Thursday, August 14, 2008

In the face of tragedy...I bird! (Mourning Warbler- Higbee, Lark Sparrow- the Meadows)

This mornings walk was little bittersweet and honestly very cathartic for me. For those of you wondering what I am talking about, the Cape May community lost a very dear friend and most fantastic naturalist and birder last night. George Myers, an outstanding friend, lost his battle with liver cancer yesterday. Georgie, I'm glad to have known you and feel my life is all the more enriched by having been able to call you my friend.

So in honor of George, I did what I felt he would do if our places had been swapped. I got up early and I birded! Off to Higbee as I think that is where he would have gone. The birding was pretty good with many Blue-winged, Worm-eating and Yellow Warblers flitting about the "jug handle." This it the area that many birders can't seem to walk away from on a good flight morning in the fall. It's the first "by-pass" (for lack of a better term) in the first field. We also were able to find one Brewster's Warbler (Blue-winged x Golden-wined Warbler hybrid) in the mix.

While we were starting to seriously bird the jug handle trying to keep up with the movements of the blue-wings, worm-eaters, yellows and all, up out of the tangles in front of us pops a young Mourning Warbler with a loud pwich. This is a significant sighting for me personally. While it is the first mourning I've seen this year-heard one in the spring-it was much more significant than that for me. Years ago when my grandfather passed away was when I saw my life Mourning Warbler (actually saw the bird out the window as I was on the phone with my mother.) For the next few years, on my birthday-as he'd passed just after my birthday-I found that I was greeted on my morning birding by a singing Mourning Warbler. I always felt he was singing happy birthday to me. This morning was Georgie's turn. Since it's no where near my birthday, there was no need for him to sing. Just a quick "hi, how are ya." "I'm doing fine now." In looking back at our encounter with this bird this morning, it did seem to stay in sight for longer than mournings tend to generally. Laura says she knew I'd see a Mourning Warbler this morning due to the uncanny connection this bird has with me and the passing of a loved one. For me, it actually took a few moments for the reality to set in. I guess they don't call 'em Mourning Warbler for nothing!

But the birding did not end there. We had been greeted by a CMBO member at the Higbee parking lot who said that she had seen what she thought was a Lark Sparrow at the back (dune area) of the TNC's CMMBR (Meadows) last evening. While admittedly a new bird for her and she was wavering on her identification, she gave a very good description of the bird and pointed out in her Peterson specific details which she observed. Lark Sparrow is a rare-ish bird here in Cape May but I'd say we average at least one a year over that last five or so years at least, with out digging into the records further. We were having a good time at Higbee and wavering ourselves on whether or not to attempt a look for this bird. As I was thinking about trying to hit the Meadows as well this morning anyway,we figured that it was worth a shot. What was the worst that would happen...miss the bird, figuring it would have moved on last night with the good conditions anyway, but what the heck.

So we walked down the west past, spying a couple of Traill's Flycatchers along the way. Up to the west dune crossing to look for the bird up on the dune, with no success. It was not until we were at the east path that we spotted a few birds on the ground in front of us. Low and behold, there it was. We first found the bird around 8:50 a.m. and hung around to watch it feed, with a Song and House Sparrow, for about 20 min. before I had to head off to work. The bird was still there when we left though it had joined a flock of cowbirds but I would think it might stick as this species sometimes seems to do. Thanks again Georgie!

So there it is, the morning's birding in a nut shell. As usual the list for Higbee and the Meadows are below. Also, a very nice photo of today's Lark Sparrow provided by Bob Fogg.

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 8/14/08
Notes: 2520 steps = approx. 1.6 miles
Number of species: 47

Canada Goose 85
Mute Swan 25
Mallard X
Great Egret 20
Snowy Egret 4
Osprey 2
Semipalmated Plover 5
Killdeer 1
Spotted Sandpiper 5
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 5
Sanderling 45
Semipalmated Sandpiper X
Least Sandpiper X
Laughing Gull X
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull X
Lesser Black-backed Gull 4
Great Black-backed Gull X
Least Tern X
Common Tern X
Forster's Tern X
Black Skimmer X
Mourning Dove X
Chimney Swift 4
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill's) 2
Blue Jay X
Fish Crow X
Purple Martin X
Tree Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing X
Yellow Warbler 8
Common Yellowthroat 3
Lark Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird X
House Finch X
American Goldfinch X
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Location:     Higbee Beach
Observation date:     8/14/08
Notes:     1413 steps = .95 miles
Number of species:     47

Laughing Gull     X
Great Black-backed Gull     1
Rock Pigeon     X
Mourning Dove     X
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     6
Chimney Swift     2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     2
Red-bellied Woodpecker     1
Downy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker     1
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill's)     1
Least Flycatcher     1
Eastern Kingbird     X
White-eyed Vireo     4
Purple Martin     X
Tree Swallow     X
Barn Swallow     X
Carolina Chickadee     X
Tufted Titmouse     X
Carolina Wren     8
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     8
American Robin     X
Gray Catbird     1
Northern Mockingbird     2
Brown Thrasher     1
Cedar Waxwing     X
Blue-winged Warbler     8
Brewster's Warbler (hybrid)     1
Yellow Warbler     12
Black-and-white Warbler     4
American Redstart     5
Worm-eating Warbler     4
Ovenbird     3
Northern Waterthrush     3
Mourning Warbler     1
Common Yellowthroat     X
Canada Warbler     2
Eastern Towhee     1
Northern Cardinal     X
Blue Grosbeak     2
Red-winged Blackbird     X
Common Grackle     X
Brown-headed Cowbird     X
Baltimore Oriole     6
House Finch     2
American Goldfinch     X
House Sparrow     X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

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