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.

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