Friday, December 2, 2011

Painted Bunting, Bird News & Some Record-breaking Insects

Hot news today involves the discovery of a stunning adult male Painted Bunting at private feeders along Bayshore Road, just north of the Hidden Valley Ranch turn. At least, I say hot news, as it transpires that the bird was first photographed by a curious home-owner on Monday! Such situations always help to put things in context and remind us that there must surely be an aweful lot of birds that escape the avid rarity-hunters eyes! If you go looking for this bird over the weekend, please do respect the privacy of local home-owners and obey any on-site instructions.

Always a stunner! The adult male Painted Bunting on Bayshore Road today [photo by Karl Lukens].

Other recent news involves a good run of birds at The Beanery - which included Yellow-breasted Chat, two Blackpoll Warblers, Lincoln's Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler and four Palm Warblers, followed by four Baltimore Orioles there today. The Cape Island Preserve Ash-throated Flycatcher was last reported on November 30th but may still be worth looking for while the weather remains mild. The Rufous Hummingbird was still at our Goshen store on route 47 on November 30th at least. The state park continues to provide good views of parties of Lesser Scaup along with the other expected species there, as well as up to four Eurasian Wigeon (two male/two female at various times) and a female Redhead. One Eurasian Wigeon was briefly reported from Lake Lily too.

Blackpoll Warblers have certainly made the bird news here at Cape May with higher than expected numbers hanging around through November and feeding heavily on Porcelainberry fruits. [Photo by Tony Leukering]

A single Barn Swallow was at the state park on November 30th and at least three Cave Swallows were there on December 1st with a handful of Tree Swallows. A Dickcissel was reported flying over Cape May Point by Sam Galick this morning and Chuck and MJ Slugg enjoyed three Red-headed Woodpeckers at Cox Hall Creek WMA today. These birds have been hanging there for a while now and seem to be best looked for pretty much in the very middle of the site. While raptor passage is pretty much over for the season now, a few birds still find there way down to the point and it was intriguing to see some 80 Turkey Vultures and five Black Vultures thermaling over the point today.

Tom Reed continues to feed me little gems of information from the Avalon seawatch and sightings there today included two Red-necked Grebe, Harlequin Duck, King Eider and Razorbill. Further afield, it was nice to hear from Loralea Kirby at Egg Harbor Township, just outside our usual reporting area in Ocean County. Loralea had both Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a female Indigo Bunting in her yard on November 29th.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Egg Harbor Township [photo by Loralea Kirby].

Indigo Bunting at Egg Harbor Township on November 29th [photo by Loralea Kirby].

Record-breaking Insects.
Will Kerling has done more than most in furthering our knowledge of butterflies around Cape May this year and has also been known to turn his hand to dragonflies and damselflies. Aware of published data on latest dates for various species, Will and I have both been looking at trying to set new latest dates for any species that may happen to be around. Being from the UK, the very act of looking for such insects in December is pretty weird to me but, with temperatures not exactly warm at around 50F today, we did check a few places in bright sunshine and little wind at lunchtime and we did set some records - or at least the insects did! Will Kerling and Sam Galick both independently recorded Sachems today, while I found a very tatty-looking Fiery Skipper in Bill and Eddie Schul's front yard (unbeknown to me at the time, Bill had already left me a message about this individual, as well as two Monarchs). As far as we are aware, these constitute the first records of any skipper species for December in New Jersey - though there will of course be people with notebooks from earlier years still waiting to be published!! Bring out your sightings and we'll turn them into records!

Fiery Skipper at Cape May Point today [photo by Mike Crewe].

Turning to dragonflies and damselflies, the excellent New Jersey Odes website gives just one species as recorded in New Jersey in December - the ubiquitous Green Darner. Three damselfly species known to be common around Cape May Point all have latest dates of November 1st, so it seemed there was work to be done here! This is a fairly new data set so record-setting is perhaps not too difficult at the moment, but Will and I are still both pleased to have kept tabs on these three species of damselfly throughout November, with two of them making it into December. Pictures follow...

Male Rambur's Forktail at the Plover Pond on TNC property at the South Cape May Meadows, December 2nd [photo by Mike Crewe].

Male Familiar Bluet at the Plover Pond on TNC property at the South Cape May Meadows, December 2nd [photo by Mike Crewe]. Will Kerling also found one at Lighthouse Pond in Cape May Point State Park.

Male Citrine Forktail at TNC's South Cape May Meadows, November 26th [photo by Mike Crewe]. This species still eludes us in December at the moment!

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