Saturday, November 21, 2009

Swainson's, Gos, Cave Swallows - It May be the End of the Match, but Keep Watching

[Cave Swallows, perhaps 20, were in view much of the day at Bunker Pond. On this one, photographed there today, note the pale throat, pale rump but not as pale as that of Cliff, and lack of the bright "headlight" above the bill, which is prominent on Cliff. In today's harsh light from the light overcast, the Cave Swallows often looked completly dark above when flying against the sky, but you could usually pick up the warm buff-orange on the throat, or at least a sense of color there. Photo by Don Freiday; click to enlarge all photos.]

Mike Crewe was talking about the season's passage last week and, in his very British way, said that while birding was still good it "feels like the end of the match." It felt that way today, for sure - despite northwest winds all night and all morning, not much of a passerine flight materialized and not all that many raptors were about. Well, maybe a couple hundred raptors will have been counted by day's end, Red-shouldereds and Red-taileds, a couple Peregrines, a few Bald Eagles, Sharpies, Coops and. . .when I walked up the platform around 10:30 a.m. Pete and Melissa had a juvenile Northern Goshawk in the scopes, perched over the "red roof." Yah, but where's the Golden. . . .kidding, of course.

The Swainson's Hawk hangs on, seen at the Beanery, over the meadows, and from the platform. A White-rumped Sandpiper went by the hawk watch this morning. Cave Swallows were in steady view at the platform, along with at least a couple Rough-winged Swallows and the many Tree Swallows, and the Cape May Duck Festival is still underway, with all the wigeon still on Lighthouse Pond (including more than one Eurasian) and today's Common Eider count off Coral Avenue at 137. The dabbling ducks are busy courting - it's a good time to learn your duck vocalizations.

At Cape May Point State Park at dawn, the only owl I could come up with was a Great-horned, but there were a half-dozen each of American Woodcock and Wilson's Snipe flying about. As dawn broke into day it became evident that Fox Sparrows are in, with several singing and chipping.

The day's award for unseasonal goes to the Yellow-billed Cuckoo I found in a patch of groundsel bushes at the Magnesite Plant, which is the southern portion of Higbee Beach WMA off Sunset Boulevard. Pretty darn late for this species, especially considering it winters om South America, south as far as northern Argentina! A White-crowned Sparrow was in the fields there, too.

[Green-winged Teal courting in front of the platform. The male at left really had his act on.]

[My favorite bird of the day was this White-breasted Nuthatch at Hidden Valley, one of two I saw south of the canal today and the first I've seen on Cape Island in a year! White-breasted is exceedingly scarce south of the canal, and you have to go looking for one in their known haunts to find them. Way more Cave Swallows than White-breasted Nuthatches are on Cape Island right now.]

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