Saturday, September 5, 2009


[Roseate Tern juvenile on the beach, Cape May Point yesterday, by Michael O'Brien. When in doubt about a Roseate, check for bands - if it's not banded, it's probably not a Roseate. Click to enlarge.]

Richard Crossley bemoaned the fact he didn't check the weather report last night when I ran into him this morning on the beach at Cape May Point, as he photographed terns. I spent the first hour or so after sunrise at the Higbee Dike. Those forecast northwest -then-west winds came true over night, and there was a good flight. We know birds will migrate if the flying conditions are good, and a wind with an out-of-the-west component will bring them to Cape May. That's what happened.

Richard thinks cold fronts are over-rated, that it's the west component that is key. I don't entirely agree, but regardless you can't argue with today's flight. I listened pre-dawn at Norbury's Landing and heard 15-20 calls per minute, overwhelmingly Veeries but with a few Wood Thrushes, a very few Swainson's Thrushes, and a smattering of warblers including Yellows, redstarts, Black-and Whites, and Parulas. I even heard a Baltimore Oriole, unusual in the dark and a predictor of what happened later.

Back at my car, I opened a text message from Michael O'Brien indicating he had 100 birds/minute in Cape May. When we talked on the phone as I drove towards Cape May, Michael commented that he didn't know exactly how many birds he was hearing - lots of notes, but were they milling around? His species mix was similar to mine, with an added Palm Warbler.

The Higbee Dike was great, not overwhelming, but I eBirded 70 species for the hour I was there, including 16 species of warblers, with Prothonotary and multiple Cape Mays, Magnolias, and Tennesees, among others. At least two Olive-sided Flycatchers appeared, as did one Alder"ish" Flycatcher and a Yellow-throated Vireo was another highlight. The Baltimore Oriole show was terrific, and I hear the same was true on the CMBO Beanery walk this morning, which also had scoped Veeries and a Worm-eating Warbler.

I did not find the Roseate Tern I was looking for on the beach when I met Richard, though we had nice close Black Tern and pleny of Commons and some Royals and Forster's, and a single Black Tern. Two Caspian Terns flew over the state park later. Glen Davis sent a text indicating he had both the juv. Roseate and a Sandwich Tern at St. Peters - while I was scarcely 100 yards away! I had the Sandwich fly by a few minutes later, and learned from Glen that both had been on the beach when he got there but flew shortly after.

[Roseate Tern juv. in flight, by Michael O'Brien. Click to enlarge.]

[This American Bittern was a treat for the CMBO meadows walk Friday night. Photo by Karl Lukens, click to enlarge.]
A slow but diverse hawk flight was underway at the state park at mid-morning, including a Merlin, kestrels, accipiters, and a few Broad-wingeds.
Tony Leukering sent word of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper flyby at the hawk watch between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. today. The water is still pretty high around all the Cape May shorebird spots, but hopefully the buffie will find a place to sit down.

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