Monday, December 31, 2007

White-winged Dove at Villas, Northern Shrike, White-eyed Vireo & more at Turkey Point

Bill Boyle gave me a call yesterday (Sunday) to report having just seen, with Bob and Stephanie Brown, who discovered the bird, a White-winged Dove at Villas WMA, a.k.a. the old Ponderlodge golf course. This may be the first winter record for Cape May, and is very likely the same bird that was reported there on and off during the fall. The bird was apparently more or less in the center of the WMA.

Yesterday was also the Cumberland Christmas Bird Count, and among the highlights was an adult Northern Shrike at Turkey Point, at the end of Turkey Point Road, in the rain around 4:00 p.m. The bird went to roost while we were there. Other count highlights included White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Great Egret, Short-eared Owls, Sedge Wrens and many raptors. Clay and Pat Sutton had Red Crossbills, but I don't know the details at present. If other highlights emerge, we'll report them here.

For many years I've done the Cumberland Count with Pete Dunne and a varying cast of characters, often including Linda Dunne, in an absolute peach of a territory: Dividing Creek and surrounds, focusing on Turkey Point and the Natural Lands Trust's Glades preserve. If you've never been, make the trip - the area is treated in Bill Boyle's Birdfinding in New Jersey, 2nd edition, beginning page 398. Or, join Karen Johnson and Janet Crawford for some of CMBO's Sunday morning birding field trips there, which begin January 20 and run through March 23. these field trips meet at the end of Turkey Point Road, and run from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. No pre-registration is necessary.

Just as dawn broke I nearly enticed a Short-eared Owl to perch on my head by squeaking at it from the edge of Turkey Point Road. Pete and Linda found two Sedge Wrens along the road, near the dog leg with the interpretive signs and pull-offs. In the marsh at the end of the road, across the footbridge, we squeaked up 1 Salt-marsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, two Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows, and a number of Seaside Sparrows. Standing on the tower, Pete picked a very distant male Yellow-headed Blackbird from a flock of Red-wingeds.

Another rarity highlight was a White-eyed Vireo, which we found along Turkey Point Road about midway between Maple Street and Hickman Avenue - more on this bird below.

Turkey Point is justly famous for raptors. In a single 360 degree scan from the tower shortly before the rain began, we had an actual count, as opposed to an estimate, of 45 (!) Northern Harriers, not to mention 4 Bald Eagles, 2 Peregrines, and several Red-tailed Hawks. Apparently the birds knew weather was coming and were getting in a last feeding effort. During the day we encountered multiple Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, and we had a second Short-eared Owl during the day, and several Screech Owls, 8 Great-horned Owls, and single Barn and Saw-whet Owls at night.

The Great Egrets were seen via scanning from Turkey Point Road. There's also been a Great Egret in a marsh south of Goshen along Route 47 several days during the past week.

The Turkey Point area is thick with land birds generally - lots of Hermit Thrushes, Towhees, Thrashers, Fox Sparrows, and so forth. Our full list for just our territory is below.

About the vireo, here's an exercise to try. Without looking at a field guide, either sketch a White-eyed Vireo or write down a complete description of one. Perhaps you'll have the same experience I did when I first saw the vireo yesterday - it's amazing how often I will realize I don't really know what a common bird looks like, and the vireo was a case in point, probably because I've seen hundreds, normally heard them before I've seen them, and never had to think about trying to prove I'd seen one.

The vireo sighting began with me seeing a warbler flash across the road, and after the briefest of binocular views I called out, "Orange-crowned!" Pete and Linda never got on it, and we never relocated it, so that was one that got away - all I know is mainly that I thought I recognized it as Orange-crowned, that it was green backed, lacked wing bars, and had yellow under the tail.

While we were trying to track down the Orange-crowned, pishing softly, the vireo popped into my view and again I had something to blurt out: "Hey! White-eyed Vireo!" Pete and Linda said, "Your kidding!" in about the same breath, and justifiably - the nearest White-eyed Vireo regularly winters is coastal North Carolina, and I'm pretty sure it's new for the Cumberland count, though it has been found on the Cape May count before.

I saw this bird perfectly well, though briefly, then it disappeared into a tangle before anyone else saw it. I really wanted someone else to see this bird. One thing you don't want to have happen is find a rare bird that no one else sees, let alone two back to back - can you say, "stringer"?

Luckily the bird did reappear - for me. And I began second guessing. It had a dark eye, which is fine, because of course young White-eyeds do and you'd expect a bird where it wasn't supposed to be to be a young one. It had a vireo bill, with the slight hook at the tip that recalls the apparently close genetic relationship vireos have with shrikes. But is a White-eyed Vireo's head supposed to be mostly gray? Can the spectacles be whitish-yellow rather than bright yellow? How much yellow can they have below - this one had a lot, and it was lemony-bright. Are their backs really that green? Is that thick dark line from eye to bill normal? I thought the answers to all those questions were yes, but I didn't really remember.

All this points out something that has been said before - experienced birders don't identify birds, they recognize them. Once I had to mess with field marks on the vireo, I didn't feel so awful experienced, even though I saw my first White-eyed Vireo at Brigantine sometime in the early 80's!

Pete finally got on it and said simply, with a touch of surprise, "White-eyed Vireo." Thank goodness. Here's a New Year's resolution - learn your common birds well. Not that we don't all already know that. Perhaps we'll make that a theme for tomorrow's CMBO field trip, Kick Off Your Year List in Cape May.

Location: Turkey Point
Observation date: 12/30/07
Notes: Cumberland CBC. With Pete and Linda. Calm, clear but damp in early morning, cloud during day, rain beginning at 3:00ish.
Number of species: 92
Snow Goose 1000
Canada Goose 100
Mute Swan 25
Gadwall 45
American Black Duck 150
Mallard 40
Green-winged Teal 800
Bufflehead 30
Hooded Merganser 20
Common Merganser 1
Red-breasted Merganser 14
Ruddy Duck 8
Wild Turkey 14
Great Blue Heron 18
Great Egret 6
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
Turkey Vulture 2
Bald Eagle 10
Northern Harrier 55
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3
Cooper's Hawk 7
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 12
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 3
Clapper Rail 10
Virginia Rail 10
Greater Yellowlegs 30
Western Sandpiper 8
Dunlin 1000
Wilson's Snipe 3
American Woodcock 2
Ring-billed Gull 30
Herring Gull 300
Great Black-backed Gull 20
Mourning Dove 35
Barn Owl 1
Eastern Screech-Owl 6
Great Horned Owl 8
Short-eared Owl 2
Northern Saw-whet Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker 10
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 15
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 8
Northern Shrike 1
White-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 20
American Crow 25
Fish Crow 3
Carolina Chickadee 75
Tufted Titmouse 10
Red-breasted Nuthatch 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Carolina Wren 25
Winter Wren 2
Sedge Wren 2
Marsh Wren 12
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Hermit Thrush 30
American Robin 600
Gray Catbird 8
Northern Mockingbird 12
Brown Thrasher 20
European Starling 20
Cedar Waxwing 70
Yellow-rumped Warbler 80
Common Yellowthroat 1
Eastern Towhee 35
American Tree Sparrow 3
Field Sparrow 18
Savannah Sparrow 12
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow 2
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow 1
Seaside Sparrow 15
Fox Sparrow 10
Song Sparrow 20
Swamp Sparrow 30
White-throated Sparrow 40
Dark-eyed Junco 12
Northern Cardinal 24
Red-winged Blackbird 350
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Yellow-headed Blackbird 1
Rusty Blackbird 40
Boat-tailed Grackle 72
Purple Finch 5
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 4
House Sparrow 6

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Osprey, 60 Tree Swallows, 25 Forster's Terns, Goshawk, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Snow Buntings - just where the hek are we, anyway?

[George Myers photographed the Ash-throated Flycatcher at Cape Island Preserve today. Click to enlarge.]

"Are those things flitting around over the water Tree Swallows?" I didn't know the gentleman asking the question, but I understood why he was puzzled - it was December 29, after all.

"Yes. Cape May is just weird sometimes." We were at the South Cape May Meadows, a.k.a. the TNC's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, and, besides the Tree Swallows, 60 strong, we'd seen the latest Osprey I've ever had in NJ, plus 25 Forster's Terns foraging off the tip of Cape May, and 23 Snow Buntings on the dunes. Plus good numbers of ducks, including a solo female Common Goldeneye, and other fun stuff like Fox, Savannah and White-crowned Sparrows.

We also checked Lily Lake, where 60 American Wigeon pushed our afternoon total for this species over 100, and where the female Canvasback still lingers. Also on Lily Lake were a couple Hooded Mergansers, and on the perimeter, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Purple Finch. An adult Red-shouldered Hawk perched at the junction of New England Road and Broadway glared at cars passing.

George Myers & Karl Lukens report, "Some highlights from Cape Island Preserve this morning. The Ash-throated Flycatcher was again seen and heard in the field near the RR crossing sign and the Least Flycatcher was also vocalizing quite a bit, but giving only brief views. Also a House Wren and 30 American Pipts, several Fox and Field Sparrows, and a 'Western" Palm Warbler. George (and Karl)."

Chuck and Mary Jane Slugg and Marc and Lynne Breslow birded the Magnesite Plant, off Sunset Boulevard, yesterday, and report, "We started with a peregrine on the water tower and a merlin on a telephone pole. There were several red-tails, Northern harriers, sharpies, and coops. The icing on the cake was an immature goshawk perched in plain sight for several minutes."

Lists from today for the meadows and Lily Lake follow.

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 12/29/07
Number of species: 38
Canada Goose 12
Mute Swan 7
Gadwall 42
American Wigeon 72
American Black Duck 20
Mallard 85
Northern Shoveler 4
Northern Pintail 14
Surf Scoter 20
Black Scoter 20
Long-tailed Duck 5
Common Goldeneye 1
Ruddy Duck 3
Red-throated Loon 5
Common Loon 3
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Forster's Tern 25
Rock Pigeon 10
Mourning Dove 30
Northern Flicker 2
American Crow 15
Tree Swallow 60
Carolina Wren 5
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 20
Yellow-rumped Warbler 50
Savannah Sparrow 3
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 10
White-throated Sparrow 10
White-crowned Sparrow 4
Northern Cardinal 5
Red-winged Blackbird 1
House Sparrow 5

Location: Cape May - Lily Lake
Observation date: 12/29/07
Number of species: 30
Canada Goose 7
Mute Swan 6
Gadwall 10
American Wigeon 60
Mallard 20
Canvasback 1
Hooded Merganser 2
Ruddy Duck 7
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Herring Gull 2
Rock Pigeon 10
Mourning Dove 5
Blue Jay 5
Fish Crow 3
Tree Swallow 5
Carolina Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 2
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 20
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 10
Northern Cardinal 2
Purple Finch 2
House Finch 10
House Sparrow 5

Friday, December 28, 2007

Short-eareds at Jake's, plus subspecies and splits in white-crowneds, crossbills, and Savannah Sparrows

Word is that a half dozen or more Short-eared Owls were up and about at Jake's Landing last night, with over a dozen harriers, plus the usual Clapper Rails, Marsh Wrens, and a Seaside Sparrow. Evenings with light winds are always the best for the Short-eareds.

In the last hotline I reported that amongst the White-crowned Sparrows at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge was an apparent gambellii (as reported by Michael O'Brien), thus delving into an area that sometimes can cause eyes to glaze over or the sudden desire to look at large, easy-to-identify birds: subspecies.

The "normal" White-crowned for our area is the nominate subspecies leucophrys, which the big Sibley guide calls the east taiga form. Gambellii, the west taiga form, has pale lores and an orangy bill, while our usual birds have dark lores and pink bills. Gambellii are really rare in Cape May, and the word "apparent" is used because there are intergrades between the subspecies, which is why they are subspecies and not likely candidates for splitting.

A candidate for splitting did appear in the recent hotline, however: Red Crossbill. Nine types or populations of Red crossbills have been identified, perhaps representing multiple species. In the east we only need deal with types 2, 3 and 4, unless we're in the southern Appalachians (type 1) or Newfoundland (type 8). Again reported by Michael, these were 17 birds of type 4 and one type 2. I'm presuming Michael separated them by call, since in the other key mark, bill size, these two types differ by only about 1.5 mm. Type 4 has a prounced rising inflection to its call, while Type 2's call descends. Big Sibley treats the different types, and the flight calls CD has examples of the eastern types. They do sound distinctive if you've spent some time training your ear to hear subtle differences between single notes.

Yet another someday-maybe split is a bird that once was treated as a separate species: "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow, the larger, paler form of Savannah that winters on coastal dunes. I saw one of these in the dunes at the north side of the Cape May ferry terminal last Sunday, when I was looking for the Black Guillemot. Ipswich Sparrows are isolated from other Savannah Sparrows during the breeding season, and they are distinctive in appearance, certainly moreso than, say, Willow and Alder Flycatchers. Besides being larger and paler, try noticing this fact: Ipswich Sparrows almost always walk, and Savannah Sparrows almost always hop.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cape May Birding Hotline 12/27/07

The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This week's message was prepared on Thursday, December 27, 2007. Highlights this week include sightings of BLACK GUILLEMOT, BARNACLE GOOSE, BOHEMIAN WAXWING, PINE GROSBEAK, BROAD-WINGED HAWK, LEAST FLYCATCHER, NORTHERN GOSHAWK, RED CROSSBILL, COMMON EIDER, RED-HEADDED WOODPECKER, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, SNOW BUNTING, and CANVASBACK.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Both CMBO Centers (the Northwood Center in Cape May Point and the Center for Research and Education in Goshen) will be closed for the holidays from 12/24/07 thru 1/1/08. We will resume our normal winter hours on 1/2 opening at 9:30 a.m.

A well-photographed BLACK GUILLEMOT in Cape May was a one-day wonder 12/22. Last seen at the south side of the Higbee Beach jetty, the bird apparently flew off headed for Delaware and has not been reported since.

8-9 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS AND 1 female PINE GROSBEAK were both found at Island Beach State Park 12/24 at the first bath house, with the last Bohemian report being two flybys north and west of the parking lot.

A BROAD-WINGED HAWK has been hanging on in Cape May, last seen 12/21 over Cape May Point.

Another late hanger-on was the re-discovered LEAST FLYCATCHER 12/24, seen on the path going to the right from the end of Wilson Avenue in West Cape May.

A WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and 25 SNOW BUNTINGS were at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, a.k.a. the South Cape May Meadows, 12/26. 6 WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS were there 12/21, including one apparent gambelii.

Immature NORTHERN GOSHAWKS were seen at Villas WMA and the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge near Green Creek 12/24. Another NORTHERN GOSHAWK was at Cape May Point 12/21.

18 RED CROSSBILLS were detected at the Cape May Point dunes 12/21, identified as 17 type-4 and 1 type-2.


4 COMMON EIDERS have been hanging around Cape May between the point and the Coast Guard Station.

RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS continue at Villas WMA, the most recent report being 12/24.

A hen CANVASBACK has been seen on various ponds in Cape May Point, most recently reported 12/26 on Lighthouse Pond.

There is no recent news of any of the ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS previously reported, nor of the BARNACLE GOOSE, though either species may still be present at the previously reported location (s).

CMBO is offering a special to new and upgraded membership renewals. Join CMBO for the first time or upgrade from Individual or Family to The Hundred and receive Charley Harpers Migration Mainline- Cape May lithograph poster, valued at $50. Call either CMBO center to ask an associate about joining today!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Guillemot Photo, Pine Grosbeak at Island Beach, Cape May NWR

[Nico Sarbanes sent these photos of Saturday's Black Guillemot, and folks watching it, with a note: "I am a teenager from Baltimore County, Maryland. Yesterday [Saturday December 22], myself and a group of seven other birders from the Baltimore and Harford area hit Barnegat Light and Cape May in a whirlwind day of birding. The Higbee's Beach jetty was our last stop of the day at 3:30 pm, and just as we arrived, Richard Crossley arrived behind us and notified us of the rare bird sighting, of which we had had no idea. We ran out to the jetty, and I was able to get some quick photos of the BLACK GUILLEMOT and its suddenly growing number of observers from the jetty." Later he added, "It was a fantastic end to a great day of birding at Barnegat and Cape May, and I can't wait to go back." I'll say it was fantastic, Nico! Click to enlarge the photos.]

I'll say it was a fantastic finish Nico, thanks for sharing the equally fantastic photo!

In other news, Laurie Larson reports that George Nixon found a Pine Grosbeak at the "first bathhouse" at Island Beach State Park about 8:30 AM today. He had not yet found the Bohemian Waxwings that were seen yesterday.

I birded the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge tract near Green Creek this morning - the clear highlight was a young goshawk, but many other birds spiced this clear and beautiful morning. The full list is below.

Location: Cape May NWR

Observation date: 12/24/07
Notes: Lovely, clear morning, light wind
Number of species: 44
Snow Goose 50
Wood Duck 1
American Black Duck 2
Hooded Merganser 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 15
Northern Harrier 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Northern Goshawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 5
Clapper Rail 1
Mourning Dove 10
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 3
Blue Jay 15
American Crow 10
Carolina Chickadee 5
Tufted Titmouse 1
Carolina Wren 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 3
American Robin 5
Gray Catbird 2
Northern Mockingbird 2
Brown Thrasher 3
European Starling 75
Eastern Towhee 5
Field Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 10
Swamp Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 20
Dark-eyed Junco 5
Northern Cardinal 7
Red-winged Blackbird 50
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Common Grackle 50
House Finch 15
American Goldfinch 6

Sunday, December 23, 2007

BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS- Island Beach State Park

No word on the Black guillemot that I have heard at least. But in checking a few posts on-line I did glean the below from the NJ RBA. I know it's not Cape May but in my opinion the more places sightings are posted, the better. Besides, these birds are ultimately heading SOUTH!!

Hopefully these birds stick around through the holiday for those not around for the chase!

Posted by Laurie Larson

"Alex Tongas just phoned with news of a flock of 8 or 9 Bohemian Waxwings at parking access A-6 at Island Beach State Park. He said he also heard of a report of four or more seen yesterday in the same area, so they may be lingering there. A-6 is south of the bath houses and (I think) south of the beach-buggy access. Please park only in designated areas; parking is not permitted along the road."

EDIT: in looking at our site, seems like Don has the no good word! Keep looking though as the guillemot could show back up!

Black Guillemot - not

A couple hours this morning spent searching for the Black Guillemot (found yesterday) were fruitless - well, no, they bore fruit, just not the Black Guillemot kind. It was raining in fits and starts, but the sea was still calm enough that if the bird were around, it would have been findable. I did learn from Chris Brown that apparently when last seen, the guillemot had been flushed by a departing ferry and was headed for Delaware. . .

Amy Gaberlein did some checking online and discovered: "Archives on NJAS site has (brief) Cape May Black Guillemot sightings from Avalon Seawatch on November 23rd and 29th, 2004.
There are a few more sightings from Barnegat and Manasquan Inlets throughout the last ten years or so. The December 2005 Barnegat bird stayed around for quite awhile - last seen January 12, 2006. (A season with "record numbers of Common Eiders", it may be noted.)"

At least we were entertained this morning by a group of Bonaparte's Gulls, plus a smattering of sea ducks, the usual jetty-pipers, and a foraging group of tree swallows over the Cape May canal. The list for Higbee, just an hour from the jetty, is below.

Location: Higbee Beach
Observation date: 12/23/07
Notes: Looking for the guillemot, seawatch from jetty only.
Number of species: 19
Surf Scoter 10
White-winged Scoter 1
Black Scoter 20
Red-breasted Merganser 7
Red-throated Loon 2
Black-bellied Plover 1
Killdeer 1
Ruddy Turnstone 5
Sanderling 15
Purple Sandpiper 20
Dunlin 120
Bonaparte's Gull 35
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Tree Swallow 50
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 10
Purple Finch 5

Black Gillemot.....

I have no word on the Black gillemot at this time, but I wanted to share this photo sent to me by Karl Lukens, taken yesterday. Thanks for always giving us a photo to go along with the rarity info, Karl.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Black Guillemot off Cape May Point

I got a call from Pete Dunne late this afternoon that a Black Guillemot was seen from the Higbee jetty today - not especially useful info for me at the time since I was doing a CBC near the Delaware Water Gap, but I will certainly be looking for the bird tomorrow and will report any updates here by about noon.

This is a REALLY rare bird in Cape May; Sibley (1997) lists two records EVER for Cape May. I don't recall any reports since, but haven't fished in the literature yet. I wonder if this sighting, coupled with the Dovekie found on the Cape May CBC, will create a "Patagonia Picnic Table Effect." If you haven't heard of that, try googling the term - basically, when good birders are drawn to the location of a rarity, they will discover other rarities while searching for the bird originally reported. Some very keen observers are going to be looking offshore over this Christmas season, that much I can tell you.

The skinny on the Guillemot is that Jeff Vinosky found it at the jetty near St Peter's ("Gingerbread" Church) early in the afternoon today. It was missed there by observers responding to the report, but was re-located near the south side of the Higbee jetty (the jetty near the Higbee dike, across the Cape May canal from the ferry terminal) for the last part of the day.

The tide was about an hour before high tonight at the end of daylight when the bird was last seen, and will be about high at daybreak tomorrow. Tides have more influence on oceanic birds than time of day, in my experience, so my plan is to be at Higbee at dawn and then to check farther south off the point later in the morning.

The weather tomorrow could present some challenge in the form of a pretty good chop on the bay/ocean and perhaps some fog. The National Weather Service forecast is cloudy with an east wind around 14 mph for tonight, with the wind going to south and increasing by noon. East wind isn't so bad for looking from the Higbee jetty, since that's on the lee (west) side of the Cape May Penninsula on an east wind. Tomorrow afternoon will be worse than the morning, between the stronger wind from the south and a high chance for precipitation, so if you're going to try to chase the bird, I recommend you go early.

Something to look for....

If you find yourself birding Cape May over the holiday, be on the look out for the bird in the photo below.

The Broad-winged hawk pictured below, taken by Michael O'Brien, was spotted soaring over Cape May Point, yesterday 12/21. Michael indicated that there was a nice little flight of hawks yesterday. I am glad he said so, I had been wondering if the NW winds would push and remaining hawks our way. Looks like it did!

Friday, December 21, 2007

More Leica Ultravid HD's

Just in case you don't get what you want for Christmas, keep in mind the new Leica HD's which seemingly can only be found at CMBO to date. We just received another shipment today, of 7x42s and a few more 8x32s. Still no signs of any others out there with this optic in stock!

I'll be using these bins extensively over the "CMBO Christmas Break" and will work on bringing you a detailed review of the new bins as soon as possible. The review will be located on the site, which I am happy to say is nearing completion and will hopefully be launching soon after the beginning of the year.

REMINDER: Both CMBO centers will be closed between Christmas and New Years. We will reopen on January 2nd at 9:30 a.m.




ANNOUNCEMENT: Both CMBO Centers (the Northwood Center in Cape May Point and the Center for Research and Education in Goshen) will be closed for the holidays. We will close on 12/24 thru 1/1. We will resume our normal winter hours on 1/2 opening at 9:30 a.m.

Cape May CBC (12/16) highlights were; 3 ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, one found on Cape May NWR property in Green Creek, one in the third field at Higbee and the long staying bird at TNCs Cape Island Preserve. TNCs Cape Island Preserve also held a NASHVILLE WARBLER. The BARNACLE GOOSE was refound on CBC day in a field along Batts Lane. One of the top birds for the CBC has to be the DOVEKIE which stayed in the mouth of the Cape May harbor for most of the day. The bird was only viewable from Coast Guard Base property and has not been reported since. Also, a PRAIRIE WARBLER and a fly over RED CROSSBILL seen in the Dias Creek area. Four KING EIDERS and 12 COMMON EIDER seen from the Coast Guard Base, Cape May Point, and Stone Harbor; King, and Avalon Seawatch/ Stone Harbor and Cape May; Common. AN ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER was seen near New Jersey Ave. and New York Ave. in Cape May. Also one was found at the Cape May Point State Park. Additionally at the state park were a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and 99 SNOW BUNTINGS. A SEDGE WREN was seen in the vicinity of Norburys Landing in Del-Haven. Four HOUSE WRENS were tallied, two in West Cape May and Rio Grande. Also at Norburys Landing was a fly over imm. GLAUCOUS GULL and two COMMON REDPOLLS. Three BALTIMORE ORIOLES and 4 AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS were seen on Cape May NWR property in Green Creek. An imm. RED-HEADED WOODPECKER was spotted at the Schellenger Tract of the Cape May NWR and also 4 at Villas WMA and one at the Cape May County Airport. Stone Harbor/Nummy Island held a LAPLAND LONGSPUR, 2 ICELAND GULLS and a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. A TUNDRA SWAN was seen on Bunker Pond at the Cape May Point State Park.

Other finds for the week were;

A BLUE-HEADED VIREO was found at the Cape May Point State Park on 12/18, near the outside parking area. Also in the area were three BALTIMORE ORIOLES.

A fourth ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER was found on 12/18 in West Cape May. The bird was originally found in the vicinity of State St. and 5th & 6th Avenues. The most recent report (12/19) was that the bird moved west a block into the edge of the Beanery, Rea’s Farm property.

Also with the most recent Ash-throated was a late EASTERN PHOEBE, in the same area.

A hen CANVASBACK was on Lake Lily on 12/18.

The BARNACLE GOOSE continues in fields near Batts Lane as of 12/19.

At least 50 SNOW BUNTINGS were moving between the Cape May Point State Park and TNCs CMMBR on 12/20.

Lastly, 10 RED CROSSBILLS flew over the Coast Guard Base of 12/17.


CMBO is offering a special to new and upgraded membership renewals. Join CMBO for the first time or upgrade from Individual or Family to The Hundred and receive Charley Harpers Migration Mainline- Cape May lithograph poster, valued at $50. Call either CMBO center to ask an associate about joining today!

******CMBO Bookstore hours are as follows; Northwood Center on East Lake Drive in Cape May Point, will be closed on Tuesdays during the winter. The center will be open Wednesday-Monday for the winter; hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Center for Research and Education on Rt. 47 in Goshen is open Tuesday- Sunday 9:30- 4:30.******

The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of the New Jersey Audubon Societys Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties. Updates are made weekly. Please report sightings of rare or unusual birds to CMBO at 609-884-2736. Sponsorship for this hotline comes from the support of CMBO members and business members, and should you not be a member, we cordially invite you to join. Individual membership is $39 per year; $49 for families. You can call either center to become a member or visit. Become a member in person and you’ll receive a FREE gift (in addition to member discount in the stores).

Good Luck and Good Birding!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No goldfinches at my feerders....they're at the Cape May Point State Park

Took a walk around the Cape May Point State Park this morning and was pleasantly surprised at how birdy the morning turned out. When all was said and done, in a two hour stroll, I had 59 species. That's not too bad in my opinion. Given time and visitation to other spots on Cape Island, and I think I could have made a serious run for 100 species. I guess that's for another time.

Some nice observations were a large flock of Bonaparte's gulls feeding just off shore. Unfortunately no Little gulls were in the mix. It was however, interesting to watch the other larger gulls pick up on their feeding action in the rips and eventually join the fray. Not a lot of ducks on the ocean/bay this morning. A few fly by Long-tailed ducks and a Red-breasted merganser. A couple of Red-throated loons and a few distant scoter. The four Common eider were just off the first jetty at the state park as well.

Other notables in my wander were a Ruby-crowned kinglet, four Winter wrens and an imm. Red-shouldered hawk. I had heard the hawk calling from the back of the trail while I was on the dirt road next to the dune. I didn't actually think I'd get a chance to see the bird. There were also a couple of Red-breasted nuthatches hanging in the pines at the back of the trails as well.

I walked the state park again in hopes of coming across one of these crossbills, and again I dipped. I did have a chatter in the pines which was reminiscent to me of a crossbill but just did not sound right to me. I'll have to turn on the Thayer Birding Software here at Northwood and refresh myself of the difference between Red and White-winged crossbill calls. It evidently has been way too long since I've heard them.

As well, I again stopped by Lake Lily to see what waterfowl were using the lake. To my surprise there were very few ducks on the water. It seems that Cape May Point is doing some sort of aeration of the lake? At least there was guy dragging what looked like some sort of poly-pipe by boat out in the water. This in turn flushed most of the ducks which have yet to return as I finish writing this at about 2:50 p.m. NOTE: Probably not a good bet for the Barnacle goose this weekend if this "aeration" process is continuing.

Speaking of the Barnacle goose, the bird was seen by a couple of observes, yesterday 12/19, from Batts Lane. So the bird is still around for those wishing to try.

Location: Cape May Point SP
Observation date: 12/20/07
Number of species: 59

Canada Goose 5
Mute Swan 4
Gadwall 2
American Wigeon 3
Mallard 114
Northern Pintail 8
Green-winged Teal 3
Lesser Scaup 2
Common Eider 4
dark-winged scoter sp. 6
Long-tailed Duck 6
Bufflehead 1
Hooded Merganser 12
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Ruddy Duck 2
Red-throated Loon 2
Northern Gannet 6
Great Blue Heron 9
Turkey Vulture 4
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Bonaparte's Gull 165
Ring-billed Gull 12
Herring Gull 65
Great Black-backed Gull 28
Rock Pigeon 2
Mourning Dove 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 5
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 3
Tree Swallow 28
Carolina Chickadee 6
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 10
Winter Wren 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Hermit Thrush 6
American Robin 115
Gray Catbird 6
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling 250
American Pipit 18
Cedar Waxwing 28
Yellow-rumped Warbler 195
Eastern Towhee 6
Song Sparrow 4
White-throated Sparrow 56
Snow Bunting 50
Northern Cardinal 8
Red-winged Blackbird 50
Common Grackle 275
Brown-headed Cowbird 60
Purple Finch 6
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 122
House Sparrow 15

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Location: Cape May - Lily Lake
Observation date: 12/20/07
Number of species: 11

Canada Goose 6
Mute Swan 14
American Wigeon 18
Mallard 16
Northern Shoveler 3
Hooded Merganser 3
Ruddy Duck 22
American Coot 16
Ring-billed Gull 2
Tree Swallow 1
European Starling 150

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cape May Point State Park and Lake Lily- 12/18/07

I took a walk around the Cape May Point State Park yesterday morning in hopes of spying a few of the corssbills or redpolls that had been reported recently. No luck on the winter finches other than purple finch. I did hear about a Northern goshawk and a Yellow-breasted chat which had been seen at the back side of the state park (the area which adjoins TNC's CMMBR). There seems to have been at least one Baltimore oriole present at the park with the possibility of there being more than one. Probably my favorite part of the morning was the number of Long-tailed ducks which were flying east toward the Delaware Bay. Sure you can see good numbers of these birds most all winter but I never tire of them. Maybe it's all that time I spent winter birding in Maine.

On my way into Northwood I stopped by Lake Lily to see what ducks were about. No drake Canvasback but there was one hen in evidence. The usual other ducks were around with a nice group of American coot at the northern end of the lake.

I wanted to post the list yesterday but due to some server maintenance at Cornell (it has to happen sometime), eBird was unavailable during the time I had to enter my sightings. So, I bring you yesterdays list, today.

Location: Cape May Point SP
Observation date: 12/18/07
Number of species: 46

Gadwall 8
American Wigeon 18
Mallard 45
Northern Pintail 4
Lesser Scaup 3
dark-winged scoter sp. 10
Long-tailed Duck 43
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Common Loon 1
Northern Gannet 4
Great Blue Heron 2
Black Vulture 1
Merlin 1
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Rock Pigeon 12
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 3
Northern Flicker 4
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 12
Carolina Chickadee 6
Tufted Titmouse 1
Brown Creeper 1
Carolina Wren 12
Winter Wren 1
Hermit Thrush 10
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 2
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 200
Cedar Waxwing 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 75
Eastern Towhee 2
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 25
Dark-eyed Junco 15
Northern Cardinal 5
Red-winged Blackbird 130
Common Grackle 175
Brown-headed Cowbird 110
Baltimore Oriole 1
Purple Finch 11
House Finch 5
American Goldfinch 10
House Sparrow 20

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Location: Cape May - Lily Lake
Observation date: 12/18/07
Number of species: 8

Canada Goose 6
Mute Swan 14
Gadwall 8
American Wigeon 32
Mallard 26
Canvasback 1
Ruddy Duck 45
American Coot 8

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

NEW Leica Ultravid HD hits the market!

photo courtesy of Leica Camera Inc.

Ok all you optics buffs out there, here's the one you've finally been waiting for. Here at the Northwood Center we've just received the first shipment of the new Leica Ultravid HD, both 10x42 and 8x32. Only a couple arrived with this shipment and ETA for the rest is unknown. So, if you have been waiting for these bins now is the time to strike. In fact, a quick look around the internet stores shows these are probably the some of the only Leica HD's that can be purchased at this time.

Now, you are probably saying to yourself, sure, I know that the new Leica HD is supposed to have Fluoride glass for improved light transmission (Leica quotes 3% additional light transmission) and a new improved focus mechanism, also a new hydrophobic coating for repelling water and dust. But, is the optic really better than the standard Ultravid?

Well, I have good new and bad news. I took the 10x42s out at sunset last night to do a quick test. I have to assert that my ten or so minutes of testing the optics in very low light does not a conclusion make on actual performance, look for a more extensive review coming shortly. The good news; is that those of you who already own a Leica Ultravid, well as I have thought the 3% additional light transmission by the fluoride glass is not immediately obviously noticeable. I could notice a slightly brighter image from the HD bins, after the sun was down and the world was dark. In the twilight, the image appeared similar to my eyes. So if you already own a pair then you really are not missing out on too much. You still own a top quality binocular and should continue to be happy with the image you get through those bins. At least I am.

The focusing action did feel a little smoother to me but stiff as well. Anyone who has spent more than an hour and looked through more than one pair of glasses should know that optics right out of the box is not a great test for the focus performance. Like much in life, there is a break in period of a few days to a week or so depending on how much you use the optic. I have always found that the focus knob and diopter adjustment to be stiffish on a brand new optics. So for now, the focus seemed to be improved to me (slightly); the real test will come later. The fact that the focus mechanism uses very little lubricant should be a plus in that those of you in colder climes should notice that the focus wheel does not get VERY stiff. Or, very loose for those who live in warmer areas.

Now for the true value to this bin, and it is possibly worth the extra $100 in cost. The AquraDura hydrophobic coating. I have long thought that these new coatings were really nothing more than a gimmick. Another way for a company to say, "oh look at what we've done to our already fabulous binocular" such that we in the purchasing world have the wool pulled over our eyes. We are not that dumb! I liken these new coatings to putting Rain-X on you glass (disclaimer: I am not suggesting that anyone out there EVER put Rain-X on their binoculars. If you do, you are on your own in terms of what the chemical will do to your coatings) so that you don't have to worry about cleaning anymore. Well, it just so happens that the Cape May CBC was on 12/16 and we had a good amount of rain, like may of you out there probably had. Well at one point I remarked to Laura how I wished that I had a pair of the Leica HD's to try out in the rain.

Last evening I decided to test the new Leica coating and the Zeiss LoTu-Tech coating to see if these are all they are really cracked up to be. Again, I assert that my test was very short and not indicative of the true performance. That being said, after dousing both under a faucet quickly and removing, flicking the wrist and voila; no water left on the glass save for a few minor drops at the very edge of the ocular. So in this instance I must eat my own words and say that this new and highly hyped coating seems for now, every bit worth the extra cost. I honestly can say these new coating may significantly reduce the amount of optics cleaning we do here at the Northwood Center.

So, if you want to be the first person on your block with these great new bins, or want to laugh at everyone else at Higbee birding in the rain; give us a call here at the Northwood Center. Just remember that the Northwood Center will be closed from 12/24-1/1. We will reopen on 1/2/08.

More photos - Northern Goshawk and another Ash-throated shot

[Immature Northern Goshawk, Cape May Point State Park Tuesday, December 18. Photo by George Myers, click to enlarge]
Most people, including me, don't get to see Goshawks all that often. This is a great photo to study. Note the incredibly heavy body and wide tail - the flying stovepipe appearance that, I am told, Floyd Wolfarth used to talk about up on Raccoon Ridge. One of my favorite field marks on a flying gos is the small "hands." Note also that the head is not particularly large - it's not a stretch to turn a high-soaring gos into a sharpie.

[Northern Goshawk, Cape May Point State Park. Photo by George Myers.]

[West Cape May Ash-throated Flycatcher, photographed yesterday by George Myers.]

A couple of photos

The photos below were sent to me from Karl Lukens. The first is the fourth Ash-throated flycatcher which was found by Paul Lehman yesterday. Also, a couple of Common eider which have been seen in a few locations around Cape May. Just wanted to you know so that you can get a jump on that New Year list in a week or so. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ash-throated # 4

Paul Lehman found a fourth Ash-throated Flycatcher. He writes: " On Tuesday morning I discovered the FOURTH Ash-throated Flycatcher in Cape May County during the past few days. This bird is in West Cape May along State Street and 5th and 6th Avenues, which is just a block east of the Beanery. (An Eastern Phoebe was keeping it company part of the
time.) At the entrance to Cape May Point State Park this AM was a Blue-headed Vireo and 3 Baltimore Orioles."

So we have:

1. The "original" Ash-throated found by Paul in TNCs Cape Island Preserve, along the railroad tracks at the end of Wilson St.; this bird continues at the back side of the Cape Island Preserve property well to the east and slightly north of where the bird had been originally found. Directions and a map are under View from the Cape archives for Sunday, December 9.
2. A second Ash-throated at Higbee, third field, found by Pete Dunne.
3. A third Ash-throated in Cape May NWR near Green Creek, also found by Paul, in a spot that's a little tricky to get to (so you're better off going after one of the others.)
4. The new one listed above.

I also learned from Paul that the Glaucous Gull on the CBC was flying south past Norbury's Landing; who knows where it is now, but Ocaen Drive is the traditional spot to check for gulls, and the South Cape May Meadows and the beach adjacent are another spot where gulls congregate.

Goshen Goshawk Still Around, and Are You Looking for a Winter Getaway?

Got a note from Bert Hixon, CMBO bookstore naturalist at the Center for Research and Education in Goshen, about possibly the same Northern Goshawk I saw here a week ago:


I might have seen your imm. N. Goshawk here over the weekend.

-On Saturday, I saw a super-robust, obviously young Accipiter at dusk trying to poach around the bird feeders. Smaller head, large body, big and fast as lightning.

-On Sunday, I thought I saw the same bird perched in the Sassafras trees behind the two martin houses at the back of the yard. I was scoping it up and saw a faint white-ish supercilium but confirmed that it had irregular tail-bands on the underside. It hung there for around 15 minutes preening and head-bobbing as it watched the backyard. Then I turned my head for a nanosecond, and before I could imagine it, it launched a surprise attack on the bird feeders. This hawk was supernaturally fast.

Instantly came a horrendous, sickening CRASH-ing sound from the bay window looking out at the bird feeders. I was sick with the thought of what I might find.

As soon as I walked out onto the porch by the feeders, it was fortunately the Gos that lifted off from the undergrowth beneath the feeders with a RWBB [Red-winged Blackbird] firmly in its grip.

The crashing sound came from two other RWBB's who impacted the window simultaneously with the attack by the Gos."

In talking with falconers, rehabbers, and banders, I've learned that Accipiters are extremely high-strung compared to other raptors. One falconer told me that if you had a redtail on one fist and a goshawk on the other and flushed a rabbit, the redtail would be leaving your fist about the time the goshawk caught the rabbit. I was in a blind on the Kittatinny Ridge a couple years ago when the bander I was with caught a Cooper's hawk. I firsat spotted that bird with binoculars when it was at least 1/2 mile away, and at that distance, when the bander fluttered her lure pigeon, the coop immediately locked in on it and began its approach, which says something about both taut nerves and extreme eyesight.
If you come looking for the Goshawk, know that seeing it is a long shot and also that there is a big female coop hanging around. If you're wondering about Bert's comment about the small-headed look of the bird, goshawks don't exactly have small heads but they are broad heads, not so much projecting forward a la coop. The head as seen from directly below is more like a triangle projecting forward from the wings.

In other news, CMBO is partnering with the John F. Craig House B&B to offer a winter birding weekend January 26-27, 2008. It will feature an evening program on winter birding in Cape May, and a morning excursion to local hot spots. Check for details. This might make a nice holiday present for casual birders, or serious birders who need to relax.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cape May CBC highlights, report from Barnegat Light, and some CBC ruminations

[Drake Harlequin Duck posing at the foot of the Barnegat Lighthouse, Saturday December 15. Photo by Don Freiday. Click to enlarge all photos.]

The Cape May Christmas Bird Count was conducted yesterday, Sunday December 16, with the typically amazing (for anywhere else) results. The Ash-throated Flycatcher count (3!), for example, will exceed what they find on many counts in the southwest where Ash-throateds breed!

I missed the Cape May count this year (see below for where I was), but Paul Lehman reports the following highlights: "The Cape May CBC on Sunday, Dec 16, had a surprisingly good morning (between the overnight heavy rain and afternoon strong winds) and recorded approximately 163 species (plus 5 count-period birds). The best rarities included THREE Ash-throated Flycatchers (the long-staying bird at Cape Island Creek near West Cape May, plus new birds at Higbee Beach (3rd field) and at Cape May NWR property near Green Creek), the continuing Barnacle Goose (seen in fields along Batt's Lane--first sighting in a week), a Dovekie that stayed for hours near the jetties at the mouth of Cape May harbor, and a Prairie Warbler near Dias Creek.

Other highlights included 4 King Eiders, 10+ Common Eiders, Osprey, 4 Goshawks, Willet, Laughing Gull, 2 Iceland and 1 Glaucous Gulls, Sedge Wren, 4 House Wrens, Nashville and 2 Orange-cr Warblers, Yellow-br Chat, high counts of 13 Saltmarsh and 7 Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows, 3 Baltimore Orioles, Red Crossbill, 6+ Common Redpolls, and Lapland Longspur. Count-week highlights included PACIFIC LOON (fly-by at Avalon Seawatch on 12/14), 2 CAVE Swallows (2 on 12/13 at C. M. Point), White-winged Crossbill (12/14 at C. M. Pt.), and several Razorbills."

[Birders watching the Harlequin pictured above. This is a rather unusual spot to see a Harlequin - normally they are far out the Barnegat Jetty but powerful north winds created crashing waves on the jetty Saturday, inducing most of the sea ducks to linger in the lee of the jetty at the tip, and this bird to ensconce itself in an even quieter location. Photo by Don Freiday.]

CMBO's "Harlequin Romance" field trip to Barnegat Light and environs on Saturday was a great success, as this trip always is, though conditions were challenging. I posted lists from the trip at the end of this blog. A high tide combined with 20-30 mph north winds drove waves crashing onto the jetty, making it unsafe to walk on. However, the conditions also put most of the target birds in the lee, or south side of the jetty, thus for example we had outstanding, very close views of Purple Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones perched on rock faces out of the wind, reminding me of birds nesting on sea cliffs.

As I had hoped, when we had trekked in the sand all the way to the end of the jetty, we found the main group of Harlequin Ducks feeding in the lee, and nearby was a group of 40-50 Common Eiders in all plumages. Both Eider and Harlequin numbers at Barnegat Light have increased in recent years, something I attribute to an increased food supply in the form of mussels and other invertebrates attracted to the jetty. The main jetty at Barnegat was built something like 15-20 years ago, I'm not exactly sure, but regardless it takes time, when you drop a rock in the ocean, before life is attraced to it.

On this trip I always check Barnegat Bay from the vicinity of Harvey Cedars - there's a public park on the bay side of Long Beach Island immediately south of the Harvey Cedars water tower - and this didn't disappoint. Two Lesser Scaup, a few Common Goldeneye, and many Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers were present. Somehow we couldn't track down a single Horned Grebe, very unusual.

At Manahawkin WMA, Stafford Avenue (a.k.a. the road to nowhere) was a mess, not something you want to drive down in a vehicle with low clearance. There also wasn't much there, just a few harriers, redtails, and a Kingfisher. The WMA is heavily hunted in season, and I find that stopping here in February or March, after hunting season is closed (and there are no longer duck and small game hunters pushing the birds elsewhere) is much more productive. I don't have a particular quarrel with hunting, in fact I do it myself, and the WMA's have been acquired in part through fees from hunting licenses, but spots like Manahawkin and Tuckahoe/Corbin City are much better out of hunting season.

Cedar Run Dock road, the other area Short-eared Owl option, was cold, windy, and as a result not so awful productive either. Chuck Slugg did pick a very distant Short-eared (with his new Kowa 88 mm scope, which is an awesome scope by the way), which I glimpsed a few minutes later, but viewing conditions were, um, challenging.

I missed the Cape May CBC because of one of those annoying count conflicts - Cape May always coincides with the Northwest Hunterdon CBC, which I've done forever. I'm not sure if I'll ever get a chance to do Cape May, which of course I'd love to participate in. Not only for the rarities, in fact rarities don't mean so much to me. One thing about doing a south coastal count, at least if you get a good territory, is that species diversity is much higher. Yesterday in Hunterdon, my "party" (consisting of me and my friend Dave Womer) found 59 species, one of our best totals ever. In my Hunterdon territory, west of Clinton, in the 15 years I've done the count, we've compiled 87 total species. In contrast, Pete Dunne told me he had about 80 species in Cape May yesterday, and I hear that Paul Lehman had over 100 in his Cape May territory.

But tradition is important, and it's fun to watch the numbers year to year in your own patch of CBC turf for changes, up or down. At our round-up, for example, we remarked that House Finch is a declining species, which isn't so much something to get upset about since the species is introduced in eastern North America, but still interesting and something we wouldn't know about without the CBC. In my own patch, we averaged 100 House Finches a day in the early 90's, and about 50 in the past few years. This is a small sample size, but thanks to Birdsource,, we can look at all CBC data for any species.

[Graph of House Finch numbers, normalized by party-hours, on all NJ CBC's over the last 40 years, created on birdsource.]

We should be upset about what's happening with American Kestrel. Again, just in my little patch we would find 4-5 in the early 90's, and now we generally don't find a single Kestrel, period. Statewide CBC data is even more alarming:

[Graph of American Kestrel numbers on NJ CBC's over the last 40 years].

[Conditions for the Northwest Hunterdon CBC were challenging - sleet/snow/rain all night, sleet and rain most of the day, temperatures never leaving the low 30's, and constant howling wind. But birds were there to be seen regardless.]

[A continuous east wind coupled with the sleet/snow/freezing rain to grow icicles on a diagonal on this Hunterdon county fence. Beyond the fence, however, were 17 White-crowned Sparrows, a Fox Sparrow, Field Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and a hunting male harrier. The sparrows were later scattered by a young and hungry Cooper's Hawk.]

"Harlequin Romance" field trip results follow.

Location: Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Observation date: 12/15/07
Notes: CMBO "harlequin romance" trip, with Chuck and MJ Slugg & 25 participants. High tide 11:00 a.m. + strong north wind = no walking on jetty, luckily birds were tucked in on s side of jetty. Also went to Harvey Cedars and bay sites.
Number of species: 38
Brant 300
Common Eider 46
Harlequin Duck 35
Surf Scoter 50
Black Scoter 50
Long-tailed Duck 50
Red-breasted Merganser 35
Red-throated Loon 5
Common Loon 5
Northern Gannet 75
Great Cormorant 2
American Kestrel 1 one female flying north across the inlet, into a strong north wind!
Black-bellied Plover 3
Ruddy Turnstone 10
Sanderling 25
Purple Sandpiper 40
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove 10
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 10
Horned Lark 1
Carolina Chickadee 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 25
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling 150
Yellow-rumped Warbler 25
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 25
Dark-eyed Junco 10
Northern Cardinal 5
House Finch 25
House Sparrow 50

Location: Harvey Cedars
Observation date: 12/15/07
Number of species: 18
Brant 25
Canada Goose 75
Mute Swan 30
American Black Duck 10
Mallard 25
Lesser Scaup 2
Long-tailed Duck 10
Bufflehead 50
Common Goldeneye 10
Red-breasted Merganser 25
Bald Eagle 2
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
American Robin X
Song Sparrow 5

Location: Manahawkin WMA
Observation date: 12/15/07
Number of species: 29
Brant 50
Canada Goose 10
Mute Swan 10
American Black Duck 20
Mallard 10
Hooded Merganser 25
Great Blue Heron 5
Northern Harrier 3
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Mourning Dove X
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 5
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Carolina Chickadee 3
Carolina Wren X
American Robin X
Northern Mockingbird X
European Starling X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
House Finch X

Location: Cedar Run Dock Rd.
Observation date: 12/15/07
Number of species: 18
Brant X
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
American Black Duck X
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid) X
Mallard X
Bufflehead X
Great Blue Heron 5
Northern Harrier 8
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Short-eared Owl 1
Northern Mockingbird X
Red-winged Blackbird X
House Sparrow X

Friday, December 14, 2007

King Eider in Cape May!

Just received a call from Chris Hajduk about a KING EIDER he spotted with some COMMON EIDER among the pilings at the Coast Guard Base. As this was a message relayed to me I have no info at this time about the sex or age.

There are two ways you can try and check for this bird if you are so inclined. First and best in the morning, is to make the long trek to the jetty at the Cape May NWR Two Mile Unit (see letter S on the Cape May County side of the map) and look to the south toward the pilings at the Coast Guard Base.

The other option and best for the afternoon (because of the sun) is to walk out Poverty Beach (see lower right corner of the Cape Island map) and look north toward the Coast Guard pilings.

Good luck for those who try for this bird.

Extralimital Long-billed Murrelet in PA

Paul Lehman stopped in a little while ago to borrow my Pennsylvania Atlas - he was on his way to chase a Long-billed Murrelet. Details from Paul, posted by Laurie Larson on NJBIRDS, follow:

At about 10 AM Jason Horn found a LONG-BILLED MURRELET on Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County. The bird was on the north side of the lake at the Fishing Pier, which is the next access west of the Marina.

The web page of Lake Nockamixon State Park gives the following

Nockamixon State Park is along PA 563, just off of PA 313, five miles east of Quakertown and nine miles west of Doylestown. The main entrances are along PA 563 and can be reached from PA 309 and PA 313, or from the north on PA 412.

Paul also said that a mixed flock of crossbills was at Cape May Point State Park this morning, apparently heard/seen by Michael O'Brien.



The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of New Jersey Audubon Societys Cape May Bird Observatory. This weeks message was prepared on Friday December 14, 2007. Highlights this week include sightings of ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, BARNACLE GOOSE, CAVE SWALLOW, TUNDRA SWAN, CANVASBACK, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, SNOW BUNTING, LAPLAND LONGSPUR, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK and RED CROSSBILL.


For more up to the minute Cape May sightings information check the View from the Cape section of

The ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER which had been in TNCs Cape Island Preserve, along the railroad tracks at the end of Wilson St.; was refound on 12/8. The bird was observed at the back side of the Cape Island Preserve property well to the east and slightly north of where the bird had been originally found. There have been no further reports of this bird since 12/8.

Yesterday, 12/13, 2 CAVE SWALLOWS were seen flying over the Cape May Point State Park, toward the end of the blue trail.

On 12/8 the BARNACLE GOOSE was seen for a few hours on Lake Lily in Cape May Point. There have been no further reports of this species since 12/8.

Originally reported on 12/8 and continuing through 12/13, a TUNDRA SWAN has been on Lake Lily along with a variety of other waterfowl species.

A female CANVASBACK was found on Lake Lily, yesterday, 12/13.

A first winter LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was found yesterday, 12/13, on the beach at TNCs Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (CMMBR).

Continuing to grow in size, the flock of SNOW BUNTINGS which are being found between TNCs CMMBR and the Cape May Point State Park, now totals approximately 100 individuals. The group was seen yesterday, 12/13 in the vicinity of the border between the Cape May Point State Park and TNCs CMMBR. Additionally, a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR , originally found on 12/8, continues to be associating with this group.

On 12/13, a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was spotted soaring over TNCs CMMBR.

Lastly, a RED CROSSBILL was found on the Cape May Coast Guard Base on 12/7. While the Coast Guard Base is in accessible to the general public, this species could be found in any part of the county.

EDIT: Seen this morning, 12/14, at the Cape May Point State Park as flyovers, were; 7 RED CROSSBILLS, one WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL and one COMMON REDPOLL. Also seen at the state park were two ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, 3 TREE SWALLOWS and one COMMON EIDER.

Also, a ROSE-BREASETED GROSBEAK was seen at a private feeder in West Cape May in the last couple of days.


CMBO is offering a special to new and upgraded membership renewals. Join CMBO for the first time or upgrade from Individual or Family to The Hundred and receive Charley Harpers Migration Mainline- Cape May lithograph poster, valued at $50. Call either CMBO center to ask an associate about joining today!

******CMBO Bookstore hours are as follows; Northwood Center on East Lake Drive in Cape May Point, starting December 1, will be closed on Tuesdays. The center will be open Wednesday-Monday for the winter. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Center for Research and Education on Rt. 47 in Goshen is open Tuesday- Sunday 9:30- 4:30.******

The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of the New Jersey Audubon Societys Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties. Updates are made weekly. Please report sightings of rare or unusual birds to CMBO at 609-884-2736. Sponsorship for this hotline comes from the support of CMBO members and business members, and should you not be a member, we cordially invite you to join. Individual membership is $39 per year; $49 for families. You can call either center to become a member or visit. Become a member in person and youll receive a FREE gift (in addition to member discount in the stores).

Good Luck and Good Birding!

Seawatch continues towards one million

On Thursday December 13, Ken Behrens recorded over 4,400 birds at the Avalon Sea Watch, bringing the year to date total to 987,682 - 12,318 to go to reach one million! Please remember these numbers are preliminary until the data have been examined. Nothing "fancy" passed the watch Thursday, although 75 White-winged Scoters is pretty fancy, come to think of it.

I noticed the Sea Watch has also recorded 99 species this fall, apparently tying the existing record.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Sea Watch Note, & Saturday's Barnegat Trip is a Go

Chris Brown, CMBO Swing Counter, stopped in this afternoon and mentioned the Avalon Sea Watch needs to average about 2,000 birds a day from now until it ends December 22 to reach ONE MILLION BIRDS! If it happens, this will be the first time ever the official count (conducted September 22 to December 22) will reach one million, although certainly over one million birds pass Avalon during the entire fall, i.e. including birds before and after the official count.

Despite the possibility of inclement weather, CMBO's Harlequin Romance trip to Barnegat Light this Saturday will go as scheduled. The trip requires pre-registration and is full.

There are a few spots still open on the January 5 Techniques of Field Observation Workshop, led by Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis. Techniques is a great workshop for birders at any level to jump start their field skills. For information on this and other 2008 workshops, check

Jake's Landing Evening, and a report from Points North & South of Jake's

A quick stop at Jake's Landing last night, from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m. (also known as the half hour before dark) yielded a marvelous sunset, 8 harriers, two Marsh Wrens, 5 Clapper Rails, 3 Pied-billed Grebes, and. . .no Short-eared Owls. I have no explanation for the lack of SEO's, which I last heard of from Jake's on Sunday night, a single at 4:50 as reported by a birder I met at Jake's last night.

The evening was a good study in not knowing everything. A very distant something coursed over the marsh, and I thought it could be a short-eared, but then it flew into the woods. Could it have been a Long-eared Owl? Yes, but I'll never know. I'll also never know if the distant flying flock of sillouetted diving ducks were scaup, like I think they were, or something else. . . maybe it was 50 Redheads instead - not. Then there were the seep notes in the grass - sharp-tailed sparrows, yes, but which ones? Or could some of them just be soft, thin sounding Song Sparrows? The Marsh Wren "tcheks" sounded a little too sharp, like Sedge Wren, to me for some reason (probably because I'm eternally hopeful), luckily I tracked those down for a visual. We'll never run out of learning in birding.

George Myers and Gail Dwyer spent the day birding northern Cape May and Cumberland Counties. George reports:

"Hi Don. A brief rundown of today's birding with Gail:

Woodcock Lane: 8:15-10AM: 53 degrees
20+ Purple Finch
45 Cedar Waxwings
2 Hairy Woodpeckers
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
3 Eastern Meadowlarks
Lots of American Robins and the Cedar Waxwings were enjoying Cedar Berries.Spring Peepers were calling. At about 9:30, the wind abruptly switched to NW and the temp dropped a few degrees...really noticeable.

Jake's Landing:6 Northern Harriers

500 Dunlin
12 Black-bellied Plovers
3 Greater Yellowlegs
1 Belted Kingfisher
2 imm. Little Blue Herons
1 Bald Eagle (adult)
30 Lesser Scaup
20+ Bufflehead
American Kestrel along Robbinstown Road near Bivalve.
Several Red-tailed Hawks were found along the roadsides.

Bivalve was quiet with virtually no waterfowl.....but lots of hunters."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Notes from the Sea Watch, Stick Nests, and PA Atlas

CMBO's Sea Watch continues through the winter solstice (December 22) under the capable eyes of Ken Behrens and swing counter Chris Brown. Some extraordinary milestones have been set - for example, Ken noted on December 7 that "A new seasonal Northern Gannet record was set today. 100,000 should be surpassed tomorrow." As of December 9, the gannet total was 101,105 for the season.

Also of recent note were single Red-necked Grebes on December 7 and 8. There's a good flight pattern to learn - Red-necked Grebe is a completely missable bird for the year list, so being alert for the pattern of white secondaries and white leading edge of the wing, together with its tendency to look more level in flight than Horned Grebe (which looks tipped up in front) could really help.

This morning driving to work I noticed a large stick nest along Route 47 south of Goshen. Now's the time to start cataloging stick nests, so you're ready to check them for nesting Great-horned Owls beginning in late January.

Speaking of nesting, the fall issue of the Pennsylavian Monitor reports on the 2nd Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, which just completed the 4th of 5 years of atlassing. I was a regional coordinator for the NJ Atlas, which was conducted in 1993 through 1997, and surveyed a number of blocks. Atlassing changes your whole approach to birding, for the better. Atlassing involves watching birds, not just identifying them, and carefully recording data. This makes you a more careful observer, and leads to some really fascinating behavioral observations. I remember, for example, watching a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak snapping dead twigs from a limb for her nest by hovering in front of them, grabbing hold, and then hanging by her weight. I also learned that many birds will do some sort of distraction display when you near their nest - it's much more widespread than the familiar Killdeer routine. Two memorable distraction displays were courtesy of a Ruffed Grouse, which paraded back and forth in the trail in front of me, clucking repeatedly, and from an Ovenbird which moved piteously slowly and weakly in front of me, coming so close I feared I would step on the bird's nest and retreated.

Atlassing can also sharpen understanding of bird vocalizations - many notes heard on the breeding grounds are also given in migration.

One of the most interesting finds in PA was the first confirmed breeding record for Merlin in PA, in a spruce tree near a town park in Bradford, PA. Remarkably, 4 other pairs of nesting Merlins were found in the northern tier. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Merlin will be the next new nesting species for New Jersey. I remember many years ago predicting that sapsuckers would soon nest in the mountains of north Jersey, and sure enough they did, and now are close to common in High Point. Merlin could be our next boreal invader.

To participate in or learn more about the Pennsylvania Atlas, visit

Monday, December 10, 2007

Northern Goshawk at CMBO in Goshen

There was this redtail sitting in a tree outside CMBO's Center for Research and Education in Goshen this afternoon, with it's tail fanned as it preened, except when I lifted the binoculars I had a difficult time reconciling what I was actually seeing with what I assumed I was seeing. "Boy this bird has got a lot of light speckling on the back, and what's with those wavy tail bands. . .!" Immature Northern Goshawk matched a whole lot better, and that is what it was!

A fifteen minute walk around the grounds here was definitely worth the time - something to consider if you stop by to do some holiday shopping. Among the other highlights were the American Woodcock that flushed from close range along the marsh border; two singing Fox Sparrows - I positively love that sweet, clear song; a mimid "sweep;" and the chance to compare the seep notes of four sparrow species: White-throated, Fox, Song, and Field. The full list is below.

Location: CMBO Center for Research and Education
Observation date: 12/10/07
Number of species: 26
Turkey Vulture 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Northern Goshawk 1
American Woodcock 1
Mourning Dove 5
Downy Woodpecker 1
American Crow 5
Carolina Chickadee 10
Tufted Titmouse 5
Carolina Wren 5
American Robin 15
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 15
Cedar Waxwing 10
Field Sparrow 2
Fox Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 50
Northern Cardinal 10
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Common Grackle 1
Purple Finch 5
House Finch 10
American Goldfinch 5
House Sparrow 10

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ash-throated, Barnacle and Lapland

I heard late in the day yesterday that the Ash-throated flycatcher was re-found at the back portion of TNC's Cape Island Preserve. The bird was seen north of Wilson St. on the east tree line across the fields. This in the direction of the Cape Island Creek salt marsh, (see map below), X marks the approximate vicinity.

The Barnacle goose spent a good while on Lake Lily and gave great view as I understand . Also, I received a call yesterday afternoon about a Lapland longspur which was hanging out with a group of Snow buntings at the Cape May Point State Park. Thanks Steve!

(click image to enlarge)

View from the Tree, and finch news

Evening Grosbeaks! Saw-whet Owls! White-winged Crossbills, Redpolls, Wild Turkeys . . .there were good birds in north Jersey, where I spent a refreshingly computer-less week obtaining the winter's venison, and enjoying the woods, hills and valleys, hardly 100 miles north and yet so different from Cape May.

We have hunted the same farm in northern Hunterdon County for close to 20 years, we being me and Pete Dunne, and now my son Tim, and part of the tradition has been comparing bird notes each day when we come in from hunting (our full list from last week is below). Remaining stationary and camouflaged in a tree for hours on end can yield some terrific bird sightings. We also almost always "get" our yearly suite of winter finches, simply because we put in 50 or more hours doing nothing more than listening hard for whatever makes a sound, be it a deer's footfall, or this year's awesome bonus of a flock of Evening Grosbeaks flying over.

The e-bird website notes that northern finch movements continue, jiving well with our observations this week. From the e-bird site:

"Although wintry weather is just barely upon us, birders in northern border states from Minnesota to Maine are already enjoying one of the occasional joys of winter birding--an influx of boreal irruptive species like Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, and Common Redpoll. In New York alone, both Pine Grosbeak and Common Redpoll, usually the two latest species to appear during an irruption year, were reported before the end of October, and Bohemian Waxwing was seen on a record early date. The early arrival of these species, and the numbers in which they are being seen, suggests that we could be in store for a major irruption year, with some boreal species approaching the southern limits of their irruptive ranges. In fact, the early fall months have already seen a sizable irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches, and Pine Siskins out of Canada's boreal forest to areas as far south as Georgia. Below we summarize the current status of several boreal irruptive species, and suggest the extent to which they could be found if this winter does prove to be a major irruption event. "

The week's list:
Location: Farm
Observation date: 12/8/07
Notes: Firearm buck week, counts are composites. With Pete Dunne.
Number of species: 47
Canada Goose 100
Mallard 10
Wild Turkey 10 Still roosting in the pines, at least some are - Pete reported three there. Others were scattered.
Black Vulture 10
Turkey Vulture 20
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2 1 adult, 1 juvenile. The adult was a little male, seemed to like hunting the upper hedgerow.
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2 This was my first bird of opening day, when it screamed and took off down the valley just as pink was appearing in the east.
Ring-billed Gull 200
Mourning Dove 20
Eastern Screech-Owl 1
Northern Saw-whet Owl 2 Highlight! flushed a bird while tracking Tim's deer, in the dense autumn olive. Found where it had been roosting in there, for several days. It literally flushed about a foot from my face, and perched in view so Tim and I got to watch it at length. Pete and I also each heard "mewing" Saw-whet's in pre-dawn.
Red-bellied Woodpecker 10
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3 Very vocal, perhaps more.
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 5 Note that Hairy's seemed as common as Downy's this year.
Northern Flicker 10 Many more than usual. Two roosted one evening in a snag across from my stand, I watched one fly out of it's hole the next morning about a half hour before sunrise.
Pileated Woodpecker 2 One landed above Pete one evening, a neat picture through the bins of pileated and hunter in silouette, reminded me of the Ivory-billed searchers.
Blue Jay 20
American Crow 50
Black-capped Chickadee 20 Watched one pick it's roost hole out. It revisited several times between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30, then went in and stayed around 4:40 p.m.
Tufted Titmouse 15
White-breasted Nuthatch 10
Brown Creeper 5
Carolina Wren 5
Winter Wren 1 Apparently only one bird, but very mobile. First heard in the creek valley along the road where it usually is, then heard it in the spring thicket above the house, and on the last day it appeared over by the barn, hopping about under Tom's boat trailer.
Golden-crowned Kinglet 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 10
Hermit Thrush 10 Had them whisper singing Thursday evening at the top of the hill, maybe the hilltop reminded them of home?
American Robin 1000
Gray Catbird 1 In the thicket by the barn.
European Starling 200
Cedar Waxwing 50
Song Sparrow 10
White-throated Sparrow 75
Dark-eyed Junco 25
Northern Cardinal 15 Heard a new call. It sounded very much like a distant, foreshortened Turkey yelp. Apparently given by both sexes, a male was pursuing a female from bush to bush on the hillside below me.
Red-winged Blackbird 100
Common Grackle 25
Purple Finch 50 Constant.
House Finch 25
White-winged Crossbill 5 Score!
Common Redpoll 5 Score!
Pine Siskin 5
American Goldfinch 20
Evening Grosbeak 5 SCOOORE! Heard them the last day, right before Tim got his deer. Pete heard them at the same time from his stand.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lesser Nighthawk identification revisited

No, I am not suggesting that the bird was misidentified or that the i.d. is in question even. Simply, I wanted to revisit the photos (with a couple new included) and add some commentary. Let's face it nighthawk identification is not straight forward.

(click on the photos to enlarge)

So, using a photo that Kevin Karlson took of the bird (above), I have pointed arrows to all of the prominent field marks used in identifying this bird. Michael O'Brien has also allowed use of a brief summary of filed marks he wrote up which entails a few more points than I described in my original post about the finding of the bird. For additional comparison, I have included two photos by Karl Lukens, of Common nighthawks taken this fall.

Below is the Karlson photo from above with arrows pointing out the major field marks which are discussed. Something I just noticed as I was looking this post over before posting; look at the common above and the lesser below. The length difference between the two birds is evident (to me) in the photos. The common having longer primaries gives the bird a much longer drawn out appearance. Somewhat analogous to the shape of a White-rumped or Baird's sandpiper in comparison to a Least sandpiper. The lesser is a much more "stubby" looking bird that is relatively compact. Note Michael's 7th i.d. note below.

Text in italics is from Michael O'Brien's identification summary(not all points are included);

Identification as Lesser based on the following points, in approximate order of importance:

outer end of white primary patch falling even with tip of longest tertial and with tip of p5 (usually well before tertial tips and in line with p4 in Common; "farther out" position of primary patch also indicated by extensive dark basal area of primaries exposed beyond secondaries; Commons/Antilleans show minimal dark basal area beyond secondaries

Compare the first Common nighthawk photo for a visual comparison of the white patch in reference to how far it extends beyond the tertials. In a common, it doesn't! Well, at least if the bird is roosting with it's wing in a typical position as exhibited in the photo above. If you look closely you can see a bit of the white patch on the bird in the first photo; the tertials extend well beyond.

2 - p10 distinctly shorter than p9 (equal or longer in Common)

This the photo (above) I posted with the original announcement of the nighthawk. To me at least, it is obvious that P10 is shorter than P9. But to further aid in seeing the distinction I have traced the outer edge of P10 & 9 on both wings. P10 is RED and P9 is YELLOW. One thing to consider is that Lesser nighthawk could about be completely ruled out if we assumed that this bird was still in molt. Lessers, as I have discovered in my own personal research, molt on the breeding grounds. While others (common and antillean) will molt on the wintering grounds. Given that this bird was found past typical migration timing adds to some confusion. But, since there really was no other evidence of molt in the bird and that the primaries are slightly worn (there would be a contrast between fresh inner primaries and worn outer primaries on a molting bird), I think that the shortened primaries being caused by molt can be ruled out.

3 - small buffy spots at base of primaries (lacking in Common/Antillean)

In the event you are not seeing the small buffy spots at the base of the primaries, the photo below has been modified to point the area out. Some photos you may see will not readily show the buffy spots as the bird did move a little and adjusted its position on the branch. When I arrived at the scene these were some of the first photos taken and the best for showing the spots in question. Note also how extensive the dark basal area of the primaries is (see ID point no. 1) and how large the white patch is on p10 (the bottom primary feather; see ID point no. 5).

For the following points refer to the previous photos.

- white restricted to outer four primaries (outer five in adult male Common/Antillean)

5 - white primary patch includes broad section on outer web of p10 (outer web black or with small white patch in most Common/Antillean)

6 - prominent buff-white spots on wing coverts and scapulars (rarely if ever so large and prominent on Common/Antillean)
7 - relatively compact shape with short, broad primaries and largish head (similar to Antillean but different from typical Common)"

Note the distinct "pointyness" to the common primaries compared to the lesser. The images are significantly cropped using photos from above.

So there you have it, Lesser Nighthawk identification in a nutshell. That was written tongue in cheek by the way. Hopefully this will help you learn as much about nighthawk identification as I have.