Friday, July 20, 2007

Cape May Point State Park

This morning I decided to take some time and walk the trails at the Cape May Point State Park. In fact, I have taken a photo of the map displayed in front of the hawkwatch platform and highlighted a few of the spots I was able to photograph some birds, as well, I highlighted the trail I walked.

A few observations: When I headed out, I stood atop the first dune crossing to do a little sea watching. No shearwaters or storm-petrels seen but there were numbers of little flocks of shorebirds moving; from Least sandpipers to Short-billed dowitchers and Lesser yellowlegs. All shorebirds were flying very low over the water headed toward Delaware. Interestingly, I also spotted a flock of 6 Great blue herons flying in off the ocean. While up on the dune crossing I did notice numbers of the a fore mentioned shorebirds getting up and leaving the point as well. I am not sure if these birds are moving south on the pre-frontal conditions (all flocks of shorebirds were flying into the wind which was SW'ish) or I just happened to see a bunch of groups of birds moving around.

That being said, given the forecast for northerly winds for the next couple of nights I would venture a guess that we'll see a good increase in the number of shorebirds in our area. I do not attest to be a Paul Lehman in predicting weather and migration. But, then again, even if I am wrong and you spent some time out birding this weekend, is that such a bad thing?
I guess the highlight for me today was hearing the(?) Hooded warbler singing in the inaccessible woods across from the second observation deck on Lighthouse pond. We had this bird the week of the World Series of Birding and actually were able to count the bird on the big day (usually something as good as a Hooded warbler would disappear on the big day) So the question is, has this bird been here since May? Did it attempt to breed? What is the breeding status for this species down this far in South Jersey? They definitely breed in Belleplain State Forest, and I heard one at our house (about half way between Belleplain SF and the point) earlier in May but not since. Unfortunately we may never know what this bird was doing on the island this summer.
The hawkwatch platform. This is the spot to be during much of the fall

Insiders tip: The covered picnic area to the left of the hawkwatch platform can often be a great place to look for migrants (especially warblers) in the later morning and afternoon. Notice the enticing cedars and pines surrounding the pavilion. I have seen my fair share Cape May warblers in these cedars while I was the hawkcounter. In fact many times these bird will stick around for a day or two. Just this spring a Blackpoll warbler was in these cedars for at least three days.

If you've been reading these posts long you know I am fond of the lighthouse shots. After all it is supposed to be the most photographed lighthouse in the country.

If you are interested in learning a bit more about Purple martin behavior, the state park is the place to go, as you can approach the martin nest boxes (with in a reasonable distance) and the birds really don't seem to care. They are 15 or so feet above you.

The photos below were taken this morning during my walk and labeled "picture 3-6" and "picture 7" on my photo-shopped map. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused, I decided to throw in the lighthouse and martin house photo after I made up the map. To further confuse things the labels should read "picture 5-9" and "picture 10"

There is a nice little "sandbar", if you will, in Bunker pond which is attracting a nice variety of shorebirds and terns. Today while I was there: 15+ Short-billed dowitchers, a couple of Black skimmers flew in along with an American oystercatcher. A few least sandpipers, the above Pectoral sandpiper and a hand full of Lesser yellowlegs. The roosting tern flock, primarily consisting of Forster's terns, also held four Gull-billed terns.

Down along the trail (dirt road) between the ponds and the dune I had the good fortune to see a number of martins lined up along the rope fence. Not sure if it will show up in the photo but the bird in the middle is a bird hatched this year. The fleshy gape is still obvious in this bird.

Still numbers of Red admirals in the area. While the influx seems to have slowed down a bit, many can still be found pretty much anywhere on Cape Island that butterflies would typically be found.

Birds observed, in no particular order;

Snowy egret

Great egret- many

Great blue heron- 15+

Mute swan- up to 50 total

Canada goose


Semipalmated plover


American oystercatcher

Greater and Lesser yellowlegs

Spotted sandpiper- interestingly I had one in alternate and one in basic-ish plumage.

Solitary sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Least sandpiper

Short-billed dowitcher

Herring gull

Laughing gull

Great black-backed gull

Royal tern

Common tern

Forster's tern

Least tern

Gull-billed tern

Black skimmer

Mourning dove

Chimney swift

Northern flicker

Eastern kingbird

Purple martin

Barn swallow

Northern rough-winged swallow

Tree swallow

Carolina chickadee

Carolina wren

American robin

Yellow warbler- calling as it flew over

Common yellowthroat

Hooded warbler- heard in the woods across from the second observation platform on Lighthouse pond, Not the bird blind.

Northern cardinal

Indigo bunting

Red-winged blackbird

House finch

American goldfinch

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