Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Of Anhingas, Orioles and Eiders

"Don't turn your back on Cape May in a west wind" is a good adage, as I learned Monday when I left the hawkwatch to post Monday's blog. Sure enough, 5 minutes later an Anhinga soared over the platform.

Yesterday's (Tuesday's) birding at Cape May featured . . .well, nice weather, anyway. It was clear a few new birds had come in at Higbee, including a significant number of Hermit Thrushes, with at least 10 detected in a two hour walk around the fields there. Juncoes similarly were more evident, lending a sense that winter is coming. However, a lingering Baltimore Oriole, plus Blackpoll and Pine Warblers, bent the season back towards fall.

Off St. Peters, a female Common Eider, probably the same one that's been reported around the point for a couple weeks, provided close study opportunities, close enough that we could examine the bill structure and determine, based on the shape of the frontal apex (the swath of feathers extending to the base of the upper mandible) and the rounded shape of the portion of the bill extending rearward to the eye, that this eider is from the Atlantic population. Page 93 in "big" Sibley depicts the bill shapes for the various Common Eider populations.

From St. Peters, we watched raptors come to the tip of the point and figure out what they were going to do next. One Northern Harrier, very typically for this species, circled to gain altitude and then without further hesitation headed south out over the bay. The accipiters, one could pretty well tell, got to the bay and thought "oh, crap", turned around and headed north. One sharpie and one Cooper's Hawk did fly well out over the water, only to think better of it and turn around.

Many Tree Swallows fed low over the water, which may seem weird considering that it's salt water we're talking about and thus no insects are hatching from it. However, on west or northwest winds, some insects are blown out over the water and perhaps are easy pickings for the swallows as the insects struggle back to shore. In summer, Purple Martins from the state park colony often forage far offshore, and I presume this is the reason.

I did not hear of any new rarities through noon Tuesday. Today we're off to Brigantine, we being the CMBO Cape May with Everything On It workshop. Hopefully the White Pelican will still be around, along with plenty of ducks and lingering shorebirds.

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