Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Holy Common Nighthawk Batman!

Wow, what a day! A day like today is one of the many reasons I love Cape May. This might be a little longer than usual, just to warn you.

We started out the day at Higbee.....about an hour later than I'd have liked. I turned off the alarm in my sleep and woke up late. It sounded like there might have been a pretty good push of birds in the morning. When we arrived things had slowed considerably. All in all the diversity was not huge but we had some good looks at birds. A Black-throated green warbler for instance. I always like to see these birds, reminds me of my years on Hog Island at the Audubon Camp in Maine. They nested everywhere up there.

I did hear that the dike had at least a couple of Connecticut warblers fly past. Still a nemesis bird for me. Though, I will not vow to see one here, I did that with Cerulean warbler and I didn't see one this August.

Either way, the winds are supposed to be WNW- NW tonight so no matter where you may be in New Jersey, get out and do some bird watching tomorrow. There should be a good flight. I would expect that the hawk watch will be good again tomorrow. Also included in this post is numbers from our time on the hawk watch platform in the late morning. Some good looks at American kestrels and Sharp-shinned hawks. A harrier or two about and a juv. Bald eagle were highlights of my time there. Check out the View from the Field section for more detailed information on what the flights were like at the hawk watch and the morning flight.

The first list you see with be the numbers form tonight's CMBO Twilight Watch walk at TNC's CMMBR. Twenty-seven of us were treated to an amazing evening. THE major highlight of the night was a Common nighthawk that flew over head while we were discussing a few things in the parking lot. Later down the trail we saw two more night hawks. I was thinking, wow, this could turn out to be a pretty good nighthawk night. Little did I know. We hit the top of the dune after finding a Northern pintail on the little plover pond to the west of the trial. Once we got to the top of the dune we saw hundreds of Laughing gulls flying over the dune grasses hawking insects. If you looked toward the setting sun through your binoculars, the air was thick, almost as far as the eye could see with flying insects.

Soon someone noticed another Common nighthawk flying with the gulls. The another.... and another and more. As we scanned the sky opposite the sunset we could see many nighthawks between us and the town of Cape May. I counted as best I could given that I had to sort through hundreds of gulls and the nighthawks were moving about feeding so much that they continually mixed. My best count was about 45 individuals which is pretty darn good for Cape May. Sibley's Birds of Cape May indicates a fall maxima of 200 in Sept. of 1934. A far cry from a record but something we don't see all that often here. In fact, hardly ever. With the numbers of nighthawks dwindling, we should all feel lucky that we witnessed this evening's events.

As we continued around the loop I kept picking out nighthawks. Up on the new platform I counted at least 15 more birds. My 62 that I entered into my eBird account is a conservative estimate. I would guess that there were no less than 100 Common nighthawks over Cape May tonight. Who knows how many more moved in as the night fell.

One last note, it seemed as though there might be some heron movement tonight. Or, birds getting up testing the waters. We had no less than 13 Green herons flying around and, high. Not like birds that are heading to roost. One particular bird was flying in circles as if getting it's bearings. And for the batman portion, we did have three Red bats flying about near the platform this evening. When you are at the hawk watch platform early in the morning, look for these guys to come in off the ocean. You can see them in small numbers on a good night flight.

So, the moral to the story. Get out, you'll see more things that way. Also, check the Birding Forecast and then get out birding in the morning. Me, I'll be on the dike, it should be a good morning for it.

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 9/12/07
Notes: CMBO Twilight Watch walk
Number of species: 37

Canada Goose 125
Mute Swan 16
Wood Duck 1
Gadwall 24
Mallard 35
Northern Shoveler 6
Northern Pintail 1
Green-winged Teal 52
Hooded Merganser 1
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 1
Green Heron 13
Black-crowned Night-Heron 6
Black Vulture 3
Osprey 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
American Kestrel 2
American Oystercatcher 8
Lesser Yellowlegs 16
Least Sandpiper 8
Short-billed Dowitcher 3
Laughing Gull 725
Herring Gull 15
Great Black-backed Gull 75
Black Skimmer 95
Mourning Dove 3
Common Nighthawk 62
Chimney Swift 3
American Crow 8
Tree Swallow 24
Barn Swallow 6
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 12
Common Yellowthroat 2
Song Sparrow 1
House Sparrow 18

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Location: Cape May Bird Observatory Hawk Watch Site
Observation date: 9/12/07
Number of species: 28

Canada Goose 35
Mallard 2
Northern Shoveler 3
Green-winged Teal 13
Great Blue Heron 1
Bald Eagle 1
Northern Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 34
Cooper's Hawk 4
American Kestrel 36
Merlin 6
Peregrine Falcon 1
Semipalmated Plover 6
Lesser Yellowlegs 16
Whimbrel 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper 15
Least Sandpiper 25
Pectoral Sandpiper 6
Stilt Sandpiper 4
Chimney Swift 12
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Tree Swallow 100
Bank Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 15
Northern Mockingbird 2
Bobolink 37
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 15

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Location: Higbee Beach
Observation date: 9/12/07
Number of species: 27

Double-crested Cormorant 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 2
Mourning Dove 3
Chimney Swift 6
Eastern Wood-Pewee 2
White-eyed Vireo 8
Red-eyed Vireo 3
Tree Swallow 4
Carolina Chickadee 4
Carolina Wren 7
Veery 8
American Robin 8
Gray Catbird 2
Cedar Waxwing 17
Northern Parula 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 2
American Redstart 20
Northern Waterthrush 1
Common Yellowthroat 8
Northern Cardinal 7
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Blue Grosbeak 1
Bobolink 17
Baltimore Oriole 1
American Goldfinch 6

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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