Weather: The period opened with mild temperatures and southerly winds 15 Mar. Cooler conditions prevailed on 16 Mar, as winds gradually shifted from northwest to northeast ahead of an approaching coastal storm. This storm dumped 7–11" of snow across the county through the first half of 17 Mar-- significant accumulations for late winter. Winds remained strong out of the northeast under cloudy skies 18–19 Mar, as temperatures remained 20–25 degrees below average. The northeast fetch slowly gave way to a light southerly breeze during the evening hours 19 Mar, shortly before a batch of thunderstorms produced almost half an inch of rainfall. Conditions finally improved 20 Mar, as high pressure took hold and winds shifted to the west and southwest. Temperatures moderated into the mid 50s to close out the period 21 Mar.
Birding Summary: Observers submitted sightings of 160 species to eBird during the period 15–21 Mar. The best diversity day occurred on 15 Mar, when 128 species were reported. This week's arrivals included Snowy Egret, Broad-winged Hawk, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Yellow-throated Warbler. Notable birds included "Eurasian" Green-winged Teal, Black-headed Gull, Little Gull, Snowy Owl, Black-capped Chickadee, Smith's Longspur, Le Conte's Sparrow, "Gambel's" White-crowned Sparrow, and Painted Bunting.
Location Abbreviations: CMP (Cape May Point), CMPSP (Cape May Pt. State Park), SCMM (South Cape May Meadows), SHPt (Stone Harbor Point).
Two Tundra Swans lingered at CMPSP/SCMM through 21 Mar (m. ob.), while two male Eurasian Wigeon also remained near the Bree-Zee-Lee Yacht Basin along Ocean Drive (between Cape May and Wildwood Crest) through 21 Mar (SWh). Another male Eurasian Wigeon stayed at CMPSP through at least 17 Mar (m. ob.). The "Eurasian" Green-winged Teal continued at CMP through 21 Mar (m. ob.). Most recent reports have come from Bunker Pond or Lighthouse Pond at CMPSP. A small flock of Canvasbacks showed nicely at CMPSP/SCMM through much of the week, with at least 2 still present at SCMM 21 Mar (m. ob.). Two Redheads also remained at SCMM through 21 Mar (KL). A flock of 18 White-winged Scoters exited Delaware Bay at CMP 21 Mar, a locally notable total (MC, GD, KH). A female Common Merganser was noted at Cresse Lane, Erma 20 Mar (BB). Wild Turkey continues to increase overall, but is still rare at CMP, where two individuals took up residence this week (m. ob.). The most recent encounter occurred at the corner of South Lake & Lincoln Avenues 21 Mar (TR). Red-necked Grebe reports declined slightly this week, though at least 5 could still be found in Cape May Harbor 21 Mar (SWh, SWi) and many continued at other previously known locations (see last week's report for more details). SHPt continued to host at least one American Bittern through 20 Mar (m. ob.). The year's first Snowy Egret appeared at Jake's Landing 15 Mar, a typical arrival date (m. ob.).
[American Oystercatcher at Two Mile Beach, 20 Mar. Photo by Jesse Amesbury.]
HAWKS THROUGH OWLS
Two record-early Broad-winged Hawks arrived from the south at CMP 16 Mar (GD et al.). A Golden Eagle was described flying over CMP 20 Mar (KM). The species is a rare spring migrant in the county. The elusive Goshawk of CMP was reported again 15 Mar (JSn). Over 30 American Oystercatchers migrated past CMP during the morning of 21 Mar (TR, GD, BB, KH). Piping Plovers appeared at several sites this week, including Cape Island's first at CMPSP 15 Mar (JSi). At least 4 Black-headed Gulls remained at the Miami Ave sand spit in Villas through 21 Mar; an adult Little Gull was there the same day (KH). An adult Iceland Gull delighted observers as it winged north past CMP 21 Mar (TR, GD, BB, KH). Eurasian Collared-Dove apparently went missing at CMP this week-- please report any sightings of the species. The neighborhoods bordered by Coral, Harvard, Lehigh, and Lincoln Avenues are typically the best places to search for the dove(s). A Snowy Owl continued along Stone Harbor Boulevard through at least 15 Mar (BW), while the same or another was photographed at SHPt the same day (HD). Multiple Short-eared Owls were still evident at Jake's Landing during nicer evenings (m. ob.).
[Piping Plovers at SHPt, 16 Mar. Photo by Tom Reed.]
CHICKADEE THROUGH BUNTINGCape May County's 4th Black-capped Chickadee was last observed at CMP 21 Mar (GD). It is frequently seen along the southern end of Yale Avenue. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher appeared in a CMP backyard 15 Mar (MP). This sighting possibly represents a new early arrival date for the species here. The Smith's Longspur was still showing sporadically at SHPt through at least 20 Mar (m. ob.)*. At least two Lapland Longspurs, including a singing male, also remained at SHPt through 20 Mar (m. ob.), and a single Snow Bunting was last reported there 16 Mar (JB). The first Yellow-throated Warbler of 2014 was singing at Villas 20 Mar (JN). Orange-crowned Warbler went unreported at CMPSP this week-- additional reports are appreciated to keep track of final dates for wintering individuals. A minimum of 27 "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrows were found at SHPt immediately after the snowstorm 17 Mar (GD, TJ, SG). "Bird Of The Week" honors go to the Le Conte's Sparrow discovered at SHPt 17 Mar (GD, TJ, SG). It continued there through at least 19 Mar (m. ob.)*. The secretive sparrow possibly spent the entire winter at this site, but was only found when snow cover forced it into open dune habitat. There are very few March records of the species in New Jersey. The adult "Gambel's" White-crowned Sparrow continued along the west end of Sunset Boulevard through 21 Mar (m. ob.). It is often seen in the vicinity of the Sunset Beach gift shop. Finally, the Painted Bunting stayed put at CMP through at least 18 Mar (m. ob.). The most recent sightings have come from 101 Lincoln Avenue.
* – Much of SHPt, including the dune habitat favored by longspurs and sparrows, is now closed to the public. The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife ropes this area off every year in late-Mar to protect beach nesting birds.
[Smith's Longspur continuing at SHPt, 19 Mar. Photo by Jesse Amesbury.]
Contributors:Jesse Amesbury, Jeff Bouton (JB), Bill Boyle (BB), Mike Crewe (MC), Glen Davis (GD), Harold Davis (HD), Sam Galick (SG), Kathy Horn (KH), Tom Johnson (TJ), Karl Lukens (KL), Karmela Moneta (KM), Josh Nemeth (JN), Mike Pasquarello (MP), Tom Reed (TR), Joe Siekierski (JSi), June Snelling (JSn), Bradley White (BW), Scott Whittle (SWh), Sam Wilson (SWi).
eBird. 2012. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Accessed 21 Mar 2014. Available: http://www.ebird.org.Fogg, B. 2013. Keekeekerr: Recent Text Alerts. Accessed 21 Mar 2014. Available: http://www.keekeekerr.com