Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Norbury's Landing, Birds about Cape May, and a Black Tern Rumination

(Horseshoe crab molt, see below. Photos by Don Freiday)

I had an appointment to meet Sam Galick, the Morning Flight counter-to-be, at Higbee this morning, and so had the opportunity to "enjoy" a whole lot of much needed rain in the gray light of dawn. Two birds kept flying up ahead of me on the lane out to the dike, stopping obligingly in the headlights often enough that I finally checked them with the bins - two Northern Waterthrushes. I could tell they were northerns because they always stopped by still puddles and never fed in the streams of water rushing down the lane, in which case I would have called them Louisianas ;).

I didn't bird much today but Sam did, and reports the following from the State Park:

"2 Northern Shoveler- only landed for a few seconds then took off towards the meadows.
1 Blue-winged Teal
1 Baird's Sandpiper- excellent views in the far east corner of the bunker pond.
6 White-rumped Sandpiper
2 Stilt Sandpiper
5 Royal Tern
8 Black Terns- all were imm. When they are not roosting at the Bunker Pond, try the Lighthouse Pond, they love to pick from there.
3 Caspian Tern

Meadows had 2 Blue-winged Teal and a single Green-winged."

Sam later emailed to up the Black Tern total to 10 on Bunker Pond, which is a good count these days and set me to ruminating. Reading Rick Radis's interview of Rich Kane (published on this web site, in the Migrants and Residents section of Tigrina Times), I stopped at Rich's comment, "Also in the early 1950s, Black Terns some days were in three figures; Black Terns were easy to find."

I fished out my copy of Stone, i.e. Witmer Stone's Bird Studies at Old Cape May, published in 1937, and found this about Black Terns: "There are often only one or two at first but their number increases later so that there used to be as many as one hundred in some years. Over the great meadows north of the Harbor during August there are often many times that number coursing about."

Many times one hundred, and now 10 is a good count. . .you have to ask, what's up with that? Birds of North America Online (I highly recommend a subscription) noted:

"Populations of this tern in North America and Europe have declined markedly, at least since the 1960s. Loss of wetlands on breeding grounds and migration routes is probably a major cause, but food supplies may have been reduced through agricultural control of insects and overfishing in the marine winter range." [Dunn, E. H., and D. J. Agro. 1995. Black Tern (Chlidonias niger). In The Birds of North America, No. 147 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.]

"Our" Black Terns winter mostly in coastal areas along the coast of northern South America, and up into Central America and somewhat in the Antilles. I was also somewhat astonished to read that there apparently was an unsuccessful Black Tern nesting attempt here in NJ!

My birding today was a walk at Norbury's Landing along the Delaware Bayshore, where the early molts of this year's horseshoe crabs are apparent (see photos above and at right). The bayshore is important for migrating shorebirds in fall as well as spring, not to mention other species - below is a list from a couple days ago.

Location: Norbury's Landing
Observation date: 8/19/07
Notes: Light rain. No binoculars.
Number of species: 28
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 5
Green Heron 1
Osprey 5
Bald Eagle 3 2 adults on the sandbar, one third year pursued an Osprey with a fish
Clapper Rail 5 still grunting and clicking
Black-bellied Plover 2 first this fall here
Semipalmated Plover 25 much increased from last visit
American Oystercatcher 1 My first here? Don't remember.
Spotted Sandpiper 5
Ruddy Turnstone 10 Much increased since last visit
Red Knot 1 First of fall here
Sanderling 75
Semipalmated Sandpiper 200
White-rumped Sandpiper 1
Laughing Gull 150
Herring Gull 5
Forster's Tern 15
Least Tern 5
Black Skimmer 5
Mourning Dove 2
Eastern Kingbird 5
Purple Martin 75 Largest group I've seen here
Tree Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 5
Blue Grosbeak 2 1 mile north of landing, chinking and then singing
Red-winged Blackbird 100
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

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