Thursday, October 11, 2007

Common Eider, Marbled Godwits, Brant, and Birds put to Flight

Common or King? King or Common? I didn't really have time to look closely first thing this morning, while leading a group of beginning birders, but I went back later and found the [now] 100% Common Eider we observed near the Bunker at Cape May Point during CMBO's "Bird Walk for All People." This walk is great for all birders but especially beginners, and wasn't the place to scrutinize a somewhat distant eider for forehead slope and exact shape and structure of the bill. Better to get close-ups of egrets and watch fly-by Peregrines, both of which were readily available at the state park. As was a nice mix of ducks, including a female Northern Pintail and a few wigeon in breeding plumage. Cormorants flew steadily past, and a few groups of scoters went by offshore. Common Loons also migrated over land and sea, and several lingered on the ocean off the state park.

Later in the day all attempts to enumerate the shorebirds at Stone Harbor were put to flight, literally, as an adult Bald Eagle came over the free bridge at low tide and sent 11 Marbled Godwits and higher numbers of oystercatchers, "Western" Willets, Western Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin, yellowlegs, and who knows what else to wing. All made worthwhile, however, by the two Caspian Terns which mobbed the eagle (an adult) right over the bridge, right over our heads, and northward, out of sight. An accumulation of about 70 Brant in the inlet made it seem somehow wintry, an effect enhanced by cloudy skies, cold wind, and falling temperatures. Tide is really important at this site - at high tide, little will be found from the free bridge, so you're better off checking Nummy Island.

Yesterday I got my first bird's eye view of the Cape May Rips, the area of rough water off Cape May Point so attractive to birds, birders, fish, and fishermen. While on a boat fishing out there with Mike Fritz and other friends, we saw at least 3 different Parasitic Jaegers, including an adult light morph which leisurely paralleled our boat as we cruised at 30 knots. It was easy to see why birds are attracted to the rips - bluefish were thick, pushing baitfish to the surface.

With all this food in the water, and winds bringing cool water and migrating birds, thoughts now should turn to the Avalon Seawatch. Results from the seawatch, and the Cape May Hawkwatch and Morning Flight, can be found on this web site under View from the Field - check it out.

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