Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bird notes

This past Tuesday Laura and I were able to fit in a good bit of birding around the holiday errands. We started off the morning with a bit of seawatching while we waited for the day to warm up and hopefully bring out the Ash-throated Flycatcher. We started off at the Convention Center where I was somewhat surprised to find that there was really very little action over the ocean. We decided to move to the point since it seemed like there might be birds flying out of the bay (ie. we had more birds flying north than south.) Unfortunately the bay proved to be just as unproductive though there was a sizable raft of scoter sitting out on the bay, too far to be able top see most of the birds.

The State Park, like the water, was relatively slow over all. Probably the best part of our wanders in Cape May Point area were the continued numbers of "blackbirds" flying over. More than anything we simply sat and enjoyed watching the numbers of birds that were flying over. In fact, looking back at the eBird list below, I think my numbers are more than underestimates of the actual number of birds. Maybe it's just memory making me think there were more but I'd say that you could multiply my number by 2.5 and come a little closer to the true representation.

Other interesting State Park sightings were one Orange-crowned Warbler, both kinglets, a few singing Fox Sparrows, 4 Winter Wrens, a lone Palm Warbler and of course the previously mentioned blackbird flight.

The afternoon proved productive as after having received word that the flycatcher was indeed still alive and kicking, we made our way back to the State Park. After about 30+ minutes we were about to head out unsuccessful when I decided to try one last time looking along the west side of the mature pines in the area that we'd had an Eastern Phoebe hanging around. In fact, we'd heard a higher pitch call in the area but I was unsure if it was the phoebe or not, not being extremely familiar with all of the Ash-throated's vocalizations. Needless to say it was one of those one last effort pays off situations. We walked back to the area and low and behold there the Ash-throated was sitting on one of the wire cages surrounding the planted trees.

Probably the best part of this last ditch effort was that Laura and I heard a White-winged Crossbill flyover. This took us a little by surprise even though we are all expecting the flocks being reported up north to descend on Cape May any day. It's been a while since we have both had much contact with this species (since we lived in Maine where there were times we were lucky enough to be amidst flocks of hundreds at a time) so I was cautious about jumping to any immediate conclusions.

Since the sun was on its way to setting we decided to head back to the car to dig out the iPod to verify the crossbill when we had just emerged from the cedars on the red path and looked up to see a flock of birds flying over. The flock was in complete silhouette and flying profile to away from us but the size and shape worked well for me to think that they were more than most likely crossbills. The birds did not call and I was wishing that I had looked up just a minute or two earlier but these would have to go in the probably file. None the less given that a small flock of White-winged Crossbills were seen flying over the Meadows just after Thanksgiving and with our possible flock of 8-10 birds I'd suggest that birders in Cape May keep this species in the for front of your mind. My guess is that we won't find many sitting in trees (the cones in Cape May are inviting looking but I don't see much that will keep birds around if they do sit) but most observations will be of these nomads flying over as they wander looking for suitable feeding locations.

After leaving the park we decide to try and make a quick try for the the Selasphorus hummer and were resoundingly successful. Ms. Young was again generous enough to allow us to watch from the driveway since the bird has been coming to the front feeder primarily as of late. We had a few quick but identifiable sightings but as Laura had not looked for this bird before I was hoping that we'd have had better views. Again, with one last ditch effort to find the bird in the hedge near the feeder I found the bird sitting quite as could be on a bare branch allowing us to get very nice looks.

On a quick side note, something to keep in mind when you are searching for crossbills. When we had finished seawatching at St. Peter's jetty in the morning and were walking back to the car I had for some reason decided to take a look at the tops of some of the pines on the dunes and to my surprise found a flock of birds crawling around, crossbill like, feeding. Fumbling for my scope I set it up to at the top of the pine to find that it was a group of Red-winged Blackbirds feeding. The way they were tucked in and moving around looked for all the world like a group of crossbills and had I had more distance between me and them and no scope I might have been more inclined to think they they were.

Other sightings of note for the last little while are as follows;

11/28 Short-eared Owls and a Great Horned Owl at Jakes Landing. An Orange-crowned Warbler was at the Beanery on 11/29 and a Blue-headed Vireo was at the State Park on the same day. A Nashville Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler continue at the Meadows, near the west trail dune crossover, as of today. A Norther Parula was at the State Park on 11/29. The Dickcissel At the Meadows continues to be seen sporadically and another is coming to a feeder in West Cape May. Lastly, a flock of Snow Buntings was on the beach at the Cape May point State Park, in the grasses east of the bunker, on 12/1. no word of the Lapland Longspur being with these birds.

Below is a list from out 20-25 min. or seawatching today and below that the list from our birding on Tuesday.

Location: Cape May- Convention Hall
Observation date: 12/4/08
Number of species: 8

Surf Scoter 25
White-winged Scoter 4
Black Scoter 10
dark-winged scoter sp. 125
Long-tailed Duck 1
Red-throated Loon 25
Northern Gannet 50
Sanderling X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Location: Cape Island
Observation date: 12/2/08
Notes: 9233 steps = approx. 6.75 miles
Number of species: 74

Brant 7
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
Gadwall 22
American Wigeon 25
Mallard X
Northern Pintail 8
Green-winged Teal 85
Surf Scoter 35
Black Scoter 45
dark-winged scoter sp. 250
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 6
Hooded Merganser 8
Red-breasted Merganser 6
Ruddy Duck 12
Red-throated Loon 6
Northern Gannet 45
Great Blue Heron 2
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3
Purple Sandpiper 6
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Black Skimmer 6
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Downy Woodpecker 4
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 8
Eastern Phoebe 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow 16
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren X
Winter Wren 4
Golden-crowned Kinglet X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Eastern Bluebird 25
Hermit Thrush 6
American Robin 150
Gray Catbird X
Northern Mockingbird X
Brown Thrasher 4
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing 65
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 150
Palm Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 35
Fox Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 25
Swamp Sparrow 12
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird 650
Common Grackle 250
Brown-headed Cowbird 350
blackbird sp. 3000
Purple Finch 10
House Finch X
White-winged Crossbill X
Pine Siskin X
American Goldfinch 150
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

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