Friday, August 16, 2013

The excitement mounts

There's a definite air of anticipation around Cape May these days, borne by a number of different factors - a decided drop in night time temperatures (very welcome!), the increasing appearance of some familiar faces not seen for a few months and a gradual increase in mysterious, night time seeps, chips and tweets. What does it all mean? It means that mid-August is here - and so are the birds!!

Before long we will be introducing you to this season's team of migration counters and interpretive naturalists; the Hawkwatch Platform is currently getting a facelift, courtesy of Cape May Point State Park staff and Higbee Dike promises to be awesome this year, having had several feet added to its height and providing a really fabulous panoramic view. The Morning Flight Project has already started for 2013, so do check out our Seasonal Research blog regularly and read the count highlights as they are posted. Hawkwatch and Seawatch counts will be added once those seasonal projects start too.

The story so far? Well, all our boat trips are currently reporting growing numbers of shorebirds out in the backbays, fledgling Ospreys seem to be practicing their craft on nearly every pond in the area and our Higbee Beach walks are well under way now. Higbee Beach this morning provided some great early-season birding with Black-and-white, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Hooded and Worm-eating Warblers, American Redstart and a few of those troublesome Empidonax flycatchers putting in an appearance. Eastern Kingbirds are building steadily in number, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are on the move and juvenile Orchard Orioles and Indigo Buntings are working the field edges. The Morning Flight count on 15th also produced an early Magnolia Warbler and a very welcome Cerulean Warbler - always a very scarce bird here.

Tern watching over the past week or so has been very rewarding; with some 2000+ terns currently feeding in the rips and resting on South Cape May Beach, it's been a tough task pulling out the goodies, but up to four Roseate Terns, two Sandwich Terns, two Caspian Terns, three Black Terns and three Gull-billed Terns have all been found and there's surely more to come. Other highlights at the point so far have included some good swallow passage (Tom Reed reported 550 Barn Swallows moving west in just five minutes on the morning of 10th), and a fly-over Upland Sandpiper, Red-headed Woodpecker and Dickcissel on 11th. Two Marbled Godwits flew over Stone Harbor Point on 13th and a few stalwart regulars remain in the area, including at least two Eurasian Collared Doves still on Whilldin Avenue at Cape May Point. One surprising report that came through recently was the sighting of a Spotted Sandpiper chick just south of the Cape May canal, certainly not a species we expect to find breeding here.

Dragonfly numbers continue to impress this year and it seems that the whole county is drenched with Swamp Darners at the moment. While their numbers are generally not notable during much of the day, they are certainly difficult to miss in the evening when large numbers gather to vacuum up mosquitoes. Lately, the largest numbers I have been seeing have been in the streets close to the bayshore in Villas and Town Bank. Most migratory butterfly species have yet to put in a noticeable appearance, but a few Cloudless Sulphurs have been hanging around the Partridge-pea patches at Higbee Beach and Monarch sightings have just started to trickle in over the last three or four days.

Time to get out into the field!!