Tuesday, November 4, 2008

South Easterly winds = GREAT birding in Cape May?

(Cave Swallow photo courtesy of Bob Fogg, www.kee.kee.kerr.com)

One thing that I am not really fond of discussing in extreme detail is politics. But I hope that everyone able could get out and cast a vote today. It's good to hear about the record number of voters who turned out today. No matter who you voted for, I find seeing the electoral process in action is a fascinating thing. Much like being able to watch migration in the process which we get to see here in Cape May quite a bit (more on that later). Something I do discuss in a bit more depth though.

Yesterday Laura and I set out at about 3:20 a.m. on our November Cape Island Big Day attempt. But first, to my knowledge the Western Tanager was not seen again since the day of its discovery. Also, the Sedge Wren which was around it seems both in the morning and evening yesterday, was not found this evening. Nor have I heard word on the Common Eider, Cave Swallow or any new rarities that we'd expect at this time of year.

Back to yesterday...I was a bit concerned with the weather/wind having turned to coming from a south easterly direction. Of course the one bonus was that we'd have pretty nice weather to bird all day as long as the possible showers that The Weather Channel decided might hit the area during the day did not materialize....I brought the rain coats a a precautionary measure anyway. In the end we had a most beautiful day with overall more sun than clouds I'd say.

But, one of the things that of course worried me the most was the possibility of finding those surprise birds that are institutional in making a big day run a whole lot less work in the end. With the good migration that had happened over the previous few nights we certainly have good numbers of birds around and hopefully the southerly flow has discouraged many of these migrants to stick around. But if there is no chance at much influx into the area the search for species could be a good bit more difficult.

So, as I said, we set off in the middle of the night to see what nocturnal bird we might be able to encounter. A highlight minimum number of 3 Eastern Screech-Owls in various locations started the day of in the right direction. While not the most productive nocturnal search on record we had two of the three local owls but of course we're wishing we would happen upon an owl or two more.

As the sun rose over the Atlantic and with the good seabird numbers as of late we figured that doing a bit of first thing sea watching would probably help our attempt. One, this is a good time as the sun angle is not too harsh and I find that often birds can be close. Plus I was operating on the assumption that letting the sun get high enough on its transit that its warmth heats up the woods edge a bit and would hopefully drawn out birds to feed.

Higbee started off quite well I'd say. For one, Laura got to start off her day with a life bird. She had been unable to look for the Sedge Wren the day before but low and behold in the opposite corner in the southern portion of the first field I heard its grunty like call while it skulked low in the grasses. Not only that, we were treated to excellent views as the bird would come up and sit in the sumac on occasion.

Other great finds for the morning were; a Yellow-breasted Chat, great looks at a Lincoln's Sparrow near the parking lot and a clucking Wild Turkey heard while on our way to the Sedge Wren spot. In fact the two locations were probably less than 20 yards apart. Also, the numbers of sparrows (not only at Higbee but everywhere on the island) should be noted.

In fact I suppose that there were over all a good number of "surprise" birds which made the day great. Especially since I always take the negative approach and figured that 100 species might be a stretch if things played out a slight bit differently. Though the numbers of the more common species must again be noted. I really find a lot of satisfaction in sorting through flocks of sparrows no matter how maddening it may be. This short distant migrant time is especially fascinating in my opinion.

Other good sightings would include a very cooperative Orange-crowned Warbler at the beginning if the dune road at the State Park feeding in some goldenrod. I don't think I've ever had such great looks at this species before. Also, a Common Eider in the pilings at the Coast Guard Base, seen from Poverty Beach, was slightly expected as I knew at least one had been around. A couple of Blackpoll Warblers at the Beanery and a yellowthroat and Black-throated Blue to round out the warblers.

To make a long story short, we had over 100 species tallied somewhere around 10:45 to 11:00 a.m. Something that I completely did not expect. I was really thinking we'd have to struggle a bit more. As it turns out out total tally was 120 species (the list below says 121 as we counted one Mallard X Black Duck hybrid) which is only two less than our October attempt. Also only five less than the September total and I think the fourth highest total for the year. Not that I am trying to implicate that November should be thought of as a poor month to bird Cape May. In fact I'd say that over all the month is probably well under birded.

As you'll see with the list below we had quite the day out observing birds and all in all the day was quite birdy. And with easterly winds. I mean we are all taught that easterly winds are the kiss of death for Cape May. But, when the weather cooperates just right, even what could possibly turn out to be a poor day can end up being great. And I'd say we very much enjoyed ourselves. In fact, I'd say I really couldn't have scripted the day much better.

Location: Cape Island
Observation date: 11/3/08
Notes: November Cape Island Big Day-24022 steps = approx. 15.66 miles
Number of species: 121

Snow Goose 4
Brant (Atlantic) 6
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
Wood Duck 12
Gadwall 55
American Wigeon 125
American Black Duck 25
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid) 1
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler 16
Northern Pintail 25
Green-winged Teal 145
Ring-necked Duck 12
Common Eider 1
Surf Scoter X
White-winged Scoter 1
Black Scoter X
Bufflehead 22
Hooded Merganser 4
Ruddy Duck 15
Wild Turkey X
Red-throated Loon 35
Common Loon 12
Pied-billed Grebe 12
Northern Gannet X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Cormorant 2
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 3
Snowy Egret 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 4
Black Vulture 8
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 35
Cooper's Hawk 10
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 12
American Kestrel 4
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Sora 1
American Coot 30
Black-bellied Plover 1
Killdeer 6
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Ruddy Turnstone 8
Sanderling X
Dunlin 1
Wilson's Snipe 1
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Laughing Gull 20
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull X
Forster's Tern 25
Royal Tern 12
Black Skimmer 45
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Eastern Screech-Owl 3
Great Horned Owl 3
Belted Kingfisher 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 25
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3
Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 40
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Fish Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Red-breasted Nuthatch 5
Carolina Wren X
Winter Wren 3
Sedge Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 8
Eastern Bluebird 20
Hermit Thrush X
American Robin 3500
Gray Catbird 4
Northern Mockingbird X
Brown Thrasher 15
European Starling X
American Pipit 25
Cedar Waxwing 65
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 750
Palm Warbler 2
Blackpoll Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 1
Yellow-breasted Chat 1
Eastern Towhee X
Field Sparrow 20
Savannah Sparrow 75
Song Sparrow 100
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 175
White-throated Sparrow 1500
White-crowned Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 10
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Eastern Meadowlark 20
Rusty Blackbird 12
Common Grackle X
Boat-tailed Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird X
Purple Finch 25
House Finch 75
Pine Siskin 4
American Goldfinch X
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

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