First the real big news, in case you didn't already hear; Jim Dowdell (he of the Ivory Gull and so many other good birds!) had the amazing fortune to have a Pileated Woodpecker fly over the South Cape May Meadows on Sunday morning. Though people were out looking, the bird inevitably disappeared; remarkably however, Jim saw the bird again in flight some 20 minutes later, heading towards the lighthouse. I can't help but picture it flying right past my office window whilst the Northwood Center was closed on Sunday!! Whilst on woodpeckers, it's worth mentioning the Red-headed Woodpecker which put in an appearance on the Sunday morning Higbee's Beach walk; this species has become very scarce at Cape May and any sighting you may have of one anywhere in South Jersey is worth reporting.
It's been a nice busy period with common migrants continuing to set up territories and much bird song now in evidence. Tom Reed sent me some great census counts from Belleplain State Forest:
Saturday April 23rd:
Ovenbird 87, Black-and-white Warbler 31, White-eyed Vireo 17, Pine Warbler 36, Yellow-throated Warbler 4, Worm-eating Warbler 6, Hooded Warbler 2, Wood Thrush 3, Blue-headed Vireo 1, Louisiana Waterthrush 3, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 24, Chipping Sparrow 26, Tufted Titmouse 53, Carolina Chickadee 34, Eastern Towhee 29.
Sunday April 24th:
Ovenbird 186, Black-and-white Warbler 62, Worm-eating Warbler 32, Great Crested Flycatcher 9, Hooded Warbler 8, Prothonotary Warbler 2, Blue-winged Warbler 1, Louisiana Waterthrush 2, Pine Warbler 57, Yellow-rumped Warbler 46, Red-eyed Vireo 6, Blue-headed Vireo 4, White-eyed Vireo 31, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 55, Wood Thrush 13, Scarlet Tanager 2, Acadian Flycatcher 1, Blue Grosbeak 1.
One thing is for sure - the Ovenbirds are in now!
Louisiana Waterthrushes can be elusive and hard to see (but please don't go off trails in search of them, there's rather more birdwatchers than Louisiana Waterthrushes in Belleplain!). Occasionally though, time and place come together nicely, as it did for Karl Lukens here after one of this weekend's Belleplain walks.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at its nest in Belleplain State Forest on Sunday [photo by Roger Horn].
Cape May Point seemed to get progressively quieter for birds over the Easter period as we await the next wave of incoming migrants, but the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher remained through Monday and gave much pleasure to its admirers, while at least two Virginia Rails were heard calling in the meadows. At The Beanery, Vince Elia reported Broad-winged Hawk, Baltimore Oriole, Prothonotary Warbler and Warbling Vireo on Sunday, as well as a getting-late Rusty Blackbird. And talking of getting late, a Pine Siskin at the Northwood Center on Monday was certainly unexpected! The Glaucous Gull was reported at least to Monday and may still be in the area around 2nd Avenue jetty on the beach front.
Freshly arrived at Karl Lukens feeder, a fine male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
Tony Leukering, Glen Davis and I checked out a few butterfly and dragonfly locations this weekend and found good numbers of early-season darners now arriving - though both Harlequin and Springtime Darners should be out now, they are very hard to tell apart unless you get a good look at a perched individual (we didn't!). Will Kerling recorded 16 species of butterfly on one of his regular count sites recently and this is certainly a good time for elfins, Falcate Orange-tip and other early season aspecies. I've seen Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Gray Hairstreak and Pearl Crescent over the last few days and both American Ladies and Common Buckeyes are now pushing up from the south. Warmer days bring out the reptiles too!
This Black Racer put on a fine mock-rattlesnake display, vibrating its tail in the leaf litter to great efffect [photo by Mike Crewe].
There are no venomous snakes in Cape May County, but Northern Water Snakes can turn agressive if you try to handle them [photo by Will Kerling].
Frosted Elfin at Lizard-tail Swamp. Best told from the more common Henry's Elfin by the black spot in the submarginal pale band on the hind wing and by the white line on the forewing which forms a continuous wavy line on Henry's and a series of disjunct white dashes on Frosted [photo by Mike Crewe].