Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Daily roundup – September 12, 2018

[Morning view from the Cape May Hawkwatch, 
with visibility under a quarter mile. Photo © Tom Reed.]

Weather: Dense fog dominated the first half of the day, with gradual clearing and plenty of sun (temps reaching well into the 80s) during the afternoon. Scattered thunderstorms also formed during the afternoon, and while most stayed well inland, one affected the northwest corner of the peninsula. Winds were again light from the east/southeast and a trace of rainfall was recorded at West Cape May.

Migration counts: Morning Flight (0623-0838), Hawkwatch (0700-1700) 

Birding summary: A predictably quiet day, but a few highlights included 2 Gull-billed Terns that spent time around Cape May Pt. State Park, a Sora at the South Cape May Meadows, fair numbers of songbird migrants along the State Park trails, a small pulse of Osprey and Peregrines that moved past Cape May Point during the mid-afternoon, and several Common Nighthawks around Cape Island during the evening.

Additional information:
CMBO Twitter feed (@cmbobirds)

The Best of Migration - Cape May School of Birding Workshops!

Cape May is world renowned for its fall bird and butterfly migration, involving spectacular numbers, diversity, views, and photographic opportunities - and Cape May School of Birding Workshops are an incredible way to enjoy and partake in this natural phenomenon. And the best part is – it’s all going to unfold over the next couple months! From our cadre of in-depth birding excursions to a celebration of Monarchs or bird photography, you’re sure to find an offering that catches your eye. All of our workshops are led by experts in their field: world-class birders and naturalists that have often written the guides we all rely on (Pete Dunne, Michael O'Brien, Mark Garland, Louise Zemaitis, Scott Whittle). Our intimate approach to enjoyment and teaching will provide the opportunity and information you need to grow in understanding and appreciation.

While the majority of time is spent in the field watching birds and nature, some of the workshops will incorporate an indoor session – a chance to demonstrate and discuss identification, techniques, conservation, and ecology. Along the way, you’ll meet like-minded people and are sure to form lasting memories and friendships. From beginner to advanced, all are welcome! All the while, your registration fees are helping support the mission of New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory (and NJA and CMBO members receive a 25% discount!).

Below you’ll find a listing with short descriptions for our upcoming schedule. You can register and get more details at our registration site, so reserve your spot today for an incredible experience!!! Register now at: Cape May School of Birding

American Kestrel photo by Erik Bruhnke
September 29 & 30

Bird Cape May at the peak time for raptor diversity, with experts who know identification tips unavailable anywhere else! This workshop will be "just birding," no indoor workshop time (unless severe weather dictates otherwise) at the prime time to be in Cape May.  Expect many falcons (including Peregrines), plus accipiters, buteos, harriers, ospreys and eagles. Though our aim will be to study and appreciate the sometimes spectacular passage of falcon species through Cape May at this time of year, we shall be in a prime location to enjoy other migrants too and, depending on the conditions, we may also seek shorebirds, late warblers, early sparrows, and more.

September 29 & 30

Experience the cutting edge of birding! Birds don't sing much in the fall-but they sure do call. Chip notes, flight notes, and critical listening are the primary subjects of this workshop, led by the man who wrote the book (well, maybe the CD-ROM) on flight calls. Two hours with Michael equals years of struggle on your own! Includes optional night-time listening for nocturnal migrants. Learn to dissect a single note, determining whether it rises or falls, is clear or burry. You will never listen the same way again. This workshop is spread over two half-days to allow us to be in the field at the best time of day; it includes an afternoon session, evening session to study nocturnal migrants, followed by an early morning listening session the next day - the perfect way to learn the subject!
Monarchs on Seaside Goldenrod

October 2

Learn about the biology of the monarch butterfly and spend a day in the field with the Director of the CMBO Monarch Monitoring Project.  Visit gardens and other natural areas around Cape May Point to watch monarch behavior and see the principles of butterfly gardening in action.  Learn how to safely handle and tag monarchs, and also learn methods for conducting field research into these migratory insects.  Visit the CMBO Northwood Center to see the terraria where monarch caterpillars and chrysalides are on display, and learn about the proper husbandry of such displays.  We will take time to identify many other butterflies that can be found at this season in Cape May Point, and we’ll identify a few of the migrant birds that are sure to be around, but the primary focus will be on monarch biology all day.

SPARROW SAMPLER with Michael O'Brien
October 13 & 14

A workshop celebrating the ‘LBJs’ (little brown jobs). Subtle and cryptic they might be; difficult to identify they are not, providing you have the right instructor, the right place and the right time. A time when lots of sparrows and lots of species abound. Common species like Swamp, Field, Savannah and Chipping. Uncommon ones like Clay-colored, Vesper, Lincoln’s, Nelson’s and Saltmarsh. Learn the basics of size, shape and behavior first, then practice examining plumage patterns to discover how stunning sparrows can be.

October 15 & 16

Mid-October is the time the local birders wait for; crowds have diminished and the most massive fallouts of the season commonly occur NOW!  Sparrows, kinglets, bluebirds, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, and literally who knows what else, since this week starts the season for vagrants in Cape May.  It's also a great time for big raptors like buteos and Golden Eagle, while early seabird flights pass Avalon and Cape May Point nearly every day.
Prairie Warbler photo by Clay Taylor

HAWKS IN FLIGHT with Pete Dunne
October 17 & 18

At fifteen raptor species, this is the time of peak raptor diversity in Cape May. Perhaps including bonus birds like Golden Eagles and Swainson's Hawk!  It is a rare moment during late October in Cape May when something raptorial is not in view. Learn how to tell buteos from accipiters from falcons from  eagles at the very edge of eyesight.  Pete Dunne co-wrote the book that is the title of this workshop, and the only thing he enjoys more than watching hawks is imparting the knowledge he has accumulated during his 15,000 hawk watching hours.

PHOTOBIRDING with Scott Whittle
October 22 & 23

Accelerate your bird identification skills while learning how to photograph birds in Cape May.  Photography can be an excellent tool for identification, as well as a way to convey the beauty of our experiences in the natural world.  Professional photographer Scott Whittle will help you move toward your photographic goals in this workshop, with a focus on using the camera to look more closely at what we see.

Black Scoter photo by Michael Kilpatrick

Monday, September 10, 2018

Daily roundup – September 10, 2018

[Black Skimmers at Cape May Point this morning; 160+ exited Delaware Bay during the early AM as storm conditions waned. Photo © Erik Bruhnke.]

Weather: We finally started to say goodbye to the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon, which gradually pulled away from the area through the day. A warm front also approached from the south. Skies were again largely overcast with light to moderate east winds and occasional showers; about 0.2” of rain was recorded at West Cape May as of 10:00pm. The weakening onshore flow allowed temps to sneak into the 70s during the afternoon.   

Migration counts: Morning Flight (0622-0837), Hawkwatch (0630-1700)  

[Red-necked Phalarope at the Higbee dike. Photo © Vince Elia.]

Birding summary: One last day of storm birding (for now), with highlights that included a Red-necked Phalarope and Buff-breasted Sandpiper atop the Higbee dike, single Roseate Terns at Cape May Point and 2nd Ave beach (Cape May City), 2 Hudsonian Godwits and 2+ American Golden-Plovers at Cape May Airport (with 1 of each flying past the Higbee dike), and 32 Parasitic Jaegers exiting Delaware Bay past Cape May Point during the AM. At present (10:30pm) there are some nocturnal migrants moving in the mist, including some thrushes and herons.

Additional information:
CMBO Twitter feed (@cmbobirds)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Daily roundup – September 9, 2018

[Parasitic Jaeger chasing a Manx Shearwater at 
Cape May Point this afternoon. Photo © Erik Bruhnke.]

Weather: A stationary frontal boundary, combined with the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon, again affected the area throughout the day. Skies were overcast with increasing east/northeast winds and periods of moderate to heavy rainfall; about 0.75” of rain was recorded at West Cape May as of 8:00pm. Temps hovered in the mid 60s through much of the day.  

Migration counts: Morning Flight (0621-0836), Hawkwatch (0630-1600)  

 [Peregrine Falcon at Cape May Point 
this afternoon. Photo © Erik Bruhnke.]

Birding summary: It was yet another day dominated by shorebirds and seawatching. Highlights included 2 Manx Shearwaters off Cape May Point during the afternoon, a Cory’s Shearwater that flew west past Cape May City at 11:10am, a White-winged Dove that flew south past the Higbee dike, multiple small flocks of Hudsonian Godwits that flew past Cape Island, and a minimum of 5 Roseate Terns between 2nd Ave (Cape May City) and St. Mary’s (Cape May Pt.) during the late afternoon. The sod fields along Corsons Tavern Rd (South Seaville) produced singles of Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Golden-Plover this morning, while an additional Golden-Plover was noted at the Cape May Airport. 

 [Hudsonian Godwits flying past Cape May Point 
this afternoon. Photo © Erik Bruhnke.]

Additional information:
CMBO Twitter feed (@cmbobirds)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Daily roundup – September 8, 2018

 [American Avocet at the Ocean Drive toll bridge. Photo © Vince Elia.]

Weather: A stationary frontal boundary, enhanced by the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon, affected the area throughout the day. Skies were overcast with east/northeast winds and periods of moderate rainfall; about a half inch of rain was recorded at West Cape May. Temps remained in the 70s/upper 60s.

Migration counts: Morning Flight (0620-0835), Hawkwatch (0630-1730)  

 [Hudsonian Godwit flying past the Hawkwatch. Photo © Erik Bruhnke.]

Birding summary: It was a day dominated by shorebirds and seawatching. Highlights included a Manx Shearwater that flew past 2nd Ave beach at 1:55pm, an American Avocet that took up residence near the Ocean Drive bridge during the mid AM, an adult White Ibis that flew northwest past the Hawkwatch, a Hudsonian Godwit that flew past the Hawkwatch, and a flock of 8 Hudsonian Godwits that flew past 2nd Ave beach. Black Terns have been hard to find this season, but one flew past 2nd Ave beach and 3 flew south past the north end of Avalon. Tuckahoe again checked in with some noteworthy shorebirds this afternoon, including 5 American Golden-Plovers and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

Additional information:
CMBO Twitter feed (@cmbobirds)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Daily roundup – September 7, 2018

 [American Redstart flying past the Higbee dike. Photo © Tom Reed.]

Weather: Light west winds continued from overnight into the first couple hours of daylight, but as expected, gradually shifted to the north and then east by afternoon. Mid-day highs again reached the mid 80s. Near-stationary showers and thunderstorms took up residence along much of the peninsula through the PM hours.

Migration counts: Morning Flight (0619-0934), Hawkwatch (0630-1645) 

[Red-breasted Nuthatch flying past the Higbee dike. Photo © Tom Reed.]

Birding summary: A short-lived songbird flight was observed from the Higbee dike during the early AM; the movement included 647 American Redstarts, 75 Northern Waterthrushes, 22 Red-breasted Nuthatches, and the season’s first Blackpoll Warbler. A southbound Bobolink movement was observed at Cape May Point, with 2300+ tallied from the Hawkwatch. The day’s hawk flight was strongest during the late AM and featured 114 Osprey. The evening brought a strong push of Common Nighthawks, with 468 counted from Cape May Pt. State Park and additional flocks seen elsewhere. A Black Tern was also seen at Cape May Pt. State Park during the evening.

Odes: An obvious highlight was the Striped Saddlebags that visited count staff atop the Higbee dike from ~8:45-9:00am. This apparently represents the second 2018 record of this rare wanderer from the South. Fair numbers of more expected migratory species, i.e. Common Green and Swamp darners, Black Saddlebags, etc. were also noted at Cape Island.

[Striped Saddlebags at the Higbee dike. Photo © Tom Johnson.]

Additional information:
CMBO Twitter feed (@cmbobirds) 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


[Barn Swallows migrating past the South Cape May Meadows 
on August 18, 2018. Click icon at lower right of box 
to view in full screen mode. Video © Tom Reed.]   

Barn Swallows migrate by day and the flight at Cape May seems to be mainly confined to the immediate vicinity of the sea beach while most of the birds pass within a strip one hundred yards wide...The birds often fly only a few inches above the strand and rarely over six feet. Their course is somewhat erratic, drifting right and left and sometimes tacking back again for a few yards but the general progress southward is steady and rapid. During one of the August flights I stationed myself back on the meadows below South Cape May, some fifty yards from the dunes, where I had a clear view all the way to the sea. Apparently all the Barn Swallows were passing in front of me and selecting a definite line of bushes as a base I counted the birds as they passed it and the average was seventy per minute. Again on August 27, 1926, I counted the swallows that passed along the dunes and beach and the average was forty-six per minute and, so far as I could see, the flight continued at this rate for the better part of the morning and part of the afternoon...

– Witmer Stone, Bird Studies at Old Cape May

Saturday, August 11, 2018

SHOREBIRDS WITH THE MAN WHO WROTE THE BOOK with Michael O'Brien - August 22 & 23

It is not surprising that Houghton Mifflin's landmark "The Shorebird Guide" (2006) sprang from the brains and hands of three Cape May birders and authors. Now you can experience some of the East Coast's best shorebirding while guided by one of them. Search storied locations like Bunker Pond, the South Cape May Meadows, Stone Harbor, and Edwin B Forsythe NWR for peeps, plovers, and yellowlegs, plus possible gems like phalaropes or godwits. Over 25 plovers and sandpipers are in easy reach, with some species numbering in the thousands. Learn to begin with size, behavior, and voice, and then move on to careful examination of plumage details. Preregistration required.

Wednesday and Thursday, August 22 & 23
7:30 AM - 4:00 PM
$150 members, $200 nonmembers

Register now at CMBO School of Birding

Friday, August 3, 2018

BEACH BIRDS OF SUMMER - Special Field Trip - August 11

In summer, Cape May’s beaches not only attract vacationers, but an interesting range of terns, gulls, and shorebirds, and this Special Field Trip offers a golden opportunity to enjoy the subtle beauty of these birds. Common, Forster’s and Least Terns are plentiful at this time, and there may be a few Royal Terns and Black Skimmers around. We’ll search for uncommon gulls amongst the cadre of common species, and spend time looking at shorebirds, migrant and resident, such as American Oystercatchers, Sanderlings, Willets, and more! Join Program Director Brett Ewald and CMBO Associate Naturalist for an exciting morning on the beach!!! Preregistration required.

Saturday, August 11
8:00 - 11:00 AM
$15 members, $20 nonmembers

Register now at: CMBO Programs

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Morning Flight 2018 - Starts Tomorrow!

Fall is here - that's right, Morning Flight is starting on Aug. 1st this year, instead of the usual Aug. 16th. We're trying to better understand and quantify the early season songbird migrants, such as Yellow Warbler and Louisiana Waterthush, to name just a couple. To that end, Andrew Dreelin, this year's official Morning Flight counter, will be on the dike at Higbee Beach at sunrise - putting names and numbers to anything that flies by (you can also view Morning Flight from the platform on the west side of the gravel road leading to the jetty along the canal, just below the dike) . Along with Tom Reed, the Migration Count Coordinator, he'll be spending this fall documenting this unique and fascinating phenomenon until November 15. The count usually lasts just a couple hours after sunrise, so get up early and experience it for yourself - and welcome Andrew to the magic that is Cape May while you're at it!

Cedar Waxwings                © Emil Lundahl

Northern Flicker                    © Erik Bruhnke


Saturday, July 28, 2018

THE WORLD OF BUTTERFLIES with Pat Sutton - Aug. 21

Butterflies are an incredibly beautiful and diverse group of insects that are around us throughout the warmer months. Have you ever enjoyed the beauty of a butterfly without knowing what species it was, or wanted to know how to attract them to your yard? Have you heard about the struggles butterflies are having in today's environment? This is your chance to learn all about butterflies and conservation from a local expert and founding board member of the North American Butterfly Association - Pat Sutton.

Learn about butterfly life cycles, their relationships to the plant world, odd behaviors, survival in a world filled with hungry predators, the spectacular migration of some species and the restricted range of others, and tips for easy identification. There will be an indoor illustrated presentation on butterfly biology, resources, and ID, but most of the day will be spent in the field. Pollinator gardening principals will be seen in action as the group visits private wildlife gardens (including Sutton’s) and natural areas near Cape May Court House and Goshen. Cape May County hosts 107 species of butterflies. If it is a good year for Monarchs, they may be plentiful.  Join Pat on this exciting Cape May School of Birding workshop. Preregistration required. $90 members, $120 nonmembers.

Tuesday, August 21
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Register now at: CMBO Programs

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Night for Moths!

As part of National Moth Week, we held an evening event on July 24th along the Ryan De Witt Memorial Trail at the Northwood Center. We were delighted, not only in the turnout of moths at our mercury lights and blacklight, but also by the turnout of interested people.

The star of the night was the female Luna Moth that we watched fly in and eventually settle on our sheet.

Luna Moth

Among the cadre of beetles, leafhoppers, cicada killers, and caddis flies, we encountered over 30 moth species, ranging in size from tiny (less than 1/4 inch) to the large Luna Moth (over 3 inches). Included below is a list of moth species recorded and links to photos on the Moth Photographers Group website (provided by Sam Galick). The variety in size and color is amazing (as are some of the names!) - and this is only a small sampling of what is possible in Southern NJ. All it takes is a light on at night to attract moths - check it out and let us know what you come up with!

Thanks to Jessica Schera-Scullion, Sam Galick, and Dustin Welch for all their efforts in making this an educational and enjoyable night for all!

Celery Leaftier
Small Necklace
Garden Tortrix
Common Tan Wave
Mottled Grass Veneer
Hallow-spotted Angle
Red-banded Leafroller
Juniper Geometer
Common 'Pug' Eupithecia
Orange-headed Epicallima
Suzuki Promolactis
Dark-spotted Palthis
Heterocampa sp.
Dusky Groundling
Alianthus Webworm
Black-marked Inga
Clemens' Grass Tubeworm
Kermes Scale Moth
Juniper Budworm
Clemen's Bark Moth
Chalcedony Midget
Larisa subsolana
Schlaeger's Fruitworm Moth
Reticulated Fruitworm Moth
Maple Looper

Friday, July 20, 2018

MOTH NIGHT AT NORTHWOOD - July 24 - 8:30-10 PM

All are invited to this exciting and FREE event at the Cape May Bird Observatory's Northwood Center in Cape May Point (located at 701 East Lake Dr.) during the evening of Tuesday, July 24 - 8:30 PM. We'll have a full setup of mercury light, blacklight, and moth nectar to attract a wide range of species to the moth sheet - from beautiful to strange. Come on out and share in the fun - who knows what we'll find!!!

NOTE: the moth event to be held at the Nature Center of Cape May on Wednesday, July 25th has been cancelled.

Io Moth - © Mike Crew

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Summer is here - and so are the butterflies and dragonflies! Join Brian Johnson on these Special Field Trips and spend a morning exploring some lesser-known habitats of southern New Jersey in search of these beautiful residents (meets at the Center for Research and Education in Goshen). We'll concentrate on the variety and many colors of butterflies, with some flashy dragonflies and damselflies thrown in for good measure - enjoying and learning about the Jewels of Summer. Preregistration required. $15 members, $20 nonmembers.

Tuesdays - July 10, August 14
9:00 AM - 12 PM

Register now at CMBO Programs

Question Mark - © Mike Crewe

Scarlet Bluet - © Brian Johnson

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Help us Help Shorebirds and Rescue Horseshoe Crabs - ReTURN the Favor

Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds need your help!!! New Jersey Audubon is once again taking part in the ReTURN the Favor partnership to rescue overturned and obstructed Horseshoe Crabs along the Delaware Bay, and in doing so, help the migrating shorebirds that rely on the crab eggs to successfully reach their breeding destinations in the Arctic. The beaches along the bayshore are critically important in the continuation of this natural phenomenon and ensuring that Horseshoe Crabs continue in adequate numbers. To that end, CMBO is coordinating the efforts for two beaches - Cook's and Highs. We will have two public walks that you can take part in:

Saturday, June 9 - 9:00-11:00 AM
Thursday, June 14 - 1:00-3:00 PM

These walks will meet at CMBO's Center for Research and Education on RT. 47 (mile marker 15.8) in Goshen. The two-hour program includes a brief training talk, travel to one of the two nearby beaches, and the rescue walk. No preregistration required - come prepared in comfortable clothes for wet, cool, or hot weather, footwear you don't mind getting wet, water to re-hydrate, and sun and bug protection.

In addition to these public walks, we encourage you to register to go out on your own to rescue Horseshoe Crabs on these beaches. After a short training session and receiving the proper permit, you can sign up to cover these beaches and save even more Horseshoe Crabs!!!!!! Please contact Program Director Brett Ewald at to take part!!

See for more information about ReTURN the Favor and other public walk dates.

Hope you'll join us!!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

World Series of Birding - CMBO Century Run 2018 Team Report

By Todd Klein

The World Series of Birding is an annual competition and fund-raiser for nature and environmental organizations in which teams try to see or hear as many bird species as possible inside a 24 hour period (midnight to midnight) and inside the state of New Jersey. It’s held on a Saturday in the first half of May, the 12th this year. It was begun in 1984 by Pete Dunne and others, and the first year there were thirteen teams. This year there were 73 teams and hundreds of participants. Since its inception, the event has raised more than ten million dollars for the organizations involved. Our team, the Cape May Bird Observatory Century Run began in 1987. My first year was 1988, and though I’ve missed a few years, I’ve participated about 25 times. The event is a mixture of exciting (when you find good things), frustrating (when you don’t), a cool nature adventure, an exhausting experience, and usually lots of fun. Every year a core group of fans, friends and supporters help me contribute to the cause of the Cape May Bird Observatory’s mission of conservation, education and preservation, and I’m glad they were there for me again this year.

Early start at the Meadows  © Todd Klein
Our 2018 team had 24 participants, including the team leader Brett Ewald, team planners and birding experts Roger and Kathy Horn, photographer and binocular specialist Clay Taylor from Swarovski Optik, and team planner Patti Domm. Many participants on this team return year after year. The top Level 1 teams are usually much smaller, 3 or 4 people, and some cover the entire state of New Jersey, or, like us, one particular county or area There are also Senior and Youth team categories as well as Carbon Footprint teams who travel only on foot or by bike, all competing for awards as well as raising money. Our Level 2 team does not compete for awards, but we do raise lots of money for important conservation work by New Jersey Audubon (over $7,000 this year), and we have a great time doing it. We birded from about 4:45 AM to about 9 PM this year, not as long a day as the 24-hour teams, but quite long enough! And our day tends to be more relaxed than the level-one teams. We keep up a steady pace, but also take the time to get good looks at some of the best and most interesting birds. That’s our team bus, above, at our starting point at the Cape May Meadows parking lot. As thunder and lightning flashed and rumbled in the distance, we got our first few species by call here before heading to our first stop, the Cape May Airport. There we added two more difficult species by call, Horned Lark and Chuck-Will’s-Widow as a light shower began.

As dawn broke, and the shower passed, we were at our next stop, a walk at Cox Hall Creek Wildlife Management Area that added more good birds like Green Heron, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Waterthrush and Northern Flicker. While we were there, a fire siren went off in the neighborhood, and this prompted a local Barred Owl to start calling! Apparently this often happens, though I’d never experienced it, and adding Barred Owl to our species list was a treat. Owls rarely call during the day, and we often don’t get any for our list. We left this birding spot at 7 AM with 57 species.

Seawatching at Norbury's Landing  ©Todd Klein
Our next stop was Norbury’s Landing on the Delaware Bayshore a little north of Cox Hall Creek. Here we added gulls and shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstone and Red Knot to our list, as well as a difficult-to-find Bonaparte’s Gull, and two Bald Eagles, We finished here around 7:45 AM with 77 species on our list. The weather was gradually clearing.

Another Delaware Bayshore stop further north at Reed’s Beach added species like Snowy Egret and Least Tern, but the best bird of the stop was a Glaucous Gull found by Clay Taylor using his scope. This nearly all-white gull is rare here, and is not on the official checklist, so it was a write-in! Those are always a thrill to add to our list.

Around 9 AM we stopped at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center for Research and Education (CRE for short) to use the bathrooms, and pick up a few more species like Orchard Oriole and the often elusive Cedar Waxwing. We also added Ruby-throated Hummingbird, coming to the feeders there.

Jake's Landing  © Todd Klein

Our next stop was Jake’s Landing, which overlooks wide expanses of wetlands draining into Delaware Bay. It was a full sun morning now, and remained so for much of the day with light winds and increasing temperatures into the upper 70s by mid-afternoon. In all, a very pleasant birding day.

Willet  © Roger Horn
Here we added species like Willet (above), Clapper Rail, Marsh Wren and Seaside Sparrow.

Belleplain State Forest  © Todd Klein
By about 10 AM we were in Belleplain State Forest, the area not far from where I live that I’d been scouting for the past 10 days. We began on Narrows Road, but not much was calling there, so moved on to the bridge on Sunset Road, above.

Worm-eating Warbler  © Roger Horn
Here we added key breeding bird species like Acadian Flycatcher, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Wood Thrush, and warblers: Hooded, Worm-eating (above), Yellow-throated and Prothonotary. By 10:10 we’d reached our nominal Century Run goal of 100 species about an hour earlier than usual! This was cause for celebration, but we all knew that after the first 100, it gets much harder. In other parts of Belleplain we added Eastern Phoebe, White-breasted Nuthatch, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Bluebird and more. We found most of the birds that breed here except for Summer Tanager, which I’d had several of the day before, but none turned up for us. That tends to happen every year with a few species. One final stop in Woodbine, near Belleplain, added Eastern Meadowlark, then we headed south toward Cape May Point again around 12:15 PM with 115 species.

Tree Swallow  © Roger Horn
We arrived at the Cape May Point State Park around 12:45 for our lunch break, which we took at one of the picnic pavilions overlooking Lighthouse Pond. There team leader Brett found a Broad-winged Hawk circling overhead with some vultures. After eating, we went up to the dune to view the ocean where it meets Delaware Bay. Here a difficult-to-find Parasitic Jaeger was added to our list, as well as a few more species.

Bob's Woods  © Todd Klein
Our next stop was a nearby place I’d never visited at the northwest corner of the Cape May Point State Park. Called Bob’s Woods, the State Park granted special access to this normally off-limits area - a patch of woods that was full of birds, including about a dozen warbler species. It reminded me very much of how birding used to be decades ago at Higbee Beach a few miles north, but seldom is there today. We added many migrating warblers to our list that we’ve often missed in recent years, including Black-throated Green, Magnolia, Blackburnian and Blackpoll, but the star attraction here was a Swainson’s Warbler that had been calling regularly for the past two weeks. This is a species that’s usually found further south, but one has been showing up here every year or two for a while now. They are secretive and very hard to see, but fortunately have a distinctive call, which allowed us to count it. To me, the call sounds like “Come on and get your PIZZA HERE!” (Okay, I like pizza.) I first learned it in South Carolina, and have heard one calling in the Cape May area before, but not for many years. This was another write-in bird, two in one year! Pretty cool.

About 3 PM we did some birding outside the Northwood Center of the Cape May Bird Observatory in Cape May Point. I’ve volunteered here for many years. We added a hard-to-find Black-billed Cuckoo. We were running a bit behind schedule, so we soon moved on.

TNC's South Cape May Meadows  © Todd Klein
Probably our longest walk of the day was on the loop trail at the Cape May Meadows from 3:15 to 4 PM. This had been one of our best spots last year, but was not as productive this year. We did add Gadwall and a few other species. A Mississippi Kite had been reported just north of us, but we didn’t see it. It was time to drive north again, where a stop at Shell Bay Landing just off the Garden State Parkway, added Whimbrel to our list. Next was Nummy Island where we found Tricolored Heron, Black-bellied Plover and Common Loon. I was pretty tired at this point and neglecting to take group photos, sorry. We left the Meadows with 133 species, just two short of our estimated goal of 135, and four short of last year’s total of 137. We had high hopes of more, but they were getting ever harder to find.

At Stone Harbor Point we found one of the few remaining Piping Plovers in our area. This species is endangered in New Jersey mainly because it nests on beaches where people also like to be.

Purple Sandpipers  © Roger Horn
Another bird we added here was Purple Sandpiper, which has usually migrated north by now. We left this area around 6 PM with a great total of 143 species!

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  © Todd Klein
We found one more in Avalon, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, seen here in a photo I took last year, possibly the same bird. This is a species that is rare and hard to see unless you know their daytime roosting spots, which we do.

We then stopped at the Wetlands Institute on Stone Harbor Boulevard where we had great looks at many of the shorebirds we’d struggled to see earlier in the day, as well as a family of young foxes playing nearby, but unfortunately did not find anything new for our list. Weather predictions were coming in of a massive line of thunderstorms approaching from the west, and there was a tornado warning. We headed back toward Belleplain State Forest after a stop at Wawa for snacks and bathrooms, and by the time we got there it was fully dark, and the western sky was full of thunder and lightning. We made two attempts to hear Whip-poor-will, a night-calling bird common there that’s often the last one we add to our list, but they were silent this time, perhaps as spooked by the weather as we were. We decided to call it a day and headed back to Cape May Point. On the way, as rain showers began, Roger Horn submitted our official list of 144 species online, as is now the method, seven more than last year!. By the time we got back to our cars, the storm was upon us, with torrential rain, lightning and thunder. Just getting the 20 feet from the bus to my car got me pretty wet.

I had planned to go to the Finish Line at the Grand Hotel, where there would be food and good company, and where we’d see other teams coming in as well, but by the time I drove over there, the rain was, if anything, coming down even harder, and there was nowhere near the hotel to park, so I decided to just head home instead. Even with having to drive much slower than usual, I arrived home earlier than I often do at about 10:15 PM.

Thanks again to all my pledgers and supporters for helping me raise funds for nature, and to the team’s excellent leaders and great participants. It was a fine group to be part of, everyone was friendly, polite and helpful, and we had a blast.

I’ll probably be doing and reporting on this again next year! Thanks for reading.

Captain's Note - Thanks to Todd for taking the time to write this summary of a wonderful day, the team members that make it happen, Clay Taylor and Swarovski Optik for gear, equipment and camaraderie, and all the support, both financial and logistical, that make this such a great event for Conservation!