Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Belleplain, Reed's Beach, Meadows, and Miscellaneous Arrivals

First a general announcement: if you are planning to visit Cape May in the coming weeks, remember to bring warm clothes. The penninsula is obviously surrounded by water, but what isn't so obvious is that the water temperatures remain in the 50's (f) for much of spring, and can hold the air temperature down, especially if there is an onshore wind. We got a big dose of this on Sunday and Monday. The current water temperature is 55 degrees at Cape May and only in the high 40's a few miles offshore.

CMBO's Building Basic Birding Skills workshop spent some time at Belleplain State Forest Sunday morning, where we enjoyed crushing views of Prothonotary Warblers (about 6 were present along Weatherby Road near Tarkiln Lake), Yellow-throated Warblers, and Black-and-white Warbler, among many others. We watched one Yellow-throated Warbler collecting spider's silk and tent caterpillar webbing for nesting material from under the guardrail fence at Sunset Bridge. Interestingly, on Monday afternoon's Butterflies, Botany and Birds walk at Belleplain walk we watched another yellow-throated near the Belleplain picnic area as it also collected nesting material. The latter bird surprised me by walking about on the ground, which I've seen before but I'd never noticed how agile the bird was on the ground, for warblers generally and for an arboreal warbler specifically.

Reed's Beach Monday afternoon held no Red Knots - the first migrants will arrive any day now, or could already be here, but numbers will not peak until late May. Willets were in in droves, a dozen or more, as were American Oystercatchers. We found a live male horseshoe crab eagerly clasping the empty shell of a female - male horseshoe crabs have specially adapted hook-shaped front claws for clasping, which females lack. Crab spawning is a ways off yet - normally they do not spawn until the water temperatures reaches 60 degrees, with peak spawning occuring during full and new moons from mid-May through June.

The South Cape May Meadows were cold, windy, and foggy for our Monday morning walk, but a pair of newly arrived Indigo Buntings brightened the day. Common Yellowthroats increased from a solitary individual last week to at least 9 males singing vigorously despite the weather. Given that places like Heislerville are filling up with shorebirds, you would hope the meadows would do the same, but that doesn't seem to be happening. Looking at the moist soil areas at the meadows, in a lot of areas it seems to be relatively sterile mineral soil (due to all the disturbance from TNC's restoration project) rather than rich organic muck, and may need time before the rich invertebrate life that will attract shorebirds develops. The good news is that the beach nesters did very well last year, and seem poised for a repeat. We saw several Piping Plovers and 5 American Oystercatchers there Monday. Least Terns will appear any day.

I had my first Whimbrels Sunday night in the form of 4 flying over Cape May City, and Kathy Horn reports that 17 were at Nummy's Island along with one Tri-colored and one Little Blue Heron. Janet Crawford reports that a Wood Thrush was in at her house in Leesburg this morning. There will be new arrivals most every day for a while now!

Checklists from several recent expeditions follow.

Location: Belleplain State Forest
Observation date: 4/20/08
Notes: CMBO Building Basic Birding Skills Workshop. List includes a few birds not seen by all participants.
Number of species: 42
Canada Goose 15
Mallard 5
Wild Turkey 1
Great Blue Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 5
Broad-winged Hawk 2
American Kestrel 1
Laughing Gull 20
Herring Gull X
Mourning Dove 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Downy Woodpecker 5
Eastern Phoebe 2
White-eyed Vireo 3
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 5
Tree Swallow 5
Carolina Chickadee 5
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 5
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin 5
Northern Parula 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Yellow-throated Warbler 5
Pine Warbler 10
Palm Warbler 2
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Prothonotary Warbler 6
Ovenbird 10
Louisiana Waterthrush 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 15
Northern Cardinal 10
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 10
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 1

Location: Reed's Beach
Observation date: 4/20/08
Number of species: 20
American Black Duck 2
Double-crested Cormorant 35
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 5
Clapper Rail 2
American Oystercatcher 6
Willet 12
Dunlin 20
Short-billed Dowitcher 5
Laughing Gull X
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Forster's Tern 40
Mourning Dove X
Tree Swallow X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Boat-tailed Grackle 25
House Sparrow X

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 4/21/08
Notes: V. windy & foggy
Number of species: 52
Canada Goose 25
Mute Swan 9
Gadwall 2
Mallard 25
Green-winged Teal 10
Surf Scoter 2
Long-tailed Duck 1
Red-throated Loon 25
Common Loon 10
Northern Gannet 20
Double-crested Cormorant 25
Great Egret 5
Snowy Egret 8
Glossy Ibis 50
Black Vulture 5
Turkey Vulture 5
Osprey 1
American Coot 3
Piping Plover 4
Killdeer 2
American Oystercatcher 5
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 1
Sanderling 1
Laughing Gull 50
Ring-billed Gull 10
Herring Gull 50
Great Black-backed Gull 50
Forster's Tern 75
Rock Pigeon 2
Mourning Dove 5
Chimney Swift 2
American Crow 15
Fish Crow 30
Tree Swallow 20
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 10
Barn Swallow 40
Carolina Chickadee 5
Carolina Wren 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5
Common Yellowthroat 9
Savannah Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 2
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Common Grackle 15
Brown-headed Cowbird 10
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 10

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