Monday, May 27, 2013

Kites a-plenty

Mississippi Kites have been headlining the birding world at Cape May this weekend, as an almost unprecedented movement of birds took place through the area. The fun really started on Saturday morning when Vince Elia texted that a flock - yes a flock! - of seven Mississippi Kites was heading south from the Rea Farm toward Cape May Point. Participants of our regular Saturday morning walk at the site were right on hand to witness this wonderful movement of these graceful birds, before the birds reappeared right outside the CMBO Northwood Center. The party of seven birds all headed quickly back north and I managed to get a good look at them as they passed the Northwood Center. Following them back toward the Rea Farm, they soon turned on the speed and I just managed to catch up with a group of five birds as they passed right over my house and headed north over the canal. Five were seen a little while later back in the Bayshore Road, but after lunch numbers began to pick up more and at one time I heard rumors of perhaps 13 different birds in the area.

After lunch I ran across Pat & Clay Sutton and Ward Dasey, all enjoying great kite viewing right from The Beanery parking lot. I spent a short time there with them and before long we had an impromptu hawkwatch set up, with a number of birdwatchers - as well as interested members of the public - stopping to see what was going on. We had two kites set up nicely in a dead tree in the scopes and at one point at least nine and perhaps 10 birds cruised along the treeline. This was all fabulous stuff, but - for me at least - just a little tarnished by the fact that I inadvertently deleted all the frame-filling shots I had when I reformatted my camera card too quickly!! Thanks to Clay for showing a touch of sympathy and emailing me one of his fine shots...

Mississippi Kite over the Beanery on Saturday - typical of the great views we had of these birds as they played the gusty winds that we experienced that day [photo by Clay Sutton].

Another Mississippi Kite cruises over in pursuit of dragonflies for lunch [photo by Mike Crewe].
Raptors can look pretty big when they are aloft with little to measure them against; however, Mississippi Kites are surprisingly small, and this became really aparent to me when one of my local Common Grackles escorted this bird off his patch [photo by Mike Crewe].

Recent Sightings
Late May is shaping up to produce some interesting bird sightings, besides the Mississippi Kites (which are likely to show again tomorrow (fingers crossed!). A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was found in the third field at Higbee Beach WMA late on Saturday and remained into Sunday and a Glaucous Gull was at Heislerville today. Heislerville still holds excellent numbers of shorebirds and it is certainly worth a visit to check for Curlew Sandpiper, one of which has been present for the past few days. Yellow-breasted Chats seemed to be late arriving this spring but are now on territory at regular locations around Cape May Point, while Summer Tanagers seem to be present in good numbers around Belleplain State Forest. Belated news came in this evening of a Gray Kingbird, photographed at Brigantine on May 25th. There have been no reports of the bird so far since that date, but it may well be worth keeping an eye out for if you are headed that way.

Kentucky Warbler is never an easy bird to get on your Cape May list, but small numbers do still turn up in wet woods here with this one currently holding territory in Belleplain State Forest. Keep an ear out for their rather slow, simple but clear song [photo by Mike Crewe].

There has been a spate of Black-necked Stilt sightings this spring, from Heislerville, Brigantine, Corson's Inlet and the South Cape May Meadows - where this bird was photographed today [photo by Mike Crewe].