Saturday, September 20, 2008

Of easterly winds, dragonfly swarms and stray butterflies

Judging from the east winds predicted on the Weather Channel's local forecast last night, it didn't appear as though today would pan out to be the most exciting of birding days on the Jersey Cape- but given that those same east winds helped produce yesterday's Northern Wheatear (which to my knowledge was not seen at all today), there wasn't much point in staying in, either.

Word has it that this morning's flight at Higbee wasn't too impressive, and likewise the hawkwatch was relatively quiet this afternoon, save for a nice showing of Merlins which were having a field day with the large numbers of dragonflies moving through the area. Unbeknownst to many, several species of dragonflies are in fact highly migratory, including Spot-winged and Wandering Gliders, Black and Carolina Saddlebags, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Blue Dasher and Common Green Darner. All of these were easy to find (and in numbers) around the Point today. Big (or perhaps bigger) numbers were present yesterday- check out Erin Cord's review from yesterday to learn more.

Continuing with the insect theme, some time spent butterflying with Will Kerling and Steve Mason around the Point this afternoon produced 16 species of butterflies including two southern strays: a Clouded Skipper and two Long-tailed Skippers. Both of these species occur here only in late-summer/early-fall, so if you're game to see them, now's the time.

At the State Park we ran into the CMBO afternoon walk, which had come across a most cooperative Yellow-bellied Flycatcher toward the very back of the park. About a dozen Blue-winged Teal, five fly-over Stilt Sandpipers and a Dunlin were also nice to see.

An evening stroll around the Meadows featured a fly-over Tricolored Heron, one Lesser Black-backed Gull on the beach, a distant Parasitic Jaeger hunting offshore, and a Common Nighthawk at dusk.

Winds have died down to almost nothing tonight, and are forecast to be light out of the north tomorrow. Judging from the radar images and the flight calls coming from above, there doesn't seem to be a big flight occurring tonight, but I would expect the "regular" spots to hold at least a few migrants in the AM, and there could be a bit of a hawk flight tomorrow, as well.

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