Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ospreys, Boat Trips & Migrants

The lack of bird news in Cape May of late has on occasion had me checking that my phone is still working - I almost got to the point of forgetting the hotline number, but luckily such things are pre-programmed these days! And yet, there are migrants out there, as our Wednesday morning walk discovered. Standing in the state park parking lot before the walk, there was a steady trickle of shorebirds moving through; mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers and Short-billed Dowitchers, but also a scattering of others. Bunker Pond gave us a nice selection to enjoy, including both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, some very spotty Spotted Sandpipers and two smart adult Stilt Sandpipers. Another group of six Stilt Sandpipers flew in towards the end of our walk making eight overall - a nice count for here. Small groups of Glossy Ibises drifted past us and a snow blanket of Forster's and Common Terns was spread across the pond. Songbirds were in evidence too, with Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and at least three Yellow Warblers present, while a Downy Woodpecker flying down the dunes was surely on the move to somewhere else!
But the real proof of bird movement comes when you re-visit a site and things have changed and that happened three times today as I needed to return to the state park for a variety of reasons. On the second visit, the Stilt Sandpiper count had dropped from eight to two but a Roseate Tern had appeared. On the third visit, the tern numbers were at their highest and Common Terns in particular were thick on the ground - they tend to move earlier in the fall than Forster's Terns.

If you are looking for a real treat at the moment, I'd strongly recommend going out on a boat trip into the back bays to see the Ospreys, which really are having a great year this year. Bob Lubberman took me out yesterday (on the appropriately-named Osprey!), along with Tom Reed, in part to check on a possible Long-billed Curlew seen the day before (of which we found no sign), but also so that I could get a feel for what people are seeing on the boat trips at present. We found a nice scattering of Whimbrel and a good range of all the expected shorebirds for this time of year including some pre-migratory gatherings of Eastern Willets, while the weather made for a fabulous trip. But it was the Ospreys that really stole the show. It seemed that nearly every nest had three youngsters, while nearly every available spot had a nest! At one point I did a quick 360 and counted 19 occupied nests - from a single spot! Even an old, tumble-down hunter's lodge had been reclaimed by the birds, with an Osprey nest sat proudly on the roof.

Whilst I snapped away with the old Canon camera as usual, I thought I would accompany this post with some photos from Jane Ellison which caught the magic of it all out there.

Lunch is served! Two adults plus three youngsters makes for a very busy platform. [photo by Jane Ellison]

Two youngsters get help with some tasty morsels. Note the pale fringes to the upperpart feathers on the youngsters - an easy way to tell them from the plain-backed adults. [Photo by Jane Ellison]

Between meals, there's time for some wing-stretching. This youngster is well on its way to taking its first shaky flight. [Photo by Jane Ellison]

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