Friday, March 14, 2008

Cape May after Africa

[Long-crested Eagle, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. Photo by Don Freiday. Click to enlarge all photos.]

I just returned from leading a wildly successful NJAS Eco-tour to Tanzania - 9 lucky participants enjoyed well over 40 mammal species, somewhere between 350 and 400 bird species, and too many stories and events, both wildlife-wise and people-wise, to even begin to recount. It's been fun going through the photos (over 1000) and reliving the memories.
I'm not sure if there is ever a good time to be away from Cape May, but late February-early March isn't so bad. Although this is the time spring begins in earnest - displaying woodcock really kicked it in while I was gone, waterbirds shuffled (some increased and some decreased), Pine Warblers have arrived, spring peepers and wood frogs are chorusing, and newly arrived phoebes are singing.
My first birding expedition on returning was a short turn around the Beanery yesterday to re-aquaint myself with the locals. If you pay attention, one thing you'll find is that as winter progresses, numbers of wintering birds decrease - for the obvious reason that no new ones are being added, and each passing day a few more succumb to weather or predators. Thus I noticed, or think I noticed, reduced numbers of things like towhees, thrashers, catbirds, and White-throated Sparrows at the Beanery. There were a dozen meadowlarks foraging with starlings in the vineyard that ajoins the Beanery, and many yellow-rumped warblers joined a couple Eastern Bluebirds there, flycatching for insects from fenceposts. The full list is below.
In other news, I ran into Paul Lehman at CMBO-Northwood and learned that he is moving to California this week, a sad loss for Cape May. Paul pledges to return, especially in early November (his favorite time to bird here).

[Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Tarangire N.P., Tanzania. Photo by Don Freiday. NJAS will undoubtedly offer more trips to Tanzania in the coming year - it is without question one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet.]

Location: The Beanery
Observation date: 3/13/08
Number of species: 29
Snow Goose 9
Canada Goose 75
Gadwall 1
Mallard 25
Ring-necked Duck 4
Black Vulture 5
Turkey Vulture 5
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 10
Carolina Chickadee 4
Carolina Wren 10
Eastern Bluebird 2
American Robin 1
European Starling 50
Yellow-rumped Warbler 50
Eastern Towhee 1
Song Sparrow 10
White-throated Sparrow 25
Northern Cardinal 5
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Eastern Meadowlark 12
Rusty Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 10
Brown-headed Cowbird 2

[Superb Starling - makes you wish that, if we had to have a starling in the U.S., we had gotten this one!]

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