Monday, November 12, 2007

The Turn of the Season at the Meadows

[Eurasian Wigeon, 3rd bird from right, on Lily Lake this morning. Photo by Don Freiday, click to enlarge.]
You know fall is slipping away when . . . Red-throated Loons accumulate under Northern Gannets (many and close) off Cape May. Or when the only shorebirds you see are Sanderlings and 10 Greater Yellowlegs searching for a place to land. Or a Horned Grebe floats just off the beach, 4 Cave Swallows mix with Tree Swallows, and you let your glasses linger on the one late Osprey, wondering if it will be the last. And, sealing the deal, a Bonaparte's Gull which daintily floated into the pond near the tower at the meadows, a.k.a. the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge.

This chilly, cloudy morning was the last CMBO walk of fall at the meadows. Although certainly much good birding, seawatching, and probably more rarities, await before the start of CBC (Christmas Bird Count) season, the birds we saw seemed to remind all present that fall migration is winding down.

And the birds we didn't see. For the first time, we walked down the west path nearly all the way without flushing a sparrow, a contrast to recent weeks when many, especially Swamps and Songs, caused to take a step and stop, take a step and stop, as one or 10 flushed from the weeds near the path. Nary a Palm Warbler was detected. No Blue-winged Teal could be found, reminding everyone that "neotropical migrant" does not just apply to songbirds, as many Blue-winged Teal winter in South America, south of, say, Blue-winged Warblers.
Morning flight today consisted of robins and yellow-rumps, spiced by a few Purple Finches, more goldfinches, and at least 100 American Pipits, 25 of of which landed on the island in the east pool of the meadows. They've done this for us before, so if you're in need of a pipit, check the island as well as the beach. George Myers reports he had 150 pipits at the Beanery today.
A diverse mix of ducks has formed on Lily Lake, including the show-starring drake Eurasian Wigeon. The Eurasian Wigeon does just as good a job as the 50+ American Wigeon at stealing food brought up from the bottom by the coots and Ring-necked Ducks, by the way. At least four Pied-billed Grebes, two dozen Ruddy Ducks, Gadwalls, and shoveler are on Lily Lake, too. Best viewing is from West Lake Drive just south of Holly; you can only park on the side of the road opposite the lake, so drive around the lake counter-clockwise. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew over while I was looking at the wigeon - I imagine a walk about town could be a could way to find this and other short-distance migrants.
If you go looking for the Red-headed Woodpeckers at the Villas WMA, they are hanging out at the back left (SE) portion of the area. Follow the path to left and look for a red post when you near the south edge of the property; look in this vicinity.

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