Friday, November 16, 2007

Island Beach, Avalon seabird count, and hawks yesterday

I'm guessing today's Cape May hawk count, with the passing of the front, was better than yesterday's, a safe bet given that Chris Brown tallied a whopping 6 raptors yesterday (Thursday). However, there was some quality among Thursday's birds - a lot of quality, actually: Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, sharpie, goshawk, and red-shouldered. That's okay for any day list, no?

I was up at Island Beach leading a trip today with Pete Bacinski, Scott Barnes, Karla Risdon, Tom Gilmore, and a hardy crew of NJAS supporters. If you've never been to Island Beach, please go - it's a display of what the whole mid-Atlantic coast used to look like, and should today, a matrix of dune forest and thicket, plus salt marsh and beach. NJAS members had a significant hand in protecting this site for perpetuity.

I've decided that the morning flight we count each year in Cape May is in part derived from birds that get south of Island Beach in the early morning hours only to discover that there's almost zero habitat between there and Delaware Bay. So the birds reach Cape May Point, still looking for habitat, and can only turn northward along the bay shore, where thankfully they can find resting places in the varied parcels of the Cape May NWR.

Scoters were surprisingly sparse at Island Beach today, except it's not such a surprise given that the Avalon Sea Watch has topped 700,000 birds with a month yet to go. This could be the year the official watch, conducted September 22 to December 22, tops one million birds. But the "barrel" of birds to come certainly has drained down. Gannets, however, were omnipresently and abundantly present, a few loons spiced the surf, and a late Osprey passed. The full list for Island Beach today is below. Bird numbers were light, frankly, and that had everything to do with the 20-30 mph northwest winds from which my face still burns, and from which passerines hid, while migrating seabirds were pushed out to sea.

We watched a Merlin munching on its prey, happily perched on a bayside Osprey platform, probably the favorite bird of this windy day. We'll be back at Island Beach tomorrow, alert in particular for migrant owls, because if the wind lays down tonight Saw-whets and Long-eareds will move.

Location: Island Beach State Park
Observation date: 11/16/07
Notes: NJAS trip, 20-30 mph nw winds.
Number of species: 48
Brant 75
American Black Duck 150
Northern Pintail 2
Green-winged Teal 25
Black Scoter 5
Long-tailed Duck 15
Bufflehead 25
Hooded Merganser 1
Red-breasted Merganser 50
Red-throated Loon 10
Common Loon 1
Northern Gannet 500
Double-crested Cormorant 50
Great Egret 1
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Merlin 2
Sanderling 20
Dunlin 10
Laughing Gull 10
Bonaparte's Gull 5
Ring-billed Gull 50
Herring Gull 20
Great Black-backed Gull 75
Forster's Tern 10
Royal Tern 5
Mourning Dove 20
Northern Flicker 2
American Crow 20
Carolina Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
Carolina Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 5
Red-winged Blackbird 5
House Finch 5
Pine Siskin 1
American Goldfinch 75
House Sparrow 5

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