Friday, September 18, 2015

A Monday for the History Books

Monday morning turned into the proverbial bull in a china shop, not just breaking expectations but smashing them! A staggering 56,636 warblers were counted as they flew past the Higbee Dike and the smoke coming from Morning Flight counter, Glen Davis’s head could be seen for miles. As many of you already know, Cape May experiences an influx of birds follow a cold front from the northwest. Migrants get pushed to the coast during their southern migration and find themselves funneled to the Cape May peninsula as they follow the diversion line that is the ocean. The passing of a slow front and strong, northwest winds Sunday night and into Monday morning obviously moved more birds than any of us were expecting. As Glen himself declared, he’s done trying to predict the intensity of morning flight.

On the morning in question, the flight started of slowly. Then the skies opened up, or rather, the birds lifted up. Starting around 6:50am, over 40,000 birds passed by in an incredible 40 minutes! A team of counters had to be quickly assembled since it was entirely too much for one person to even comprehend, let alone count. Mike Lanzone, Tom Reed, and Glen Davis divided up the sky while CMBO Director, David La Puma took over data entry into the Specteo tablet. It is estimated that roughly 30 birds per second were passing by the dike during a period of time that morning. 30 birds per second…just let that image sink in, if it’s a spectacle you can even imagine.

The counting team, Glen Davis, Mike Lanzone, and Tom Reed hard at work trying to catch the intense Morning Flight that started Monday and continued into Tuesday, the 15th. David La Puma was tasked with inputting the constant flow of data in the Specteo tablet. [Photo by Margeaux Maerz.]

Worth noting is the incredible number of American Redstarts that were tallied Monday morning. 8,724 Redstarts were clicked, but to be clear, this is the number that could be positively identified within the mayhem of the morning. It is thought that Redstarts made up about 71% of the flight as a whole, bringing the estimated total to 40,729. To put that into perspective, the previous season record under the Morning Flight Project for Redstarts was 6,506 in 2010. It’s also fun to look at the Morning Flight count numbers for September 14, 2014, with 2,631 American Redstarts and 4,745 warblers overall. So again, Monday was a bull, a giant bull, in the china shop know as the history of morning flight in Cape May. Here at CMBO, we are both honored and humbled to have been witness to it and able to document such a historic moment.

For more information on Monday’s historic flight, visit Glen’s blog post at

Since the word of Monday got out, the top of the dike was crowded come Tuesday morning, the 15th. At one point I counted 47 birders up there! If it hadn't been for Monday, Tuesday's flight would have been historic on its own, with 10,039 warblers tallied, including 7,251 American Redstarts. [Photo by Margeaux Maerz.]

A flyby Connecticut Warbler from Tuesday, September 15th. The day was not only filled with an incredible number of birds, but also a handful of uncommon birds. For moments like this we are thankful for spectators equipped with cameras to help ID some of the more interesting ones. [Photo by Sam WIlson.]

Another treat Tuesday came in the form of a flyby Red-headed Woodpecker, one of two that morning. Other unusual birds seen as flybys included White-winged Dove,Canada Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler. [Photo by Sam Wilson.]

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