Thursday, April 25, 2013

A few more warblers, a little more warmth

Despite some windy conditions overnight, the past couple of days have seen a steady increase in warmer temperatures and a slow but steady increase in warblers trickling through the area. We still await the first real big push as weather conditions haven't been right to send birds our way in any number yet, but sometimes, slow but sure can be nice - it means that each day you add a little bit more to your birding enjoyment, saving some for the next day.

As the weather warms, there has been a noticeable emergence of butterflies and dragonflies. You may have seen from our Field Trips blog that we notched up Springtime Darner and some nice Uhler's Sundragons on our Belleplain walk on Sunday and today at Cox Hall Creek, we added our first Mantled Baskettail of the year. In the butterfly line, Eastern Tailed Blues have clearly came out big time in the last few days and these dazzling blue jewels can be seen in good numbers flying close to the ground in grassy places now. On 24th I saw my first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail of the year, flying casually down Fulling Mill Road, while dusty brown Juvenal's Duskywings are appearing at more and more locations as the week goes by.

Yesterday's Swallow-tailed Kite seems to have finished its day in North Cape May but was not reported today. Blue-headed Vireos are putting on a good show this year with a good number of birds in song now, while at least three Yellow-throated Vireos were singing at Peaslee WMA on 24th. Small parties of Least Sandpipers are feeding at the plover ponds in the state park, Eastern Bluebirds are busy nest-building at both the state park and Cox Hall Creek WMA and the Northwood Center today provided a steady run of interesting birds, including singing Black-and-white, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Also at the Northwood Center was a surprise Pine Siskin yesterday and a superb adult Red-headed Woodpecker today. Further afield, a Wilson's Phalarope was at Heislerville to at least 24th.

The birds are coming!

We're still gathering records of Springtime Darner in Cape May but on present knowledge it appears to be a rather scarce species here, confined to the very north of the county. This individual was seen on our Belleplain Wildlife walk last Sunday [photo by Mike Crewe].

Female Uhler's Sundragon. This species is one of the first dragonfly species to emerge here in the spring and can be found along dirt roads in the Belleplain area [photo by Mike Crewe].

This female Eastern Bluebird has been filling a nestbox at the state park with all manner of twiggy bits and pieces [photo by Mike Crewe].

The purpose-built plover ponds at Cape May Point are currently proving their worth as the local Piping Plovers search the edges for food [photo by Mike Crewe].

A Black-and-white Warbler makes it onto my coffee break list at the Northwood Center today [photo by Mike Crewe].

Today's star turn - a wonderfully colorful Red-headed Woodpecker at the Northwood Center today [photo by Mike Crewe].

One of the highlights of our Wednesday morning walk this week was the point blank view we got of a Cliff Swallow. This bird, along with a gathering of Tree, Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows seemed rather sluggish and perched on fences and even the ground. It seems likely that chilly conditions at the point were hitting the insect populations and swallows were struggling to find food [photo by Mike Crewe].

Now that we are well into April, it is finally time to start seeking out some of our native spring flowers. Swamp-pink still grows at a small handful of locations in Cape May County, but unsustainable use of ground water due to ill-advised building development and loss of habitat are just two reasons why we are losing this fabulous harbinger of spring [photo by Mike Crewe].