Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bird Walk for All People at Cape Point: Piping Plover chicks and distraction display by a plover parent

This morning's Bird Walk for All People featured beach nesters, including quite a number of Piping Plover adults and chicks - fluffballs on stilts still very much at risk from predators. We watched from the far dune crossover at the state park as a gang of crows paid close attention to the chicks, and a parent plover presented itself with wings open and tail fanned in a classic distraction display, which worked for a time as the crows followed the parent away from the nesting area. Meanwhile the chicks disappeared, presumably hunkered down on the beach or perhaps among the dune grass. When a crow returned, one of the Least Terns got into the act, diving on it repeatedly. The plovers exact a significant benefit from nesting within the Least Tern colony, in the form of predator protection.

Very exciting for me were three flyby Lesser Yellowlegs in breeding plumage, right on time for some early-returning adults, fresh from the breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska. Speaking of Peru (see previous post), the first yellowlegs returning there make it all the way to the Amazon basin by early July.

A suspicious group of seven Glossy Ibis flew by, suspicious in that they seem to be headed south, flying right by the lighthouse and continuing over the bay. Karl Lukens and George Myers reported another unusual bird for this time a year, that being a Summer Tanager that sang a bit at the edge of the dunes at Cape May Point and then struck out southward across the bay. Summer Tanagers nest in the northern part of Cape May county, but are very scarce as nesters even within 10 miles of the point, let alone south of the canal where they do not nest. If this bird was a normal migrant, it's about a month early.

The Bird Walk for All People, every Thursday 8:30-10:30 in June, July and August (and beginning at 10:00 a.m. in September and October), is a good one to tell your non- or casual-birding friends about if they plan to visit Cape May this summer. There are several leaders, and we bring plenty of loaner binoculars (at least 15 were distributed today). We take our time and cover the basics, though we always have fun and see some great stuff, particularly once shorebird migration is a little stronger in just a few weeks. Or when parent beach nesters have chicks to defend. . .The full list from this morning is below.

Location: Cape May Point SP
Observation date: 6/26/08
Notes: CMBO Bird Walk for All People; ibis were immediately after walk. Observed sev. Piping Plover chicks & a piping plover adult doing distraction display to lure American crow away from chicks.
Number of species: 39
Canada Goose 20
Mute Swan 2
Gadwall 6
Mallard 10
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
Glossy Ibis 7
Semipalmated Plover 1 flyover
Piping Plover 8
Killdeer 2
American Oystercatcher 4
Lesser Yellowlegs 3 flyby
Laughing Gull X
Ring-billed Gull 5
Herring Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 35
Least Tern 50
Common Tern 2
Forster's Tern 1
Black Skimmer 2
Rock Pigeon 10
Mourning Dove 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 15
Purple Martin 50
Tree Swallow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 5
American Robin 5
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 1
Cedar Waxwing 1
Song Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Common Grackle 10
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
House Finch 1
House Sparrow 5

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