Friday, December 25, 2009

A lovely, but gray, Christmas morning

Scott Whittle and I birded around West Cape May and Cape May Point, running into one other local birder (Tom Parsons) and a couple of visiting birders. This is one of the reasons that I like birding Christmas day so much: if there's something interesting to find, there isn't much competition to be the finder. Besides, like most places but certainly more true here than others, one just never knows what one will run across on any given day, so go birding!

Though Scott got out a bit earlier than did I, we met at the O'Brien-Zemaitis house to ogle the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Despite the interestingness of a Christmas Ruby-throat, we were most entertained by the incredible show put on by most of the rest of the avian denizens of Stevens Street. Whether it was the holiday, the warming temperatures, or what, the American Robins were seemingly everywhere. We diligently searched for Fieldfare to no avail. A couple of the many Red Fox Sparrows sang sporadically, making for some pleasing music among the cacophony of American Robin calls. While I was watching a blackbird (Brown-headed Cowbird?) flying by, a Merlin came into my field of view and grabbed it! Neither the grabbed blackbird nor its flying comnpanion reacted until the Merlin had bird in hand, er... foot. To add to the show, a second Merlin made a try at extracting the blackbird from Merlin #1. We didn't see the end of that show, as both birds got below the treeline to the north. Scott found single Field and Chipping Sparrows. So, some 50 minutes or so after I arrived, Scott and I finally managed to drag ourselves away from the spectacle in order to check out some other sites.

There was a small number (20-25) of Bonaparte's Gulls scattered from Alexander Avenue around to St. Peter's and 17 Common Eiders were foraging off the Concrete Ship. An immature Red-throated Loon off St. Peter's nicely exhibited an in-between plumage -- molting out of juvenal into formative. Note that the extensive dark on the throat of typical juvenile Red-throateds has been reduced in this individual to a slash down the middle.

[Click on pictures to see larger versions.]

The six Tundra Swans continue on Bunker Pond and the same two male Eurasian Wigeons as were present yesterday were still on Lighthouse Pond, but with more American Wigeon compadres. Lily Lake provided the find of the day: yet another Eurasian Wigeon, this time, the third female. There were three females on the Lake at once! The first was close to the south end, which had opened up since yesterday, and provided good, but short-lived, photo ops. Note in the second picture that the Eurasian is the bird on the right and has a browner and warmer head than both its own sides and the head of the female Amerian Wigeon to its left; the other two birds are a pair of Gadwalls.

As I was leaving the point, I stopped along Sea Grove Avenue to check out the birds in the Lukens' front yard, among which was a juvenile-molting-into-formative-plumage Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I looked east up the Avenue and noticed among the hordes of American Robins on the road, a bird doing a goofy bouncing strut -- American Woodcock! Ah, another photo op, though the light level required bumping up the ISO on the camera and anchoring the camera, my hand, and face as much as possible to try to get a sharp picture while shooting at only 1/50th second. I find that if one just takes enough pictures in these situations, one gets lucky enough, occasionally, to get a sharp image, and this morning's is below.

Finally, one of the cavorting American Robins on the road did not fly off upon my approach to photograph the American Woodcock. I was pleased enough at that, but it also provided a lovely and fitting end to a great Christmas morning's birding.

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