Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stilts, Lessback, Bobwhite + Northbounds of the Landbird Kind

Vince Elia had the Black-necked Stilts in the South Cape May meadows this morning, in the pool east of the east path and then later on the meadows plover pond, a.k.a. the third plover pond if you're counting from the state park. Vince also had a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the beach there.

First thing this morning a Northern Bobwhite trotted across the road in front of my bike out at Norbury's Landing. Funny birds they are, funny to watch, funny in how they pop up here, disappear there. Not so funny how they have declined, however. I just mentioned this bird to Tony Geiger, who also lives in Del Haven, and he heard a bobwhite, maybe this one, this morning.

Michael O'Brien wondered via text message if I had any morning flight at Norbury's. Morning flight, or redirected flight, it is the continued migratory movement of primarily passerines after dawn. In Cape May, regardless of season, morning flight tends to be northbound and often into the wind, and often happens most strongly after cold fronts and northwest winds. We think it involves birds that find themselves over the ocean or bay at dawn, plus, at least in fall, birds that were continuing down the coast, reached the southern tip of Cape May, and continued around the point and up the bay side.

Michael had a few morning flight birds from the dunes at Coral Ave. - a couple Indigo Buntings, Blue Jays, robins, Cedar Waxwings, 3 Boat-tailed Grackles. I hadn't been paying attention until Michael's text, but on the way back north from the ferry terminal (still on my bike), I looked over and caught a second year male Baltimore Oriole paralleling me as it flew north over the treeline hugging the bay. I pedaled hard trying to keep up - we both had a headwind but he handled it much better than I, and I could only keep him in view for about a mile. By watching the cyclecomputer, and the oriole gradually out-distancing me, I could estimate the oriole's ground speed at about 20-22 mph, with the 10-15 mph headwind making his air speed somewhere in the 30's mph. Northbound.

Other birds moving around: Vince had 2 Willets head south over the bay this morning, and I had a Great Egret fly across the bay from the south and land on a jetty in the Villas. Were the Willets failed nesters headed south? And the egret? Herons and egrets cross the bay, going both ways, on and off in summer - e.g. Dave La Puma had a Yellow-crowned Night-heron fly out of Cox Hall Creek and go south across the bay a few days ago. Are these non-breeders, or breeders here, or in Delaware, who figure the fishing's better on the other side? Probably both - non-breeders being free to do what they want, while breeders are more confined to doing what works best. Herons and egrets are certainly known to fly great distances from colonies to feed, e.g. more than 25 miles in Great Egret, but why they would do it when (to a human) there is fine fishing habitat on this side of the bay is a good question. Maybe, as Dave La Puma put it, because they can. We were just outside eating lunch, and Brian Moscatello picked up a Snowy Egret so high that, to the naked eye, it looked, aptly enough, like a tiny glimmering white feather lifted high into the atmosphere by thermals.

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