Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Come to where the birds are!

Cape May is really starting to buzz with bird activity now. My Wednesday morning walk is my one opportunity a week to get out to the state park and see what's happening there - and there was certainly plenty of action today! At least three Stilt Sandpipers, an Eastern Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, several Short-billed Dowitchers, both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and the usual peeps were all on Bunker Pond and we had the nice sight of a party of three Solitary Sandpipers flighting right past the lighthouse. The first juvenile Common Tern of the year was on Bunker Pond too, along with several Black Skimmers and a nice mix of herons, egrets and Glossy Ibises. Young birds are very evident around the Plover Ponds right now with lines of Tree Swallows sitting on the rope fences and parties of Purple Martins in the treetops, with most of them being youngsters getting their wings all geared up for the long southward haul. For full lists of the birds being seen on our regular weekly walks, visit our Field Trips Reports via the link at the top of this page.

And why so many swallows gathering here? Well come on down and take a look at the sky - it's full of dragonflies!! Everybody is talking about dragonflies right now, and it's not surprising; from Beach Avenue right across to Sunset Beach, dragonflies are flying in their thousands. Up Washington Mall, all along the beach fronts, even up the Parkway, dragonflies are heading north in huge numbers. So what is happening? These are all migratory species; species that breed in the south then head north once ponds in the hot southern states begin to dry out. The main species at the moment are Swamp Darners - our largest dragonfly here in Cape May County - and Spot-winged Gliders, a reddish-brown species with big, cherry red eyes. Along with them are good numbers of yellowy-brown Wandering Gliders and a few Green Darners with their bright blue abdomens. Most interesting for me was the surprising number of Comet Darners. In my three years here to date, I reckon I have seen about 10 Comet Darners - I saw at least another 20 just today! Comet Darners are fabulous beasts, they are big, with bright apple green thoraxes and brilliant scarlet abdomens and are really inpressive. Three of them spent all afternoon hawking outside my office window but the most annoying thing is, I don't have a photograph of one yet! These beasties seem always to be on the wing and really don't like to hang around for a snapshot.

So what do we think of all these dragonflies - good or bad? Well good of course, because many dragonfly species just love eating mosquitoes! So let's look after them while they are here. They are big and a bit funky-looking but they won 't do you any harm and, just to allay the most common fear, no they won't sting you - they don't have a sting!