Sunday, March 1, 2015

Springwatch Begins!

As we stood overlooking the ice floes exiting the Delaware Bay on a falling tide shortly after dawn this morning, I began to secretly question the wisdom of starting the Cape May Springwatch on March 1st. My phone was reading 20F - a local weather station was giving us 23F - not much of an improvement, but better than the single figure readings that we had been getting a week ago.

And so it was that the 2015 Cape May Springwatch began, with Tom Reed at the helm - scribe, counter and data collector. You would be forgiven for expecting me to report that we really didn't see a lot but the truth was very different. Much of the rather static pack ice of recent weeks and finally made its way out into the open sea and there was a good amount of open water for birds to be filtering back into. Black and Surf Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks and a variety of gulls were all moving in small groups - not migration, but some purposeful feeding movements it seems. A single flock of Lesser Scaup contained at least one Redhead, and a female Greater Scaup shot past us at close range. Despite a lot of ice cover, some 25-30 Purple Sandpipers and a few Ruddy Turnstones were moving between the jetties and we notched up at least five each of Red-necked and Horned Grebes. A couple of adult Bald Eagles rode the pack ice at least two miles offshore and could be seen tucking into breakfast. A group of nine female Boat-tailed Grackles dropped onto the stone jetty in front of us - were they on the move? They certainly departed in a northerly direction. Parties of American Robins moved around behind us but were probably just moving between feeding areas.

With the weather the way it is, the initiation of spring migration is going to be slow coming, but it is going to be fun being in on it right from the start. There were no big surprises today, other than the fact that there was more to see than I expected; the number of grebes on the move, a scattering of Red-throated Loons, displaying Long-tailed Ducks and a passing Harbor Seal were all much appreciated - and the perfect way to start the day! We'll give you regular updates on how spring is developing and look forward to see you here this spring!

View from the Store - Winter still holds a frosty grip on Lake Lily, but many bird species will initiate breeding behavior due to innate responses to increasing day length; that's why your cardinals are singing right now! (Photo by Mike Crewe)

Despite the weather you can still birdwatch from the roadside. This male Rusty Blackbird was one of several feeding along Bayshore Road in West Cape May recently and was photographed from the comfort of a car seat (photo by Mike Crewe).

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