Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cape May Birding Armies

[If you hear what you think is wind whistling at a coastal jetty, think again. It may be courting Black Scoters, like this one captured by Tony Leukering at Avalon yesterday. Pay attention to the sounds - Black Scoter may be a distinct species from the Common Scoter of the Western Palearctic. Though very similar in appearance, the two differ in call, with "our" bird's call much longer in duration, described in a recent paper as whuuuuuuuu, rising and then falling (I find it easily imitated by human whistling), while Common's is an abrupt pju.]

It seemed legions of birders covered every square inch of Cape May yesterday. Karl Lukens et. al.'s results from Cape May Point State Park are up on Field Trip Reports, and reflect many other birders' experiences at the State Park yesterday, highlighted by the drake Redhead and 2 male Eurasian Wigeons on Lighthouse Pond, Tundra Swans on Bunker Pond, a perched Red-shouldered Hawk, and a hunting young darkish Peregrine. Our workshop had a flock of about 30 Snow Buntings over the dunes, as well as a single Horned Lark and one of the local adult Bald Eagles. Vince Elia had a flyby Common Eider, now more significant than it would be in December when there were droves of the things. Vince also had a Common Yellowthroat near the hawkwatch, and later on Tom Reed added a Virginia Rail in the grass along Bunker Pond 30 yards ups the trail.

Mike Crewe located a Cackling Goose in a flock of Canadas opposite the Hidden Valley parking lot along New England Road, and circling back around to Cape May after seeing it, our workshop found the two Sandhill Cranes along Seashore Road (which becomes Broadway), on the west side of the road just south of the cemetary driveway feeding in a field of cut corn. An American Pipit was also there.

Cape May Harbor, viewed from the Nature Center of Cape May, hosted a nice mix of bay ducks, including 160 Ruddies and a few Greater Scaup. Michael O'Brien had 27 Greater Scaup and 16 Lessers at Sunset Lake in Wildwood Crest, generally a reliable place for these. They were still there, but pretty far out, around noon.

Snowy and Great Egrets and nice flocks of Northern Pintails were at the Coast Guard Ponds, but there was no sign of the Canvasbacks, and we did not find the Little Blue Heron. A kind of weird, meaning out of place, adult Red-shouldered Hawk sailed over the marsh at Two Mile Landing.

The 8th Street Jetty in Avalon still offers great seawatching, highlighted by two Harlequin Ducks. We had about 18 Common Eiders there, as well as maybe 10 Purple Sandpipers. The birds move in and out, so it's best to stay a while.

At Stone Harbor Point, another flock of a dozen eiders flying south contained a bird I was tempted to call a female King, and still am, but they were far and fast - oh well. There was a blowout low tide at Great Channel - free bridge south of Stone Harbor - with plenty of Dunlin, Black-bellied Plovers, turntsones and probably et. al., but the birds were far. Add two American Oystercatchers to that array.

We finished up at Jake's Landing, where the excitement of great looks at a Short-eared Owl were nearly matched by the big 4X4 pickup hanging off the sand roadway, clinging barely with two wheels, with attending tow trucks and noise. Jake's Landing Road isn't so awful bad, I'm not sure what happened with the truck, but if you're in doubt, park within the woods and walk out the road, which is what the 20 or 30 birders there last night had to do.

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