Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November - a time to be out there!

There's certainly a feeling that 'the season' is over at Cape May on the last day of October; the tourists and birders finally drift away, CMBO's program of walks and events starts to wind down in earnest and it can be tricky finding somewhere to eat out during the week. And yet those of us who live here know about - November! It's an exciting time; every songbird you see might be your last one of that species for the year - unless it's an incoming Snow Bunting, then it's even better - your first-of-season! Ducks are pouring by offshore, along with Northern Gannets and a scattering of loons and grebes and there's always that slight chance that you are going to find the big one! That major rarity that puts your name into the record books for all time!

Today is one of those other outstanding November days; no rarity outside my window, but a major migration event. Pretty much right from the moment I got up this morning, there's been a high-pitched ringing in my ears. No, not tinitis, but the calls of Cedar Waxwings, and I can still hear them now, hundreds of them, right outside the office window, laying into every berry bush and tree they can get to. On a fairly quick walk round the state park and a short drive past Lake Lily I reckon I set my eyes on some 5,000 Cedar Waxwings. I'm told that flocks are scattered throughout the county as far north as Goshen at least, along with similar numbers of American Robins. Just being out there is truly spectacular right now.

So what's been happening these past few days? Well, the Avalon Seawatch - as might be expected - has been producing a lot of good birding with highlights including three Red-necked Grebes on 12th and the same day producing a fabulous passage of Buffleheads, Green-winged Teal and Greater Scaup. So far today, the highlight there has been a fabulous inshore movement of Northern Gannets - and an American Coot on the sea. The latter is more interesting than it may at first seem, since most coot species really don't seem to enjoy saltwater at all and seeing one on the open sea is not a common event. Still on November 12th, a dapper male Eurasian Wigeon turned up on Lighthouse Pond and is still currently present and well worth seeing, three Snow Buntings on South Cape May beach increased to eight this morning and three Baltimore Orioles were seen on a single lot on Lincoln Avenue at Cape May Point. The same afternoon, a male Wilson's Warbler was on the north side of 6th Avenue in West Cape May and two Fox Sparrows were the first-of-season for the Northwood Center. Highlights on the 13th included a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the state park, two Short-eared Owls at Jake's Landing and a flock of 80 Snow Buntings at Stone Harbor Point.

The two or three Eurasian Collared Doves are presumably still present at the point, but there has been no report of the White-winged Dove since November 12th. Hummingbirds remain in the news with a Ruby-throated in Villas on 13th, while the New England Road bird has so far refused to give itself up totally to the identification brigade, though Rufous seems most likely. Single Cave Swallows were reported on 14th and 15th and single Nashville Warblers on the same two dates. My own House Sparrow flock in the side yard attracted two adult White-crowned Sparrows on 13th and a Dickcissel on 14th.

This smart, adult male Eurasian Wigeon can currently be found most reliably on the west half of Lighthouse Pond. At least one female remains (seemingly paired to a local!) but tends to commute between Lighthouse Pond and Bunker Pond, making it tricky to pin down sometimes.

Karl Lukens did a good job getting this shot of the Selasphorus hummingbird on Cape Island - here seen at Foster Avenue. The appearance of molt in the upperparts and the pattern on the cheeks seem to suggest that this is an adult female rather than a young bird. The rufous at the base of the tail (which rules out Ruby-throated) can be seen here, while that white-tipped outer tail feather looks pretty broad and may be enough to rule out Allen's but perhaps not the highly unlikely yet not impossible Broad-tailed Hummingbird. This bird is still present today.

One of three Baltimore Orioles found together at Cape May Point by Chuck Crunkleton on November 12th [photo by Tony Leukering].

Snow Buntings are putting in a good showing at the moment. Tom Johnson captured these two images of a bird feeding on Beach Goldenrod seeds at South Cape May Beach on November 6th.

House Sparrows may not be popular, but if you have a resident flock in your yard, they may well bring in a few strays for you! This Dickcissel appeared in my own yard on 13th [photo by Mike Crewe].

When it's raining Cedar Waxwings, you don't mind getting wet! Numbers of these wonderful birds are at least into five figures today... [photo by Mike Crewe]

With so many Cedar Waxwings around at the moment, it's worth keeping an eye out for birds with orange instead of yellow tail tips. Such birds crop up fairly regularly (though not always as spectacularly-colored as this one!) and it is believed that the color change is due to pigmentation in the birds food at the time that the feathers are forming. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

No comments: