Monday, July 13, 2009

Heart of Summer, Signs of Fall: Fledged Wood Thrushes, Baby Killdeer, Least Bitterns, Migrant Shorebirds. . .

[Killdeer family along east path at the meadows. Photo by Karl Lukens, click to enlarge.]

At our MAPS Station in Bear Swamp, Cumberland County yesterday we encountered the first HY (Hatch Year) birds of the banding season, in the form of two fully feathered juvenile Wood Thrushes. The Kentucky Warbler has finally stopped singing, but not the Whip-poor-wills, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, and especially not the Red-eyed Vireos - do they ever stop? The flocked-up Common Grackles passing through Bear Swamp jive well with a decrease in grackles south of the Cape May Canal. It felt like summer yesterday, with hot and heavy air.

On the other hand, a drizzle of shorebirds brightened the meadows/a.k.a. Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge this morning, including small numbers of both yellowlegs, dowitchers, Black-bellied Plover and Willet. Bank Swallows were there, another migrant. And Bobolinks, including a few that dropped into the meadows. One male Bobolink showed heavy wing molt. Two Least Bitterns showed themselves, one near the tower, the other at the east side of the east pool.

What the Black-billed Cuckoo at the south end of the west path is doing is unclear - it flies back and forth, but I haven't heard anyone report it carrying anything (like nesting material, food for young, or fecal sacs.)

A very unhappy looking male Black Scoter stood on the beach off the meadows and had his picture taken by tourists at point-blank range. A few juvenile Piping Plovers were present, a happy sign considering apparently all the Piping Plover chicks on the state park end of the beach were killed, mainly by Fish Crows. Hardly any terns were about, and no seabirds, and yet we nearly reached 70 species on the morning. The full list is below.

Location: South Cape May Meadows
Observation date: 7/13/09
Notes: CMBO Monday walk.
Number of species: 68

Canada Goose 200 Actual count
Mute Swan 31 Clicked by C Bell
Wood Duck 1
Gadwall 5
American Black Duck 1
Mallard 135 clicked by DPF
Black Scoter 1 molting, perhaps sick male on beach
Double-crested Cormorant 3 flyovers just before walk headed NE
Least Bittern 2 one in center pool near tower (flew), one in east pool, east side, both in flight
Great Blue Heron 5 At least one HY with a few downy plumes on the head
Great Egret 3
Snowy Egret 2
Green Heron 5
Black-crowned Night-Heron 4
Glossy Ibis 72 clicked by C Slugg
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 5
Osprey 10
Black-bellied Plover 3 All with plain bellies
Piping Plover 8 Some HY
Killdeer 10
American Oystercatcher 8
Spotted Sandpiper 3
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Willet 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 5
Short-billed Dowitcher 5
Laughing Gull 75
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 40
Great Black-backed Gull 40
Least Tern 50
Common Tern 25
Forster's Tern 5 Where were they?
Black Skimmer 1
Rock Pigeon 10
Mourning Dove 40
Black-billed Cuckoo 1
Chimney Swift 35
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
White-eyed Vireo 2
American Crow 5
Fish Crow 15
Purple Martin 8
Tree Swallow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5
Bank Swallow 3
Barn Swallow 30
Carolina Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
House Wren 1
Marsh Wren 2
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 5
European Starling 15
Yellow Warbler 5
Common Yellowthroat 5
Song Sparrow 3 2 in dune thicket giving flight notes, one song elsewhere
Northern Cardinal 8
Indigo Bunting 4
Bobolink 15 noticed 1 male heavy wing molt
Red-winged Blackbird 25
Common Grackle 19 clicked by J Crawford, Many apparently already flocked up and moved off island
Brown-headed Cowbird 10
American Goldfinch 10
House Sparrow 25

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