Monday, August 13, 2007

Lark Sparrow (not), shorebirds of many stripes, and one more sign of the end of summer

The Lark Sparrow discovered at Cape May Point State Park on Saturday has not been reported since, despite searching - including by me Sunday afternoon. Plenty of other birds were there to hold my attention, or distract it, depending on one's point of view about "chasing" rare birds. Among these were two of the world's most bedraggled Northern Mockingbirds, sitting right where the Lark Sparrow was supposed to be, in the snag at the north side of the metal bridge on the red trail at the park. The mockers, like most other birds, have finished up nesting for the summer, indeed we saw a family group of 7 together on the dune at the meadows this morning (more on the meadows below).

Other state park birds from yesterday afternoon included a Long-billed Dowitcher that "keeked" obligingly and alighted in Bunker Pond, and two Sandwich Terns reported there earlier in the day by other birders.

At least twenty-one sandpiper-and-plover species have been reported at Cape May Point in the past two days, so not surprisingly this morning's CMBO walk at TNC's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (a.k.a. the Meadows) was rich in shorebirds, including some in evident movement. The wind was west-northwest, and single Black-bellied Plover (the first I recall seeing or hearing about at Cape May Point this summer, which seems surprising somehow) and Whimbrel were flyovers. I'm fairly certain I heard an Upland Sandpiper, too, but none of the other leaders heard it so I'm a bit hesitant to claim the bird. An Uppie was seen on the grass edging Lighthouse Pond last week.

The plover ponds hosted higher numbers of shorebirds than they have in the recent past, including several groups of dowitchers with Stilt Sandpipers mixed in. In the wetlands west of the west path, there were 4 White-rumped Sandpipers with the usual assortment of peep. These were interesting in the fact that they were completely back-lit, the worst possible lighting, and that actually made them easier to pick out. You could do it naked eye at 40 yards, with a little practice, either "cheating" by finding another peep for a size comparison (white-rumps are over an inch longer than Semi-palmated Sandpipers, weigh almost twice as much, and it shows in side-side comparison) or by noting the white-rumpeds' attenuated rear end. Paul Guris one time put it to a group that white-rumpeds "look like someone grabbed their tail and pulled," and they do, very drawn out in back. It's their long wings, not tail, that gives them this profile, but the analogy is perfect.

Baltimore Oriole nests in Cape May County but is very scarce south of the canal outside migration, so the female we found foraging near the dunes was interesting.

Finally, with a bit of sadness I can report that the Least Terns have completed their nesting efforts and vacated the colony at the meadows - an American Crow sat in the middle of the roped-off area completely undisturbed. If it had tried that a few weeks ago, it would surely have wished it were somewhere else. The fledgling Least Terns are now all out and about with their parents, learning how to fish and stay out of trouble.

Today's full list is below.

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 8/13/07
Notes: CMBO's Monday morning walk.
Number of species: 59
Canada Goose 40
Mute Swan 2
Mallard 30
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
Green Heron 3 Perhaps a family group that moved over from the Beanery?
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 3
Osprey 3
Black-bellied Plover 1 First for this walk
Semipalmated Plover 30
Piping Plover 5
Killdeer 5
American Oystercatcher 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 5
Solitary Sandpiper 2 flyovers
Whimbrel 1 flyover
Sanderling 100
Semipalmated Sandpiper 20
Least Sandpiper 20
White-rumped Sandpiper 4
Pectoral Sandpiper 2
Stilt Sandpiper 3
Short-billed Dowitcher 35
Laughing Gull 200
Ring-billed Gull 10
Herring Gull 30 10 fresh juveniles in the plover ponds
Great Black-backed Gull 30
Royal Tern 5
Common Tern 25
Forster's Tern 5
Least Tern 10 the tern colony is officially empty; a crow sat within it unharassed.
Black Skimmer 10
Rock Pigeon 10
Mourning Dove 5
Belted Kingfisher 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
White-eyed Vireo 1 singing; surprise, hasn't been there - migrant or wanderer
American Crow 1
Purple Martin 10
Tree Swallow 50
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 20
Carolina Wren 1
American Robin 1
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 7 a family group or groups on the dune, including some recently fledged juvenile
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 5
Yellow Warbler 5
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Bobolink 1 flyover
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Baltimore Oriole 1 one female
House Finch 5
American Goldfinch 5
House Sparrow 5
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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