Monday, March 24, 2008

First Monday Meadows Walk, plus a bit on Barnegat Light

This morning participants in the inaugural CMBO Monday Morning Cape May Meadows Walk (held every Monday at 7:30 a.m. from now through mid-November) enjoyed many signs of spring, despite very chilly temperatures. At least 6 Piping Plovers, arranged more or less in three pairs, were calling and displaying along the beach front, as an easy 500 Northern Gannets, almost all adults, alternately foraged and sat on the water offshore. In the Meadows proper, several Northern Shovelers were joined by a single female Blue-winged Teal; other ducks included Northern Pintail and Gadwall. A single Osprey and a single Laughing Gull reminded us of things to come, while a lingering White-crowned Sparrow told of the winter just past. Two American Coots behaved very much as a "pair;" perhaps they will choose to nest?

This should be a very interesting year for the Meadows, a.k.a. The Nature Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. In June TNC will mark the one year anniversary of the meadows restoration project. Because of the intense disturbance associated with the restoration, followed by a droughty summer, I believe a healthy invertebrate fauna in the Meadows never developed last year, and of course the vegetation will need several years to mature, and as a result use by birds, shorebirds and ducks in particular, has been less than stellar so far. This year could be very different. We'll publish complete bird lists of each Meadows walk on this web site throughout the year; today's list is below.

Yesterday a few hours at Barnegat Light with some friends were very productive. Harlequins are still there in force, with 35 in ready view along the jetty, and perhaps 50 total could be found in a careful scope-scan from the end of the main jetty - Harlequins were scattered along the jetty north of the inlet, as well as the old 8th street jetty to the south. Whether all the Harlequins wintered there or there were extras from points south is difficult to say; I'm not sure what the peak mid-winter count at Barnegat Light was. With the harlequins were well over 100 Long-tailed Ducks, many displaying and some males nearly fully molted into their lovely black and brown spring plumage. Many Red-breasted Mergs fished in the inlet and bay, and all the other usual good sea ducks excepting eiders were present. Two Great Cormorants in breeding finery perched on the channel marker at the inlet entrance. Large gulls were everywhere, overwhelmingly Herring Gulls, but a lone adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at the tip of the jetty was the only fancy species I could find. I did see a Herring Gull with greenish-yellow legs (rather than the usual pink/flesh color) ; try as I might, I couldn't make it anything but a Herring Gull; the fact that it was clearly paired with a normal Herring Gull was a good clue.

Peregrine Falcon, Harbor Seal, and about a dozen American Oystercatchers (including one color-banded individual) were other highlights at Barnegat.

This morning's Meadows list follows.

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 3/24/08
Notes: CMBO's first Monday Meadows Walk of spring
Number of species: 49
Canada Goose 10
Mute Swan 7 3 pairs plus a floater associating with pair at south impoundment
Gadwall 10
Mallard 20
Blue-winged Teal 1
Northern Shoveler 10
Northern Pintail 2
Green-winged Teal 2
dark-winged scoter sp. 200
Red-throated Loon 5
Northern Gannet 500 almost all adults, many sitting on water, lots of movement around the point
Double-crested Cormorant 1
American Bittern 1 quick flyby
Turkey Vulture 10
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot 2 Will these be a "pair"
Piping Plover 6 appeared to be 1 pair south of south trail one pair south of north trail and one pair north of north trail
Killdeer 5
American Oystercatcher 2
Sanderling 80
Dunlin 20
Wilson's Snipe 3
Laughing Gull 1
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 10
Herring Gull 25
Great Black-backed Gull 50
Forster's Tern 1
Mourning Dove 5
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 3
Eastern Phoebe 2
American Crow 50
Tree Swallow 1
Carolina Wren 1
European Starling 10
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Eastern Towhee 1
Savannah Sparrow 25
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 5
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 25 no females seen
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
House Finch 5
House Sparrow 10

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