Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eagles (both), Rough-leggeds, Short-ears, and a few "honorary" raptors: Wintering Raptor Workshop report

We just finished up a three day raptor workshop that began at Beaver Swamp and ended at Tuckahoe, with some splendid birding in between.

The eagle pair at Beaver Swamp WMA has young! As of Friday, it was one of only two hatched NJ nests (the other is at Manasquan Reservoir, according to Larissa Smith of NJ Conserve Wildlife). Other highlights at Beaver Swamp included a Tree Swallow and a high-flying Peregrine. This WMA is accessed just north of CMBO's Center for Research and Education - from the center, go north on 47 to the first traffic light, turn right, make a quick first left and quicker right, and take the road to the end and park.

We tried for the Stone Harbor Snowy Owl both Friday night and this morning -with negative results - but a Great-horned Owl flew out of the bayberry thicket at Stone Harbor Point at dark Friday night and perched on a snag for some great scope views. A new viewing platform has been completed at Stone Harbor Point, just take the trail south from the parking lot and you'll find it. Purple Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstones and a single dowitcher were all on the Stone Harbor Point jetty at high tide today, and an immature Great Cormorant fed near the free bridge to Nummy Island.

Saturday morning at Jake's Landing we watched the very reliable dark Rough-legged Hawk and at least 6 Bald Eagles in varying plumages, as well as another Peregrine and several singing meadowlarks. The meadowlarks, Rough-legged Hawk, and a couple eagles were still around Saturday night, along with ~3 Short-eared Owls there. A Great-horned Owl appeared at Jake's at dusk Saturday as well, flying from out of the woods and all the way to Dennis Creek, where it perched on an Osprey platform.

A Short-eared Owl appeared at Turkey Point, Cumberland County, on Saturday around 3:30 p.m.. Saturday afternoon was terrifically windless, and had clouded over by that time, making for ideal SEO conditions. The short-ear came up from the south, flew right over Turkey Point Road, and disappeared near Fortescue to the north. We had up to 6 eagles simultanously at the Maple Avenue impoundments, including 5 in one field of view, but none were the Golden Eagle Karen Johnson and company reported at Turkey Point this morning. According to Karen, that bird flew, generally speaking, from the vicinity of Beaver Dam Boat Rentals towards Turkey Point.

This evening, two dark and one light Rough-legged Hawks entertained us at Tuckahoe, along with 20+ Tundra Swans.

Thanks to a tip from Michael O'Brien, we picked up the Black-headed Gull and a second winter Lesser Black-backed Gull feeding with many Bonaparte's Gulls next to the jetty at St. Peters in Cape May Point on Friday, and I understand both were there again today.

In the honorary raptor deparment, one of the Lily Lake River Otters swam by on Friday, and this morning at Avalon a Harbor Seal passed the north side of the 8th Street jetty, briefly but clearly visible in the reasonably transparent water as it surfaced briefly and dove again. Wind and chop made distant viewing there difficult, but one male Harlequin and several Common Eiders were still easy to find. If you try for the eiders (mostly Common with one female King), be advised - they sometimes wander far offshore, but reward patience by flying in or drifting in with the tide.

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