Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Than A Moorhen!

Shortly before 6:30PM this evening, Tom Reed received word of a probable Purple Gallinule at the plover ponds at Cape May Point State Park on Saturday evening. Three of our keen regulars had been taking an evening walk, spotted what appeared to be a Common Moorhen and quickly realised there was no racing stripe down the side... Some of us were well into a meal at one of our favorite crab shacks, so Tom dutifully did the honors and graciously waited until we had finished eating before re-finding the bird at the same location this evening. It appeared to go to roost in a line of bayberries at the north-west corner of the second pond, so hopefully will be around tomorrow morning.

Also at the point today, the itinerant Wood Stork put in an appearance over Stephens Street and was also seen from the Hawkwatch Platform before disappearing to the north. A Cattle Egret was on the railing at Bunker Pond with the terns and up to three Roseate Terns are being seen variously around the point - try the South Cape May Meadows or the stone jetties off St Peter's as most likely venues for them. At least three Wilson's Storm-petrels and a Brown Pelican were off St Peter's on Saturday morning and up to four Royal Terns and a scattering of Black Skimmers continue around the beaches.

Somewhat off-beat was a Blackburnian Warbler singing in residential streets in Villas today, while a scattering of Willow Flycatchers can be heard singing from scrubby corners, including Pond Creek Marsh, Cape May Point State Park and the Coastguards Unit in the last couple of days.

Following up on some future ideas for CMBO walks, I was invited to have a look around the Coastguard Unit with our man on the spot Chris Hajduk. Chris showed me an amazing American Robin that has been there for a couple of months now and appears to be a rather bizarre, black-and-white bird. The highlight of any walk we may be able to do there in the future will be a visit to Poverty Beach, where interesting birds are often to be found lurking among the wooden pilings. On Saturday, a rather pale and heavily-abraded White-winged Scoter was there with a mottly collection of young Double-crested Cormorants.

The appearance of this American Robin certainly puts it in the 'that ain't right' category! This bird is singing and maintaining a territory in coastal scrub on the Cape May Coastguard Unit [photos by Mike Crewe]

Also in the 'that ain't right' category is this Great Black-backed Gull, one of several currently nesting in some pretty peculiar places at the Coastguards Unit. Most are up on flat roofs but this bird chose a very vulnerable spot. Chris Hajduk has roped the site to give the birds a little protection from anyone thinking of cutting the corner into the parking lot! [photos by Mike Crewe]

The Great Black-backed Gulls breeding at the Coastguards Unit are part of a common trend found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, where the species is progressively spreading southward as a breeding species. In New Jersey, the first recorded breeding was as recent as 1966, while on the other side of the Herring Pond, Great Black-backs have been recently found breeding in southern Morocco, apparently alongside the rather similar Kelp Gull which has been gradually spreading northward from South Africa.

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