Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 2 - into October...

It seems that good migration days are not unlike buses - you wait an age for one to come along, then two come along together! Not that we are complaining of course; this weekend has been a real Cape May classic and what is really interesting are the differences. While Saturday was pretty much all about warblers, Sunday had a real hint of October about it and, of course, that month is only just around the corner.

This morning at Higbee Beach was all about woodpeckers - an impressive flight of Northern Flickers swarmed through the trees and in the air space above and with them came a smaller, though equally impressive, number of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. As the light kept across the sky, warblers became the focus of attention again, though this time there was a great wodge of Palm warblers moving through, along with a fair scattering of Yellow-rumped Warblers. At least two Orange-crowned Warblers were reported from the third field and the counters on the dike came up with an impressive seven Connecticut Warblers! Ruby-crowned Kinglets were in far greater numb er than I had noticed yesterday and one or two Golden-crowned Kinglets were calling from the bushes around the parking lot. Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Chipping, Song and White-throated Sparrows and plenty of Eastern Phoebes were all 'late season' birds, but there were 'mid season' birds still around too - Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - and a Northern Rough-winged Swallow later at the state park. Thrushes lurked in the undergrowth and, as usual dropped in before it was light, thus cleverly avoiding being counted at Higbee dike, but local bird banders reported a good run of Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes and a highlight was the discovery of a Bicknell's Thrush, which very obligingly showed all the right identification features for the species - that doesn't always happen!

Perhaps most surprising among all this wonderful activity was the presence of several Purple Finches and Pine Siskins which were clearly already heading southward - not excessively early, but interesting nevertheless and perhaps a sign of a food shortage further north. As so often happens, it's the second day of a north-west front that produces the icing on the cake and for many visiting as well as resident birders, Sunday's highlight was the perky Say's Phoebe that fed actively around the fire heap and even on the roof of Cape May's famous bunker.

Northern Flickers filled the Higbee fields with their golden wings and querulous calls - especially when a marauding Cooper's Hawk or Merlin showed up! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

The amazing pulling power of the aphids on the Siberian Elms continues to wow Cape May birders, as well as providing hungry migrants with plenty of food. This Cape May Warbler was enjoying the feast at Cape May Point on Saturday [photo by Sam Galick].

A juvenile/female Black-throated Blue Warbler - one of many moving through the point this weekend [photo by Sam Galick].

Search among the lichen-covered elm branches and you will find less common treats among the wealth of warbler delights. Tennessee Warblers don't share the gaudy black and yellow designs of many of the other wood-warblers, but have a mossy attractiveness all of their own [photo by Sam Galick].

A beast of a bird! Rose-breasted Grosbeaks headed through Higbee Beach in good numbers on Saturday - this bird was hurtling over the dike and showing off its white primary bases and glorious scarlet underwing [photo by Sam Galick]
Subtlety personified - a Bicknell's Thrush in the hand saves a tortuous walk up Slide Mountain! Note the slightly warmer tone to the primary and tail edges and - especially - the primary coverts. Note also the subtly short-tailed look, the small bill and the overall compact feel of the bird [photo by Mike Crewe].

For comparison with the bird above, here's a Gray-cheeked Thrush, showing an overall colder gray-brown color, grayer cheeks, relatively larger bill and a generally chunkier, larger feel to the bird. The slightly longer tail and longer primary projection were evident at the time but cannot be judged here [photo by Mike Crewe].

A late hanger-on - this Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was at Higbee Beach today (Sep. 30th), along with a good number of Eastern Wood Pewees and Eastern Phoebes. Sibley's Birds of Cape May gives October 1st as a latest date for this species so keep you eyes peeled. Note the strong greenish cast to the upperparts, the rather large-headed look and the yellow wash to the throat and eyering [photo by Mike Crewe].

Say's Phoebe on the dune fence at Cape May Point State Park today - one of these western birds was also reported from Sandy Hook State Park on 27th [photo by Mike Crewe]

Say's Phoebe on the beach bunker, Cape May Point State Park [photo by Mike Crewe].

Say's Phoebe on the bunker. Note the gray upperparts, white fringes to the tertials, contrasting black tail and salmon-washed underparts [photo by Mike Crewe].

Say's Phoebes in flight look overall pale with a white underwing and with a contrasting black tail [photo by Sam Galick].

Say's Phoebe flying over the dunes, Cape May Point State Park. Note the rather long wings and full tail - typical phoebe features [photo by Mike Crewe].