Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shorebirds a-hopping still

I sneaked out for a little lunchtime foray today and discovered what I had been missing - Bunker Pond is full of birds! With water levels well down now, there is plenty of marginal mud and good feeding habitat for shorebirds and they are certainly finding it to their liking. Most obvious by far were Least Sandpipers - well over 200 of them, busy on all corners of the pond; but what really caught my eye was a rather spiffy (as Tony Leukering would say!) Semipalmated Sandpiper. Why was it so sharp? Well, it was my first juvenile peep of the year. As would be expected, all of the early returning shorebirds are adults, many of them heading back early because their breeding season is over (maybe they didn't find a mate, maybe a high tide washed out a nest, or a jaeger or Arctic Fox caught them unawares). But here was the first juvenile, identifiable by the neat rows of wing coverts clearly on view and not hidden by slightly uneven-looking scapulars. A sure sign that birds really are heading south from the Arctic now. Bunker pond held much else to enjoy too: 15 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 12 Short-billed Dowitchers, three Semipalmated Plovers, five Lesser Yellowlegs and a Pectoral Sandpiper were all there to be enjoyed, as well as Black Skimmers, a Ring-billed Gull and an assortment of Common and Forster's Terns in all manner of confusing plumages!

Recent CMBO walks continue to get good counts of shorebirds at the South Cape May Meadows too - in particular, you might try our evening sunset walks there as migrant Virginia Rails are starting to appear now. The South Cape May Beach still has late broods of Least Terns and up to 11 Lesser Black-backed Gulls to enjoy.

Small numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers are making their way through Cape May Point [Photo by Karl Lukens].

It's prime time for Sandwich Terns at Cape May now - this bird was on Bunker Pond on 17th [photo by Karl Lukens].