Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cape May Back Bay by Boat: High Tide Flood, Common Eider, Lesser Scaup, Cattle Egret, and Did You Say 96 Clapper Rails by Sight?!

What a fantastic night! Despite a brief interlude with a thunderstorm, tonight's Breeding Bird "Survey" trip aboard the Osprey was a smashing success, for the birders, anyhow. The birds had it tougher - the persistent east winds of late conspired with the moon to create an amazingly high tide, the highest I've ever seen. Beachcombers in the next few days will be finding lots of eggs and egg shells - of Common and Forster's Terns, Laughing Gulls, Willets, gulls, and others. We saw a few Laughing Gulls and Common Terns floating by on their nests on top of piles of wrack.

About those rails. . .At tide's peak, I started clicking Clapper Rails we saw (not heard), and in what felt like no time looked down and saw the number 77 on the clicker! There was almost no habitat but water out behind Wildwood Crest and Two Mile Beach, so the rails had no place to hide. And no place to hide their young, either - we saw one brood of 6 black downy chicks, and one of 7 which nearly was reduced to 6 by a Laughing Gull capitalizing on the circumstances.

The more interesting species and or counts are bolded in the lists below. A boat or kayak in the back bay is the key to the kingdom.

Location: Cape May County Back Bay
Observation date: 6/20/09
Notes: 4-6:30 p.m., 11.5 mile run from Cape May to Hereford Inlet on the Osprey
Number of species: 45
Canada Goose 6
Gadwall 1
American Black Duck 2
Mallard 8
Lesser Scaup 1 - under the toll bridge from North Wildwood to Nummy Island
Common Eider 1 Male sitting up on marsh. Same bird as 1st winter in Great Channel last year?
Double-crested Cormorant 60
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 59 clicked by Chuck Slugg
Snowy Egret 41 Clicked by Dave Lord
Tricolored Heron 5
Black-crowned Night-Heron 10
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 2 tracked by Barb Hiebsch
Glossy Ibis 41 tracked by Barb Hiebsch
Osprey 47 tracked by MJ Slugg
Peregrine Falcon 1
Clapper Rail 10 Tracked by Annie
Black-bellied Plover 62
American Oystercatcher 35 Tracked by Roger Horn
Willet (Eastern) 29 clicked by Janet Crawford
Ruddy Turnstone 7
Red Knot 2 flyover with 4 Black-bellied Plover, photo'd by Michael O'Brien
Short-billed Dowitcher 3
Laughing Gull 5550 clicked by Michael O'Brien, a few chicks seen
Herring Gull 200 some downy chicks seen
Great Black-backed Gull 50
Least Tern 7 tracked by DF
Common Tern 287 clicked by Louise Zemaitis; some downy chicks seen
Forster's Tern 119 clicked by Louise Zemaitis, some downy chicks seen.
Royal Tern 2
Black Skimmer 400 clicked by Karen Johnson; most on Stone Harbor point
Rock Pigeon 30
Mourning Dove 10
Belted Kingfisher 1 at Cape May Canal near bridge at end of parkway
American Crow 1 heavy wing molt
Fish Crow 30
Barn Swallow 72 clicked by Michael O'Brien
Marsh Wren 1
American Robin 2
Northern Mockingbird 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Seaside Sparrow 12
Red-winged Blackbird 130
Boat-tailed Grackle 71 clicked by DF
House Sparrow 3

Location: Cape May County Back Bay - return trip
Observation date: 6/20/09
Number of species: 4
Little Blue Heron 1 Flyby near Sunset Lake Rookery. This species was missed on two hour boat 11.5 mile run from Cape May to Hereford just prior to this observation.
Cattle Egret 2 Seen perched together in Sunset Lake Rookery, then flying out headed south
Gull-billed Tern 2 pair passed together near Jarvis sound
Tree Swallow 2

Location: Jarvis Sound & Reuben's Thorofare
Observation date: 6/20/09
Number of species: 1

Clapper Rail 96 Incredibly high flood tide, adults were counted from boat with clicker (all observations visual). Observed one brood of 6 black downy chicks, one brood with 7 (one nearly predated by Laughing Gull), plus several other chicks where whole brood was not countable.

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