Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Avocet and Roseate

[Yesterday's American Avocet at the South Cape May Meadows has not been reported today. Photo by Karl Lukens.]

Tom Reed had flyover Bobolink and Gull-billed Tern at Tuckahoe, where he's doing a harrier survey, and Richard Crossley had an Eastern Meadowlark and another Bobolink at the South Cape May Meadows. Eastern Meadowlark can sometimes breed south of the canal (but seems not to have this year), but the Bobolinks are southbound migrants, nesting no nearer than Salem County. The BOBO's (love that banding code) have a long way to go, wintering from Brazil southward.

[Karl found this Roseate Tern in the meadows yesterday after locating the avocet (not sure who found that). If you see a tern and have to "make it" a Roseate, it probably isn't one - they really look the part, so pale and with the thin, long black bill.]

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Belleplain 4th of July Butterfly Count

The 4th of July Butterfly Counts are the lepidopteran counterpart of the Christmas Bird Counts, and the the three Cape May and Cumberland CBCs each have their butterfly counterparts in the same circles. Today was the day of the Belleplain count and Glen Davis and I joined a bunch of other butterfly afficionados in counting in that circle. Unlike bird counts, it's not necessary (or even useful) to go out at night, nor to start the day at dawn -- butterflies are just such reasonable beasts! We met at the Belleplain State Forest HQ at 9 am to get area assignments from the compiler, Teresa Knipper. And, quickly, before you get lost in today's details, the Cumberland count (compiler is Pat Sutton) is tomorrow (30 June) and the Cape May count (compiler is Michael O'Brien) is 22 July.

The overcast start to the day made for slow butterflying, at least for Glen and me, who had probably the cream of the areas, Area 5 in the NE section of the circle, and supporting most of the cool, boggy habitat in the circle. The area hosts such beasts as Two-spotted Skipper, Mulberrywing, Banded Hairstreak, Bog Copper, and Georgia Satyr, among a plethora of other rarer and interesting butterflies. Early on, we found one of our two Banded Hairstreaks for the day north of Tarkiln Pond (photo by Tony Leukering).

[Click on pictures to see larger versions.]

But, most unfortunately, that was the end of our day's list of interesting butterflies, as the mostly overcast skies kept butterfly activity to an incredibly low level in our area, despite our hiking and slogging through such wonderfully juicy habitats. Though we couldn't make any great contribution to the butterfly count, we thoroughly enjoyed the odonate (dragonflies and damselflies) show, with each of us adding a number of lifers to our lists. Among the most exciting were the emeralds in Cumberland Co. along the dirt road south of Hwy 49 across from Estelle Manor Road. There were a lot of emeralds (>50) flying at various levels over the road and my 2 of 5 successful net swings garnered two lifers, one each of Clamp-tipped (left by Glen Davis) and Treetop (right by Tony Leukering) emeralds (note the differing shapes of the terminal appendages on these males and the Treetop's two dorsal bands near the tip of the abdomen).

Amazingly, later in the day, I found a perched Treetop Emerald below eye level along the "road" on the way into Tarkiln Bog, Cape May Co.

The other lifer odonates are pictured below (all photos by Tony Leukering).

[Female and male Seepage Dancers at Hunter's Mill Bog, Atlantic Co.]

[Male Elfin Skimmer (less than an inch long!) at Hunter's Mill Bog, Atlantic Co.]

[Female Martha's Pennant just north of Tarkiln Pond, Cape May Co.]

American Avocet and Roseate Tern

An American Avocet appeared in the South Cape May Meadows/TNC Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge and flew towards Cove Pool at 3:52 p.m. Not sure about the finder, but Karl Lukens reported the bird's departure from the meadows. Cove Pool is the east end of the meadows where Mt. Vernon Avenue dead ends.

Karl also had a Roseate Tern in the center pool of the meadows, with other terns.

Meadows Watch

Vince Elia has been checking the South Cape May Meadows a.k.a. TNC Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge most mornings, mainly from the observation platform. This morning he reports 14 Greater Yellowlegs, 4 Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Short-billed Dowitchers, 1 Willet (migrant), all on the move. In addition, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, 5 Least Sandpipers, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper, 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper (latter same birds as have been there), all feeding. Vince also had 3 Bank Swallows and a Caspian Tern, but only 5 Glossy Ibis, with no other long-legged wader movement.

My semi-daily cycle along the bay yielded a "new" Blue Grosbeak along the road to David C. Douglas Park, the park near the ferry terminal north of the canal. New means hasn't been there, likely a floating male. Also of note were 2 Great Blue Herons flying over Villas. Great Blues don't breed in the county, and are scarce in summer. I wonder if these birds were moving in response to the front that passed last night.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dowitchers, Yellowlegs, Wood Ducks, Gadwall, Skimmers

[One can guess that the two juvenile Wood Ducks at the South Cape May Meadows today hatched at the Beanery - where the species was detected for much of June. Click to enlarge photos.]

Hot though it was, "fall" migration was evident at the South Cape May Meadows a.k.a. TNC Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge this morning. My favorite was the fast flying flock of 4 Short-billed Dowitchers and 5 Lesser Yellowlegs, headed straight for, and presumably across, the bay. The dows were my first southbound ones of the year; Vince Elia had a single yesterday, also at the meadows. Other shorebirds included a single breeding plumage Sanderling on the beach; 3 Least Sandpipers and a Semipalmated Sandpiper in the east pool of the meadows; and a breeding plumage Spotted Sandpiper on the edge of the plover pond. The Glossy Ibis parade continues as well.

Meanwhile the breeders continue strong, including a boisterous Yellow-breasted Chat west of the parking area, which sang and display-flighted much of the morning. Chuck Slugg detected the very first baby Least Terns, so it's time to watch their education - learning to scuttle along the sand, then fly, then finally catch their own food. It takes about 3 weeks for Least Terns to go from hatching to flying.

[25-30 Black Skimmers have been loafing at the meadows, with some sitting in obvious pairs with one member of the pair in a scrape (bird on left in photo.) I haven't heard of anyone seeing eggs, which might not be visible from outside the fenced off area (where birders MUST stay!). The only large skimmer colony this year is west of Ocean City, one of the highlights of CMBO's Somers Point Thursday night boat trips.]

We saw chicks of both American Oystercatcher and Piping Plover, not to mention one of the Gadwall broods. The full list is up on field trip reports.

[Hen Gadwall and her brood, Cape May meadows today. Several pairs of this species nested here this year.]

Polish Swans and more at The Meadows

There are many reasons for wildlife enthusiasts to not be overly fond of Mute Swans, particularly in the USA where they are not native. Mute Swans are agressive towards other bird species (and towards people!), they do a lot of damage to native ecosystems and they have no natural predators in much of their introduced range. So it's not surprising that folks don't pay them much attention, except to say ahhh at the little fluffy youngsters. Because of all this, a lot of people are not aware that Mute Swans exhibit two color forms.

There is a recessive gene present in Mute Swans which produces two notable color differences to typical birds. This gene, which appears to be sex-linked to females, produces youngsters with pale, grayish-pink legs and white down. The leg color remains throught the individual's life, but the down of course is molted, after which the two forms become inseparable by plumage. Typical Mute Swans have gray-black legs and feet and, as youngsters, have gray down.

The origin of Polish Mute Swans appears to be a little obscure, but it seems that they originate from domesticated stock and the gene has been perpetuated in many populations by selective breeding by man in the past. Youngsters with white down, it seems, have a higher 'ahhh factor' than gray birds and were favored by owners of stately homes in Western Europe. Selective breeding also took place in Eastern Europe - within the native range of the species - and it is believed that the term 'Polish' was started by London poulterers who imported these specially-bred birds from Poland.

The incidence of Polish birds amongst North American populations of Mute Swans is surprisingly high and this probably suggests that Polish birds were favored by the original importers of the species. So, next time you drop into TNC's Migratory Bird Refuge on Sunset Boulevard, take a look at the (only) brood of young swans there and you'll see some Polish youngsters - though they're beyond the 'ahhh' stage and heading into 'Ugly Duckling' mode at the moment!

Today's lunchtime walk at the meadows also provided hopes of a promising breeding season for Least Terns, at least 30 Black Skimmers present, one Glossy Ibis and a busy flowering patch of White Melilot along the East Path which held at least 25 Red Admirals as well as Common Buckeye, American Lady, Black Swallowtail, Orange Sulphur and a number of busy dragonflies.

Polish Mute Swan family at TNC's Migratory Bird Refuge. Note the white down of the youngsters and Mom's pale feet. If the gene for white down is sex linked, as has been suggested, then it is perhaps surprising that this brood consists entirely of females. Incidentally, note also the extreme orange staining of this adult female on the head, breast and tail which comes from iron oxide in the water. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Least Tern pair at the refuge lunch time today. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Red Admirals display an amazingly complicated underwing pattern! Note the highly flexible proboscis probing for nectar in the little pea flowers of White Melilot. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

One of at least four Black Swallowtails along the Migratory Bird Refuge's East path today. To distinguish this species from Spicebush Swallowtail, look for the extra yellow spot, just inside the band of orange spots on the underside of the hindwing. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Male Eastern Amberwing, one of several species of dragonfly on the wing at Cape May Point this week. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Roseate Tern, Shorebirds, Yellow-crowned, Rails; Installment 4 of "Where are They Now"

Vince Elia was out again this morning, finding a Roseate Tern on the beach with 30 Black Skimmers at the South Cape May Meadows/TNC Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was also there. In the impoundments a White-rumped Sandpiper fed with 8 Least Sandpipers, and 3 Glossy Ibis and 4 Snowy Egrets headed south over the bay. A Willet chick continues as well.

While kayaking this morning I was surprised to have a Yellow-crowned Night-heron flush from the marsh just north of Norbury's Landing, along Delaware Bay north of Villas, where I seldom see them, though Black-crowneds are common there. The marsh, part of Cape May NWR, is loaded with Fiddler Crabs this summer, more than usual, a favorite prey item for Yellow-crowneds. There are about 80 bazillion Clapper Rails in that marsh (well, at least 20), another fiddler eater, and I was treated to an array of vocalizations, including some I would have had no idea about were I not so surrounded by Clappers. One near constant sound from the rails this morning was a single, emphatic, low burrr or purrr, - lower your voice and growl a bit as you say it, that'll give you the idea. This one I've heard before, often enough to make me wonder why it's not on any of the popular cd's. Some other rail calls today would give one pause. Best to think a moment before cavalierly naming sounds in the night, or from a bird unseen in a marsh, when there are just so many different vocalizations any given species can make.

Back to our continuing series on birds now north of us, and rewinding two weeks . . . Michael, ahead on the trail alongside Moose Bog near Island Pond, Vermont, turned and spoke. I told him later that by his tone of voice, you'd have thought he was asking if I had bug spray with me or something mundane, but what he calmly said was, "There is a Saw-whet Owl in juvenile plumage." And there was, a life plumage for all of us.

[A bird to "whet" one's appetite for the north woods. . .juvenile Northern Saw-whet Owl, Moose Bog, Vermont, June 13, 2010. The bird was gone about an hour later when we walked back past the spot. Click to enlarge.]

Northern Saw-whet Owl migration is as well documented for Cape May as anywhere, thanks largely to the efforts of Katy Duffy, who published a paper on it with Paul Kerlinger, former director of CMBO, in 1992. Paul also co-authored a 1993 paper centered on road-kill recoveries. From these papers and observations since (e.g. during the massive saw-whet invasion of 1995-1996) we can say the species migrates through Cape May from mid-October through mid-late November, especially on nights after cold fronts when the air is cool, skies are clear and the winds are light and from the north. Try for them at night during these conditions, or watch for silouettes in the very first glimmer of dawn. Saw-whets winter on the peninsula, in some numbers during invasion years (a tale sadly told by winter roadkills), but good luck finding one on its day roost with all the great habitat available. One flew in front of my truck along Jake's Landing road on January 1, 2010 (as I left after watching Short-eared Owls).

As to where they are now, a very few may not be all that far away. Saw-whets have been heard calling during breeding season in southern NJ, with nesting proven in Burlington County. But the bird is one largely of northern forests, in the east favoring conifers or mixed forest and especially fond of dense cover, e.g. rhododendron. Most of our fall birds are coming from New England, eastern Canada and the Great Lakes region.

Friday, June 25, 2010

MIKI + Meadows Birds including Black Tern

Richard Crossley had a 1st year Mississippi Kite over his Cape Island home this morning.

Vince Elia checked the meadows today, anticipating some shorebird movement after yesterday evening's frontal passage. The shorebirds didn't materialize, but Vince had some interesting stuff:

"Spent 6-8 a.m. on the platform at the Meadows... although not much "active" migration, an interesting morning nonetheless... had zero active shorebird migration, with just 3 Least Sandpipers on ground in upper east side. A total of 21 Glossy Ibis moved through (E to W and presumably out across bay). Had a (the?) 1st summer Black Tern when I first arrived, feeding, then briefly roosting, before disappearing. A fairly pristine looking Blue-winged Teal was present for an hour-and-a-half before flying off to the State Park. 3 Great Blue Herons flew past lighthouse coming from the south and continued north up bay shore, likewise had 3 Snowy Egrets pass over my head flying north then northwest and up bay shore.

"The mom Gadwall and her brood that hangs in the main pool in front of platform was down from 12 to 11 chicks, and another brood of 8 is up in the SE section on the E side. There were lots of Killdeer present, and I had three in a tight group swoop in from the E and fly off toward the large plover pond. At least 4 Willets were very active all morning, chasing one another and calling. Finally, the most persistent movement all morning was a small but noticeable flight of Swamp Darners coming off the water and heading north, typical of Swamp Darner movements."

Swamp Darner, by the way, is the closest thing we have to meganeura, those dragonfly-like insects of 300 million years ago with 2.5 foot wingspans. The Darner checks in at about 3.5 inches long, I haven't measured the wings, personally - okay, it's not feet but it is our largest dragonfly and still pretty impressive . . .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cape May Point. . .

[Laughing Gull with an amphibian wishing it was somewhere else, Cape May Point State Park this morning. Photo by Karl Lukens.]

Results from this morning's Bird Walk for All People are up under field trip reports. The world felt and acted like summer this morning - hazy, HOT and humid, and seemingly half the birds were carrying food, including a female Orchard Oriole escorted by a first year male where the yellow trail meets the woods. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew into the tree island near where the yellow trail meets the dune, and 6 Killdeer didn't read the books and stood on the ocean beach, while another accompanied a chick at the second plover pond, where there was also a Piping Plover.

Piping Plover; Oil Spill Thoughts

[Piping Plover chicks show what it means to be precocial, South Cape May on Tuesday. Photo by Wayne Laubscher.]

More chicks on the beach. . .Piping Plover chicks are precocial, which means they hatch fully covered with down, leave the nest very quickly, and already know how to find their own food - marine worms, tiny bivalves, and other invertebrates. They still need mom and dad for protection from predators and the elements, and won't be able to fly well for about a month, give or take, after hatching. Plover chicks respond to alarm calls from their parents immediately by laying flat to hide, and parents will perform distraction displays. Parent plovers often brood chicks to protect them from cold or shade them from heat.

The Piping Plover reminds us that the gulf oil spill is not so far away. Most Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers apparently winter on the southern Atlantic Coast, but some undoubtedly cross over to the gulf. Birds from the northern plains population, however, winter primarily on the gulf coast, indeed most apparently fly nonstop from the breeding grounds to the gulf. Imagine what some of those birds will find. The biggest threat to Piping Plover survival, until now, has been lack of reproductive output, due to disturbance and predation on nests and young. What will the addition of a threat to adult survival on the wintering grounds mean for this endangered species?

And Piping Plover is only one example. In addition to the horrific effects the spill will have on gulf bird residents and migrants from other regions, I figure there are about 100 species for which individual birds could conceivably spend time both in NJ, as breeders or migrants, and along the gulf. That figure only includes birds using gulf waters or tidal areas, such as waterfowl, Ospreys, herons and shorebirds, and not the many other species that migrate over the gulf but seem unlikely to be impacted directly by the spill, like warblers or hummingbirds.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Balmy Summer Days

Hot and sunny weather prevails at Cape May at present - though we had a real humdinger of a storm last night which certainly watered in my new plants! The Wednesday morning Cape May Point State Park walk was once again, a warm and pleasant experience, with breeding activity being the order of the day. At least three pairs of Orchard Orioles are on site this year and we watched a Cedar Waxwing on its nest, a territorial Eastern Wood Pewee and had fabulous views of singing Yellow-breasted Chat, Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak. Surprise of the morning was a Sharp-shinned Hawk near the Hawkwatch Platform, which panicked the Purple Martins. Sharpies are rare enough here at this time of year that my ebird page asked me to confirm the sighting before it would believe me!

A male King Eider was again reported close offshore, though there has been no further reports since early morning. At the moment, it seems almost impossible to look offshore and not see cavorting Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphins scattered around the bay.

Further north up the bayshore, Tom Reed reported a couple of Gull-billed Terns over the marsh at Reed's Beach.

I arrived at this morning's Cape May Point State Park walk to find Dave Thomas doing one of his regular checks of the Purple Martin colony there. Dave tells me that 245 eggs have been laid in the colony this year so let's hope for a successful breeding season for them. Here's a brood of five chicks in one of the pull-out nest trays. Still blind and with no feathers, it'll be a while before they're heading south! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

A very obliging Eastern Kingbird at the state park this morning [Photo by Karl Lukens]

American Bullfrog, looking typically overly pleased with itself! Note the lack of a lateral fold running down the side of the body, which distinguishes this species from Green Frog [Photo by Karl Lukens]

Yellow-breasted Chat

[The Cape May Point State Park Yellow-breasted Chat cooperated during this morning's Cape May Point State Park walk. Photo by Karl Lukens.]

Meadows Yesterday + Gull-billed Terns

Vince Elia reports that yesterday morning the South Cape May Meadows held presumed migrants including 4 Greater Yellowlegs, 6 Glossy Ibis (plus 4 or 5 on ground). A Semipalmated Sandpiper was also there, the same longish-billed bird, according to Vince, that he had earlier.

More interesting perhaps was the Least Bittern Vince heard, the first one reported this spring/summer as far as I know. A female Gadwall had 12 chicks with her.

Last night around the poker table a bunch of us were talking about the talented meadows Northern Mockingbird, which sings in the northeastern part of the tract and manages passable Virginia Rail and Black Rail imitations.

Tom Reed reports that 2 Gull-billed Terns are feeding along Reed's Beach road this morning.

Where are They Now, Installment 3: Alder Flycatcher; + Brood Patches

[Why is it an Alder Flycatcher? Because it's in an Alder! Island Pond, VT, June 12 2010. Click to enlarge photos.]

Perhaps counter-intuitively, most of the positively identifiable "Trail's" Flycatchers in Cape May during fall migration are Alders. That's counterintuitive because Willows are more commonly encountered in most birders' general experience, and because they breed locally, e.g. sometimes at the South Cape May Meadows (though apparently not this year) or along the brushy edges of salt marsh.

A look at the range maps explains the situation. Simply put, there are more Alders north of Cape May than there are Willows, hence more Alders to come south. Alder Flycatcher breeds from the Appalachians up and across Canada to Alaska; Willow's range barely crosses the Canadian border.

Once on our northern NJ Birding by Ear workshop, Mark Garland remarked that he knows he's in a good place if he's hearing Alder Flycatchers (we were at the time, in the Delaware Water Gap NRA). Alders breed in northern swamp and bog margins, home to many other marvelous things, from winnowing Wilson's Snipe to pitcher plants.

Alder Flycatchers normally begin appearing in Cape May as southbound migrants in mid-late August, peaking in early September, and continuing through late September.

[Different Alder Flycatcher, also Vermont 2 weeks ago. Okay, they're not always in Alders, so what do you do? Hear it sing or pip, that's what! Alders look subtly darker and/or more olive on the back than Willows, sometimes, maybe, yeah, sure, and there are other characters to fool with. Listen to the field guides; listen to the bird.]

[A different view of a different empid, a female Acadian Flycatcher banded in Bear Swamp, Cumberland County last Saturday. The breast and belly feathers are being gently blown aside to reveal the brood patch. (Don't worry, the bird is being held very gently as well.) In almost all North American passerine birds, the females do all or most of the incubating, and develop a complete brood patch, an area bare of feathers (seldom noticeable in the field) that fills with fluid and facilitates heat transfer to the eggs. This brood patch has begun to recede, indicating this bird's young have left the nest. The feathers will be replaced during the bird's pre-basic molt. Note, by the way, how the Acadian's breast feathers have dark bases - out of place dark, or sometimes light, patches on any bird can sometimes be explained by disheveled or missing feathers, revealing parts of other feathers not normally visible.]

Monday, June 21, 2010

Skimmer Scraping

[Karl Lukens took this photo of one of the South Cape May Meadows' Black Skimmer pairs looking "nesty."]

King Eider, Ibis and Chicks on the Beach

[What month is this? Besides the scoters and Common Eider hanging around Cape May of late, this immature male King Eider put in an appearance for the meadows walk this morning. Click to enlarge photos.]

You never know what you'll see in June - witness the immature King Eider we had this morning during the CMBO meadows walk, held every Monday at 7:30 a.m. at TNC's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. Initially off the Bunker at Cape May Point State Park, the King Eider drifted rapidly over towards Cape May City. What's even more interesting is that Kyle Rossner had this bird a bit north of the Cape May canal on Sunday. Kyle, a Stockton College student and volunteer for CMBO, reports: "I was at the beach at the end of the road that leads to the ferry when I heard the people next to me talking about the "seagull" just floating out in the water. I looked and it was obvious that it was neither a seagull, nor a baygull, but rather something much more interesting. I got on my kayak and went for a closer look, and got this photo of a young male King Eider." Kyle's photo is below. I'd bet this is the same bird that wintered off Poverty Beach.

36 Glossy Ibis in total flew over the meadows, past the lighthouse, and apparently onward to Delaware during the course of the morning, beginning with a flock of 17 pre-walk that never even wavered as they went. Failed breeders or non-breeders already on the move, one presumes.

Beach birding at the meadows was great, featuring 2 brand new broods of American Oystercatchers accompanying their parents, one with 3 chicks, the other 2, as well as a single Piping Plover chick with 3 adults nearby. We had another Piping Plover on the plover pond behaving as if he were trying to distract some nearby Fish Crows, i.e. from his chick, which we never saw. Black Skimmers were back on the beach, with at least one engaged in active scraping in the beach area between the two meadows paths. Other interesting birds included a flyby Baltimore Oriole; a glimpsed Yellow-breasted Chat picked out by Chuck Slugg; singing Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak; the perennial Indigo Bunting on the wires west of the parking lot; adult Bald Eagle; and a curious apparent increase in Gadwall numbers, to 10 or more, including a group of 4 males in a flock together.

["I think I knew this guy. . ." Fish Crows on break from harassing the plover and oystercatcher chicks, South Cape May Meadows this morning.]

Where are They Now, Installment 2: Northern Waterthrush

[Northern Waterthrush, Moose Bog VT, June 13 2010. Click to enlarge photos.]

More from our recent boreal forest trip: Northern Waterthrush. Both waterthrushes are early migrants, but only Louisiana is "available" in Cape May in June, nesting along streams in the northern part of the county, though not on Cape Island. NJ's Breeding Bird Atlas found a few possible/probable Northern Waterthrushes in Pine Barrens cedar swamps north of Cape May County, and Northern is a regular though somewhat uncommon breeder from northern NJ (and extreme northern VA in the mountains) northward. Most derive from the species' vast breeding range, which spans New England, the northern U.S., much of Alaska, and enough of Canada to make me want to propose "Canadian Warbler" as an alternate name. The next Northern Waterthrush in Cape May will be detected mid July; their migration peaks late August/early september, when Louisiana's has all but ended, and extends well into October. It's a common bird in migration, with over 600 a year recorded at Morning Flight, common enough that learning it's rising zeep flight note is worth working on.

[This was not the yellowest Northern Waterthrush, nor did it have much in the way of streaking on the throat, just a few spots. Throat streaking on waterthrushes is one of those "one way" field mark: if you get a look allowing you to see prominent throat markings, it is almost certainly a Northern; if you don't, well, maybe you just can't see the markings that are there, or maybe, like on this bird, they are faint. Note, however, how dense and dark the breast streaks are on this bird, denser than on Louisiana, and that the eyebrow doesn't widen behind the eye (top pic). Same bird as above.]

Saturday, June 19, 2010

La. Water + Speaking of Shorebirds

The Kentucky Warblers were still singing strongly in the wet woods outside of Dividing Creek, along Route 555 in Cumberland County as we worked our MAPS banding station this morning, but perhaps more interesting was the Louisiana Waterthrush chipping right along 555 near the tracks, which flew across the road eventually and disappeared. Louisiana Waterthrushes don't breed there, so this was a finished or failed breeder. At least three Summer Tanagers sang along the tracks as well.

Vince Elia had some shorebirds in the meadows today: 4 Greater Yellowlegs, 2 Least Sandpipers, 2 Semipalmated Plovers, and a Semipalmated Sandpipers. The yellowlegs and the leasts are likely southbound migrants - whether they went all the way north to the breeding grounds or quit the trip is another question. The semis (both kinds) are more difficult to read.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Evening at Stone Harbor Point

[Flounder for dinner? Osprey young hatch asynchronously, hence the little guy peeking through mom's legs will only get leavings (and may not survive) unless dad is an especially skilled fisherman - somewhere I read a brood of 3 Ospreys needs 5 pounds of fish per day. The fish is indeed a fluke or summer flounder. Grassy Sound, near Wildwood, last night. Click to enlarge photos.]

Stone Harbor Point is a quiet place these days, other than the piping of American Oystercatchers, though the fact I was there near dark may have contributed. There seems to be no nesting activity by terns or Black Skimmers on the point at all, and this year Champagne Island is reduced to a series of sandbars in Hereford Inlet. Terns coming off the ocean at sundown headed inland, both Commons and Forster's, likely to nesting colonies up on wrack on the high marsh inland of the intracoastal waterway. There were a few Least Terns sitting just above the high tide line at dark, and since I haven't been to Stone Harbor in a month I can't say for sure whether they are nesting nearby. Of skimmers I saw none, and only a single Royal Tern flew by. There were, at least, hundreds of gulls, a Piping Plover, and a few shorebirds.

[Royal Tern flyby. Note the white feather in the forehead - Royals sport a black cap for only a short period at the height of breeding season.]

[A few Sanderlings foraged on the beach, birds that should be in the Arctic. Some were in full breeding plumage.]

[Nor will these two Red Knots make the trip. Happily, it was a good season overall for the shorebirds.]

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Point Report + Installment 1 of "Where are They Now?"

[This Red-winged Blackbird is an obvious recent fledge, with bare skin around the face, fleshy gape, and tufts of natal down. It was being fed by a female in the pool across from the hawk watch platform at Cape May Point State Park this morning. Photo digiscoped by Don Freiday, click to enlarge photos.]

The surprise bird of this morning's Bird Walk for All People was a flyby Eastern Meadowlark, which approached the hawk watch platform at Cape May Point State Park from the west, then turned north northeast and flew off towards the Beanery, perhaps. There hasn't been an Eastern Meadowlark on Cape Island in a month, or so says eBird. This bird is likely a failed, or even finished, breeder that is now wandering around.

The group favorite, I think, was the fledgling Red-winged Blackbird. It certainly was a lot more viewable than the distant Wilson's Storm-petrel we had from the dune crossover near the platform - Dave Lord and I had several others pre-walk from St. Peter's, along with drake Black and Surf Scoters and perhaps 2 dozen Northern Gannets.

The state park trails were quite birdy. Two nests of Orchard Orioles are along the boardwalk trails, one on the Red Trail and another at the start of the Yellow Trail - please observe these respectfully if you find them. The Yellow-breasted Chat popped up for a look on the Yellow Trail, and even better, we saw two Black-billed Cuckoos, one on the Red Trail and the other a flyby near the state park/Cape May Meadows boundary. About 8 Indigo Buntings included 2 in seemingly morning flight over the parking lot, and a single female Blue Grosbeak perched briefly near the yellow trail clearing, where there were also multiple Cedar Waxwings and the continuously singing Eastern Wood-pewee.

So, birding in Cape May slows down a bit in mid-summer, like it does everywhere else - actually, it doesn't really ever slow down here, but anyway. . .something to think about in summer is, where are the migrants that passed through last spring, and that we look forward to this fall? Some friends, Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis among them, and I took a trip last weekend to visit some northern breeders, up in Vermont's northeast kingdom, which is mainly boreal forest. Michael kept suggesting a school of birding workshop up there, and it would be a great place for a boreal birds workshop, or a warbler call notes workshop, or something. . .so, to whet your appetite for said possible workshop and for the fall here in Cape May, we'll sow the blog with a few boreal birds in the coming days, such as:

[Palm Warbler bringing food to a nest, about as far south as you can find this species nesting, Moose Bog, Vermont, June 13, 2010. I think it's got a deer fly, there were, um, a few of them around. . .Click to enlarge.]

Palm Warbler is a common to abundant migrant in Cape May - e.g. over 3,000 a year are counted at Morning Flight in fall, and that doesn't include November (when Palms are still coming) nor the Palms lumped into the "unidentified warbler" category, which they often are on big flight days. Right now, all those Palm Warblers are north, WAY north, nesting on the margins of boreal bogs.

The bird pictured is an "Eastern" or Yellow Palm Warbler, part of the breeding population residing roughly east of the Quebec/Ontario border. This is the bird we see in spring migration, but come fall Yellow Palms are much outnumbered by the brown western race, which has a wider breeding range extending well up into the Northwest Territories and west almost to British Columbia. Like many Cape May fall migrants, brown Palms are coming not just from the north, but also the west.

This Palm Warbler busily fed begging young in a nest and did not sing, but it and its mate called regularly, which points out a not so obvious fact: the breeding grounds, whether Belleplain or boreal forest, are great for learning not only songs, but also chips, flight notes too.

We'll next see a Palm Warbler in Cape May in early September, or possibly the end of August if there is a good cold front. It will probably be a brown one - Yellow Palms are not only fewer, but later in fall. Palm Warbler migration in Cape May peaks in late September and October.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's A Poor Day When You Don't Learn Something New...

I've long been a firm believer that it would be a poor day when I went out into the field and didn't learn something new. The same can be true of a post to a web blog, especially when the post is done in a hurry! Yesterday I posted a photograph of a Sandhill Crane which I glibbly called a second calendar year bird, based on an assumption that brownish birds were youngsters and adults were grey. Thanks to those who emailed me and questioned this assumption! So this evening I did some research (a man has to do something whilst his wife is away!) and it took an amazing amount of digging before I got something concrete. It is generaly accepted that the red-brown coloration of Sandhill Canes actually comes from iron staining from the soil. This can easily be demonstrated by close examination of feathers but there could be two reasons for this - deliberate or accidental - and tracking this down is what took the time. Some birds use iron-staining as a form of cosmetic and deliberately color their feathers in a way that seems to make them more attractive to members of the opposite sex. The Lammergeier is a classic example of this. Other birds, such as Mute Swans and Snow Geese acquire rusty staining to the head and neck (as do ducks - remember the possible Cinnamon Teal of 2009?!) and this seems to be accidental and merely acquired during normal feeding behavior. So it seems that Sandhill Cranes get their rusty coloration by applying it with the bill. This is apparent from the fact that all of the plumage except the head and neck - which can't be reached by the bill - acquires the staining. According to Handbook of Birds of the World, the birds do this by deliberately rubbing iron-rich mud onto the plumage and they do this not for cosmetic reason but to camouflage themselves whilst sitting on the nest - a time when they are most vulnerable to predators. Another longer look at our Sandhill Crane surely shows it to be an adult from the amount of red on the head. Here endeth today's lesson!

As for today's bird sightings, our regular Wednesday walk at Cape May Point State Park was low on species but rich in experiences this morning as we had up close and personal views of a pair of Orchard Orioles feeding chicks in the nest and watched Cedar Waxwings nest-building. Our regular Yellow-breasted Chat proved elusive - though we did hear him and it perhaps won't be long now before his singing stops for another season. Less expected was a fine adult male Baltimore Oriole on the red trail. The Rips were quiet but for a scattering of Forster's Terns, but a Common Eider was a surprise, drifting east along the bay.

Catching Up

[In the quite unseasonal department, Calvin Brennan photographed this 3rd cycle Glaucous Gull at Heislerville on Saturday, June 12.]

I'm just back from the boreal forest - Vermont's northeast kingdom to be exact - so it's time to catch up on the Cape May bird news. It's fun to be on the receiving end of the blog, and read recent posts from Mike and Tom to find out what I missed.

Birds haven't made it to the blog yet include Saturday's Glaucous Gull, pictured above, in Heislerville, Cumberland County. I hear Calvin has had Lesser Black-backed there as well. Dave La Puma went out on Mike Fritz's boat on Sunday, fishing up to 30 miles offshore near the 'Cigar.' They saw about 12 Cory's Shearwaters, 1 Greater Shearwater and about 150 Wilson's Storm-petrels; Dave tells me most of the shearwaters were far offshore, more than 10 miles, as you'd expect.

Closer to shore, Michael O'Brien had a Parasitic Jaeger in the rips this morning. Vince Elia heard Black-billed Cuckoo and Northern Bobwhite in TNC's Cape Island Preserve, reached from the end of Wilson Avenue off Broadway. Vince also had a Pine Warbler sing once at St. Peter's, along with a White-eyed Vireo. Interestingly, I also had a White-eyed sing a couple times at my house, another place they don't nest. The vireos are likely floater males, i.e. birds without territory or mate. As to the Pine, it is also likely a floater, though one wonders if it could be derived from the pair that nested at the state park, since we saw the female feeding fledged young there a week ago. There is a lot of pine in Cape May Point, and Vince suggested one could not rule out nearby nesting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Expect The Unexpected

In the same way that November is recognised as the month for fall rarities, June can be the month for a late spring wanderer. At a time of year when birding is going quiet for a while as local birds get on with the process of rearing this year's batch of youngsters, it's is still worth being out there with your binoculars. Though rewards are very thin on the ground compared with the peak of migration, there are birds out there to be found. A male Wilson's Phalarope graced the South Cape May Meadows (TNC's Migratory Bird Refuge) yesterday, while a call from an excited visiting birder to the observatory lunch time today revealed a young Sandhill Crane was at the Meadows, present for around a half hour before it flew off in the direction of the Rea Farm on Stevens and Bayshore.

Second calendar year Sandhill Crane at The Migratory Bird Refuge on Sunset Boulevard. N ow we have to work out what this bird was is doing in South Jersey in Mid-June! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Sandhill Crane in The Meadows

Mike Crewe just reported a Sandhill Crane from the South Cape May Meadows (1:25pm, Tuesday afternoon).

Edit: Mike notes that the Crane has flown toward the Beanery/Rea Farm (1:30pm).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Catbirds Don't Look Like That!

A few days ago I received a picture of a bird from Bev Linn, one of our much-appreciated volunteers. The picture required a second look, for this was quite clearly a Gray Catbird, but it had a white head! Leucism (as it's technically called) is relatively common in birds and occurs when colour pigment is missing from just part of the bird's plumage. Though taken by Bev's son-in-law well out of our area in Hackettstown, I thought the picture deserved a wider audience, and serves as a reminder that, whenever you are birding, it always pays to expect the unexpected!

Partially leucistic Gray Catbird [photo by Steve Hoech]

Good Seawatching Continues

I met up with Vince Elia around 7 this morning, atop the dune crossover at St. Pete's, where we enjoyed the continuing Northern Gannet show. Birds were moving both in to and out of the bay this morning, and we probably saw somewhere in the ballpark of 250 birds. It's worth noting that Vince tallied 650(!) Gannets flying up the bay yesterday morning...a pretty remarkable total for mid-June.

Other highlights included a rather close and ragged-looking Brown Pelican that flew past heading south, the same quartet of Surf Scoters that have been hanging out in the neighborhood, and two Wilson's Storm-Petrels that weren't exactly "binocular birds". A single northbound Willet over the bay might have indicated a post-breeding, or failed-breeding, wanderer from farther south.

Friday, June 11, 2010

An Evening on the Bayshore; Cape May Pt. News

The weather this evening was lovely, and there was just enough breeze to keep the biting insects at bay- even along the bayshore. Jake's Landing made for a great 45 minutes of birding, highlighted by at least 30 Willets, numerous Glossy Ibis, and ridiculously good looks at Seaside Sparrows and Marsh Wrens. A distant Harrier out toward the west gave signals of having a nest nearby, while three Black Skimmers eased their way up Dennis Creek.

A brief stop at Stipson's Island revealed much of the same, including great looks at two Marsh Wren nests near the parking area, several Black-crowned Night-Herons, and a distant Bald Eagle that repeatedly flushed the hundreds of gulls feeding along Delaware Bay.

Farther south, I hear that 215 Northern Gannets were exiting Delaware Bay in the 6-7pm timeframe this evening, as per Vince Elia. Also in related news, Black and Surf Scoters, as well as Wilson's Storm-Petrels, were again viewed from Cape May Point today.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Storm-petrels, Gannets and Admiring the Locals

[Cape May-Lewes Ferry and Wilson's Storm-petrel, the speck with the white rump and pale greater coverts in the left foreground, off St. Peter's this morning. This through 630mm-equivalent lens. Click to enlarge photos.]

Before today's Bird Walk for All People I gave it a brief scan off St. Peter's. Wilson's Storm-petrels were in almost constant view, though the most I could catch together were three, which fed over a pod of dolphins. Northern Gannets were also constant, more than is usual for this time of year. I e-birded 25 for 15 minutes looking, but there were probably more even in that short time.

[Wilson's Storm-petrels again, these digiscoped free-hand at 20X. Note the pattering behavior - the word petrel is derived from the story of St. Peter walking on water. Beware Purple Martins over the ocean as you search for storm-petrels. The martins often forage out there, especially on offshore winds, seeking insects blown over the water.]

Great-crested Flycatchers were vocal and visible at St. Pete's, and a Blue Jay foraging on the dune ignored me the whole time. Single males and females of both Black Scoter and Surf Scoter floated offshore, and later at the state park we had 4 Surfs total.

[Great-crested Flycatcher, St. Pete's this morning.]

[Dune foraging Blue Jay, St. Pete's this morning. Not where most birders are accustomed to seeing Blue Jays.]

The highlight of the walk, for many, was the soaring adult Bald Eagle, in view for almost the entire second hour of the the walk. For me, the highlight was the female Pine Warbler feeding at least one youngster, fuzzy but capable of flight - there was a lot of chipping going on as the youngster begged, and I was pretty sure more than one was involved. A male sang not far away. Pine Warbler eluded this walk last week, perhaps because they had young in the nest and were quiet. We heard at least 2 Blue Grosbeaks, and the Yellow-breasted Chat sang, but only a couple times, both on the Yellow Trail. A glimpse of Yellow-billed Cuckoo was the best we could do, that thanks to Chuck's spotting.

[Northern Water Snake, Red Trail at the state park today.]

I'm off to New England with friends for a few days, Spruce Grouse et. al. in our sights. Tom, Mike and Tony will keep things up to date, I'm sure.


Hotline: Cape May Birding Hotline
To Report: call (609) 884-2736, or email
Coverage: Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties , NJ
Compiler: David Lord, Cape May Bird Observatory with additions by Don Freiday
URL: ;

This is the Cape May Birding Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This week's message was prepared on Thursday, June 10, 2010. Highlights this week include sightings of BLACK-NECKED STILTS, WILSON’S PHALAROPE, MISSISSIPPI KITE, BLACK TERN, WILSON’S STORM-PETRELS, LESSER-BLACK BACKED GULLS, NORTHERN BOBWHITE, SURF and BLACK SCOTERS, and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS.

-For up-to-the-minute Cape May sightings information, photos and downloadable birding maps and checklist of Cape May, visit . Follow rarity sightings, many spring arrivals, and spectacles on -

Two BLACK-NECKED STILTS were observed at Cape May Point S.P. on Thursday, June 3, 2010, and were observed last on Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at the big Plover Pond between Cape May Point State Park and the South Cape May Meadows.

A WILSON’S PHALAROPE was seen at the South Cape May Meadows on Saturday, June 5, 2010.

Up to 7 MISSISSIPPI KITES were observed at various locations around Cape Island on Thursday, June 3, 2010, with one last seen at the Villas WMA on Saturday, June 5th 2010.

A BLACK TERN in non-breeding plumage was seen around the Meadows, last noted there on Tuesday, June 8, 2010.

2 WILSON’S STORM-PETRELS were off Cape May Point at St. Peter’s on Thursday, June 10 2010.

A LESSER-BLACK BACKED GULL was seen at the beach near the Meadows on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, and 2 were there the evening of Wednesday, June 9 2010.

Several NORTHERN BOBWHITE sightings have come in during the past few weeks, including one calling at St. Peter’s, one in Goshen, and one at Norbury’s Landing in Del Haven.


******CMBO SPRING HOURS are as follows: Northwood Center on East Lake Drive in Cape May Point is open daily, 9:30am to 4:30pm. The Center for Research and Education on Rt. 47 in Goshen is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30am to 4:30pm; closed Sundays and Mondays ******

The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties. Updates are made weekly. Please report sightings of rare or unusual birds to CMBO at 609-884-2736. Sponsorship for this hotline comes from the support of CMBO members and business members, and should you not be a member, we cordially invite you to join. Individual membership is $39 per year; $49 for families. You can call either center to become a member or visit. Become a member in person and you'll receive a FREE gift (in addition to member discounts in the stores).

Good Luck and Good Birding!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brief Meadows Note

A morning visit to the Meadows produced two continuing Surf Scoters offshore, along with good numbers of Northern Gannets, a few Piping Plovers and a singing Blue Grosbeak. An evening visit yielded similar results, with the addition of numerous raindrops, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls roosting on the beach and a dozen Black Skimmers.

The sun comes back out tomorrow, accompanied by a light breeze out of the west.

Nothing More on Kite; Black Rail; White-rumpeds, and Thoughts on Playback

The possible White-tailed Kite remains just that, with no further reports.

Vince Elia has 25 White-rumped Sandpipers with ~ 2,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers at Heislerville right now. Early June is a great time to find, and learn, White-rumped - they are late migrants and the Semis have thinned enough that your percentages are much higher.

A calling Black Rail was discovered late last night (which held ideal conditions for Black Rail listening, dark and calm) by Michael O'Brien and Dave La Puma in Cape May County. Given that in 1988 Paul Kerlinger and Clay Sutton detected 24+ Black Rails at 14 sites (see Records of New Jersey Birds 15 (2): 22-26), and in contrast that Michael's bird is the only one we've heard specifics about this spring, we'll keep the exact location vague for fear of possible harassment of the bird with recordings.

Speaking of recordings. . .listening to recordings of bird vocalizations is essential, in my opinion, to learning them. Whether you use CD's, BirdJam (which I love for both learning and teaching), i-Phone apps, or other products, it has never been easier to find the recordings you want, and learn from them.

Therein lies the rub. Before long every birder is going to have bird songs in their pocket, along with the strong temptation to play the recordings to attract birds. My personal high-minded notion is that using playback cheapens the experience and diminishes the skill element in birding. I'd compare it to bait-fishing, as opposed to catching a trout on a skillfully cast, hand-tied fly. Of course, this is just personal philosophy, and I do sometimes use bait. . . but very, very rarely use playback. I'd rather find, and share, birds doing what they do, uninterrupted.

Beyond the philosopical, playback carries very real conservation concerns, and enough horror stories are out there that this should be taken seriously. CMBO has developed a policy on playback, which basically says don't use playback in heavily birded areas or on species of conservation concern. We never use playback on CMBO field trips. Those interested can contact me for a copy of the full policy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

White-tailed Kite Report

We just got a report of a possible White-tailed Kite, seen over the South Cape May meadows hovering and then headed towards the Beanery. People are looking now, and details will be tweeted as they emerge. This would be a second state record.

Coops, Black Tern, Black-billed Cuckoo

Chris Hajduk reports Cooper's Hawks are nesting on the Cape May Coast Guard base (off limits to birders, Chris works there). These are likely NJ's southernmost nesting Coops, as we joked about them when they nested at Cape May Point State Park, a stone's throw from the southern tip of NJ. The state park birds seem not to be there this year, perhaps this is the same pair.

Sam Galick had the Black Tern in the meadows again today.

Michael O'Brien had a Black-billed Cuckoo calling along Stevens Street first thing this morning.

Stilts, Lessback, Bobwhite + Northbounds of the Landbird Kind

Vince Elia had the Black-necked Stilts in the South Cape May meadows this morning, in the pool east of the east path and then later on the meadows plover pond, a.k.a. the third plover pond if you're counting from the state park. Vince also had a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the beach there.

First thing this morning a Northern Bobwhite trotted across the road in front of my bike out at Norbury's Landing. Funny birds they are, funny to watch, funny in how they pop up here, disappear there. Not so funny how they have declined, however. I just mentioned this bird to Tony Geiger, who also lives in Del Haven, and he heard a bobwhite, maybe this one, this morning.

Michael O'Brien wondered via text message if I had any morning flight at Norbury's. Morning flight, or redirected flight, it is the continued migratory movement of primarily passerines after dawn. In Cape May, regardless of season, morning flight tends to be northbound and often into the wind, and often happens most strongly after cold fronts and northwest winds. We think it involves birds that find themselves over the ocean or bay at dawn, plus, at least in fall, birds that were continuing down the coast, reached the southern tip of Cape May, and continued around the point and up the bay side.

Michael had a few morning flight birds from the dunes at Coral Ave. - a couple Indigo Buntings, Blue Jays, robins, Cedar Waxwings, 3 Boat-tailed Grackles. I hadn't been paying attention until Michael's text, but on the way back north from the ferry terminal (still on my bike), I looked over and caught a second year male Baltimore Oriole paralleling me as it flew north over the treeline hugging the bay. I pedaled hard trying to keep up - we both had a headwind but he handled it much better than I, and I could only keep him in view for about a mile. By watching the cyclecomputer, and the oriole gradually out-distancing me, I could estimate the oriole's ground speed at about 20-22 mph, with the 10-15 mph headwind making his air speed somewhere in the 30's mph. Northbound.

Other birds moving around: Vince had 2 Willets head south over the bay this morning, and I had a Great Egret fly across the bay from the south and land on a jetty in the Villas. Were the Willets failed nesters headed south? And the egret? Herons and egrets cross the bay, going both ways, on and off in summer - e.g. Dave La Puma had a Yellow-crowned Night-heron fly out of Cox Hall Creek and go south across the bay a few days ago. Are these non-breeders, or breeders here, or in Delaware, who figure the fishing's better on the other side? Probably both - non-breeders being free to do what they want, while breeders are more confined to doing what works best. Herons and egrets are certainly known to fly great distances from colonies to feed, e.g. more than 25 miles in Great Egret, but why they would do it when (to a human) there is fine fishing habitat on this side of the bay is a good question. Maybe, as Dave La Puma put it, because they can. We were just outside eating lunch, and Brian Moscatello picked up a Snowy Egret so high that, to the naked eye, it looked, aptly enough, like a tiny glimmering white feather lifted high into the atmosphere by thermals.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Last of the Northbounds

[2 of about 100 Semipalmated Sandpipers feeding at Cook's Beach, sunset tonight. Click to enlarge photos.]

When not ruminating on how it would feel if oil was watching up on my beach (having spent the weekend banding birds with an ornithologist guest and new friend up from Alabama), the evening was completely pleasant - bug free thanks to the winds of the high pressure system now over the county, clear, and with shorebirds feeding on the bay. 100 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 10 Ruddy Turnstones, 1 Black-bellied Plover, and 1 Greater Yellowlegs populated Cook's Beach on the Delaware Bay as the tide fell - the last, or some of them, of the northbounds.

[The local Seaside Sparrows serenaded from the roadside along Cook's Beach Road tonight.]

Black Tern, Black Scoter, Terrapins, Dragons

[Diamond-backed Terrapins are all over the causeways lately, primarily females coming out of the salt marshes to lay eggs, e.g. this one near Tuckahoe on Saturday. Drive carefully, and if you stop, move them to the side they are headed for. Click to enlarge photos.]

The Black Tern stuck around for this morning's meadows walk, but disappeared by the time we made the loop around. Note that the east path is closed at the dune to protect beach nesters at the meadows, a.k.a. TNC's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, but you can walk the loop by taking the trail inside the dune. Word is the 8 Piping Plover nests along the meadows/state park beach had produced 9 chicks, but it's unknown how many remain. We saw only adults of this highly endangered species today. Other meadows highlights included very viewable Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting, both from the parking lot, and Broad-winged Hawk. Just a few shorebirds remain, with a Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers the most common. Vince Elia tells me that up the bay, Gandy's Beach still has Semipalmated Sandpipers in the thousands, and Red Knots in the hundreds.

First thing in the morning Dave La Puma and I checked the rips from Coral Ave. - an adult male Black Scoter was next to one of the jetties, and a very distant light Parasitic Jaeger passed. The rips were very active today, with several hundred terns, several Northern Gannets, and a passing Brown Pelican during the meadows walk.

Dave Lord mentioned "his" Northern Bobwhite, near the end of Goshen Landing Road, has been calling regularly morning and evening, and Michael O'Brien found more evidence of Acadian Flycatcher's strong showing this spring, and continued movements, with one singing from Steven's Street this morning.

[No wonder there are so many Mississippi Kites around, with all the dragonflies to eat. This Carolina Saddlebags was at Tuckahoe Lake Saturday. . .]

[As was this lovely female Needham's Skimmer.]