Monday, August 6, 2007

Meadows shorebirds, a patch of herons, and a brief note on Champagne Island

Karl Lukens reports some good birding at the Meadows (TNC Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge) this morning: "In the rain this morning . . .found some of the usual shore birds including 3 Piping Plover, 4 Spotted (with and without spots) Sandpipers, Semis-, Least, Yellowlegs as well as 1 Western and 1 White-rump Sandpiper. An immature Coopers Hawk sitting on a fence was interesting."

A large number of egrets and herons were concentrated along Ocean Drive opposite the Breezee Lee Marina this morning; unfortunately I didn't have time to inspect them, but viewed on the drive-by the majority were Snowy Egrets with Great Egrets and at least a few Little Blues. A place perhaps to check for something fancier.

The tern and skimmer colony on Champagne Island in Hereford Inlet continues to thrive despite continued boater pressure on the island. There were 120 people and about 25 boats at the island on Saturday evening with the usual attending coolers and grills, but I saw no dogs and no one inside the roped area from my vantage at the bottom of the Nummy Island toll bridge. Others have reported dogs there over the weekend. Whether boaters and birds could coexist on Champagne Island is a fair question, one that I don't know the answer to, but because this is by far the largest colony of Black Skimmers in the state, and the only colony of Royal Terns, any error on that question must be made in favor of the birds.

DEP officials report that as of July 25 there were over 1,600 Black Skimmers and a total of 719 nests, and 200 Royal Terns with 20-30 nests. On that date 70 Common Terns were still sitting on nests, the other 180 or so nests having fledglings, or in some cases having been depradated by gulls.

Today, there were many fledgling Common Terns, Black Skimmers, and Royal Terns in all stages of development - lots of begging, wandering about, being fed, and being brooded against the wind and rain by attentive parents. A few of the skimmer chicks walked along practicing by skimming the sand, quite a cute behavior. We watched a well-along Royal Tern that perched atop a hillock on the little island and stretched its wings, perhaps soon to become the first every fledged Royal Tern (that we know of) for NJ. Check the NJ section of the NYT on Sunday two weeks hence for an article by Kevin Coyne, who came down to see the island first hand. Special thanks are due to Mike Fritz for his insights and use of his boat. At some point we'll do a photo essay of the island in this space, so everyone can see what we're trying to protect.

An adult and juvenile Sandwich Tern were also out on the island, with a number of Western Willets and other shorebird species.

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