Monday, September 13, 2010

Meadows Morning

[This Philadelphia Vireo brightened the South Cape May Meadows west path this morning. Click to enlarge photos - and compare with the Tennessee Warbler photo in the September 10 post below. Subtly stockier shape, rounder head, and more deliberate behavior are helpful marks separating the vireo from the warbler. There is a little hook on its bill, too, revealing the vireo-shrike relationship, but that's hard to see in this photo and in the field. Warbling Vireo would be plainer faced, and though Warbling can have yellow below, not this much yellow.]

Besides the Philly V. pictured above, a cooperative Sora and Long-billed Dowitcher were highlights at the South Cape May Meadows, a.k.a. the TNC Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. Solitary Sandpipers were not solitary, with 5 or more there, along with Stilt Sandpiper, yellowlegs, etc. Belted Kingfishers were conspicuous, and an American Kestrel flight was underway along the dunes. The full list is up on field trip reports.

The Black-bellied Whistling-ducks were on Lighthouse Pond west in the state park today, and a fancy drake Wood Duck has been spending time there and (today) in Lighthouse Pond East. A Great Cormorant flew over the hawkwatch today.

Truly, the real story in Cape May today were the Monarch butterflies - over the dunes, on the beach, and hundreds in the state park along the red trail, nectaring on sunflowers.

[Long-billed Dowitcher (head under, center) with two juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers, Cape May Meadows today, viewed from near the tower. "Sooty Dowitcher" would have been a good name for this species - except in breeding plumage, long-billeds are duller, darker gray. This individual is an adult molting to winter plumage - solid gray feathers on the back are new winter, or basic, plumage. Note the very round shape when compared to the short-billed at left, especially evident while feeding, as well as the thick neck. We know the short-billeds are juveniles because of the bright plumage, with broad pale feather edges also making it easy to see how neatly arranged the feathers are, especialy the coverts - new feathers grown all at the same time. once we know they are juvs, we can have a look at the tertials, the feathers covering the wing tips, and see they have strong orangy markings - if these were long-billed juveniles, those tertials would be pale-edged but otherwise plain, and the whole bird would be a lot duller.]

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