Saturday, January 19, 2008

Eagles and Rough-legged on the Bayshore, Barnacle Bill the goose, lingering Osprey, and January migrants

Highlights from today's CMBO field trip, Wintering Raptors on the Delaware Bayshore, included a dark Rough-legged Hawk nicely picked by Karen Johnson at Thompson's Beach at about 11:30 a.m., a brief look at a (the?) Golden Eagle at Jake's Landing at about 2:30 p.m., and Bald Eagles aplenty, e.g. 2 adult and an immature at Heislerville and one adult and one immature at Jake's Landing.

Heislerville continues to have some nice bird diversity, including a single Bonaparte's Gull, 4 Great Egrets, 15+ Great Blue Herons, 40+ Greater Yellowlegs, Hooded and R.B. Mergs, ~50 Ruddy Ducks, Belted Kingfisher, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, and an assemblage of scaup including one female Greater and 8-10 Lessers.

I'm not including a full day list because I did a bad job of taking notes during the trip, but I've come upon a notion I'd like others to consider: whatever birds you decide to keep track of during your travels, keep actual counts of all the birds of prey. I've started doing this, for the same, obvious reason we count hawks in Cape May each fall: top predators are the canaries in the coal mine, as we so often say, indicating environmental disturbances early on.

A drive-by of Lily Lake in Cape May Point yesterday afternoon at around 4:00 p.m. yielded the Barnacle Goose there with a flock of Canadas, as well as the female Canvasback. No Redhead, however. I feel pretty safe saying this is the only Barnacle Goose in the area (though others are being seen elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic), and so it may be deserving of a name. Barnacle Bill? Barney?

An Osprey was detected along Route 47 north of the CMBO Center for Research and Education in Goshen yesterday, and why not? Nothing's frozen down here so far. It's still a pretty crazy record, however.

A final thought for the day: a Winter Wren appeared at my house last Monday, a yard bird for me (I've only been here 9 months), and was still chimp-chimping in the yard this morning. This is of interest simply because it begs the question, where did that bird come from? It's January, for pete's sake, was it a migrant? The short answer is, yes. Once you start paying attention, you realize there is bird movement throughout the year, sometimes a lot of it when you don't really expect it. One reason birds are so engaging and successful as a group is because they can travel almost at will - something humans long to emulate.

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