Thursday, June 17, 2010

Point Report + Installment 1 of "Where are They Now?"

[This Red-winged Blackbird is an obvious recent fledge, with bare skin around the face, fleshy gape, and tufts of natal down. It was being fed by a female in the pool across from the hawk watch platform at Cape May Point State Park this morning. Photo digiscoped by Don Freiday, click to enlarge photos.]

The surprise bird of this morning's Bird Walk for All People was a flyby Eastern Meadowlark, which approached the hawk watch platform at Cape May Point State Park from the west, then turned north northeast and flew off towards the Beanery, perhaps. There hasn't been an Eastern Meadowlark on Cape Island in a month, or so says eBird. This bird is likely a failed, or even finished, breeder that is now wandering around.

The group favorite, I think, was the fledgling Red-winged Blackbird. It certainly was a lot more viewable than the distant Wilson's Storm-petrel we had from the dune crossover near the platform - Dave Lord and I had several others pre-walk from St. Peter's, along with drake Black and Surf Scoters and perhaps 2 dozen Northern Gannets.

The state park trails were quite birdy. Two nests of Orchard Orioles are along the boardwalk trails, one on the Red Trail and another at the start of the Yellow Trail - please observe these respectfully if you find them. The Yellow-breasted Chat popped up for a look on the Yellow Trail, and even better, we saw two Black-billed Cuckoos, one on the Red Trail and the other a flyby near the state park/Cape May Meadows boundary. About 8 Indigo Buntings included 2 in seemingly morning flight over the parking lot, and a single female Blue Grosbeak perched briefly near the yellow trail clearing, where there were also multiple Cedar Waxwings and the continuously singing Eastern Wood-pewee.

So, birding in Cape May slows down a bit in mid-summer, like it does everywhere else - actually, it doesn't really ever slow down here, but anyway. . .something to think about in summer is, where are the migrants that passed through last spring, and that we look forward to this fall? Some friends, Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis among them, and I took a trip last weekend to visit some northern breeders, up in Vermont's northeast kingdom, which is mainly boreal forest. Michael kept suggesting a school of birding workshop up there, and it would be a great place for a boreal birds workshop, or a warbler call notes workshop, or something. . .so, to whet your appetite for said possible workshop and for the fall here in Cape May, we'll sow the blog with a few boreal birds in the coming days, such as:

[Palm Warbler bringing food to a nest, about as far south as you can find this species nesting, Moose Bog, Vermont, June 13, 2010. I think it's got a deer fly, there were, um, a few of them around. . .Click to enlarge.]

Palm Warbler is a common to abundant migrant in Cape May - e.g. over 3,000 a year are counted at Morning Flight in fall, and that doesn't include November (when Palms are still coming) nor the Palms lumped into the "unidentified warbler" category, which they often are on big flight days. Right now, all those Palm Warblers are north, WAY north, nesting on the margins of boreal bogs.

The bird pictured is an "Eastern" or Yellow Palm Warbler, part of the breeding population residing roughly east of the Quebec/Ontario border. This is the bird we see in spring migration, but come fall Yellow Palms are much outnumbered by the brown western race, which has a wider breeding range extending well up into the Northwest Territories and west almost to British Columbia. Like many Cape May fall migrants, brown Palms are coming not just from the north, but also the west.

This Palm Warbler busily fed begging young in a nest and did not sing, but it and its mate called regularly, which points out a not so obvious fact: the breeding grounds, whether Belleplain or boreal forest, are great for learning not only songs, but also chips, flight notes too.

We'll next see a Palm Warbler in Cape May in early September, or possibly the end of August if there is a good cold front. It will probably be a brown one - Yellow Palms are not only fewer, but later in fall. Palm Warbler migration in Cape May peaks in late September and October.

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