Sunday, August 5, 2007

Solitary, Spotted, Peregrine and Osprey

Okay, so I'm no Paul Lehman.The NW wind being predicted on The Weather Channel didn't seem to materialize much in the way of migrant bird species this morning. I guess I'll have to wait until a little later in August to get my fall Cerulean warbler.

While the species diversity and numbers at Higbee was a little less than impressive, we did manage a few very interesting sightings. In fact this is one if the things that I love most about living and birding in Cape May. Even though this place is celebrated as on of the best birding locations in the world; when Cape May is slow, it can be agonizingly slow (today wasn't quite that bad though.) But, there is always something interesting to see or to discover.

When the birding is a little slower it gives you chance to take note of various other aspects of species identification. Like this morning, we happened upon a Spotted and Solitary sandpiper on the little pond at the back of Higbee. I am familiar with the fact that these birds are structurally similar and in some respects very similar in basic plumage. If you'd like a pictorial reference check out The Shorebird Guide on page 102, at the bottom is a comparison picture that illustrates my point.

So, as we saw these birds they took flight and flew directly way from us to the bank across the pond. This afforded us the opportunity to study these birds in flight, side by side. Surprisingly, to me at least, was how similar this birds are in flight as well. Their shape and position in which they hold their wings in flight is very similar. Even the shallow flapping style that the Spotted sandpiper is known for was exhibited in the Solitary sandpiper. The major difference was that the Solitarys' flap was a little deeper and drawn out in comparison to the spotted. This is due in part to the size difference. Larger birds have to flap a bit more and harder than smaller birds. Simple, right? But one thing you may notice is that a Solitary sandpiper does not fly in this manor when observed high overhead in flight. My guess would be that the bird is using a different flight style to get across the little pond versus a longer distance flight. Whether I'm right or wrong in my hypothesis, this is the first I've observed this particular similarity in flight style between the two birds. Something to continue looking for when given the chance.

Other interesting observations, a couple of different Carolina wrens singing a soft drawn out warbley, bubbly song. One I did not recognize as being associated with this species. Keep your ears tuned in the next time your out and see if you hear this, I guess it's associated with communications between mate and possibly young. Though, I have no proof to support my theory mind you.

The last observation was of a Peregrine falcon which took a dive or two at an Osprey passing by. I remember a photo taken from the hawkwatch platform in Cape May Point State Park, a few years ago, where a Peregrine falcon was seen taking a fish from an Osprey. This morning, this seems to have been an unprovoked attack, the Osprey held no fish. Probably just a bird trying to throw its' weight around.

After Higbee we went up the the platform at St.Peter's jetty to look for the Manx shearwater that was reported yesterday. No luck with this or any shewawaters. There were large numbers (100's) of gulls and terns feeding in the rips. Certainly a spectacle that should not be missed if you are down, birding Cape May.

A list of species observed is below. Stay cool, tomorrow is supposed to be a doozy!

Location: Higbee Beach
Observation date: 8/5/07
Number of species: 33
Canada Goose 25
Green Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Laughing Gull 8
Mourning Dove 3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 4
Eastern Kingbird 5
White-eyed Vireo 2
Purple Martin 12
Tree Swallow 4
Barn Swallow 7
Carolina Wren 6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Gray Catbird 3
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 5
Cedar Waxwing 8
Yellow Warbler 6
American Redstart 1
Northern Waterthrush 2
Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 4
Red-winged Blackbird 6
Common Grackle 12
Orchard Oriole 3
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 2
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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