It's tempting to call this blog "Night of the Cuckoos" (for more than one reason!) - Pete Dunne, Michael O'Brien, Tom Reed, Will Russell and I sifted an easy 50 Black-billed Cuckoos from the night sky during our Sussex County hilltop listening on May 15's World Series of Birding, along with a few Yellow-billed Cuckoos and a strong flight of other night migrants - Chestnut-sided Warblers, redstarts, a couple Canadas, Grasshopper Sparrows, a White-crowned Sparrow, Swainson's Thrushes, few White-throated Sparrows, a few other species, even a night-migrating Ring-billed Gull. When I asked the Cornell Sapsuckers about their experience with the night flight, their faces lit up about the cuckoos, too. A good nocturnal migration is magical indeed.
The CMBO - Zeiss Team's morning run was good but not great - we left the north with about 138 species, but missed some key birds. Like: the American Kestrel that wouldn't come out of its box in time. The Winter Wren that would not sing but ate 15 minutes. The Ruffed Grouse whose actual drumming log I found the Thursday before, but wasn't there drumming on Saturday.
Highs usually balance the lows on a big day. Ours included the adult Northern Goshawk over the Delaware River at Dingman's bridge (though we missed kingfisher there and for the day); the Alder Flycatcher pipping along Old Mine Road and the fact we completely swept the flycatchers, well, except Scissor-tailed - but we did find Olive-sided and 2 Yellow-bellieds; the Hooded Merganers that required wading to see - but Will knew where we had to wade; and an 11th hour, last chance Purple Finch close to Millbrook Village after we left our many other spots finchless.
Any WSB veteran will tell you that more magical than competition day is the scouting, which for me is the chance to spend a week in Sussex County, NJ in May. Will Russell (founder and president of WINGS) and I scoured the northern landscape for birds to add to our total, and reveled in the landscape that will host CMBO's Appalachian Birdsong Immersion workshop next week (still one space left).
[Louisiana Waterthrushes, like this one along the Flatbrook in Stokes State Forest, are common along northern NJ's trout streams.]
[No WSB is complete without a few Black Bear sightings, this uncropped shot was taken from the bed of my pick-up along Old Mine Road.]