Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TWO Snowy Owls, Harlequins, Gannets o' Plenty

It was a pleasant afternoon to be out birding along the Atlantic Coast, and the results weren't bad, either-

At the Two Mile Beach unit of Cape May NWR, there were 3 Harlequin Ducks- a male and two females. The beautiful ducks, while common at Barnegat Light, are a scarce species elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic, including the Cape May area. The trio was feeding along the north side of the northern-most jetty at Cold Spring Inlet, where there were also several individuals of all three scoter species, numerous Long-tailed Ducks, a few Common Loons and a handful of Bonaparte's Gulls. Razorbills are starting to appear in the region, and while there were none there today, this inlet is perhaps the best place to look for alcids in Cape May. 

Also of interest was a large and ever-growing feeding frenzy of Northern Gannets about a mile offshore, at least 800 strong. Small groups of Gannets were continually flying in from farther offshore to join the feeding flock, which made for quite a sight. There was also a steady trickle of southbound scoters offshore, comprised primarily of Black Scoters.

Stone Harbor Point provided quite a bit of excitement at dusk, highlighted by TWO Snowy Owls. The first bird, which appeared to be a male, was sitting atop a dune on the far west side of the point for most of the early evening. The second bird, a heavily-marked female, appeared at last light, flying in from the dunes in the southwest corner before proceeding to hunt the southern end of the point. There was also a bit of activity offshore, including all three scoters, one southbound flock of scaup and three Horned Grebes. 

Snowy Owl, Sea Ducks, Eagles and Swans

[Karl Lukens took this marvelous photo of the Stone Harbor Snowy Owl on Monday December 29. This bird apparently has decided to winter -we all hope!]

I visited Stone Harbor on Monday, more for a beach walk than a bird walk - but as we often say, we're never not birding. I was with my kids, and we sandwiched some pretty fancy birds between admiring the sand and shadow patterns in the low-angle winter sun. The star of course was the Snowy Owl - thank-you to Roger and Kathy Horn for tipping us off as to it's exact location.

We had a couple other fancy raptors. A Peregrine Falcon came tearing down the beach, waist high and passing only 25 yards away, and we watched it until it disappeared over North Wildwood. Bizarrely, as we were walking back to the parking lot, a Great-horned Owl flew from behind us (out of the bayberry thicket?) and took off north over the elaborate houses of Stone Harbor.

All the usual "rockpipers" were present on the jetty at Stone Harbor, including a single Purple Sandpiper. Kathy and Roger reported finding Red Knots. Quite a few scoters floated offshore, with plenty of Long-tailed Ducks, a few Red-throated Loons, and one female Common Eider.

[Roger Horn took this photo Monday, a nice comparison shot of a male Black Scoter and female Surf Scoter.]

Sunday's Cumberland Christmas Bird Count apparently turned up nothing particularly bizarre. Mike Fritz told me a Snowy Owl had been found a couple days earlier, but just outside the count circle in or near Bivalve, and I'll be sure to post furthur details if this bird sticks. Pete Dunne and I covered Turkey Point as we always do, where the highlight this year was simply the mass of Snow Geese, 4,500 or more, flying over. A single Long-billed Dowitcher and a Sedge Wren were other highlights. Bird numbers seemed low, perhaps because of last weeks severe cold snap - e.g. we somehow missed Gray Catbird in a whole day's birding. An exception was Bald Eagle, which we literally found in small flocks occasionally and singles almost constantly.

Speaking of eagles, the day after Christmas found me up at Mannington Marsh in Salem County near sundown, where at least 17 different Bald Eagles appeared in the span of a half hour or so - there's a roost somewhere up there. What an impressive sight - eagles dueling, standing on the ice (and falling through), hunting, or roosting, with 4-5 in one scope view at a time.

[I was tempted to send this photo to Michael O'Brien to use in the photo quiz. Mannington Marsh has as many Mute Swans as anywhere in NJ, but it was delightful last week to see almost as many Tundra Swans, 25 or more. Compare height and location of the peak of the back on the these two birds, as well as tail length and neck thickness. The bird in the foreground, a Mute Swan, appears relatively much bigger because it is closer, although Mute Swans are significantly larger and heavier than Tundras. People tend to focus on bill characters when separating these two, which can be difficult to see at great distances (or if they are feeding). Tundra Swan has a thinner neck, and a more evenly rounded back with the peak lower and more central on the body than Mute. Mute Swan has a long tail, for a swan anyway. Photo by Don Freiday.]

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Villas Woodpecker Show

Christmas morning, after the usual festivities that accompany it, found me on a walk around Villas WMA, the former golf course now grown into an oak-pine savannah. I wasn't technically birding, but the species typical of that habitat were too obvious too ignore. Two of the hatch-year Red-headed Woodpeckers that have been reported appeared, feeding on and caching acorns in the south-central portion of the WMA. Flickers seemed common, 20 or more flying up as we walked, and Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers rounded out the picids present. Five Eastern Bluebirds and five Field Sparrows foraged in the grassy margins, and it was especially fine to enjoy a close-range male American Kestrel. Seeing the kestrel, and Villas WMA generally, reminds me of places in the Piney Woods of Texas where birders seek Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, and where kestrels sometimes find tree cavities to nest.

Fifteen or so Ring-necked Ducks floated on the main pond, with several American Wigeon and two Ruddy Ducks. The ruddies were bothered, briefly, by a Great Black-backed Gull with dinner on its mind.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Photo Salon

Information emailed to me from Karl Lukens, re: the whereabouts of the Snowy Owl found 12/20, is posted below. I have not heard any word on the re-sighting of the Snowy since 12/20.

From Karl Lukens on 12/20;

"Michael O'Brien re-found the Snowy Owl flying from the point towards the beach....We had long range looks from the point parking lot crossover with the bird at about 115th street sitting on the beach. It flew when a truck drove up beach. We followed as it kept moving up the beach and was last seen about ~ 80-85th street."

In addition to the Snowy Owl, Kathy & Roger Horn send word of an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER that they found at the TNC's Cape Island Preserve on 12/20. The bird was hanging in the vicinity of the entrance to the property on Wilson Ave.

From Kathy & Roger Horn on 12/20;

"The ash-throated flycatcher was right where you enter at Wilson Street, first on the tall grasses then perched in the hedgerow. There was a large feeding flock of bluebirds (25-30) and an even larger flock of goldfinches (60). Further down the hedgerow to the left, we had an orange-crowned and an Eastern palm warbler. In the 3rd field down (mowed one) we had a flock of about 65 pipits. There were also meadowlarks, a beautiful male harrier, fox and field
sparrows and lots of white throated and song sparrows. Of course, we never found the bird we went looking for - the vesper sparrow that was there last weekend."

SNOWY OWL in Stone Harbor Point- Photo Courtesy of Karl Lukens, www.home.comcast.net/~jklukens/

Snowy Owl in flight- Photo Courtesy of Michael O'Brien

Short-billed Dowitcher, Stone Harbor Point

Long-billed Dowitcher, Wetlands Institute- Dowitcher Photos Courtesy of Michael O'Brien
(Note the shape differences between the two dowitchers. The Long-billed exhibits a "pot-bellied" look)

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER at the TNC's Cape Island Preserve (above). American Pipit (below)- Photos Courtesy of Kathy & Roger Horn

Saturday, December 20, 2008

SNOWY OWL @ Stone Harbor Point

I just received a call from the CMBO Center for Research and Education (CRE), in Goshen, that a SNOWY OWL has been reported at Stone Harbor Point.

The bird was first observed at the point at about 10:00 a.m. this morning. The couple who found the bird were made aware of it's presence by the flock of gulls which were harassing the bird. At some point the bird started to move north along the beach as was last seen in the vicinity of 115th Ave in Store Harbor.

After some further discussions at CRE, I was told that it seems that this bird is probably a young male, based on the descriptions of the initial observers.

Please keep this birds best interest in mind if you are heading out to see if you can relocate the bird. It seems like it was getting a good harassing from the gulls, there is no need for birders to add to the stress that this bird my be under.

Also, please forward further reports of this bird to CMBO via phone 609-884-2736 or 609-861-0700. Or you can use the email sightings submission link at the top of this page.

NOTE: that both CMBO locations (Northwood Center and Center for Research and Education in Goshen) will be closed from 12/24/08 thru 1/1/09

"Chasing the Ghost Owl"

During the off-season, when David is recuperating after posting daily to the Birding Forecast, he will be posting mini articles on topics that we birders like to learn about and discuss. The first topic kicks off the holiday season with an all time favorite of mine, and perhaps yours as well, the mystical Snowy Owl. So head on over to the Mid-Atlantic Birding Forecast page to read "Chasing the Ghost Owl."

If you want to be sure you don't miss any of David's posts be sure to enable the RSS feed. (Look for this icon on the page, click it and you will be given several set-up options.) You'll be alerted as soon as a new post is published!

CMBO Cape May Point walk- 12/20/08

The weekly CMBO walk around Cape May Point seems as though it was productive this morning. At least I am of the opinion that 57 species in a short morning walk is a good way to start the day. Karl Lukens shares the list from today's walk.

NOTE: The drake CANVASBACK, which was initially found last Sunday (12/14) on the Cape May CBC, is still around as of this morning.

"Saturday morning CMBO Cape May Point Walk. Nice array of ducks including
thousands of scoters off shore both flying and sitting on the water. Also
had 5 fly-over Greater Yellow-legs, 100 fly-over Snow Geese, 2 Harriers and
1 Merlin as well as the usual winter suspects."

Location: Cape May Point
Observation date: 12/20/08
Notes: CMBO Trip-K,T,C&MJ,K&RH,+0.Cldy,35,N8.
Number of species: 57

Snow Goose 100
Brant 15
Canada Goose 15
Mute Swan 15
Gadwall 10
American Wigeon 10
Mallard 100
Northern Shoveler 10
Green-winged Teal 25
Canvasback 1
Surf Scoter 20
Black Scoter 30
dark-winged scoter sp. 2000
Long-tailed Duck 3
Hooded Merganser 10
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Ruddy Duck 15
Red-throated Loon 8
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Northern Gannet 10
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Northern Harrier 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Merlin 1
American Coot 12
Greater Yellowlegs 5
Ruddy Turnstone 3
Sanderling 1
Purple Sandpiper 5
Bonaparte's Gull 4
Ring-billed Gull 5
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Blue Jay 10
American Crow 8
Carolina Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 3
Carolina Wren 8
American Robin 20
Gray Catbird 2
Northern Mockingbird 4
European Starling 15
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 12
Dark-eyed Junco 6
Northern Cardinal 8
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 10
House Finch 8
American Goldfinch 4
House Sparrow 25

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Penultimate Dovekie

These things almost always happen only in fairy tales. Although the Avalon Seawatch runs until December 22, yesterday was primary counter Sean Fitzgerald's last day on duty. Sean's final birds came in the form of a flock of Snow Geese, a fine way to finish out a season, but the bird that came immediately before was Sean's most wanted (or so he told some of us over dinner last night) - a Dovekie buzzed by on, literally, Sean's last scan of the season.

Sean's on his way back to Michigan now. We wish him well, and he will be missed for the outstanding job he did.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

eBird Frequency Bar Charts Updated

For those of you who are eBird users, you may already know about this new bar chart update. And for those who are not eBird users, well, you should think about giving it a try (especially now that you'll be out and about or looking from your home windows at the feeders) for Christmas Bird Count season is upon us.

Also, non users should know about these eBird functions because they are a very valuable source of info not only to the local birder but to the traveling birder as well. Often birders who come into or call the Northwood Center are looking for info on what species they may be likely to encounter in the field during their visit. More often than not I pull Sibley's Birds of Cape May off the bookshelf and show them the frequency bar charts in the back. While the bar charts in general don't change significantly over the long haul (though I've read much in recent years about observations of some species timing of migration changing slightly) the textual accounts which include maximum counts, early and late dates does need some updating.

In the past to access this type of frequency information for a given location you would have to pick up a book while at the birding destination or call ahead to place an order. And, often no such bar charts exist to be referenced. Of course now with listservs you can seek information from other birders in a specific location via email or, with eBird you have all of the same information provided in these wonderful reference books, accessible at the click of a mouse. But there are a couple of caveats at this point with the eBird program.

As I've stated before, the more users who are inputting data, the more robust the data set. You don't have to have a PhD to know that this is the case. So if you are looking for frequency data on some areas that are not as popular as others, the charts my not be fully representative of the bird life in the area. The eBird team explains this a bit and how their frequency histograms work, on their site.

The second issue is the dates for high counts, early arrivals and late departures. While it may be the case that the more recent data entered into eBird is the more accurate, there is the issue that much of the historical data has yet to be integrated into eBird and possibly never will. Take Cape May for example, the high count for American Kestrel is listed at 1,031 birds on 9/23/2007, on eBird. If you look at Birds of Cape May you'll find the number of 24,875 from 10/16/1970. In this case the newer counts are the more accurate since Kestrel numbers have been plummeting. You can't, unfortunately, come to Cape May in late Sept. to early Oct. and expect the huge falcon flights of the past.

None the less, it's worth taking a look, at least at the county level for frequency information. At the very least this information should help to make you a much more informed birder when planning your next outing, whether near home or even across the country.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

And so it ends.....cold and a bit windy

On Monday, 12/8, Laura and I set out to run our last 2008 Cape Island Big Day attempt. Where has the year gone?! It really seems like just days ago that we were planning this year-long venture and agonizing about whether or not you really could hope to see 100 species in one day for each month of the year, south of the the Cape May Canal.

December was one of the months that I really worried about in terms of achieving the hoped for century mark. Since there can be big fluctuations in weather, which can mean fluctuation in species diversity, you never know what this time of year may bring. A fluctuation in weather is exactly what we have see these last few days/week—there had been a slight warm up and then a cold front moved through days prior to our attempt. In fact, the 40 mph winds the day before alone were enough to make us reconsider. The temps dropped and it was a crisp 20 degrees F when we started at 5:00 a.m. And unfortunately we had to deal with a 15 mph wind that persisted during the morning with the exiting system.

One of the first birds tallied were Snow Geese as they passed overhead in the darkness of the night. Along with Canada Geese we were two down, 98 to go. Our trusty little Screech Owl proved to be easy, responding to my whistles, and we heard Great-horned Owls calling in a couple of locations pre-dawn.

For big day birding I am of the opinion that seawatching first thing can be of paramount importance to getting a good tally of birds for the day and this day I was not proved wrong. Along with all three scoter, Long-tailed Ducks, and Red-throated Loons the other expected oceanic species were Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye (9 all told) and loads of Canada Geese moving out over the ocean. While we had heard numbers of geese on the move in the night, the day light revealed the true magnitude of the goose flight that day.

All day long flocks of 100-300 (sometimes more) Snow Geese cruised high over head. Canada Geese were also well on the move but the overall flight seemed to be restricted to the morning hours. All in all we estimated at least 15,000 Snow Geese had passed overhead and about 5,000 Canandas. Though as I always say, these numbers are well on the conservative side.

After some seawatching we hit the woods and decided to walk Hidden Valley first since most of the fields at Higbee had been mowed down in the last few weeks. At the back of Hidden Valley we found the expected (hoped for really) Rusty Blackbirds (one bird with a white throat made for an interesting view), loads of White-throated and a few Fox Sparrows. One nice treat was a Woodcock which obliged us by walking around only steps from us allowing us to get great, not often seen, views of this species intricate plumage.

Higbee Beach was on the slow side in the fields where the vegetation had all been mowed. But in the one last un-mowed field (just north of the pond) we found that the Sedge Wren is still kicking about and was rather cooperative. At least is called frequently, we did not even see the bird. A very nice surprise was just down from the wren, where an American Tree Sparrow was hanging in some Bayberry bushes—not an easy bird to come by on Cape Island—in loose association with a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers.

By lunch time, with our tally only in the high seventies or so, we were beginning to loose hope of reaching 100. We had yet to look at Lily Lake, the Meadows for dabbling ducks or, walk the State Park so we still had ground to cover but it looked like the best we might do is to hit the mid-nineties which would be on par with our January run.

We wandered around Cape May Point birding-by-car some (well, as much as possible given the very cold temps and winds which we mercifully dying down as the day progressed) and picked up a number of much needed duck species which were concentrated toward the northern end of the lake due to ice cover. Try as we might we could not pull a Cackling Goose out of the 65+ Canadas that were mixed in with the various other duck species, grebe and coot. Then it was on to the Cape May Point State Park to look for Ash-throated Flycatcher, Orange-crowned Warbler and Northern Parula that had been hanging around. Unfortunately, the back trails were closed due to more trail work that is being done so we had to settle for what we could find on the other open trails.

As the day progressed toward sunset we found ourselves in the midst of one of those end of the day good luck runs that sometimes helps you more than you expect and usually when your hopes are dashed. In fact, it is these this "good luck runs" that can give you that second, third or fourth (what ever the case may be) wind to help carry you on to the end of the day.

At the Meadows we had a flock of four Great Egrets flying down the beach and a couple of Great-blue Herons flying about in the marsh. A quick stop at Bob's place to look for the Dickcissel that has been visiting his feeders proved unsuccessful but, we did have a young White-crowned Sparrow—a nice surprise bird for the day. Also a Palm Warbler which Bob had heard at the Beanery proved to be an easier tally than expected. I actually heard the bird and pished for it to see whether or not it was an eastern or western, and no sooner had I uttered my first pish than it came darting out of the grasses straight for my face. Luckily for me it swerved but unlucky for us, the Ring-necked Ducks which had been on the pond at the Beanery were nowhere to be found.

As the daylight faded we hurriedly checked Poverty Beach for Great Cormorant and hoped the Common Eider would be easy to see, but was not. There were a number of ducks in and amongst the pilings but the heat distortion was too great and we didn't have enough daylight to try and scrutinize the birds present. A second stop at Bob's was worth it since we had the Dickcissel in seconds flat and we were off again, knowing that we were very close to the 100 species mark.

After the sun set we had just enough energy to try for the missed Barred Owl and headed to Higbee to try one last time with this most unreliable species to help us end our year's journey the right way. Unfortunately we were not able to get out to Higbee so we chose to try the Hidden Valley Ranch area. For many reasons the night time is where things got a bit more interesting for more than just us, but that is a story for another time... Ends up that Laura heard a Barred Owl way in the distance but we agreed the last bird should be heard by us both so we went to the Hidden Valley parking lot to see if we could get closer to where the sound was coming from. I heard one small sound from presumably the same bird but then another Barred Owl piped up from the direction of the Morning Flight Dike, ensuring that we ended our day with a smile. Adding the four different Great-horned Owls we heard from the Hidden Valley parking lot brought our day's total for this species up to a whopping nine for Cape Island.

Oh, by the way, we ended the day with 103 species which I think is a heck of a fine total for Cape Island in December!!

We've had a most excellent time doing these monthly big days and the effort has really helped us learn a good bit about the status and distribution of species that can be found on and around Cape Island throughout the year. We have yet to put all our figures together but as last I checked our cumulative list for the year was well above 225 and I'm guessing might be in the vicinity of 235+ species. Not at all bad for only "twelve days" of birding.

I can say that 100 species in a day each month is most definitely a possibility. We were not always able to take advantage of the best weather and often had to try and squeeze the big day run in (in July, as you may remember, we actually ran the big around a full days work at the Northwood Center.) So despite the above obstacles we are very excited that we only missed 100 species three out of the twelve months. The list of monthly totals is as follows:

January- 94
February- 93
March- 102
April- 115
May- 144
June- 109
July- 99
August- 114
September- 125
October- 122
November- 121
December 103

My intention is to post some minor statistics for our years worth of big days (probably sometime in the beginning of the new year after I can compile the numbers) but those of you who are members of CMBO can look forward to a more through assessment of our attempt in the upcoming publication of the CMBO member magazine The Peregrine Observer.

As always, our final list is below:

Location: Cape Island
Observation date: 12/8/08
Notes: December Cape Island Big Day, 17606 steps = approx. 13.5 miles
Number of species: 105

Snow Goose 15000
Brant 145
Canada Goose 5000
Mute Swan X
Wood Duck 8
Gadwall 95
American Wigeon 135
American Black Duck X
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler 10
Northern Pintail 18
Green-winged Teal 250
Greater Scaup 1
Lesser Scaup 8
Greater/Lesser Scaup 8
Surf Scoter 25
White-winged Scoter 2
Black Scoter 50
dark-winged scoter sp. 3000
Long-tailed Duck 20
Bufflehead X
Common Goldeneye 9
Hooded Merganser 45
Red-breasted Merganser 75
Ruddy Duck 60
Red-throated Loon 2
Common Loon 1
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Northern Gannet X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 5
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Bald Eagle 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 6
Cooper's Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
American Coot 55
Killdeer 8
Greater Yellowlegs X
Ruddy Turnstone 3
Sanderling X
Purple Sandpiper 5
American Woodcock 25
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Eastern Screech-Owl 1
Great Horned Owl 9
Barred Owl 2
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 5
Downy Woodpecker 8
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Horned Lark 1
Tree Swallow 6
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Carolina Wren X
Winter Wren 6
Sedge Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 20
Hermit Thrush 35
American Robin X
Gray Catbird 4
Northern Mockingbird X
Brown Thrasher 6
European Starling X
American Pipit 75
Cedar Waxwing X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) X
Palm Warbler 1
Yellow-breasted Chat 1
Eastern Towhee X
American Tree Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow X
Fox Sparrow 35
Song Sparrow X
Swamp Sparrow X
White-throated Sparrow 250
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 40
Northern Cardinal X
Dickcissel 1
Red-winged Blackbird X
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Rusty Blackbird 15
Common Grackle X
Boat-tailed Grackle 1
Purple Finch X
House Finch X
American Goldfinch X
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Eiders, Harlequins and the Usual Good Stuff at Barnegat

CMBO's traditional early December field trip to Barnegat Light and surrounds yesterday featured some groovy ducks. "Best" among them was the immature male King Eider, which fraternized with 10 Common Eiders including a gorgeous adult male, and 22 Harlequins. We were there in the morning on an incoming tide and with calm conditions, and all the above ducks were south of the Barnegat Jetty, feeding over the submerged old 8th street jetty. It seems like Barnegat gets better and better for sea ducks each year, perhaps a consequence of the maturation of the sea life community along Barnegat Inlet's south jetty, which was finished in 1991.

The jetty hosted many Dunlin, plus about 10 Purple Sandpipers and a similar number of Ruddy Turnstones. The shorebirds gave great views near the end of the jetty, seeming to prefer the area where the jetty first meets the ocean when not being flushed by passing fishermen. Fifty Snow Buntings settled on the jetty briefly before flying north across the inlet to Island Beach. I also heard a Savannah Sparrow that I presumed an Ipswich, both beause it was at its traditional location along the jetty and because the note sounded more modulated than a typical Savannah, but we never saw the bird. Other parties reported Ipswich Sparrows along the jetty, however. Five Horned Larks fed on the sandy flats near the lighthouse.

An apparently injured immature Northern Gannet floated past with the incoming tide. Bonaparte's Gulls were common, as were Long-tailed Ducks. Some of the Long-taileds were courting and calling.

On the bayside at Harvey Cedars, we enjoyed two Common Loons following each other in a tight circle as they took turns looking underwater - it seemed like they had something cornered and were trying to capture it - a large crab, perhaps? An adult Peregrine was perched on an island, and by looking westward across Barnegat Bay to the Manahawkin marshes we were able to spot a very, very distant dark morph Rough-legged Hawk.

We always finish this trip by looking for Short-eared Owls, often at Manahawkin's Bridge to Nowhere. When I scouted the road to the bridge in the morning, I discovered it was in even worse shape than usual, so instead we opted to go to Cedar Run Dock Road. No short-eareds appeared, but we did see several groups of Hooded Mergansers, 4 Greater Scaup, and the usual harriers. Also of interest was a large flock of Boat-tailed Grackles, at least 120 strong, which foraged on the edge of a channel for a bit and then apparently went to roost in a phragmites stand.

Thanks to Chuck and MJ Slugg, Bill and Lee Smythe, Janet Crawford and Carole Hughes for helping out as leaders with our big group, and also to Bill Roache and Tom McParland for tipping us off to the King Eider.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

CMBO Cape May Point walk- 12/6/08

Birding in the winter is often viewed as a bit of a chore, at least here where it is cold. But winter birding days, while obviously not as productive as the days in the heart of migration, can be very rewarding. Of course the birding visitor-ship in Cape May dwindles this time of year and even most of the locals take the opportunity to sleep in every now and again. That being said I want to point out the Saturday Cape May Point walk that takes place (meeting that the Cape May point State Park) for the next two Saturdays in the month of December.

Don't fear though, the walks pick up again in January after the Christmas and New Year's holiday season. Also note that on January 1, the Kick off Your New year List in Cape May pre-registration trip, which if memory serves tallied some 70-75+ species. In fact, take a look at the Naturalist Calendar to see what natural history events have taken place in Cape may in the past for the winter months, see what walks are schedules or the listing of other pre-registration programs or School of Birding workshops.

Below is the list from today's CMBO Cape May Point walk. Thanks to Karl Lukens for the provided, most excellent, photo of one of the Snow Buntings encountered on the walk. Now, only if that Longspur will show back up!

"CMBO Cape May Point Walk. The walk this cold morning included the beach,
plover ponds, and yellow trail. Although we were unable to locate the
Ash-throated Flycatcher, we did manage to find 8 fairly close Snow Buntings
on the beach. Still a nice variety of ducks, as well as a couple of
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and a Merlin that looked like it was headed to

Location: Cape May Point SP
Observation date: 12/6/08
Notes: CMBO Trip-K,T,+4+Bev. Clr,28,SE5
Number of species: 45

Canada Goose 75
Mute Swan 5
Gadwall 10
American Wigeon 20
Mallard 25
Green-winged Teal 100
Black Scoter 15
Hooded Merganser 4
Northern Gannet 8
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 20
Northern Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Merlin 1
American Coot 15
Herring Gull 5
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Rock Pigeon 2
Mourning Dove 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 3
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 5
Carolina Chickadee 5
Carolina Wren 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 15
American Pipit 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Snow Bunting 8 /p
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Purple Finch 4
American Goldfinch 6

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bird notes

This past Tuesday Laura and I were able to fit in a good bit of birding around the holiday errands. We started off the morning with a bit of seawatching while we waited for the day to warm up and hopefully bring out the Ash-throated Flycatcher. We started off at the Convention Center where I was somewhat surprised to find that there was really very little action over the ocean. We decided to move to the point since it seemed like there might be birds flying out of the bay (ie. we had more birds flying north than south.) Unfortunately the bay proved to be just as unproductive though there was a sizable raft of scoter sitting out on the bay, too far to be able top see most of the birds.

The State Park, like the water, was relatively slow over all. Probably the best part of our wanders in Cape May Point area were the continued numbers of "blackbirds" flying over. More than anything we simply sat and enjoyed watching the numbers of birds that were flying over. In fact, looking back at the eBird list below, I think my numbers are more than underestimates of the actual number of birds. Maybe it's just memory making me think there were more but I'd say that you could multiply my number by 2.5 and come a little closer to the true representation.

Other interesting State Park sightings were one Orange-crowned Warbler, both kinglets, a few singing Fox Sparrows, 4 Winter Wrens, a lone Palm Warbler and of course the previously mentioned blackbird flight.

The afternoon proved productive as after having received word that the flycatcher was indeed still alive and kicking, we made our way back to the State Park. After about 30+ minutes we were about to head out unsuccessful when I decided to try one last time looking along the west side of the mature pines in the area that we'd had an Eastern Phoebe hanging around. In fact, we'd heard a higher pitch call in the area but I was unsure if it was the phoebe or not, not being extremely familiar with all of the Ash-throated's vocalizations. Needless to say it was one of those one last effort pays off situations. We walked back to the area and low and behold there the Ash-throated was sitting on one of the wire cages surrounding the planted trees.

Probably the best part of this last ditch effort was that Laura and I heard a White-winged Crossbill flyover. This took us a little by surprise even though we are all expecting the flocks being reported up north to descend on Cape May any day. It's been a while since we have both had much contact with this species (since we lived in Maine where there were times we were lucky enough to be amidst flocks of hundreds at a time) so I was cautious about jumping to any immediate conclusions.

Since the sun was on its way to setting we decided to head back to the car to dig out the iPod to verify the crossbill when we had just emerged from the cedars on the red path and looked up to see a flock of birds flying over. The flock was in complete silhouette and flying profile to away from us but the size and shape worked well for me to think that they were more than most likely crossbills. The birds did not call and I was wishing that I had looked up just a minute or two earlier but these would have to go in the probably file. None the less given that a small flock of White-winged Crossbills were seen flying over the Meadows just after Thanksgiving and with our possible flock of 8-10 birds I'd suggest that birders in Cape May keep this species in the for front of your mind. My guess is that we won't find many sitting in trees (the cones in Cape May are inviting looking but I don't see much that will keep birds around if they do sit) but most observations will be of these nomads flying over as they wander looking for suitable feeding locations.

After leaving the park we decide to try and make a quick try for the the Selasphorus hummer and were resoundingly successful. Ms. Young was again generous enough to allow us to watch from the driveway since the bird has been coming to the front feeder primarily as of late. We had a few quick but identifiable sightings but as Laura had not looked for this bird before I was hoping that we'd have had better views. Again, with one last ditch effort to find the bird in the hedge near the feeder I found the bird sitting quite as could be on a bare branch allowing us to get very nice looks.

On a quick side note, something to keep in mind when you are searching for crossbills. When we had finished seawatching at St. Peter's jetty in the morning and were walking back to the car I had for some reason decided to take a look at the tops of some of the pines on the dunes and to my surprise found a flock of birds crawling around, crossbill like, feeding. Fumbling for my scope I set it up to at the top of the pine to find that it was a group of Red-winged Blackbirds feeding. The way they were tucked in and moving around looked for all the world like a group of crossbills and had I had more distance between me and them and no scope I might have been more inclined to think they they were.

Other sightings of note for the last little while are as follows;

11/28 Short-eared Owls and a Great Horned Owl at Jakes Landing. An Orange-crowned Warbler was at the Beanery on 11/29 and a Blue-headed Vireo was at the State Park on the same day. A Nashville Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler continue at the Meadows, near the west trail dune crossover, as of today. A Norther Parula was at the State Park on 11/29. The Dickcissel At the Meadows continues to be seen sporadically and another is coming to a feeder in West Cape May. Lastly, a flock of Snow Buntings was on the beach at the Cape May point State Park, in the grasses east of the bunker, on 12/1. no word of the Lapland Longspur being with these birds.

Below is a list from out 20-25 min. or seawatching today and below that the list from our birding on Tuesday.

Location: Cape May- Convention Hall
Observation date: 12/4/08
Number of species: 8

Surf Scoter 25
White-winged Scoter 4
Black Scoter 10
dark-winged scoter sp. 125
Long-tailed Duck 1
Red-throated Loon 25
Northern Gannet 50
Sanderling X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Location: Cape Island
Observation date: 12/2/08
Notes: 9233 steps = approx. 6.75 miles
Number of species: 74

Brant 7
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
Gadwall 22
American Wigeon 25
Mallard X
Northern Pintail 8
Green-winged Teal 85
Surf Scoter 35
Black Scoter 45
dark-winged scoter sp. 250
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 6
Hooded Merganser 8
Red-breasted Merganser 6
Ruddy Duck 12
Red-throated Loon 6
Northern Gannet 45
Great Blue Heron 2
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3
Purple Sandpiper 6
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Black Skimmer 6
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Downy Woodpecker 4
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 8
Eastern Phoebe 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow 16
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren X
Winter Wren 4
Golden-crowned Kinglet X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Eastern Bluebird 25
Hermit Thrush 6
American Robin 150
Gray Catbird X
Northern Mockingbird X
Brown Thrasher 4
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing 65
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 150
Palm Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 35
Fox Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 25
Swamp Sparrow 12
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird 650
Common Grackle 250
Brown-headed Cowbird 350
blackbird sp. 3000
Purple Finch 10
House Finch X
White-winged Crossbill X
Pine Siskin X
American Goldfinch 150
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rarities Gallery updated!

A slew of rarities were reported on View from the Cape over the autumn season. Now images of these birds, along with past rarities, can be found in the BirdCapeMay.org Photo Gallery. I just added 7 new species today so be sure to check out the 2006 - Present Rarities album!

Special thanks to those who sent in their images including Bob Fogg, Karl Lukens, and Michael O'Brien!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ash-throated Fly, Dickcissel images

Above: Photos of the previously-mentioned Dickcissel at the South Cape May Meadows, and the Ash-throated Flycatcher at Cape May Point State Park. Click to enlarge.

Many thanks to Karl Lukens for sending these along.

Ash-throated Flycatcher, Dickcissel, other notes

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Here's a few brief notes before I head off to eat:

The ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER was re-found this morning at Cape May Point State Park, close to where it was yesterday- in the vicinity of the pines at the very back end of the park (the area where there appears to be two paths, with numerous plants that are being covered in protective cages). The bird was generally staying low to the ground, perching on sun-exposed low snags and small brush piles. I left it at 12:00pm.

The State Park also played host to an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and as many as 7 PALM WARBLERS this morning, in addition to at least 1 CAVE SWALLOW and several fly-over flocks of PINE SISKINS. There have been 50-60 TREE SWALLOWS between The Meadows and the State Park throughout the day.

In other news, the DICKCISSEL continues at The Meadows, along the hedgerow bordering Sunset Boulevard. Look for the House Sparrow flock, and you'll likely soon find the bird. The CACKLING GOOSE was hanging out on Lily Lake during the mid-afternoon.

At least one observer searched unsuccessfully for the previously-seen "BLACK" BRANT in Cape May Harbor, and a half-hour spent searching this afternoon failed to reveal the SEDGE WREN at Higbee Beach WMA. Here instead were at least two dozen HERMIT THRUSHES, numerous BROWN THRASHERS and a few PURPLE FINCHES. 

That's all for now. Hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


CMBO Volunteer and keeper of the Cape May Coast Guard Base birds, Chris Hajduk, just called to say that he had found an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER at the back of the Cape May Point State Park. This bird is being viewed near the stand of mature pines (where the Cooper's hawk nest was) on the beach side.

Birds about Cape May, "Black" Brant, Selasphorus Hummingbird, Sedge Wren, Long-eared and Saw-whet Owls and others

The last few days have produced a good number of birds in the Cape May area. Below are my lists for a walk around Cape May Point this morning and also from various locations on Monday 11/24.

There were a good numbers of birds moving about Cape May Point this morning with the most numerous species being blackbirds, cowbirds and grackles. American Goldfinches were also very well represented along with American Robins. There was a couple folks of Easter Bluebirds one totaling about 32 birds and the odd hawk or two hunting the dunes. Not much seemed to be moving over the bay.

Michael O'Brien pointed out a late Black-throated Green Warbler which we refound feeding on the ground in the grass with a Yellow-rumped Warbler, near the intersection of Yale Ave and Coral Ave.

One should note that my counts below are all estimations and probably well on the low side of the true numbers of birds that were seen this morning.

Other interesting bird sightings from the last couple of days are as follows. The SEDGE WREN continues to be seen as of yesterday at Higbee Beach in the same area that the bird had relocated to after the first field had been mow. For a map of the location and images of the bird you might visit Bob Fogg's web site.

The Selasphorus Hummingbird, which with the excellent images (see image below) that Bob Fogg was able to obtain seem to indicate that this bird may actually be a Rufous Hummingbird, is still coming to the feeders on New England Ave. Again, if you go to look for this bird please be respectful of the home owners property and privacy. Ms. Young has been wonderfully generous in opening up her yard to birders.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Fogg, www.keekeekerr.com)

Michael O'Brien found a "Black" Brant at Cape May Harbor on Monday but the bird has yet to resurface. Below are a couple images which he shared with me. The CACKLING GOOSE is still hanging around with Lilly Lake being the most reliable place to locate this bird.

(Photos courtesy fo Michael O'Brien)

Yesterday, CMBO swing counter Dan Berard, had a Saw-whet Owl in the vicinity of the Hawkwatch. The bird flew a couple of times to unfortunately never be seen again. Though, in the process of looking for the Saw-whet a Long-eared Owl was found off the Red trail at the Cape May Point State Park.

The Harlequin Duck, which was hanging around the pilings at the Coast Guard Base (seen from Poverty Beach) has not been reported again. Also in the line of birds gone missing are the flocks of Snow Buntings and the Lapland Longspur that had been frequenting the Cape May Point State Park beaches. The last I have heard of these species being observed was on Sunday 11/23.

In the sightings sheets here at the Northwood Center, a Northern Parula was reported from the "lighthouse" which I am guessing means the Cape May point State Park. While there have been a few fly-bys noted as of late there was one immature male Common Eider at Poverty Beach. And something I've neglected to mention are the numbers of Baltimore Orioles that have been seen at various locations around Cape Island lately. Upwards of 20+ were seen over the past weekend.

Lastly, again on 11/23 were a Lincoln's Sparrow at Higbee, a Grasshopper Sparrow at the Magnesite Plant and a Black-throated Green Warbler at the Cape May Point State Park.

Good luck and have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving from BirdCapeMay.org

Location: Cape May Point
Observation date: 11/26/08
Notes: 2715 steps = approx. 1.8 miles
Number of species: 46

Canada Goose 35
Mute Swan X
Gadwall 45
American Wigeon 40
Mallard X
Surf Scoter 10
Black Scoter 15
dark-winged scoter sp. 35
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 1
Ruddy Duck 15
Red-throated Loon 1
Northern Gannet 20
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron X
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Merlin 1
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Mourning Dove X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Carolina Chickadee X
Carolina Wren X
Golden-crowned Kinglet X
Eastern Bluebird 47
American Robin 1000
Northern Mockingbird X
European Starling 450
American Pipit 45
Cedar Waxwing 50
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) X
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Song Sparrow X
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 12
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird 3000
Common Grackle 600
Brown-headed Cowbird 1200
Purple Finch 10
House Finch 15
Pine Siskin 30
American Goldfinch 2500
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Location: Cape Island
Observation date: 11/24/08
Notes: 10748 steps = approx. 7 miles
Number of species: 77

Snow Goose 1
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
Wood Duck 2
Gadwall 135
American Wigeon 120
American Black Duck 130
Mallard 250
Northern Shoveler 3
Northern Pintail 35
Green-winged Teal 630
Ring-necked Duck 35
Lesser Scaup 1
Surf Scoter 25
Black Scoter 75
dark-winged scoter sp. 400
Long-tailed Duck 3
Hooded Merganser 20
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Ruddy Duck 35
Red-throated Loon 175
Common Loon 1
Northern Gannet 2500
Double-crested Cormorant 10
Great Blue Heron 4
Black Vulture 4
Turkey Vulture X
Northern Harrier 4
Sharp-shinned Hawk 4
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Merlin 1
American Coot 25
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Sanderling 12
Purple Sandpiper 6
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 5
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) X
Blue Jay X
American Crow 12
Fish Crow 1
Tree Swallow 25
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren X
Marsh Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
Northern Mockingbird X
European Starling X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) X
Yellow-breasted Chat 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Vesper Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 20
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 35
Swamp Sparrow 12
White-throated Sparrow 150
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Eastern Meadowlark 5
Purple Finch 10
House Finch 65
Pine Siskin 1
American Goldfinch X
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hummers continue in Cape May

According to the eBird records review I work on, I see that Karl Lukens still has a Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting his home feeder as of 11/18 &19.  This feeder can be viewed at 627 Sea Grove Ave.

Also a hummer, probably the Selasphorus that was visiting CMBO volunteer Bev Linn's home on Foster Ave., has been visiting a feeder at 711 New England Rd. which is virtually just around the corner.

The homeowner, Patricia Young, has been gracious enough to invite birders to look for this hummingbird at her feeders.  Below is a portion of an email from Ms. Young.  NoteThere is a dog present in the back yard at this location and you must keep the back gate latched.

As always, if you venture to look for these birds, please be respectful of the home owners property.

From Patricia;

"As of today, 11/21/08, I am still feeding at least one Hummingbird. My experience in identifying birds is limited... but I would say this is not a Rubythroat.
The address is 711 New England Rd., I actually had three out of state birders here last Saturday, simply because they couldn't find Foster Ave.
There is a feeder in the front yard and one in the back, visits are frequent throughout the day.
Feel free to post the address, I only ask that the backyard gate be latched, and warn anyone interested that I have a dog and there will be evidence of that underfoot.
Preferred roosting spots are the Forsythia hedge in front and the Plum tree out back."

Snow, Birds and Freezing Temps

Lapland Longspur (left) with Snow Buntings on 11/20/08 at the CM State Park.
Photo courtesy of Bob Fogg.

On the plane from Florida to Atlantic City there was talk of snow and freezing temps. I personally love snow and was accustomed to not seeing the bare ground for months on end when I lived in Maine so, it has been a true delight that the past two mornings have brought snow showers. After a mild fall, winter has indeed arrived.

On the bird front, owls have been a topic of discussion lately and sightings of Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl and numerous Long-Eared Owls have occurred since Thursday on Cape Island. For the hearty (and warmly dressed) I recommend choosing a spot near the dunes at dusk to sit and wait for owls that are lifting off and heading across the open water. Patience is the key here as it is usually when the light has faded and it is almost too dark to see that their shadowy silhouettes grace the skies.

A Cackling Goose and Tundra Swan have been seen on Lily Lake over the past few days and this morning the Tundra Swan could still be found but I was unable to re-locate the goose. Large groups of Snow Geese are on the move and a smaller, possible Ross', was seen flying over the point.

Last evening after work, in the last few minutes of daylight, I met Bob and Karl in the State Park just in time to see a Lapland Longspur (pictured above) who was hanging out with a group of 8 Snow Buntings. A report came in that this bird was again seen this morning between the first and second dune crossings.


Hotline: Cape May Birding Hotline
To Report: call (609) 884-2736, or email sightings@birdcapemay.org
Coverage: Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties ,
NJ Compiler: David Lord, Cape May Bird Observatory, with additions by Don Freiday
URL: http://www.njaudubon.org ; http://www.birdcapemay.org


The SEDGE WREN could still be found at Higbee’s Beach as of Monday November 11, 2008. Check the west path of the first field. CAVE SWALLOWS continue at multiple locales around the Cape.

A NORTHERN GOSHAWK was over the Cape May Hawk Watch November 20. Other birds from the hawk watch included over 10 species of waterfowl at Bunker Pond.

Townsend's Inlet had MARBLED GODWITS (8), and BLACK-HEADED GULL (1) on November 18.

The Avalon Seawatch had 7,882 RED-THROATED LOONS November 20. Other Sea Watch highlights this week include SNOW BUNTING (5), LAPLAND LONGSPUR (1), and RAZORBILL (1), all on the 18th.

Another LAPLAND LONGSPUR was at Cape May Point State Park on November 20. A TENNESSEE WARBLER was at the Beanery Thursday, November 20. A CACKLING GOOSE was on Lily Lake Wednesday, November 19.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES, BLACKPOLL WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, and a VESPER SPARROW were reported from Cape Island as of Monday 11-17-08.A CATTLE EGRET was seen at the intersections of Stevens St. and Bayshore Rd. on Monday November 17, 2008.

A BLUE WINGED TEAL can still be seen lingering around Cape Island, and so can a BROAD-WINGED HAWK, both seen Monday November 17, 2008.Cape Island Preserve held an ALDER FLYCATCHER through November 20, 2008.

A BARN OWL was seen flying over the meadows on Monday November 17, 2008.

On Sunday November 16 2008, a NORTHERN SHRIKE was seen near Dix WMA in Cumberland County.

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 Harper's Migration Mainline- Cape May lithograph poster, valued at $50. Call either CMBO center to ask an associate about joining today!

******CMBO Bookstore FALL HOURS are as follows: Northwood Center on East Lake Drive in Cape May Point is open 7 days a week, 9:30am to 4:30pm The Center for Research and Education on Rt. 47 in Goshen is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:30am to 4:30pm; closed Mondays. [Both centers are CLOSED Thanksgiving Day]. ******

The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of the New Jersey Audubon Society's 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!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cape May Birding Hotline November 13, 2008

Hotline: Cape May Birding Hotline
To Report: call (609) 884-2736, or email sightings@birdcapemay.org
Coverage: Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties , NJ
Compiler: David Lord, Cape May Bird Observatory with additions by Don Freiday

This is the Cape May Birding Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This week's message was prepared on Thursday, November 13, 2008. Highlights this week include sightings of THICK-BILLED MURRE, GOLDEN EAGLE, NORTHERN GANNET, SEDGE WREN, RUSTY BLACKBIRDS, RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS, CAVE SWALLOW, ROSS’S GOOSE, CLAY-COLORED SPARROW AND GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, PINE SISKIN, PURPLE FINCH and BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO.

An injured THICK-BILLED MURRE was seen off St. Mary's jetty in Cape May point on Friday, November 7.

14 GOLDEN EAGLES were counted on Monday November 10, 2008, from the Cape May Hawkwatch, a new record. 16,946 NORTHERN GANNETS were seen at the Avalon Seawatch on Tuesday, November 11, also a new single day record, which was then shattered again with 21,627 on Wednesday, November 12. A RAZORBILL was also recorded at the Seawatch on Tuesday.

A SEDGE WREN was still present at Higbee's Beach as of November 12, along the west path of the first field.

RUSTY BLACKBIRDS and RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were seen at the Villas Wildlife Management Area on Sunday November 9.

An immature ROSS’S GOOSE was observed on Monday November 10, at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

CAVE SWALLOWS continue to be seen at Cape May State Point Park and around Cape May, with up to 100 at the Cape May City beach front on the 11th.

A CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was seen near the Cape May Hawkwatch on Monday, November 10.

On Tuesday, November 11, a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW was at the beginning of the second field at Higbee's Beach WMA.

Small groups of PINE SISKINS and PURPLE FINCHES continue to be heard overhead daily around Cape May. A late BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was found at Cape Island Preserve Thursday, November 13.


Room remains on CMBO's “Delaware Waterfowl Special” workshop December 22-23. Contact CMBO 609.861.0700 for details or visit http://www.birdcapemay.org/.

A Pelagic Trip has been scheduled for December 7, 2008 from 6:00 AM - 6:00 PM, call 215.234.6085 or see http://www.blogger.com/www.paulagics.com for details.

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 Harper's Migration Mainline- Cape May lithograph poster, valued at $50. Call either CMBO center to ask an associate about joining today!

******CMBO Bookstore FALL HOURS (starting September 1) are as follows: Northwood Center on East Lake Drive in Cape May Point is open 7 days a week, 9:30am to 4:30pm. The Center for Research and Education on Rt. 47 in Goshen is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:30am to 4:30pm; closed Mondays.******

The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of the New Jersey Audubon Society's 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, November 13, 2008

Birding Cape May and sharing your eBird checklists

For those wondering, the "test" message that was affixed to this section, well,was of course a test. But, it also represents an effort to integrate features into the site to make for a more user friendly informational section. Please pardon any further "tests" that may show up from time to time in our efforts to work the bugs out.

Below I have included our eBird list from this past Tuesday. While not the main focus of my post I figured that I'd include the list for reference more than anything. But just one note on the day's birding. We started off a little later but we well rewarded when we walked the north edge of the second tower field at Higbee. Laura, another observer and I were walking along when I saw what I thought was a Snow Bunting in the grass along with the numerous Swamp and Song Sparrows at the edge of the trail. I was thinking the same thing that you are right now. A Snow Bunting!?! In the grass, in a field at Higbee!?! We walked a little closer and the bird popped up to reveal that it was actually a leucistic sparrow. After tracking the bird down a few times we, along with Richard Crossley, decided that this bird was a Swamp Sparrow. It's interesting trying to identify a bird like this as you have to go almost purely on the over size and shape alone. Along with behavior. This bird was pretty much all white with only some rufous in the crown, in the wings and an eyeline. Having multiple Song, White-throated, Field and Swamp Sparrows was great affording you to virtually see which "peg fits the hole" if you will in terms of identification. Definitely a very interesting bird to find.

In terms of recent sightings, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was noted on the Northwood
Center sightings sheets to have made a visit to volunteer Bev Linn's feeder. Cave Swallows continue to be seen all around Cape May. The more sizable concentrations being seen at the hawkwatch and from the Cape May city beach front where about 100 were observed on evening of the eleventh. Though, Cave Swallows are being seen from most of the typical birding locations on the Island.

The Sedge Wren which has been seen in most every section of the back of the first field at Higbee, continues to be seen as of yesterday at least. I had not heard of any sightings today but given the weather this is not much of a surprise.

Bob Fogg had an interesting find at TNC's Cape Island Preserve on Wednesday. In the late afternoon he called to let me know that he had found a flycatcher which did not look quite right. The problem was that the bird was, at the time, on the move. Since pretty much any flycatcher other than Eastern Phoebe is interesting at this date and in lee of the flycatcher found in Rhode Island extra care was taken in relocation and documentation for this bird. Currently I believe the debate surrounding this bird is that it is an Empidonax sp. possibly Willow/Alder or Acadian. I won't expound on my thoughts at this point but rather let you take a look and come to your own conclusions. To view photos you can visit Bob's web site.

Other interesting bird notes are a second record breaking Northern Gannet flight. On Wednesday, swing counter Dan Berard counted an amazing 21,627 gannets in addition to 24,637 Double-crested Cormorants. Talk about being busy.

Finches continue to fly over Cape May in good numbers, a very late Black-billed Cuckoo was fond today at TNC's Cape Island Preserve and a Cattle Egret continues along Bayshore just south of Stimpson Lane, on the west side of the road.

Lastly, a note about a very excellent new eBird feature. Just released a few days ago, you can can now share your eBird checklist/s with any other eBird user. I foresee trip leaders getting the most use out of this new feature, but anyone who birds with more than one person on a trip can make use of the feature. Think of what an additional time saving feature this adds to leading or participating in guided walks. I would encourage any leader to offer and participants to request sharing a walks eBird list. I know that this will make using eBird a lot easier for Laura and I. This would also be a great way for an eBird user to show an non-user the merits of the program. If you like to read more you can view the checklist sharing info and instructions here.

Location: Cape Island
Observation date: 11/11/08
Notes: 8999 steps = approx. 5.9 miles
Number of species: 78

Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
Gadwall 15
American Wigeon 130
American Black Duck 36
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler 8
Northern Pintail 6
Green-winged Teal 35
Hooded Merganser 3
Ruddy Duck 20
Common Loon 2
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 1
Black Vulture 12
Turkey Vulture 115
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 2
Northern Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 30
Cooper's Hawk 8
Red-shouldered Hawk 15
Red-tailed Hawk 40
American Kestrel 2
American Coot 15
Killdeer 2
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove 25
Red-bellied Woodpecker 12
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 25
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow 30
Cave Swallow 12
Barn Swallow 2
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren X
Sedge Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 25
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Eastern Bluebird 35
Hermit Thrush 8
American Robin 1000
Northern Mockingbird X
Brown Thrasher 4
European Starling X
American Pipit 4
Cedar Waxwing X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 200
Chipping Sparrow 45
Clay-colored Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 35
Savannah Sparrow 10
Grasshopper Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 250
Swamp Sparrow 350
White-throated Sparrow 1500
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 20
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Eastern Meadowlark 12
Common Grackle X
Purple Finch 50
House Finch 85
Pine Siskin 25
American Goldfinch 250
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gannet Record Shattered; First Razorbill; Clay-colored and Grasshopper Sparrow

Who says all bird news is bad? Not to be outdone by the high Golden Eagle count Monday, the Avalon Seawatch shattered the single day Northern Gannet record yesterday, when Sean Fitzgerald tabulated 16,946 of these spectacular migrants from the Atlantic provinces of Canada. Sean notes, "The peak hour of movement occurred between 11:38am and 12:38pm when 5,992 were counted moving south. To put this in perspective, the previous single day record of Gannet was set last year when 7,685 were tallied in a full day! " Fantastic!

Big single day flights are part of the magic of Cape May, but, as we always say, not even a full year's data, let alone a single day, makes a statement about the population of any species. Only by looking at long term trends over many years can we understand what is happening with bird populations - which is why long term studies like the Cape May Seawatch and Hawkwatch are so important.

The season's first Razorbill also passed the seawatch yesterday morning.

Cape May Point today featured ". . . A nice mix of ducks, sparrows and raptors this morning and an unexpected Eastern Phoebe along Lighthouse Ave. Nice Gannets from the 1st dune cross-over.- Karl, (Judy, Tom, Steve, Bill Smythe)." Noteworthy also were the 3 Cave Swallows and 10 Red-throated Loons recorded by Karl and company on this, CMBO's regular Wednesday walk.

[Below are more photos from Karl Lukens. The top is of the Clay-colored Sparrow at the Hawk watch on Monday's big Golden Eagle day. Note the bird's strong face pattern, that the eyeline is about the same strength as the rest of the face markings, and that it has a pale lore, all of which separate the bird from a Chipping Sparrow. The bottom bird is a Grasshopper Sparrow that was at the start of the second field at Higbee today.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More on Golden Eagles

It's fitting that on the day after Cape May's record Golden Eagle flight, we get to learn a little bit more about a golden that passed through earlier in the year. Linda LaPan and Brian McAllister of Lake Placid, NY spotted a golden with a radio transmitter in Cape May on October 18, tracked down the source of the bird, and forwarded us the information. It was one that Libby Mojica of the College of William and Mary had tagged in Maryland last March. Libby wrote to Linda:

"The Golden Eagle you saw at Cape May was one of our tagged birds. We trapped her in March 2008 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford Co, MD in second-year plumage. She spent this summer in northern Quebec and is now back on the Delmarva Peninsula where she wintered last year. The map on our web page tracks her movements. The transmitter number is 74417. . .

The eagle arrived at Cape May on Oct 17 and roosted on Sluice Creek east of Goshen. She left the roost between 9 and 10 am (EST) on Oct 18 and crossed Delaware Bay between 10 and 11 am (EST). . ."

Record Golden Day!

Check out Seth Cuttright's post under View from the Field to read more about yesterday's terrific day on the platform, which included 14 Golden Eagles. Dan Berard was the counter, and. . .well, I'll just let Seth tell it!

Highlights from the weekend included the continuing Sedge Wren at Higbee along the west side of the first field, and Rusty Blackbirds and Red-headed Woodpeckers at Villas WMA during CMBO's Sunday walk. Several Cave Swallows were also reported from around Cape Island.

Also, this just in from Mike Newlon: "At Brigantine today (Mon 11/10) observed an imm Ross's goose in with ca 300 Snow geese on the S dike."

[Photos of the Sedge Wren and a Rusty Blackbird are below, courtesy of Karl Lukens and Roger Horn, respectively.]

Friday, November 7, 2008

THICK-BILLED MURRE off St. Mary's Jetty

(Photo courtesy of Bob Fogg, www.keekeekerr.com)

A call came in to CMBO about a possible Dovekie off Cape May Point around 1:30 pm. Low and behold the bird was actually a Thick-billed Murre! First seen from St. Mary's Jetty the bird was paddling towards the Delaware Bay and at around 3:00 pm was probably best seen from St. Pete's Jetty. The bird appears to have one injured leg and was circled by Herring Gulls at one point.

A few Royal Terns and a Parasitic Jaeger are also of note along with a solitary Surf Scoter - all seen from the beach at St. Mary's.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

South Easterly winds = GREAT birding in Cape May?

(Cave Swallow photo courtesy of Bob Fogg, www.kee.kee.kerr.com)

One thing that I am not really fond of discussing in extreme detail is politics. But I hope that everyone able could get out and cast a vote today. It's good to hear about the record number of voters who turned out today. No matter who you voted for, I find seeing the electoral process in action is a fascinating thing. Much like being able to watch migration in the process which we get to see here in Cape May quite a bit (more on that later). Something I do discuss in a bit more depth though.

Yesterday Laura and I set out at about 3:20 a.m. on our November Cape Island Big Day attempt. But first, to my knowledge the Western Tanager was not seen again since the day of its discovery. Also, the Sedge Wren which was around it seems both in the morning and evening yesterday, was not found this evening. Nor have I heard word on the Common Eider, Cave Swallow or any new rarities that we'd expect at this time of year.

Back to yesterday...I was a bit concerned with the weather/wind having turned to coming from a south easterly direction. Of course the one bonus was that we'd have pretty nice weather to bird all day as long as the possible showers that The Weather Channel decided might hit the area during the day did not materialize....I brought the rain coats a a precautionary measure anyway. In the end we had a most beautiful day with overall more sun than clouds I'd say.

But, one of the things that of course worried me the most was the possibility of finding those surprise birds that are institutional in making a big day run a whole lot less work in the end. With the good migration that had happened over the previous few nights we certainly have good numbers of birds around and hopefully the southerly flow has discouraged many of these migrants to stick around. But if there is no chance at much influx into the area the search for species could be a good bit more difficult.

So, as I said, we set off in the middle of the night to see what nocturnal bird we might be able to encounter. A highlight minimum number of 3 Eastern Screech-Owls in various locations started the day of in the right direction. While not the most productive nocturnal search on record we had two of the three local owls but of course we're wishing we would happen upon an owl or two more.

As the sun rose over the Atlantic and with the good seabird numbers as of late we figured that doing a bit of first thing sea watching would probably help our attempt. One, this is a good time as the sun angle is not too harsh and I find that often birds can be close. Plus I was operating on the assumption that letting the sun get high enough on its transit that its warmth heats up the woods edge a bit and would hopefully drawn out birds to feed.

Higbee started off quite well I'd say. For one, Laura got to start off her day with a life bird. She had been unable to look for the Sedge Wren the day before but low and behold in the opposite corner in the southern portion of the first field I heard its grunty like call while it skulked low in the grasses. Not only that, we were treated to excellent views as the bird would come up and sit in the sumac on occasion.

Other great finds for the morning were; a Yellow-breasted Chat, great looks at a Lincoln's Sparrow near the parking lot and a clucking Wild Turkey heard while on our way to the Sedge Wren spot. In fact the two locations were probably less than 20 yards apart. Also, the numbers of sparrows (not only at Higbee but everywhere on the island) should be noted.

In fact I suppose that there were over all a good number of "surprise" birds which made the day great. Especially since I always take the negative approach and figured that 100 species might be a stretch if things played out a slight bit differently. Though the numbers of the more common species must again be noted. I really find a lot of satisfaction in sorting through flocks of sparrows no matter how maddening it may be. This short distant migrant time is especially fascinating in my opinion.

Other good sightings would include a very cooperative Orange-crowned Warbler at the beginning if the dune road at the State Park feeding in some goldenrod. I don't think I've ever had such great looks at this species before. Also, a Common Eider in the pilings at the Coast Guard Base, seen from Poverty Beach, was slightly expected as I knew at least one had been around. A couple of Blackpoll Warblers at the Beanery and a yellowthroat and Black-throated Blue to round out the warblers.

To make a long story short, we had over 100 species tallied somewhere around 10:45 to 11:00 a.m. Something that I completely did not expect. I was really thinking we'd have to struggle a bit more. As it turns out out total tally was 120 species (the list below says 121 as we counted one Mallard X Black Duck hybrid) which is only two less than our October attempt. Also only five less than the September total and I think the fourth highest total for the year. Not that I am trying to implicate that November should be thought of as a poor month to bird Cape May. In fact I'd say that over all the month is probably well under birded.

As you'll see with the list below we had quite the day out observing birds and all in all the day was quite birdy. And with easterly winds. I mean we are all taught that easterly winds are the kiss of death for Cape May. But, when the weather cooperates just right, even what could possibly turn out to be a poor day can end up being great. And I'd say we very much enjoyed ourselves. In fact, I'd say I really couldn't have scripted the day much better.

Location: Cape Island
Observation date: 11/3/08
Notes: November Cape Island Big Day-24022 steps = approx. 15.66 miles
Number of species: 121

Snow Goose 4
Brant (Atlantic) 6
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
Wood Duck 12
Gadwall 55
American Wigeon 125
American Black Duck 25
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid) 1
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler 16
Northern Pintail 25
Green-winged Teal 145
Ring-necked Duck 12
Common Eider 1
Surf Scoter X
White-winged Scoter 1
Black Scoter X
Bufflehead 22
Hooded Merganser 4
Ruddy Duck 15
Wild Turkey X
Red-throated Loon 35
Common Loon 12
Pied-billed Grebe 12
Northern Gannet X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Cormorant 2
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 3
Snowy Egret 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 4
Black Vulture 8
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 35
Cooper's Hawk 10
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 12
American Kestrel 4
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Sora 1
American Coot 30
Black-bellied Plover 1
Killdeer 6
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Ruddy Turnstone 8
Sanderling X
Dunlin 1
Wilson's Snipe 1
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Laughing Gull 20
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull X
Forster's Tern 25
Royal Tern 12
Black Skimmer 45
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Eastern Screech-Owl 3
Great Horned Owl 3
Belted Kingfisher 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 25
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3
Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 40
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Fish Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Red-breasted Nuthatch 5
Carolina Wren X
Winter Wren 3
Sedge Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 8
Eastern Bluebird 20
Hermit Thrush X
American Robin 3500
Gray Catbird 4
Northern Mockingbird X
Brown Thrasher 15
European Starling X
American Pipit 25
Cedar Waxwing 65
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 750
Palm Warbler 2
Blackpoll Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 1
Yellow-breasted Chat 1
Eastern Towhee X
Field Sparrow 20
Savannah Sparrow 75
Song Sparrow 100
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 175
White-throated Sparrow 1500
White-crowned Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 10
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Eastern Meadowlark 20
Rusty Blackbird 12
Common Grackle X
Boat-tailed Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird X
Purple Finch 25
House Finch 75
Pine Siskin 4
American Goldfinch X
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2