flight Identification workshop, what a weekend for that!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stone Harbor Point: Red Knots and Gulls

The full moon chased Jupiter across the eastern sky this evening, making a lovely backdrop for 11 Red Knots, adults all, which briefly joined the Sanderlings on the beach at Stone Harbor Point at sunset. Zillions of gulls were roosting on the beach - well, 1500 or so, with an even mix of Herring and Great Black-backed dominating the bunch, along with 50 or so Ring-billed Gulls and a similar number of Laughing Gulls. There should have been something rarer in there. . . but there wasn't. About 100 Royal Terns and 50 Common Terns were at the tip of the point, as were 50 American Oystercatchers. Another birder reported a Piping Plover, but I did not find that, just a few Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers.

It was heartening to hear from Chuck and MJ Slugg et. al. that this evening's Hawks, Trails and Beach walk at the state park enjoyed over 20 American Kestrels.


[Roseate Tern juvenile on the beach, Cape May Point yesterday, by Michael O'Brien. When in doubt about a Roseate, check for bands - if it's not banded, it's probably not a Roseate. Click to enlarge.]

Richard Crossley bemoaned the fact he didn't check the weather report last night when I ran into him this morning on the beach at Cape May Point, as he photographed terns. I spent the first hour or so after sunrise at the Higbee Dike. Those forecast northwest -then-west winds came true over night, and there was a good flight. We know birds will migrate if the flying conditions are good, and a wind with an out-of-the-west component will bring them to Cape May. That's what happened.

Richard thinks cold fronts are over-rated, that it's the west component that is key. I don't entirely agree, but regardless you can't argue with today's flight. I listened pre-dawn at Norbury's Landing and heard 15-20 calls per minute, overwhelmingly Veeries but with a few Wood Thrushes, a very few Swainson's Thrushes, and a smattering of warblers including Yellows, redstarts, Black-and Whites, and Parulas. I even heard a Baltimore Oriole, unusual in the dark and a predictor of what happened later.

Back at my car, I opened a text message from Michael O'Brien indicating he had 100 birds/minute in Cape May. When we talked on the phone as I drove towards Cape May, Michael commented that he didn't know exactly how many birds he was hearing - lots of notes, but were they milling around? His species mix was similar to mine, with an added Palm Warbler.

The Higbee Dike was great, not overwhelming, but I eBirded 70 species for the hour I was there, including 16 species of warblers, with Prothonotary and multiple Cape Mays, Magnolias, and Tennesees, among others. At least two Olive-sided Flycatchers appeared, as did one Alder"ish" Flycatcher and a Yellow-throated Vireo was another highlight. The Baltimore Oriole show was terrific, and I hear the same was true on the CMBO Beanery walk this morning, which also had scoped Veeries and a Worm-eating Warbler.

I did not find the Roseate Tern I was looking for on the beach when I met Richard, though we had nice close Black Tern and pleny of Commons and some Royals and Forster's, and a single Black Tern. Two Caspian Terns flew over the state park later. Glen Davis sent a text indicating he had both the juv. Roseate and a Sandwich Tern at St. Peters - while I was scarcely 100 yards away! I had the Sandwich fly by a few minutes later, and learned from Glen that both had been on the beach when he got there but flew shortly after.

[Roseate Tern juv. in flight, by Michael O'Brien. Click to enlarge.]

[This American Bittern was a treat for the CMBO meadows walk Friday night. Photo by Karl Lukens, click to enlarge.]
A slow but diverse hawk flight was underway at the state park at mid-morning, including a Merlin, kestrels, accipiters, and a few Broad-wingeds.
Tony Leukering sent word of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper flyby at the hawk watch between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. today. The water is still pretty high around all the Cape May shorebird spots, but hopefully the buffie will find a place to sit down.

Friday, September 4, 2009

NW winds 3 a.m.-11 a.m.; Roseate, Sandwich, Merlin, More

I just noticed that the National Weather Service is calling (unexpectedly) for NW winds from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. tomorrow. Hmm. NW = good in fall. Immature female and immature male American Redstarts were displaying zugenruhe - migration restlessness - in my yard tonight. Hmm. It's kind of a weird weather pattern, no front, just high pressure building in.

The hawk flight today was light but diverse, with a Merlin capping the day, at least for me, shortly before 5 p.m.. A few kestrels, a few eagles, a few broadwings, a few coops, a couple sharpies, red-tails and ospreys on a changeable but mostly east wind. Both yellowlegs lingered on Bunker Pond, and all the peep except Baird's were flybys, as was a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Stilt Sandpiper with some yellowlegs.

Bob Fogg found a juv. Roseate Tern on the beach in Cape May today, which was seen again this evening at St. Peters. I met someone who gave a very convincing description of a Sandwich Tern on the beach at Cape May Point, seen mid-afternoon today. All six swallows were present around the hawk watch during the day, with Cliff being much the scarcest. Brown Pelicans sailed through periodically this morning, and the Pied-billed Grebe continues on Bunker Pond.

Do not put things off, particularly if you are a crab!

Text and photos (all copyrighted) by Tony Leukering

While out studying the plethora of Common Tern plumages on the beach at Cape May Point on the afternoon of 4 September, I noted a second-cycle Herring Gull leave the jetty to my east and fly toward the stretch of beach that I had staked out for photography. As Herring Gull is one of my very favorite beasts, particularly in subadult plumages and as I am interested in molt progression in many species, I photographed it coming in for a landing near me at

2:00 p.m.

One can easily see that the bird is nearing completion of its second pre-basic molt: its outermost two feathers on each wing are still growing and they are the last ones to be replaced. Then, at

2:04 p.m.,

the gull decided that it wanted to be on the other side of me, so it ran by me in the surf and by

2:06 p.m.,

it had set up shop searching for whatever unfortunates might make themselves noticeable to its staring yellow eyes. About then, the terns that I had been studying flushed off the jetty to the east, so I stopped watching the Herring Gull. Briefly. I noticed motion in the corner of my right eye, still at

2:06 p.m.,

and turned back to find that the gull had darted into the surf and caught the hapless victim depicted. Working quickly, and still at

2:06 p.m.,

the gull carried the crab up onto the beach, presumably to reduce the chance that it would escape in a wave, and proceeded, still at

2:06 p.m.,

to pound it with its bill and toss it around a bit. The crab tried putting up a fight, but the conclusion seemed foregone to me. And, in fact, at

2:07 p.m.,

the Herring Gull was trying to extract the last morsels from the nearly-empty shell. What a difference a minute can make, particularly in the life of a crab residing near Herring Gulls.