Were you at Cape May today? If not, I'm afraid you missed a Cape May Special, a wonderful example of why people come to Cape May year after year, so as to be sure to be here when that really great birding day comes round again.
I have to say, I was expecting Sunday morning to be the next potential big day and a quick look at the observed weather patterns for last night continues to confuse me. Winds were so light they were unmeasurable for most of the night and simply listed as 'calm'; there was apparently even a short period of SE winds! There was also no cold front that we normally associate with a good arrival of birds - instead, temperatures have touched 79F today and it seemed very much as though it should be one of those wonderfully balmy but definitely not birdy days. Be this as it may, the birds decided to move - and move our way! Our regular Friday morning walk was so well attended that we split into two groups, with my group heading 10 yards into the first field and remaining there for an hour and a half without being able to move!! Waves of Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers washed over us and produced the first firework display reactions for some time, as oohs and ahhs rippled through the gathered admirers. It was some time before birds really revealed themselves but when you have groups (yes, groups!) of Red-bellied Woodpeckers competing with the Northern Flickers for your attention and tumbling parties of Cedar Waxwings trilling overhead, the birds in the bushes can wait! A juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker and several Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also rushed through before the treetops were finely brushed with gold from the rising sun and birds began to drop into the leaves. Northern Parulas were joining the previously-mentioned warblers, with scatterings of Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green and Black-and-white Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos and the first big push of Golden-crowned Kinglets of the year. The spectacle of all these birds was fabulous and much appreciated by all; overhead, parties of House Finches and Pine Siskins joined yet another amazing morning for Red-breasted Nuthatches (over 400 over the dike); Rose-breasted Grosbeaks sat up long enough for good scope views, a Summer Tanager was called out by one of the other groups present and we found a late Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. The fields themselves were full of Palm Warblers and Common Yellowthroats and a good mix of White-throated, White-crowned, Clay-colored, Swamp, Savannah and Song Sparrows. Dark-eyed Juncos flashed their white tail feathers at us and one or two Eastern Towhees joined the Brown Thrashers in the thickets.
Reports from elsewhere told similar stories; I heard of good morning flights being noted at Burleigh, Reed's Beach and Goshen; down at the state park, Tom Reed logged some 50 Wood Ducks moving through, as well as a Connecticut Warbler which later showed for a good number of people in the cedars by the Hawkwatch Platform. Tom told me he tallied 130 Peregrines for the day today - a fabulous count of a spectacular bird - and yet another amazing reason to be at Cape May when the birds are in town! As of the time of writing, today's research counts are not up (I imagine that today's Morning Flight counter, Sam Galick, is still a gibbering wreck, huddled up in a corner somewhere and trying to get over today's events) but do go and look at them on our Seasonal Research page to get a fuller picture of today's events. As for tomorrow? Well, SW winds are forecast, but after today, I think that the rulebook went out of the window. Could be the day for a re-orienting rarity to pop out of the woodwork and flaunt itself on the fence at the state park....
See you at the Point!