Thursday, September 11, 2008

CMBO Twlight Watch for Migrating Owls, Bats & Herons

Last night the CMBO Twilight Watch walk as usual, had many participants and many good sightings. One thing I like about this particular walk (and the reason that Laura wanted to take over this walk after Pat Sutton retired) is simply that birding the Meadows in the evening is a very fun time to be out there. Many people are not out birding at that time of day and it is very satisfying to watch the "changing of the guard", as the day birds retreat to their night time roosts and the nocturnal birds head out to make their living. Those who are out, may not always stick around to see the really good stuff. The "changing of the guard" happens well after sunset, but we are able to observe birds and such still because there is still a good amount of light in the sky. And lets' face it, with the quality of optics today you can see a lot even in very low light conditions. If you are lucky enough to own high-end optics you can virtually bird at night! When there is a full moon on a clear night I have more than once scanned tree tops for sitting owls and the such. A number of times I am rewarded with a silhouette or two.

And last night was no different, if you had left the meadows before the sun was down you might have missed a number of good sightings. On this walk we typically start walking the east path of the property first to take advantage of the good light at our backs, scanning the flats looking for shorebirds. Last night did not prove to be the most shorebirdy mostly due to the rains from TS Hanna and the additional 1/2" or so we received last Tuesday afternoon. Quite a bit of the sod bank that was exposed in the middle pool is now covered. There were a few Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers but over all the numbers of shorebirds were down. The Hooded Merganser is still hanging around along with a handful of Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal in the area.

Probably the birds of the night (for me at least) were the 35+ Common Nighthawks and the Great Horned Owl. Knowing that a few folks had seen Common Nighthawk in the area recently I figured that we had a good chance of finding one or two as they lifted off into the sky to hunt and ultimately migrate. The dunes at the Meadows make a perfect vantage point to look for these birds bouncing around the sky. Sure enough, even though at quite a distance, looking in to the fading lit western sky, there were multiple nighthawks in the distance. All in all I counted about 35 but I'd bet there were many more. Given the distance and approximate location the birds might have been better viewed from the Pond Creek Marsh area or Cape May Point.

The owl on the other hand was one of Laura's crazy insane finds. She has the almost supernatural ability to see owls (and other hard to see birds) with seemingly the greatest of ease. I was actually reminded of her finding of the fledgling Great Horned Owl at the back of Hidden Valley during scouting for this years World Series of Birding. It was daytime we were walking the back wet woods and she looks up and say "there's an owl." It took me 20 min with continuous directions from her as the bird was probably 50+ yrds. away from us and mostly covered by various layers of twigs and vegetation. Last night was no different in that Laura spotted and owl which landed on a tree on the north end of the TNC property. She was able to get the scope on it and even then it took many people in the group a little while to find the bird.

But, last night the walk lived up to its name. We did see at least one owl, bats and many herons. How many were migrating remains to be seen....

Below is Laura's eBird list from the evenings walk.

Location: Cape May Migratory Bird Sanctuary (South Cape May Meadows)
Observation date: 9/10/08
Number of species: 56

Canada Goose X
Mute Swan 6
Gadwall 4
Mallard X
Blue-winged Teal 5
Green-winged Teal 8
Hooded Merganser 1
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Egret 3
Snowy Egret 5
Little Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 12
Black-crowned Night-Heron 6
Glossy Ibis 35
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey X
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 2
Merlin 3
Killdeer X
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 12
Sanderling X
Semipalmated Sandpiper X
Least Sandpiper X
Pectoral Sandpiper 5
Wilson's Snipe 1
Laughing Gull X
Ring-billed Gull 3
Herring Gull X
Lesser Black-backed Gull 3
Great Black-backed Gull 250
Forster's Tern X
Black Skimmer 150
Mourning Dove X
Great Horned Owl 1
Common Nighthawk 35
Belted Kingfisher 1
Eastern Kingbird 12
crow sp. 1
Tree Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
Carolina Wren X
American Robin X
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing X
Yellow Warbler X
Common Yellowthroat X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird X
House Finch X
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

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