Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Some Quick Ramblings

Don's post about the Cumberland CBC certainly painted a vivid picture of what the weather is like at Cape May at the moment. If you're still in any doubt, here's a picture (below) I took at Sunset Beach, overlooking the concrete ship, yesterday. The snow is long gone from Cape May, but the bitter weather remains and here, the foam whipped up by the wind on the wave tops is piling up on the beach in great drifts, and is coating both the concrete ship and all the beach woodwork. Despite this, at least four Common Eiders, two Surf Scoters and several Bonaparte's Gulls were still hanging out, along with the usual Ring-billed, American Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls.

If you can get out of the wind, as Don said, you can often find the birds hunkered down or searching for food. The back yard at CMBO's Northwood Center offers great shelter (and of course, plenty of feeders!), and continues to host Grey Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Fox and White-throated Sparrows and all the other regular yardbirds (including plenty of Carolina Chickadees if you're visiting us from New York northwards!). This morning, I was distracted for quite some time by a noisy pair of American Crows out back, and finally decided to go and check out what their problem was. It turned out to be a fine Great Horned Owl and Sheila, Marleen and I managed good looks through one of the trusty display scope in the store (I shan't show favoritism by naming it here!).

Great Horned Owl at CMBO's Northwood Center, Cape May Point, today.

Venturing into the thicket behind the Northwod Center at lunchtime yesterday, I played a game of cat and mouse with the American Woodcock that I had been seeing regularly there in the evenings of late. Trying to stalk a woodcock in daylight is no mean feat and almost invariably they flash away with a whistle of wings, never to be seen again. At least four American Woodcock have been hanging out here of late, so I thought I should have a chance of at least one. The trick is to have a precise search image of a woodock in your head before you start. Key targets are the bright rufous on the flanks and the crisp, cross barring atop the head. I crept as carefully as was humanly possible through the thicket; one saw me and was off across Lighthouse Avenue - a second exactly the same. No fair! I didn't even see them before they moved! Number three gave himself away by slowly walking into a rose tangle; I'd seen him but there was no chance of a picture - too many branches, which is so often the way in woodland. Finally, number four got caught out, I appeared from behind a tree too close to him and he decided that staying still and looking like a pile of dead leaves was a better bet than risking flight. A few branches made life difficult for me, but I did get a good look at him.

Ever wondered why it's so hard to sneak up on an American Woodock? The answer is, they have 360 degree vision. This photo taken from behind the bird clearly shows both eyes keeping me in their sights! The birds eyes are situated right out on the sides of the head - like our ears -  and, but for a narrow cone of about three feet in length, both forward and aft, the bird has alround vision.

American Woodcock make a distinctive whistle when they fly away, which comes from the wings. The noise is caused by air passing between the very narrow, outer primaries, which can be seen here (top of picture) on the wing of a bird I picked up dead on the road recently.

Elsewhere around Cape May, the Cackling Goose continues to be seen today, either roosting on Lily Lake or feeding with Canada Geese in fields between Sunset Boulevard and Seagrove Avenue - though note that the flock is often feeding in a field that can't be seen well except from private property. The Sandhill Crane continues at Villas WMA and six Tundra Swans can usually be seen sleeping on the ice at Bunker Pond.

No comments: