Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Cape May Birding Conditions and Predictions

[This Pine Warbler, a singing male, was an arrival on the early side this morning, March 8, 2016, at Cox Hall Creek WMA, Villas, NJ, just north of the big lake there. Click to enlarge all photos.]

What a great time of year. Every day we can anticipate some new arrival, whether rare or common. Today's was the Pine Warbler pictured above. The PIWA was more or less on time, especially given the weather conditions: warm, west-southwest winds for the next few days are great for early arrivals, including swallows and special birds like Cave Swallow or Swallow-tailed Kite.

Another condition for the next day or two that should be exploited is the new moon tide, which is today, but the tides will be greater than normal for the next couple days. Tidal height is greatest with the new and full moons because the sun and the moon are in a line with the earth; thus both the sun and moon exert gravitational pull in the same direction. For example, at Fishing Creek on Delaware Bay (very near "famous" Miami Beach at the west end of Miami Avenue in the Villas,) tidal height today is forecast to max at 6.21 feet. The "neap" tide with the first quarter moon (which many people mistakenly call a half moon because that is what it looks like)March 15 will peak at 5.8 feet. Tides are heavily influenced by wind, with east winds holding water in the bays. The current westerlies will not do this.

Exceptionally high tides are a good time to look for rails (if any survived the winter) and salt sparrows along marsh edges. Nummy Island and Jake's Landing are two places to consider. Another phenomenon is that wintering shorebirds like Dunlin, Sanderlings, Black-bellied Plovers, and even a few Red Knots are forced to roost on jetties at high tide. The south jetty at the Cape May ferry terminal is particularly good for this, since it often hosts the thousands of shorebirds that winter on the mudflats of lower Delaware Bay. Look for Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, and perhaps a Western Sandpiper or two as well.

[These Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, and Dunlin were on a jetty in North Cape May today.]

[There were fewer shorebirds on the south jetty of the Cape May ferry terminal than I expected this morning, only a few hundred. This was probably the reason why. . .]

We are at or near the peak of duck migration, more on that on my blog. The South Cape May Meadows, Cape May Point State Park, Heislerville and Bivalve in Cumberland County, and Mannington Marsh in Salem County are all great places to enjoy this phenomenon.

[Great Egret on Lily Lake this morning. This could be a survivor of the winter or a new arrival.]

Finally, herons and egrets will begin trickling in this month and next, adding their splendor to a splendid season.

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