Monday, April 26, 2010

Nice Little Fallout! ~ 10 Cape May FOS's

Dave La Puma and I went to check the Higbee parking lot for five minutes at 6:45 this morning, before the CMBO meadows walk, and were still at Higbee two hours later, deciding to leave the meadows in Pete's capable hands (and knowing CMBO's volunteers would be there, too).

Dave called it beforehand on - ". . .we continue with this backlog of migrants to our south- as there was some appreciably heavy migration across most of the eastern flyway last night, up to the Jersey border. We can hope to have some of these birds in our area by tomorrow. . ."

Even so, we almost went to Sunset Beach like we usually do, but switched off to check Higbee because of the fog and our hunch that passerines got dropped here. A pause at the Hidden Valley parking lot on New England made it clear something significant was going on, with dozens of Yellow-rumpeds, Savannah Sparrows and Palms. . .and Northern Parula, Black-and-white, Worm-eating, Ovenbird. And then a Blue Grosbeak. And then we were in the fun-frantic mode of trying to figure out where we best be when we wanted to be everywhere!

We covered the whole Higbee complex reasonably thoroughly, walking 2.5 miles. Oak groves along New England Road itself proved to be the best spots, though a Louisiana Waterthrush sang from deep in the Hidden Valley tract and an early-arriving Bobolink sang in the northwest corner of the Hidden Valley fields. After walking the fields we climbed the dike, and did have a few birds engaged in morning flight, mostly Yellow-rumpeds but a few Palms, an Orchard Oriole, and Yellow Warblers. When all was said and done, we had 85 species including 14 species of warblers and about 10 apparent Cape May FOS's (first of season): Spotted Sandpiper, Red-eyed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Summer Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, and Bobolink.

Tom Magarian and Tony Leukering had a similar strong flight at Villas WMA, with one additional warbler species (Black-throated Blue) and a Wood Thrush, which Dave and I did not detect. Tony just told me he finished up at Villas with 60 species including 12 warblers. Also interesting was the fact that the hottest area at Villas was near the parking lot, and the first patch to the south, and those areas had emptied of birds when Tony left. We had a similar experience when we left the dike, with bird volume much diminished by 9:00 a.m. as they apparently moved on northward.

Movement was not limited to passerines - the meadows walk had multiple flocks of Whimbrel, 8-10 American Oystercatchers, a dozen Wilson's Snipe, and Solitary Sandpiper. Tony checked the flooded field along Breakwater Road at the Cape May County Airport and came up with 10 Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Lesser, 1 Solitary Sandpiper, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, and ~5 each of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers. The same pond last night had 3 Greater Yellowlegs and that's it when I drove by around 5 p.m.

Our full list for Higbee this morning, although not an official field trip, is up on Field Trip Reports.

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