Friday, December 5, 2014

Walking the streets, watching the yard

As December kicks in, we find that the focus of attention at Cape May can shift away from the better known locations in the less-populated parts of the county, and into our very own streets and backyards. Going for a walk around the block during the winter can net you almost as many bird sightings as you might get if you headed out to the backbays - and you may well chance upon some nice finds.

Last winter was a good case in point, when Rufous Hummingbird, White-winged Dove and Painted Bunting could all be seen at yard feeders around Cape May Point within a short distance of each other. Aiming for even greater heights, it was back in 2010 when New Jersey's first Broad-tailed Hummingbird was located in a Cape May back yard. In the short time that my wife and I have lived in Cape May, we have enjoyed such crazy birds as American Woodcocks, Bald Eagles, Eastern Meadowlark, Dickcissel, and even Crested Caracara in our yard!

Back yards and urban areas in general can be popular with birds during the winter for a variety of reasons. In largely agricultural regions, they can offer oases of cover and feeding opportunities among the berrying trees and bushes that we plant; our feeders offer sustenance during times of difficulty, while densely populated areas can even be several degrees warmer in winter than the surrounding countryside.

Through December, we continue our Saturday walks at Cape May Point, but you may find attention on these walks shifting from the open habitats of the state park, to the secluded corners of Cape May Point back yards. In January, we start a new walk for you - Warren Cairo leads a trip that takes you out from CMBO's Northwood Center (where you are invited to come and start the event with a hot cup of coffee!) and takes you to an assortment of locations according to local conditions. But, at this time of year, you can bet that many of these walks will find us looking at birds in and around Cape May's streets and back yards!

A quick drive to town to get something for lunch was interrupted when Mark Garland reported this White-winged Dove from his West Cape May back yard. Keep an eye on Mourning Dove flocks at this time of year and see what you might find lurking there [photo by Mike Crewe].

Don't forget to make your birding count - if you don't already do so, think about taking part in Cornell Lab of Ornithology's FeederWatch citizen science program...

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