Saturday, November 10, 2007

Gannets, Tri-coloreds, & the Hawk & Sea Watches yesterday

[The Northern Gannet colony at Cape St. Mary's, Newfoundland (photographed by NJAS tour participant Carole Wilmot) is undoubtedly the source of some of the gannets migrating along the Cape May Coast right now. NJAS will offer a tour to Newfoundland in 2008; more at under Ecotravel.]

You couldn't swing a fishing rod without hitting a Northern Gannet at Stone Harbor Point this morning - a fast running count quickly evolved into counting by 10's and ended with 500+ in view at one time, many plunging like the winged spears they are, often 20 or more falling in unison into the waves. Many of these were CLOSE, as in, right off the jetty.

At one point, whatever the Gannets were feeding on wound up directly beneath a large flock of dark-winged scoters (had no binoculars so that's as far as I could take the i.d.), and of course the plunging gannets followed. The scoters quickly figured out that resting on the water between diving gannets and their fish is not a good place to be, and erupted, headed for safer waters.

With the new moon, the tide was extraordinarily high at Nummy Island, flooding out all shorebird habitat. At least 25 Great Egrets hunted the flooded salt pans, and with them were 5 Great Blues and 2 Tri-colored Herons (matching, I think, my high count for this species last summer). About 25 Greater Yellowlegs were scrunched together on a tiny island along the causeway to North Wildwood; where the many other shorebirds that are still around were roosting I know not.

Jessie Barry reports from yesterday's Hawkwatch, "Pretty slow day at the hawkwatch. Still some Osprey pushing through. We had several Cave Swallows throughout the day. Cattle Egret flew over and dropped into the way back of Bunker Pond at noon. Still good numbers of robins at dawn and dusk. Several siskins and pipits. One Evening Grosbeak at the hawkwatch yesterday. Ken and Glenn said seawatch was sweet today. Heard lots of gannets and scoter."

"Sweet" in terms of the seawatch yesterday means ~5600 Northern Gannet, ~7500 D.C. Cormorants, 14,000+ scoters including a season high 32 White-wingeds, a Redhead and the usual fun mixture of dabblers interloping with the sea ducks.

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