Monday, March 17, 2008

Mon. 3/17: Red-tails & vultures on the move; Wood Ducks at Beaver Swamp; Bayshore Gulls (last time); Northwood Pine Warbler; Migration Outlook

It was a clear, cool and breezy March day on the Cape. Steve Mason joined me for the afternoon, and we had some decent results all things considered.

A late-morning visit to the Woodcock Trail tract of Cape May NWR produced the first Eastern Phoebes (2) and Pine Warbler that I've seen this year in "my" neck of the woods. Eastern Towhee numbers are up, seemingly indicating a small northward push. One was singing its "drink-your teaaaaa" song along the back edge of the field. Fox Sparrow numbers have diminished here, with just one bird today (down from a dozen two weeks ago). I heard Field Sparrows singing for the first time all year.

Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks really seem to be on the move recently. Multiple Black and Turkey Vultures graced the skies at most locations I/we visited today, including four speck-TV's in a line flying north over Woodcock Trail, looking quite migratory if you ask me. Red-tails have also been more numerous in the past few days than they have all winter.

Another trip to Beaver Swamp WMA produced many of the same characters that were present yesterday, minus the Wilson's Snipe, but plus a pair of Wood Ducks that offered brief but sufficient looks along the north edge of the millpond. Ring-necked Ducks numbered about 35 today.

An evening stop at Jake's Landing yielded superb looks at 2 Short-eared Owls flying well before dusk, and quite close, just across the creek. One tangled with an adult male Northern Harrier for a while. We saw no sign of yesterday's Harbor Porpoise- hopefully it made it back out to the bay. There were as many as 5 American Woodcock displaying in and around the small field along Jake's Landing Road, and we were nearly hit by a medium-sized owl, possibly a Long-eared, as it cut it across a corner of the field. 2 Great Horned Owls were calling up a storm as well.

I finally got a chance to study a few hundred of the gulls that continue to overrun the bayshore marshes, as they fed in and around our pond today. It appears as though I had it figured out all along- the birds are indeed feeding upon the Atlantic Menhaden that suddenly appeared in large numbers last week. One of our neighbors reports that there are "tons" of these fish laying about all over the salt marsh around Reed's Beach, and I personally wouldn't be surprised if a few thousand fish met their demise in the marshes here. According to local fishing reports, there were large numbers of Menhaden seen from the Reed's Beach jetty last week, but the exact reasons behind the fish making their way far up the small ditches and creeks here is still a mystery. Perhaps this apparent run of Menhaden also enticed the Dennis Creek porpoise to make its way up Delaware Bay...

Amy Gaberlein sent along this photo of a male Pine Warbler that graced a suet feeder at CMBO's Northwood Center today. A Red-breasted Nuthatch and a Winter Wren were there today as well.

Currently (late Monday night), winds are out of the north in the Cape May area, but are predicted to shift around to the east tomorrow, and to the south by tomorrow night. These south winds should persist through at least Wednesday night. There is also some rain in the forecast throughout the same period, but if a drenching can be avoided, I'd assume that there will be a decent number of birds on the move during the middle of the week. It might be worth checking Belleplain for Louisiana Waterthrush or (for the true optimists out there) even Yellow-throated Warbler come Thursday morning. Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Glossy Ibis and Pectoral Sandpiper could also arrive this week as well.

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