Friday, May 18, 2012

It's all about the birds, it's all about the people...

Apologies to regular readers of our blog, I can't believe it's been a whole week since I sat down and let you know what's going on in Cape May. Well, what is going on, of course, is that we are at the peak of spring activity here - and that's the peak for both birds and for people.

Saturday May 12th was our 29th annual World Series of Birding event - and what a day that was! Spring migration has been a little hit and miss here this year so far, with little in the way of westerly winds to drift birds our way, but we're used to that and there really isn't a bad day to go birding at Cape May this time of year. Indeed, it's such a great place that they even named a month after it! Despite early worries though, Word Series day was near perfect and we even had a good run of spring migrants right on the day that we needed it! As ever, it was a fabulous day, with 63 teams taking part and turning in some great counts, all of which help to raise money not only for Cape May Bird Observatory and New Jersey Audubon, but also for many other worthy causes by way of sponsorships and pledges.

The results? I thought you might ask! Well, my boss's team won so I'm hoping for an easy week as he's bound to be in a good mood for a while! Yes, Team Zeiss, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Optics and consisting of Pete Dunne, Tom Reed, Will Russell and Luke Seitz, hit the top rung with a total of 207 species logged on the route around New Jersey. Pretty good I reckon! There were other worthy winners too in the various categories, among them team Zen Zugunruhe (don't ask, it's a migration thing!!) who notched up an impressive 173 species just in Cape County, while the Monarchists scoured the small area south of Cape May Canal on bikes and found an amazing 155 species - Cape May has the birds folks! In all, a grand total of 260 species of birds was logged by the various teams in New Jersey - great testament to the bird diversity here in what is often considered to be a heavily-populated state for us Human types.

As for me? Well I was out there heading up the Cape May Century Run and, with a change of route this year, we achieved a count of 146 species - a personal best for me, but I reckon with our new route we can push for 150 next year!! Huge thanks are due to everyone who took part, either as a participant or as a helper with the organisational side of things. If you have never taken part - think about being part of our Century Run next year - it's crazy, of course, but it's just for one day of the year, everyone has survived it so far and it all goes towards the greater good!

With another World Series safely behind us, we now find ourselves plunged headlong into Spring Weekend and our Cape Maygration festival. Yet again the streets, fields, woods and marshes (not to mention the backbays!) echo with the sound of happy birders, just being out there and enjoying the natural world. It is particularly good to see so many new faces coming to Cape May for the first time, having taking the plunge and dived headlong into birding in the past 12 months or so. We welcome you all - so far it's been fun, it can only continue to be so!!

Recent Reports
Bird news has come thick and fast this past few days so here's a quick round-up of what has reached my ears. Typically for the time of year, Mississippi Kites have continued to make the news, with the open skies overlooking the Rea Farm on Stevens Street being prime location for them. Up to three appeared there on May 10th and further sightings have been made since then, according to weather conditions. Generally an element of NW winds creates the best conditions to see these birds as they hunt dragonflies over the treetops. Both Broad-winged and Red-shouldered Hawk have been seen thermalling with the kites too.

The usual spring competition between Heislerville in Cumberland County and Brigantine (Forsythe NWR) in Atlantic County has been going on, with Brigantine weighing in with a Curlew Sandpiper on 11th, the day after Heislerville had a Glaucous Gull on 10th. The latter was somewhat controversial at first as Don Freiday had seen and photographed a very interesting, very pale, American Herring Gull there which at first had been thought to be a Glaucous Gull. But photos confirmed the gull on 10th was a different bird and a good, white-washed, third-summer Glaucous. Heislerville had its own Curlew Sandpiper on 13th, which was joined the next day by a White-faced Ibis and a Wilson's Phalarope then four Black-necked Stilts showed up there on 16th.

White-faced Ibises have continued in the news with one noted at Stipson Island Road on 11th while Eurasian Collared Doves seem to finally be making their mark in the region with three continuing at Cape May Point, one at Heislerville (found by Cornell Lab of Ornithology's World Series Team on a scouting mission) on 11th, one at Indian and West Street in Cape May on 15th and two flying east over the South Cape May Meadows on 16th. A Sooty Shearwater was reported flying past Stone Harbor Point on 13th, single Black Terns were at Cape May Point on 12th and Thoroughfare Island on 16th, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was seen briefly at Hidden Valley off New England Road on 17th while today (18th) two Mississippi Kites have again been gracing our skies around the point.

In general, winds have not favored mass movements of birds through Cape May, but there is still much to enjoy. Horseshoe Crab numbers are building nicely along the bayshore from Miami Beach north to Reed's Beach (and no doubt onward into Cumberland County) and will most likely peak with the New Moon around the 19th; though shorebirds are slow to build up there at present, there are good numbers of Red Knot to be seen right now at Nummy's Island, along with plenty of Short-billed Dowitchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, Whimbrel and so much more. Heislerville - of course! - is proving fabulous once again - though things were slow due to a tricky sluice gate that couldn't be opened properly. I'm told that this has been fixed now so there are shorebirds a-plenty to be seen there.

Belleplain has all its usual goodies in place, including a Whip-poor-will that we had calling loudly right at Sunset Bridge on World Series day. Bobolinks have been few and far between this year, but at least 15 were along Sumner Avenue just south of Woodbine on 12th, along with a singing Eastern Meadowlark.