Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Simply Spectacular!!

As our week-long Cape Maygration festival of spring birding draws to a close on its final day, it seems appropriate to look back at some of the highlights we've had over this past week - and to apologize for those missing daily posts on the blog - we've just been so busy out there in the field!!

Despite threats of rain every day of the festival, the weather stayed largely dry and it was only really on Monday that we got rained out on a couple of morning walks. Considering that it was a quiet year for migration this year (due to weather conditions) and considering that we don't actually go out of our way to record as many birds as possible, it is testament to the great birding around Cape May that a total of 190 species was recorded by Cape Maygration participants during the course of the week. That's pretty spectacular!

As Program Director, I have the very enviable privilege of working with an amazing army of people who give up their free time as volunteers for Cape May Bird Observatory and I want to pay tribute to them all here, for without them, we simply couldn't run these events. Thank you all of you, you are truly awesome!

And so to the week's highlights. Tony and Tom have already covered the pelagic trip below and made those of us who couldn't go supremely jealous. With up to 50,000 shorebirds at Heislerville this spring, Cumberland County did us proud too and those who went on the programs there enjoyed Curlew Sandpipers and Red-necked Phalarope as well as all the commoner shorebirds, roosting night herons and Lesser Scaup. Belleplain State Forest gave up some superb birds - Summer Tanagers in particular seem to be showy this year, while a fall of warblers up there on Saturday ensured that rainbow colors were enjoyed by our participants. Moving down the peninsula, the back bay boat trips and kayak birding gave people plenty of opportunity to get close to some great flocks of shorebirds, lingering Brant and seemingly endless photo opportunities with Clapper Rails! On the bayshore side, the shorebird watches at Reeds beach produced some of the most spectacular shorebird watching bonanzas that I personally have ever witnessed. Seeing Red Knot so fat with horseshoe crab eggs that they look like little beer barrels almost brings a tear to the eye - you know those guys are going to make it this year. The kite watches? Well, of course it was a gamble, you never know what the weather is going to do, but we hit the jackpot, with Mississippi Kites on all but one of the watches and some days we scored five birds together! With eyes on the skies, other highlights were had too, not least of which was the sight of an adult Bald Eagle talon-grappling with one of last year's youngsters!

As well as the walks, we had the indoor programs too, with a great range of topics covered and a great wealth of knowledge imparted from some of the region's most accomplished naturalists. We hope you enjoyed it and we hope you come back soon. And if you couldn't make this year, we'll see you at the next one - and hey, there's Autumn Migration to look forward to as well!

We were grateful to Gladys the Glaucous Gull for hanging around all week at 2nd Avenue Jetty and becoming a life bird for many people this week. Not sure what fish it's eating but, with a little help from Bob Lubberman (thanks Bob!) I reckon it looks like a Smooth Dogfish.

As well as the shear pleasure of just birding, we of ocurse offerd a range of photography courses, which are grwoing in popularity with the ever-growing ease of digital photography. This was just one of several grteat shots obtained on one of Mike Hannisian's photo walks this week. Our local Purple Martins certainly get plenty of coverage!

One of the least-expected birds this week was this Purple Finch which made it onto the list courtesy of Mike Hannisian's yard feeder during a photo course!

Just in case!! Just in case there were no kites at the Beanery Kitewatches, Dale Rosselet came prepared with one of her own (and yes, that is a picture of a penguin on it!!).

Luckily we did have real kites - Mississippi Kites, which delighted us through most of the week (and Karl Lukens just texted three at the state park still this morning!). [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Our more general natural history walks, which look at beasties and botany as well as birds, drew a good following this year and produced a lot of great sightings. One of my own Belleplain walks provided us with this large moth which, at the time, I thought might be a Cecropia Moth; however, once I had checked at home, I discovered that it is actually a Promethea Moth. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

For me, the undoubted highlight of the week was the amazing spectacle of Red Knots at Reeds Beach - at the weekend, I reckon at least 5,000 Red Knot were there, many of them being well-fattened and getting ready to head north to the Canadian high Arctic. We wish them well and hope to see them next year - or maybe heading south this coming fall. [Photos by Mike Crewe]

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