Friday, March 28, 2014

Week in review: 22 – 28 March, 2014

CMBO is pleased to provide weekly summaries of the Cape's birding highlights. Coverage is limited to sightings in Cape May County. Readers should keep in mind that some reports may not be confirmed. The vast majority of information utilized in these reports comes from eBird data and "Keekeekerr" text alerts. Observers are encouraged to send reports and photos to compiler Tom Reed (coturnicops at gmail dot com).


Weather: It was another roller coaster of a week in the weather department. The period opened with mild conditions, as a strong southerly flow took hold over the region and daytime temperatures surpassed 60ºF. A cold front followed for 23 Mar and suppressed temperatures into the lower 40s, as overcast skies gave way to a mix of rain and snow showers during the evening hours. Skies cleared 24 Mar, but more cold air arrived on brisk northerly winds that held temperatures under the freezing mark for much of the day. Conditions became calm for a brief time 25 Mar, but a strengthening coastal storm approached the region during the PM hours, dumping yet another 4–7" of late-season snow before moving out to sea. Sunny skies followed on the heels of this system 26 Mar, along with strong northwest winds that included gusts in excess of 40mph at times. The northwest blast gradually weakened through much of 27 Mar, as winds eventually shifted to the south and increased to 15-20mph during the overnight hours. The period concluded 28 Mar with mild yet overcast conditions, as moderate southerly winds mixed with scattered rain showers during the PM hours.

Birding Summary: Observers submitted sightings of 149 species to eBird during the period 22–28 Mar. The best diversity day occurred on 23 Mar, when 123 species were reported. This week's arrivals included Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, and Palm Warbler. Notable rarities included "Eurasian" Green-winged Teal, Black-headed Gull, Snowy Owl, Black-capped Chickadee, "Gambel's" White-crowned Sparrow, Painted Bunting, and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

Location Abbreviations: CMP (Cape May Point), CMPSP (Cape May Pt. State Park), SCMM (South Cape May Meadows), SHPt (Stone Harbor Point). 


       At least one Tundra Swan lingered at CMPSP/SCMM through 24 Mar (CH), a rather late date for the species at Cape Island. At least one Eurasian Wigeon remained near the Bree-Zee-Lee Yacht Basin along Ocean Drive (between Cape May and Wildwood Crest) through 22 Mar (LW, LG). Two male Eurasian Wigeon were noted at CMPSP 22 Mar (MP et al.). Blue-winged Teal have been slow to arrive, but there were a handful of reports around CMP this week (m. ob.). The "Eurasian" Green-winged Teal was last reported from Lighthouse Pond at CMPSP 22 Mar (m. ob.). At least 2 Canvasbacks remained at SCMM through 28 Mar (m. ob.). Other notably late lingerers included Redheads at Cox Hall Creek WMA (KH, RH) and SCMM 28 Mar (m. ob.), along with a female Common Merganser at Cresse Lane, Erma 22 Mar (TB). Over 1,800 Surf Scoters were noted during a three-hour count from Coral Avenue, CMP 28 Mar (MC et al.). Wild Turkey continues to increase overall, but is still rare at CMP, where one was again noted near Coral Avenue 23 Mar (m. ob.). Two Turkeys occupied the canal parking area at Higbee Beach the same day (EH). Red-necked Grebe reports continued to decline this week, though at least 2 could still be found in Cape May Harbor 28 Mar (SWh, SWi) and several continued at other previously known locations (see earlier reports for more details). There was an obvious increase in Northern Gannet numbers this week, demonstrated by a total of 307 from Coral Avenue, CMP 28 Mar (MC, GD et al.). Numbers of wading birds have yet to increase significantly. A congregation of egrets at Reed's Beach 28 Mar included 13 Greats and 1 Snowy (TR). A Tricolored Heron along Avalon Boulevard 28 Mar may have been a successful wintering bird or a recent arrival (JAC).

[Black and Surf Scoters migrating past CMP, 28 Mar. Photo by Tom Reed.]

       Osprey kept trickling in this week-- at least 8 could be seen from CMPSP 24 Mar (TR). Shorebird migration continues to move at a snail's pace, with very few reports of expected early-season migrants such as yellowlegs and Killdeer. A Piping Plover from one of the interior populations was studied at SHPt 28 Mar (TR). There are very few, if any, NJ spring records of "inland" Piping Plovers. At least one Black-headed Gull continued to put in occasional appearances at the Miami Ave sand spit in Villas through 28 Mar (CV). A little farther north along the bay, 3 Black-headed Gulls were noted at High's Beach 22–23 Mar (WK). A single Eurasian Collared-Dove survived at CMP this week (m. ob.). The neighborhoods bordered by Coral, Harvard, Lehigh, and Lincoln Avenues are typically the best places to search for the dove. After a bit of a lull, 2 Snowy Owls appeared at SHPt 22 Mar, and at least one remained there 23 Mar (m. ob.).

 ["Interior" Piping Plover at SHPt, 28 Mar. Note the complete black collar, dark flecking in lores, darker gray (than Atlantic birds) cheek and upperparts, and thick black "headband." 
Photo by Tom Reed.]

 [Snowy Owl at SHPt, 22 Mar. Photo by Tom Reed.]

       A solid arrival of swallows occurred at Cape Island during the AM hours 23 Mar. A Barn Swallow was seen at SCMM (m. ob.), a Northern Rough-winged Swallow graced the skies over West Cape May (CV), and a slightly early Cliff Swallow breezed past Coral Avenue, CMP (m. ob.). Cape May County's 4th Black-capped Chickadee was last observed at CMP 28 Mar (m. ob.). It is frequently seen along the south end of Yale and Lincoln Avenues. The spring's first Palm Warbler flew into the dunes at CMPSP 22 Mar (TR). Orange-crowned Warbler went unreported at CMPSP once again this week-- additional reports are appreciated to keep track of final dates for wintering individuals. The adult "Gambel's" White-crowned Sparrow continued along the west end of Sunset Boulevard through 28 Mar (m. ob.). It is often seen in the vicinity of the Sunset Beach gift shop. The Painted Bunting stayed put at CMP through at least 27 Mar (m. ob.). The most recent sightings have come from feeders at 101 Lincoln and 204 Lehigh Avenues. Purple Finch continued to be almost invisible-- the week's only report entailed 2 birds at CMP 22 Mar (m. ob.). A Eurasian Tree Sparrow made for an outrageous discovery at CMP 23 Mar (RF, LAF), and continued through 27 Mar (m. ob.). The bird was first seen along Harvard Avenue, and has most often been reported around feeders at 101 Lincoln and 113 Harvard. Questions will undoubtedly arise regarding this individual's provenance, but it is worth noting that another out-of-range Eurasian Tree Sparrow appeared in Ontario this week (fide TJ). 

[Eurasian Tree Sparrow at Lincoln Ave, CMP on 23 Mar. Photo by Tom Reed.]

Jim Austin-Cole (JAC), Tom Baxter (TB), Mike Crewe (MC), Glen Davis (GD), Lisa Ann Fanning (LAF), Rob Fanning (RF), Sam Galick, Lori Gladulich (LG), Chris Hajduk (CH), Ed Hastings (EH), Kathy Horn (KH), Roger Horn (RH), Tom Johnson (TJ), Will Kerling (WK), Mike Pasquarello (MP), Tom Reed (TR), Christopher Vogel (CV), Scott Whittle (SWh), Linda Widdop (LW), 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 28 Mar 2014. Available:
Fogg, B. 2013. Keekeekerr: Recent Text Alerts. Accessed 28 Mar 2014. Available: