Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Drifters and Loafers

At this time of year, a few drifters and loafers can be expected around Cape May Point and it's a pretty good time to essentially expect the unexpected. So what are they? Well, for me, drifters are birds that aren't breeding and therefore have no reason to be tied to one spot - thus they drift around and often turn up outside of the normal breeding range. These are usually one of two things; either they are first-summer (second calendar-year) birds that are not breeding yet so spend their first summer just 'hanging out', or they are birds that have had their breeding season cut short, perhaps by the eggs or young being taken by a predator, the nest washed out or blown down by bad weather or some other form of bad luck.

Loafers are birds that are usually young birds not yet in breeding condition and therefore having no need to head off to breeding grounds elsewhere. They are usually species that have wintered with us and just stay in the area. I guess drifters become loafers once they decide to stay for a while, or remain drifers if they wander off! Recent drifters included the Magnificent Frigatebird last week, as well as the Roseate Tern seen at the South Cape May Meadows on Monday morning. Loafers include Lesser Black-backed Gull and White-winged and Surf Scoters that Chris Hajduk reported on Monday from Poverty Beach. Chris works for the Coastguards so has the privilege of being able to visit Poverty Beach regularly. If you wish to look for birds there, remember it is a closed beach so you will need to scope from the public beach to the south, at the north end of Cape May beachfront.

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