Saturday, January 23, 2010

Marsh Raptors + Duckage, Herons

Today was CMBO's Winter Marsh Raptor Survey, with day raptors and owls counted at 15 widely spread points in southern NJ from an hour before sundown until dark. We'll have full results up when available. Northern Harrier is the main species of interest for this annual survey, but everyone loves owls - so far I hear Turkey Point (near Dividing Creek in Cumberland County) had 4 Short-eared Owls and Jake's Landing 1. No word on any Rough-legged Hawks so far.

I was at a lesser known site at the mouth of the Cohansey River, counting from the end of Ragged Island Road. Two Short-eared Owls were present there, one of which spent 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. perched on the same post, making only one short flight the whole time until it disappeared at dark.

More interesting, perhaps, were the 4 pairs of adult Bald Eagles. At sunset, all 8 birds were in view, perched in twos almost shoulder-to-shoulder but with the pairs spread evenly across the vast marsh at the Cohansey's mouth, obviously representing the local breeders. At 5:21, 15 minutes after sunset, what had been pairs abruptly became 4 single birds - one of each pair, probably each female, had departed, most likely to their nests. On the final scan of the evening at 5:31 p.m. (our protocol calls for 360 degree scans every 15 minutes starting an hour before sunset and ending a half hour after), all the eagles had gone home, replaced by four hooting Great-horned Owls, two of which perched clearly visible at the edge of the marsh.

A quick turn at the South Cape May Meadows this morning found the water half open and populated by a selection of waterfowl featuring a (the) female Common Merganser and 3 Blue-winged Teal among Green-winged Teal, Pintails, Shovelers, Gadwall, Hooded Mergansers, etc. The Hidden Valley Bald Eagle pair soared over with vultures, a Red-shouldered, and a Peregrine. I hear later in the day the meadows hosted a Snowy Egret, and that a Tri-colored was at Turkey Point.

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