Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Accipiter Tomfoolery, Weird Night Flight, a Few Reports, and a Quote from the Book of David

[Check out how straight the leading edge of the wing is on this Coo. . .oops, Sharp-shinned Hawk. Photos can fool you, but this bird really did adopt a straight-winged posture for a few seconds over the hawk watch platform on Sunday. That's the key - a few seconds. Keep mouth closed and eyes open. Pretty much the only time a Sharpie will give you this look is when winds are very light and there's no thermal to catch, exactly the conditions on Sunday afternoon. This one seemed to be trying to avoid flapping at all costs. It's still got a doinky sharpie head, squared tail, etc. Click to enlarge photos.]

Last night after dark I was out training the pup in the yard and realized there was a sparrow and Yellow-rumped Warbler flight underway - seeps in the night, long breathy White-throated Sparrow seeps, short descending Savannah Sparrow seeps, etc. I texted a few fellow night-listeners and while Tom Johnson said it was quiet over in Cape May City, Michael O'Brien had a similar call volume to mine in West Cape May, about 15/minute. The interesting part of this is the wind and weather were wrong, basically southeast winds, and yet birds were moving.  Birds fly south in the fall, and sometimes the desire is so strong they do it even under adverse conditions, confounding our efforts to predict the next big day.

A few birds of interest were found yesterday - Steve had a male Harlequin Duck go by the Avalon Seawatch with scoters. Sean Fitzgerald (seawatcher of yore) is back in town, and had a couple American Golden-plovers at Cape May County Airport.  I heard about a Sandhill Crane up in Cumberland County, feeding with a flock of Wild Turkeys in a field along County Road 676 near Dividing Creek. I neglected to report Tony Geiger's Hudsonian Godwit on Monday, at North Brigantine Beach.

My latest nighttime project, other than listening to flight calls and puppy training, is reading the "big" Sibley field guide end to end.  David's book is sparse on text, but every now and then you hit a really pithy gem, like this one from page 109, on raptors: "Often an observation that a bird is acting 'weird' provides the first clue of a different species, but these impressions should always be backed up by other characteristics." 

A typically understated truth. It's amazing how often you can ask someone how they knew it was a such-and-such, and all they can say is it was  "weird," or "different," or "felt like a such-and-such." The i.d. might be right, but there's no way to know.

[Here's a sharpie looking like a sharpie: Small head, wings jutting forward at the wrist such that the head seems even smaller and, if this bird was completely wing-on, the head would disappear in the valley between the wrists. At the hawk watch on Sunday. There are still a few places on our last workshop of fall, Cape May With Everything On It (hit the link and scroll down), led by Louise Zemaitis and Michael O'Brien next Monday -Wednesday, November 1-3. No better place, time or leaders for practice on accipiters, and everything else.]

No comments: