Thursday, August 29, 2013

Warbler fun continues - time to start reading the signs...

Reports of a nice range of warblers continue to trickle in to the bird observatory from all directions, with recent days producing Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Kentucky and Connecticut Warblers among the more familiar species. With odd birds turning up at seemingly unpredictable times and locations, what's the best strategy for finding them around Cape May? Well, though a cursory glance at the sightings may seem to show a set of random occurences, reading the weather and understanding bird movements can increase your chances of hitting the right spot. The last couple of days have produced classic examples of predictable warbler appearances for me. Wednesday started fair but the weather gradually closed in and the afternoon produced some drizzly weather. It was no great surprise to me that brightly-colored sprites began appearing in the trees around the Northwood Center at Cape May Point around the time that the rain started - why?

Well, from now until early November, it is safe to assume that, for much of the time, songbirds will be on the move through our area. Birds heading south may continue to move throughout the day if conditions are favorable - hot and sunny weather tends to cause them to pause for a rest and to cool off in the shade, cloudy weather and calm conditions can encourage birds to continue to move unless they are strictly nocturnal migrants. Overcast, calm conditions on Wednesday morning were ideal for onward migration but, any bird doing so would have at some point flown headlong into the front that passed through and brought rain. The top tip here then is, if it starts to drizzle midday or early afternoon, head out to Cape May Point and start checking the trees for migrant songbirds. A quick look round the Northwood Center on Wednesday afternoon quickly produced 12 Yellow Warblers, eight American Redstarts, two Red-eyed Vireos, two Black-and-white Warblers and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, all moving through the trees in a loose feeding flock - and it had all started with the surprise appearance of a Blackburnian Warbler right outside my window.

Learning the 'tricks of the trade' is not easy, but is certainly worthwhile and paid off for Tom Reed this evening when he had the presence of mind, on an Easterly wind, to check out the sea off Stone Harbor Point and turned up Northern Gannet, Cory's Shearwater and two Parasitic Jaegers. To help you with mastering bird-finding skills, you will find some useful links on our blog pages, in the left hand margins. Look for links that help you to find out local wind patterns, tide patterns and migration predictions, and use them to be in the right place at the right time...

Keep an eye on the weather and keep your diary clear for next Wednesday or Thursday morning - the weather predictions look interesting, with a swing to Northeast winds after a run of Southerlies.

The railing on the south side of Bunker Pond at Cape May Point State Park has a reputation for attracting an interesting array of birds, but some remain hard to get on your 'railing list'. This juvenile Black Tern paused there long enough for photos and seems to be contemplating that Eastern Amberwing that is breezing past [photo by Karl Lukens].

Using a long lens through a grubby window on a drizzly day to photograph an actively feeding bird is never going to be the ideal way to capture a good image - but we birders sometimes take what we can get! This Blackburnian Warbler stopped by my office window to let me know that said window needs a good clean, in time for more goodies to come! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Window cleaned, better results! The holly tree right outside my office window has earned itself a good reputation for attracting birds - this Blue-winged Warbler stopped by today to offer brief respite from a heavy emailing session [photo by Mike Crewe].

Recent Sightings
August 25th produced a skulking but well-watched and photographed Kentucky Warbler at Higbee Beach, while a check of the high tide roost at Miami Beach, Villas on 26th revealed 115 Royal Terns there. One or two Black Terns have been visiting Bunker Pond this week and Sandwich Tern and Brown Pelican were both reported from the state park on 27th. Two reports of Olive-sided Flycatchers (perhaps both of the same bird) came from Cox Hall Creek WMA today (29th).