Friday, July 26, 2013

Meadows Magic

My top tip for birding Cape May this weekend is to plan a visit to The Nature Conservancy's South Cape May Meadows. A combination of recent weather events, management strategies and a modicum of luck have come together to provide perfect shorebird habitat, right at the time that migranting shorebirds need it most. I took a walk at the meadows on Wednesday evening and found a spectacular array of birds to enjoy. The range of species is low at the moment, but will likely increase as the season moves on. Several hundred Least Sandpipers dominated the scene, with smaller numbers of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Spotted Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, as well as three Pectoral Sandpipers. Snowy and Great Egrets, Glossy Ibis and a mass of loafing Common and Forster's Terns completed the scene.

I spoke to reserve manager Adrianna Zeto-Livingston and she told me that the water on the meadows is being drawn down early to try and dry sections out for the winter period, when a certain amount of vegetation management will take place to help prevent the shallow pools from completely disappearing into acres of cattail marsh. Management strategies such as this are necessary to maintain optimum habitat for a wide range of species and the work of The Nature Conservancy at this site is certainly paying off. Head on down to the meadows this weekend and see what else is lurking among the shorebird throng!

The Nature Conservancy's South Cape May Meadows looks perfect for migrant shorebirds right now, but managing water levels can be complicated and a few more rain showers over the next couple of weeks will probably help to keep conditions ideal for just a little longer [photo by Mike Crewe]

A quiet corner of the meadows provides good feeding for Glossy Ibises and Snowy Egrets [photo by Mike Crewe]

Though luck certainly plays a major part in getting good bird shots, putting yourself in the right place and waiting quietly also plays a part. A quiet spot and a little patience had me ideally located to get up close and personal with feeding shorebirds, like this Least Sandpiper. This early in the season, most shorebirds that you see will be adults like this one, identifiable as such by the rather dark overall appearance to the upperparts [photo by Mike Crewe].

An individual bird in an unusual pose, coupled with the best efforts of yucky mud can combine to make tricky shorebird identifications even trickier! This Lesser Yellowlegs has certainly done a good job in disguising its eponymous body parts... [photo by Mike Crewe]

Snowy Egret and Glossy Ibises feeding up before heading south for the winter - is it really fall already ?! [Photo by Mike Crewe]