Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Being Back

Haven't been here in a while - literally not here in Cape May, where we presently enjoy a badly needed soaking rain, and also not here writing on View from the Cape. Our most Cape May-relevant sighting out on Washington's Olympic peninsula (where I was leading a tour with Mark Garland) was none other than Ashley Green, who some may remember as a hawk watch interpretive naturalist two years ago, and who is returning this fall as an interpreter again.

It's getting to be that time. Tom Johnson is already up on the Higbee Beach WMA dike conducting the Morning Flight count each morning - I hear there was a nice Bobolink movement yesterday morning - and Bill Schuhl mentioned he had a Northern Harrier in Cape May yesterday, right on time for an early migrant. The official hawk watch starts September 1, and so does this year's group of interpretive naturalists. If you haven't heard, Melissa Roach will be back as official hawk counter, and last year's seawatch naturalist Steve Kolbe will return September 22 as seawatch counter.

All of which reminds one it is time to look at the weather forecast a little more closely. Did you notice the forecast northwest winds for late Thursday night/Friday morning, relating to a complex series of weather fronts? Just in time for the 7:00 a.m. Friday Higbee Beach walk, which I'll be leading with the usual crew of CMBO associate naturalists. Should be migrants, if the forecast is right. Thinking about August cold fronts reminds me of one last year on August 25, which coincided with my day to swing count at the dike and produced a marvelous flight of over 3,000 birds, including 352 American Redstarts.

On being back. . .my bike ride yesterday morning featured a quiet landscape, with songs from birds like Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Buntings largely absent from places I'd been hearing them before I left two weeks ago. I see from Tony's Laughing Gull photos below that some of the laughers are white-headed now, and many are well along in wing molt (the bird in his bottom photo is missing three inner primaries, it appears). Which reminds me of a fun photo I got along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. . .

[Washington last week. If you're a gull weirdo, this is a cool photo. You can get to Mew Gull on the bill, but what's fun is the molt. The bird is going from second cycle to third cycle, and it's growing in adult-like inner primaries, quite contrasty with the rest of the wing. There is no accepted record of Mew Gull for NJ, yet. Click to enlarge photos.]

We've been doing a fair bit of fine point "tertial talk" discussion of i.d. and aging on bird photos here on the blog, which is great when you're looking at a photo or a particularly cooperative bird, and it certainly makes one a better observer to look at fine details. But Cape May birding is often about birds in flight (we've got a whole workshop on it) and jizz i.d., like separating the accipiters. . .
[Washington last week. This was above Hurricane Ridge in the Olympics, but there's no better place and time to see this kind of thing than Cape May in fall. It seemed clear to me that the Cooper's Hawk (top bird) was not playing around - it was hunting the Sharp-shinned Hawk with breakfast in mind, something the sharpie of course resisted. Notice how big the Coop's head looks, and for a fine point, compare the legs and feet of the two. Coop's have noticeably thicker legs and bigger feet than sharpies, something you can notice on a close bird, say, one that hunts around your feeding station.]

No comments: