Monday, April 7, 2008

Ruff Still There; Notes from Meadows; A Naturalist's Belleplain

[The Ruff continues at Heislerville through today (Monday). This photo by Janet Crawford was taken Sunday. Click to enlarge.]
It was a bitter, northeast-windy day in Cape May, but CMBO's Monday Meadows (a.k.a. Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge) walk went off as planned. Migrant herons are becoming more evident, and we saw a group of 5 Great Blues together, as well as a couple Great Egrets. About a hundred Gannets fished offshore, with 20 or so Red-throated Loons and 2 Commons. Two Oystercatchers brightened the beach, which was flooded by the way - to do the loop at the Meadows under those conditions, you have to take the "inside" trail, north of the dune. We flushed a single snipe, and a flock of Greater Yellowlegs passed with a "stealth" dowitcher in their midst that could have been a locally-wintering Long-billed (spring migrant Long-billed Dow's are not quite mythical in Cape May, only nearly so), or a wintering or newly arrived Short-billed. It didn't call, and I don't do silent flyby dowitchers, so it's a "sp." The full list for the Meadows is at the end of this post.

The afternoon saw our inaugural "Butterflies, Botany and Birds" walk at Belleplain, which will meet every Monday at 1:00 p.m. in front of the Belleplain State Forest Headquarters through June 2. It was too cold for butterflies - though Associate Naturalist Will Kerling reports many species have already been seen. Birds were also quiet in the cold and wind, so we focused on the botany, especially woody plants. We looked at multiple species of of greenbriar, cedar, pine, and oaks, and noted shadbush and sassafras buds were ready to burst. This walk is going to be great for all around natural history - with every plant species we ventured into butterfly feeding ecology, medicinal uses, or some other aspect that went beyond the naming game. As the spring warms, Belleplain also should be interesting for herptiles; a New Jersey Chorus Frog was the only species for the day today, but fence lizards and a selection of south Jersey snakes are likely as the season progresses.
The list for the Meadows follows:

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 4/7/08
Notes: CMBO Monday morning Meadows walk
Number of species: 42
Brant 5
Canada Goose 25
Mute Swan 14
Gadwall 25
Mallard 15
Northern Shoveler 10
Green-winged Teal 15
Surf Scoter 4
Black Scoter 2
Red-throated Loon 20
Common Loon 2
Northern Gannet 100
Double-crested Cormorant 5
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 2
Turkey Vulture 10
Osprey 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot 4
Killdeer 2
American Oystercatcher 2
Greater Yellowlegs 5
Wilson's Snipe 1
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Forster's Tern 10
Rock Pigeon 4
Mourning Dove 2
American Crow 5
Carolina Wren 1
American Robin 5
Cedar Waxwing 10
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
Savannah Sparrow 10
Swamp Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 25
Common Grackle 20
Boat-tailed Grackle 5
House Finch 1

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