Friday, September 14, 2007

Of Merlins and terns, and waiting for the front

"Oh, you lucky people," I said to the 35 participants in our Fall Migration - Full Spectrum workshop as the national weather map played across the big screen at our Goshen center. The map revealed a big ol' cold front headed our way, predicted to pass tomorrow (Saturday) during the day.

"Cold front: learn this term." I told folks that at the start of the workshop. Raptors will fly in the afternoon tomorrow, and on Sunday, everything. Sunday's the last day of this three day workshop, which I'm co-leading with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis. We divide the group up for the field portions of the workshop, then group up for the indoors stuff.

This afternoon, we went over the best approach to identify any bird (a program I'll be repeating at the Autumn Weekend/Bird Show), and then Michael reviewed how to separate the dowitchers, Empidonax flycatchers, and Bay-breasted vs. Blackpoll Warblers in flight, among other things. . .we'll get to the hard stuff tomorrow, we joked.

Today we had east winds, and spent our time looking at Royal, Common and Forster's terns roosting on the beach, and picking a single distant Parasitic Jaeger from the foraging flocks off the Bunker at Cape May Point State Park. Like I told the workshop participants, "It's the dark falcon-like one beating the heck out of the others."

The other dark, falcon-like one of the morning was Merlin - we saw several, including one that tried, and tried, and tried, to do something with the pigeons that roost and nest on the Bunker. Those pigeons have been trained for years by tundra Peregrines, so a Merlin, fast as the species is, has little hope of success. I've only ever seen one of these resident pigeons killed by a raptor - an adult female Peregrine came over the dune, drove the pigeon flock into the air, did a full loop-de-loop and took one of the flock on the downswing like she did it all the time. God, I love Peregrines.

We saw one of them, too, today, later over at the Beanery - where some jerk vandalized the signs last weekend, by the way, we'll have them ship-shape in a little while (thanks, Sheila, Marleen and Dave!). A Sharp-shinned Hawk was hassling with a group of crows, and the P-bird came in to hassle with everyone. With winds not condusive to migration, we saw plenty of raptors today but they all had time on their hands, so to speak - drifting around, hunting, playing, but not much migration going on.

The state park held a few shorebirds, including plenty of Stilt Sandpipers, but I'm pretty sure the Baird's and Buff-breasted Sandpipers of the previous few days have left town, and we'll need a replenishment this weekend. Which, with the front, I predict we'll get, though the season is leaning towards late for both those species.

I heard about a Common Nighthawk roosting at the far end of the first field at Higbee, but we couldn't locate it. A few passerines were flying in the early morning, but not so many were available for study later.

Tomorrow Michael and Louise are taking their portion of the group to the Villas WMA, a.k.a. Ponderlodge, hopefully for a few of the landbirds which were scarce today. My group will begin again at the state park, perhaps to seawatch at the rips, perhaps to patrol the state park trails for landbirds, I haven't quite decided, and think it will be a little from column A, and a little from column B.

Today's list for the State Park is below.

Location: Cape May Point SP
Observation date: 9/14/07
Notes: CMBO's Fall Migration Workshop, east winds.
Number of species: 55
Canada Goose 15
Mute Swan 3
Mallard 5
Blue-winged Teal 15
Northern Shoveler 10
Green-winged Teal 5
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Snowy Egret 5
Tricolored Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 5
Osprey 5
Sharp-shinned Hawk 5
Cooper's Hawk 5
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Kestrel 10
Merlin 5
Peregrine Falcon 1
Semipalmated Plover 1
Killdeer 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 10
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Sanderling 25
Semipalmated Sandpiper 40
Least Sandpiper 5
Pectoral Sandpiper 2
Stilt Sandpiper 15
Short-billed Dowitcher 10
Parasitic Jaeger 1
Laughing Gull 100
Ring-billed Gull 10
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 20
Royal Tern 40
Common Tern 100
Forster's Tern 20
Black Skimmer 10
Rock Pigeon 40
Mourning Dove 10
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3
American Crow 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Northern Mockingbird 5
European Starling 5
Cedar Waxwing 10
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 10
Northern Waterthrush 5
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Common Grackle 1
House Finch 1
House Sparrow 5
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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