Monday, March 16, 2009

Stone Harbor Snowy, Shorebirds; Woodcock, Wigeon, Woodpecker; and the pending deluge of spring arrivals

[Roger Horn photographed this American Woodcock in a Cape May Point yard on Sunday, March 15.]

In addition to the above woodcock in Cape May, Kathy and Roger Horn reported the continuing female Eurasian Wigeon, one Red-headed Woodpecker, and a few Rusty Blackbirds at Villas WMA on Sunday.

I took a rainy walk to the tip of Stone Harbor Point on Sunday, and was rewarded by one soggy Snowy Owl and a decent selection of shorebirds. The Snowy was almost all the way to the south end of the point.

American Oystercatcher pairs were active and vocal, with at least 8 different individuals on Stone Harbor Point alone. It was high tide, and a nice group of shorebirds roosting on the west side of the point included 900 Dunlin with 7 Western Sandpipers mixed in, about 20 Ruddy Turnstones, and several separate groups of Black-bellied Plovers adding up to 140 individuals. One Piping Plover was on the shore of the pond opposite the observation platform.

Returning Forster's Terns are being reported along the Bay, and every few days we will see new spring bird arrivals now. One of the neat tools on e-Bird is the ability to generate a report on bird arrivals, and I was checking arrivals for Cape May County last year and came up with the following information.

Following each half-month period, the number of new bird species arrivals in Cape May county in 2008, according to E-bird reports, is indicated in parentheses:

Mar 1-15 (7)
Mar 16-31 (13)
April 1-15 (13)
April 16-30 (39)
May 1-15 (45)
May 15-30 (8)

Undoubtedly many arrivals are missing from the e-bird data set. Remember, the more people report to ebird, the more complete and useful the information becomes!

Mid- to late-April is when the flood really starts, but in the coming two weeks be thinking about Glossy Ibis, Pectoral Sandpiper, Purple Martin, Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush as prime candidates for first of season appearances. Most of the heron species overwinter in small-to-tiny numbers, but the end of March will bring us long-legged waders in numbers.

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