Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Weekend Of Good Birding

It really was a weekend of contrasts this weekend and if you missed out, it may be because you were as confused as the weathermen clearly were as to just exactly what the weather was going to do at Cape May and how it would affect your birding!

Whether to go out and bird is a decision we often make after looking at the local weather forecast - this forecast from Sunday shows that they really couldn't make their minds up as to what was going to happen!! (In the event, neither figure was correct - it was somewhere in between on Monday!)

Friday saw the weekend start in good fashion with Beth Ciuzio reporting a Lousiana Waterthrush at Lake Nummy in Belleplain State Forest and the following day Dave Lord reported a Black-and-white Warbler from near Tarkiln Pond along Weatherby Road. Sam Galick found a Northern Goshawk on Stimpson Island Road (not far from Eldora on the bayshore) and followed it with news that at least three Black-headed Gulls are still present at East Point.

Sunday really felt like spring - though it depended where you were! News came thick and fast from Belleplain with Don Freiday, Janet Crawford and Karen Johnson all reporting good birds, including Solitary Sandpiper, Blue-headed Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler, Ovenbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and singing Eastern Towhees and Yellow-throated Warblers. Don also reported a singing Fox Sparrow at Lake Nummy. The southern half of the peninsula remained rather more quiet, though Tony Leukering and I had a pair of Common Eiders on the bay off Miami Beach.

Monday had shown promise weatherwise (depending on which part of the forecast you read!) but in the event, fog clouded the issue in more ways than one! Vince Elia found three Common Yellowthroats at the state park. After the fog had lifted, an hour at St Peter's produced a nice Northern Gannet flight with at least 130 birds coming out of the bay while we were there, along with a movement of Surf and Black Scoters, three Long-tailed Ducks, a small passage of Common Loons and a few skeins of Double-crested Cormorants.

The gracefulness of Northern Gannets perhaps makes them the nearest we can regularly get to watching albatrosses in the Northern Atlantic. I never tire of watching them arc around Cape May Point [photo by Mike Crewe].

The real bonus at Cape May Point comes when the Northern Gannets start cutting the corner! This bird is coming out of the bay and you can see its right eye - that means as I stand on the tideline, it's behind me!! This photo actually gives a rare opportunity (at Cape May at least) to see the gular stripe - the black line which runs down the center of the throat from the base of the bill. On Northern Gannet it's relatively short. Cape Gannet, from South Africa, has a long gular stripe which comes well down onto the front of the neck. [Photo by Mike Crewe.]

I checked Villas WMA on Sunday morning and found that the gates are now open and the demolition of the old buildings there is now complete. Some peculiar rearrangement of the paved walkways is going on but otherwise the site is open for birding again so do drop in. Currently, at least two pairs of Eastern Bluebirds are showing interest in the boxes and Chipping Sparrows and Pine Warblers are in fine song.

Sometimes you take a photo and it doesn't come out as a prize-winner - but you like it just the same! This male Eastern Bluebird at Villas WMA took off as my camera went click, but I kinda like the feeling of movement - sometimes blurryness is good! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Now is a good time to get to grips with the elfins. Henry's Elfins are out in good numbers at the moment - look for the little white spot on the hind wing and the lack of a dark spot in the pale, outer band on the hindwing. The lack of white would make it a Brown Elfin; the presence of a dark spot would make it a Frosted Elfin [photo by Mike Crewe].

Monday rounded off with two Cattle Egrets reported along Route 47, about a mile south of the CMBO Goshen Center and the second Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the year in the area.

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