Friday, January 7, 2011

Winter Birding Cape May Style

With the snow we've been having of late, it's easy to forget for a moment that Cape May is actually quite mild in winter, especially when compared with typical winter weather further north in New England and Canada. And that's exactly why the Chosen Land of Cape May is not only a great migration destination for birders, but also a great winter one also. Being somewhat office-bound of late, I've been relying on messages from others to keep me informed on what is about, but that just means I'm going to be more than ready to get out on our Winter Specialties tour, Jan 15-16th, which is little more than a week away now (and we still have just a few places left if you're quick!). So here's a few tasters of what is out there right now...

This winter is currently proving to be a good one for American Pipits at Cape May. Some years there are good numbers, some years they seem to pass us by. This is often a bird detected by call as it passes all too quickly overhead, so it is always nice to get a roadside bird like this one from time to time...

Of course, what you feel is a good bird probably depends on where you come from! Fox Sparrows are plentiful in winter at Cape May and were much enjoyed by visitors here from Colorado recently. And, hey, they are good birds!

We can't guarantee book-end American Woodcocks like these two, but Cape May is certainly an exceptionally good place to get daytime views of this often elusive species.

It's to the beaches and back bays that one invariably heads at some point on a winters' day birding and many land-locked birders are delighted by Cape May's very friendly Purple Sandpipers.

The sheltered back bays are a great place to get close-up views of loons too - here a Red-throated Loon near Stone Harbor.

And one thing is for sure, whenever I can get out in the winter, I don't miss any opportunity to go and visit one of the flocks of scoter wintering locally. There's something really special about them, particularly if you take a moment to just listen to those amazing, whistling, coutship calls. I also often ponder on just what that Surf Scoter bill is all about - do the ladies really find it attractive?!!

While out on the barrier islands, there is always the possibility of bumping into an itinerant flock of Snow Buntings....

....and if there's an onshore wind, it's amazing how close the Northern Gannets will come!

Yes, winter birding here is pretty special and, while we never broadcast the location of daytime owl roosts, so as to give them some peace during this difficult time of year, one sometimes just chances on one of those lucky life moments - and one hopes that one hasn't forgotten one's camera!!! [All photos by Mike Crewe]

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