Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ready, Steady...

With Northwest winds forecast to last all night tonight, it might just be time to think about heading for Cape May Point tomorrow. The first songbirds of fall have been trickling through over the past few days, but a push of northwesterlies may well speed this trickle up. A period of winds with a southerly element has seen an exciting movement of shorebirds today, with Michael O'Brien's shorebird workshop logging 550 Lesser Yellowlegs and 150 Stilt Sandpipers this morning, while our Wednesday morning walk also recorded a great shorebird passage. A juvenile Black Tern off Sunset Beach was the first juvenile of the year for me, with two also noted from St Peter's.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and prepare for at least a couple of days of potentially exciting birding. The weekend sees a return to southwesterlies so it may be worth switching back to shorebirds - hopefully, the next three days of forecast sunny weather will drop water levels again. Recent very heavy rain pushed a lot of birds out temporarily and I hear that even Bombay Hook is struggling to hold birds, as roosting shorebirds head to nearby farmland at high tides.

Our extraordinary summer of over-summering 'winter' birds continues; this rather scruffy and sorry-looking Common Loon was photographed on the beach at Cape May Point last Thursday and, having very little in the way of flight feathers, must certainly have been lurking in the area for some time. The plumage suggests that, as with the over-summering scoters that we have, this is a first-summer bird that probably wouldn't have bred this year any way [photo by Carrie Harris]

Terns continue to delight our walk groups on the Cape May beaches, giving ample opportunity for us to study different species side by side. Walk volunteer extraordinaire, Karl Lukens, has kindly labelled a few birds here to show an interesting array of birds of different ages [photo by Karl Lukens].

Right on queue - our first surprise songbird of August came on our very first Saturday Rea Farm walk of the season. This Lark Sparrow spent the morning feeding on grass seeds along the crop rows and stayed long enough for a few people to enjoy this western species that continues to increase in number on the east coast [photo by Mike Crewe].
Fall warblers are what we all long for at Higbee Beach and the first of these are coming through now. The early birds are always more southerly breeding species that don't have that far to come, so be on the lookout for Worm-eating Warblers (above), Northern Waterthrushes, Black-and-white Warblers and Blue-winged Warblers right now - with many more to come! [Photo by Mike Crewe]  
Star bird of Higbee Beach on Tuesday morning was this Golden-winged Warbler. Unfortunately, autofocus doesn't cope too well with soft-edged birds lurking behind sharp-edged branches, but I still reckon this shot captures the magic of this declining species. A suggestion of a yellowish wash is evident on the chest here, but was not apparent on this bird in the field and may just be an artefact of the photo. Golden-wings famously hybridize all too readily with Blue-winged Warblers and birders are always on the lookout for signs of infidelity between these two species, but the wingbars and head pattern look fine for Golden-winged Warbler here [photo by Linda Widdop]