Monday, May 13, 2013

Nuthatches, kites and more...

Cape May really bounced back today with treats at both ends of the county. South of the canal, there was no news today on yesterday's Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, but a report came in of a Brown-headed Nuthatch seen briefly in the south-west corner of the first field at The Beanery. This follows reports of the same species at the state park a couple of weekends ago, and one heard calling just off Seagrove Avenue last Thursday. All these reports may well refer to the same individual, so it is certainly worth keeping an ear out for the distinctive 'squeeky toy' call of this endearing little bird. There is only two fully documented records of Brown-headed Nuthatch so a lot of people are going to be looking for this one I reckon.

Also at the point today, the Western Grebe was reported off St Mary's and a Cave Swallow was feeding over Lighthouse Pond East with several Cliff Swallows. Meanwhile, up at Belleplain State Forest, a Mississippi Kite showed superbly to an admiring crowd after Matt Webster sent out news of one perched atop a dead tree, right beside Sunset Road. Being in Belleplain myself today, I was actually less than a half mile from the bird when the news broke, so we were able to show this wonderful southern wanderer to the participants of our Spring Shorebirds & Southern Breeders workshop. The kite headlined a great day in the field today as we enjoyed good views of most of the Belleplain specialties and also enjoyed a great afternoon at Heislerville, studying shorebirds and enjoying a session with NJA's research team who were busy continuing their studies into the sadly declining population of Semipalmated Sandpipers that passes through our region. Seeing these birds close-up and in the hand makes you realize just how amazing a feat is performed by these tiny waifs as they push on north from wintering grounds in Brazil to breeding grounds on the Arctic tundra. Adding an educational element to your birding is, of course, what we at CMBO are all about, so if you want to really get the most from your birding, do consider coming on some of our events and become part of the Cape May Family - check out our calendar of events, or treat yourself to a last minute booking on our fabulous Cape Maygration spring festival!

Acadian Flycatchers can be elusive at times and spend much of their time in deeply shaded forest, but this one performed perfectly for our workshop group today [photo by Mike Crewe].

We were seeing red in more ways than one at Belleplain today as we enjoyed great views of singing Scarlet Tanagers at a number of places today [photo by Mike Crewe].

The slightly more subtle red tones of Summer Tanagers were also enjoyed today - at one location we found three males and a female all congregated at the same spot and this one was calling relentlessly and looking down at the ground, which tempted us to suggest that perhaps a snake had been located there [photo by Mike Crewe].
This very obliging male Hooded Warbler was singing from high up in a White Oak and gave unusually good views to our workshop group [photo by Mike Crewe].

Today's highlight for me was a close encounter with this perched Mississippi Kite along Sunset Road in Belleplain [photo by Mike Crewe].
At Heislerville, the variety of birds seems to increase almost daily. This group of Black Skimmers was performing amazing synchronised fishing trips across the main impoundment today [photo by Mike Crewe]

Sometimes birds just seem to be having too much fun! These Short-billed Dowitchers spill the air off their wing surfaces as they pitch in to the main impoundment at Heislerville today - I love the one who has been caught upside down with his feet in the air!
Keep an eye out! This Brown-headed Nuthatch was photographed in South Carolina, but it gives you a clear picture of what to look out for around the point right now. Note the brown cap which extends down to just below the eye, without there being a pale supercilium. Note also the white 'thumb mark' up the back of the head.