Friday, February 4, 2011


I'm not a particular fan of winter (though I do admit that winter in Costa Rica is just fine), and my usual mindset once December rolls around is, "Once Christmas Bird Count season is done, let's just skip ahead to mid-March." So, you can imagine my joy at experiencing my first sign of spring this week. You might be thinking that that sign occurred on Wednesday when the thermometer here in Cape May flirted with 60 degrees F. Well, while I certainly enjoyed my brief toodle around Cape May Point that afternoon in the sun while wearing short sleeves (and nothing over them!), my first sign occurred earlier in the week. In fact, it occurred on Sunday, when I saw a flock of nine Northern Pintail.

Now, as Northern Pintail winters here in at least some numbers most years, one might wonder whether the mushrooms on the pizza that I'm eating are hallucigenic or not. I don't think that they are, but let me explain further. This flock was flying in a northward direction.

Still not convinced of my sanity? I agree that if one is on the Point and sees a local flock of Northern Pintails moving around, there are not many directions other than north for the birds to move locally without leaving the state. However, I maintain that the direction is critical to my joy because, you see, this flock was not on the Point, it was over the Atlantic Ocean off Delaware. In fact, it was miles out to sea. Over the Atlantic Ocean. Heading north.

I would find it difficult to imagine that a flock of Northern Pintails that is just moving locally would find itself miles out to sea. Over the Atlantic Ocean. Heading north.

My conclusion, and I gotta believe that it's right, was that this flock was in active spring migration! Miles out to sea. Over the Atlantic Ocean. Heading north. Yippee!

Northern Pintail is a very early spring migrant, with much of the species' passage at this latitude occurring in February. So, with this portentous sighting, could Laughing Gulls, Baltimore Orioles, and Wilson's Storm-Petrels be that far behind?

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