Well, thank goodness the fog had lifted enough by the time we got around to the east path when the Least Bittern flushed. The South Cape May Meadows (a.k.a. the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge) were otherwise pretty socked-in this morning, something you would not have known a mere 10 miles north, where the skies were clear.
Despite the fog, we were able to sort-of see one of the two calling Willow Flycatchers, along with sort-of-seeing a single Piping Plover at the edge of the plover pond. Chuck and MJ Slugg told me their "Plover Patrol" yesterday along the meadows beachfront yielded 16 adult Piping Plovers and 9 chicks, along with 4 adult American Oystercatchers and 1 chick. This beach has been the most productive Piping Plover nesting site in NJ in recent years.
Pass-through shorebirds have all but disappeared - we detected a few dowitchers, 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper, 1 Semipalmated Plover, 1 Dunlin, and 1 Sanderling. Green Herons evidently are nesting at or near the meadows, with multiples seen every visit.
A kayak trip out to Champagne Island in Hereford Inlet on Saturday revealed that "island" is too big a word for what's left there - a single apparent Herring Gull nest and a single American Oystercatcher, also on an apparent nest, were visible on the precariously small peak of the former tern and skimmer colony. Well over 100 Black Skimmers were resting on Nummy Island on the ocean side, giving me pause to wonder whether they would ever conceivably venture nesting on the highest salt marsh the way Forster's and Common Terns will do. It seems extremely unlikely, since skimmers prefer open, sandy substrate, but the literature does indicate they will use salt marsh islands if some sandy substrate is available, and will even nest on mats of wrack (dead vegetation).
Up Brigantine way, Dave Lord et. al. had a nice trip Saturday: "Karen Johnson, Janet Crawford, and myself (Dave Lord) took a trip to the Brigantine division of Forsythe NWR, during the "doldrums" of breeding season, but the trip proved to be anything but. We had a first year (baby) Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, picking at Fiddler Crabs off the childrens menu. Funny a bird still needing a high chair and bib could provide such entertaining viewing as he fed. Turtle's ruled the day, with Red-Bellieds, Painteds, Diamond Backed Terrapians, and Snapping Turtles all engaged in either sunbathing, swimming, laying eggs or hunting for food. Other highlights included a Willet on a Blue-bird box, a lone Snow Goose, a Black-necked Stilt, Wood Ducks, and 4 Gull Billed Terns. Just goes to show that nature doesn't take breaks."
North along our other coast, I spent part of the weekend in Cumberland County. We ran the Bear Swamp MAPS station on Sunday. Birdsong in the woods outside of Dividing Creek seemed much dimished, but all the good stuff was still detectable, starting with Whip-poor-wills as we arrived at 5:00 a.m., along with Summer Tanagers, Kentuckys, Worm-eating, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, etc. A Broad-winged Hawk also called repeatedly overhead.
Saturday evening I took a short bike ride out of Mauricetown, covering James Moore Road and Strawberry Avenue. Perhaps the highlight was the calling Northern Bobwhite on Strawberry, and that area is rife with things like Orchard Oriole, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, and Prairie Warbler, the classic south Jersey scrub-shrub bird assemblage. Two Louisiana Waterthrushes were at the "U.S. Silica Kentucky Warbler spot" near where Noble Street out of Mauricetown joins the Port Norris-Mauricetown road. Kentucky Warbler, however, was not.
I understand that a male Bufflehead continues in the Maple Avenue impoundments at Dividing Creek.
[Male Worm-eating Warbler prior to release at Bear Swamp, sexed by the presence of a "CP" or cloacal protuberance, and lack of a brood patch. Male and female worm-eatings are identical in the field. Photo by Don Freiday.]