Monday, July 23, 2007

Fledged Least Terns and Staging Swallows

This morning's CMBO walk at the South Cape May Meadows (TNC's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge) ducked between showers and featured breezy conditions, great light for birding including incredibly clear viewing offshore (we could see the Ocean City, Maryland water tower), and evidence of the way birds shift across the continent like desert sands.

In the shifting department, the first accumulation of tree swallows made the dunes seem festive - we estimated over 300 total swallows, including 250 Tree Swallows. Many of these rested for extended periods on the dunes, in between foraging flights. A Belted Kingfisher appeared, the first I've seen at the meadows since the site re-opened. The ratio of Least Sandpipers to Semi-palmated Sandpipers has begun to tilt towards the Semis, though the Leasts still are substantially more common and may continue to be at the meadows if conditions stay the same. Plain, unvegetated mud and shallow water are in short supply, and that's the habitat the Semis prefer. The Leasts are quite happy with the small areas of moist soil with vegetation growing on it.

6 Juvenile Gannets was a highish count for July, and the rips were alive with birds but too far out to do much with. Sanderlings numbered over 100 on the beach.

Many fledgling Least Terns followed their parents around over the meadows, giving their plaintive two-note whistles, and some even ventured offshore. We watched one drop to the ocean and grab. . . a piece of seaweed. Good attempt, anyhow. I've watched juvenile herons "catch" and drop sticks repeatedly, all part of the learning process.

The wind made hearing flyovers a bit of a challenge, but a few Yellow Warblers, Bobolinks, and Indigo Buntings were passing. One of the participants asked, "You mean that 'bzzzt'?" when I called out an Indigo; I couldn't have described it better.

We had some interesting discussion on counting birds, which is difficult. With the peep, for example, I tried to come up with a total number of birds and then figure the ratio of Leasts to Semis, though looking back (and if I hadn't been leading a walk and had the time) I might have been better off doing two actual counts, one for each species, as I scoped the mud). The e-bird site has some interesting discussion on counting. One point made is that if you don't count and just list species, the data you enter will indicate that, say, Pectoral Sandpipers are as common as Least Sandpipers, which they clearly are not.

It's important to remember that a field count does not represent how many birds there were; it is only how many birds were seen (or heard), and even at that will be imprecise for most species. But over time, counting can reveal patterns in populations.

Today's list is below.

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 7/23/07
Notes: CMBO Monday walk, with K & J Lukens, T Parsons, S Weiss + participants
Number of species: 51
Canada Goose 40
Mute Swan 2
Northern Bobwhite 1
Northern Gannet 6 All juvs, fishing off 2nd ave.
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 1 notably absent in the meadows, as were snowies - did they eat all the fish?
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 5
Semipalmated Plover 10
Piping Plover 6
Killdeer 5
American Oystercatcher 3
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 5
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Spotted Sandpiper 5
Sanderling 100 highest count so far
Semipalmated Sandpiper 40 increased since last walk
Least Sandpiper 60
Pectoral Sandpiper 2
Short-billed Dowitcher 5
Laughing Gull 500
Ring-billed Gull 20
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 40
Common Tern 10
Forster's Tern 10
Least Tern 100 Many of the young are now flying well and following the adults around in the Meadows and offshore, giving a whiny two-noted whistle similar to but not as harsh as that of the adults. We watched one juv. drop to the surface of the ocean and pick up a bit of seaweed, still has some learning to do.
Black Skimmer 5
Mourning Dove 5
Chimney Swift 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 first in a long time at the Meadows
American Crow 5
Purple Martin 20
Tree Swallow 250 Shades of staging to come, this is the first aggregation of tree swallows at the Meadows we've heard about.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 20
Barn Swallow 50
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 4 3 birds including at least one juv on dunes at east crossover
Yellow Warbler 5 3 overhead, 2 flew up out of the bayberry, and back down again
Common Yellowthroat 4
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 5
Indigo Bunting 5 1 singing at lot, 4 overhead
Bobolink 5
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Common Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 5
House Finch 15
House Sparrow 5
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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