Thursday, 30 October 2014


26 September 2014

Cape May

Thankfully after yesterday's heavy rain the sun returned to Cape May's skies today, though the wind continued in the NE. Consequently a reasonably slow but consistent morning flight began the day down at Higbee's Beach.

Palm Warbler
Parula Warbler
Red-bellied Woodpecker

  • Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
  • Scarlet Tanager 5
  • Indigo Bunting 3
  • Palm Warbler 30
  • Blackpoll Warbler 30
  • Black and white Warbler 5
  • Parula Warbler 10
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler 2
  • Northern Waterthrush 5
  • American Redstart 15
  • Warbler sp 20
  • Northern Flicker 6
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
  • Downy Woodpecker 1
  • Cedar Waxwing 50
  • Blue Jay 7
  • Red-winged Blackbird 5
  • Bald Eagle 1
  • Osprey 2
  • Merlin 3
  • Snowy Egret 5
  • Royal Tern 35
  • Forster's Tern 1
  • Common Tern 1
  • Belted Kingfisher 1

Cedar Waxwing

The dredging impoundment held a Greater Yellowlegs 1 that dropped in from high up and a Spotted Sandpiper. The large number of passerines moving out of the woods attracts predators looking for an early morning snack. One of the Scarlet Tanagers flew out of the canopy and along the top of the dyke, passing in front of the line of eight birders about eye level. As it reached the end of the small crowd it flew into the headwind causing it to stall and rise suddenly. At this precise moment a Merlin came stooping in at incredible speed, took a grab for the Tanager, missed and just managed to veer away from the end of our binoculars. It was a truly extraordinary encounter that left my heart racing with and a better understanding of how terrifying it must be for a Merlins target.

As the flight decreased I moved to the woods and walked the now familiar paths and trails. A few birds were feeding down the first avenue so I slowly walked down the path. Having seen a flock of 20 Red-eyed and 1 White-eyed Vireo and 3 Black and white Warblers I met a group of birders coming the other way. Some of them had just flushed a Black-billed Cuckoo, which they thought was still in the hedge, though they could not relocate it. As everyone else walked away I quietly waited in the same area, enjoying views of 6 Northern Flicker and 3 Blue Jay. After 30 minutes I had seen nothing else moving other than the usual Gray Catbirds (30) and turned to walk back up the path. A movement in some dry scrub caught my eye - the Black-billed Cuckoo! I grabbed the camera and managed to fire off a few shots before it flew into cover and vanished.

Black-billed Cuckoo

Raptors included 2 Merlin, 3 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 3 Cooper's Hawk, 4 Turkey Vulture and 2 Black Vulture. A quick stop at The Beanery found 2 Northern Waterthrush, 3 Common Yellowthroat and 2 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Downy Woodpecker

After breakfast we walked the trails at the Cape May State Park, heading down the beach then back through the boardwalks. A small group of 5 American Goldfinch gave good views briefly, 6 Palm Warbler fed in the beach bushes, a Glossy Ibis dropped into one of the pools and joined 8 Snowy Egret and we found the Wild Turkey in the woods. 

American Goldfinch
Glossy Ibis
Snowy Egret

Great White Egret

Wild Turkey
Northern Mockingbird
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As we reached the car park a bird flew up over the reeds, initially giving the impression of a small skua - then my brain kicked in - a Common Nighthawk feeding in broad daylight! We raced around to the hawk watch platform and watched the Nighthawk feeding at close range over the lake - superb.

Common Nighthawk

Other birds seen overhead included:

  • Sharp-shinned Hawk 10
  • Cooper's Hawk 8
  • Broad-winged Hawk 1
  • Red-tailed Hawk 2
  • Bald Eagle 2, including one that successfully robbed an Osprey of its fish in mid air
  • Osprey 2
  • Turkey Vulture 15
  • Black Vulture 10
  • Merlin 5
  • Peregrine 6
  • American Kestrel 2
Broad-winged Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Dragonflies were also in evidence around the State Park and I managed to get a few images.

Common Green Darner
Common Green Darner
Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Great Pondhawk
Great Pondhawk
Carolina Saddlebags
Spot-winged Glider
Twelve-spotted Skimmer
As had become the pattern I returned to the Northwood Centre and birded around Lily Lake in the late afternoon and early evening. The birds were feeding mainly in the gardens of the Northwood Centre, the flock by the lake having dispersed - presumably they had eaten all the insects. There was a good range of species this evening including a Common Yellowthroat, 4 Parula Warbler, a Blackpoll Warbler, 2 female Black-throated Blue Warbler, 3 Magnolia Warbler, 8 Yellow-rumped Warbler, 3 Palm Warbler, 2 Black and white Warbler and 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Woodpeckers were much in evidence in the taller trees either side of the Observatory. As well as 3 Downy Woodpeckers and a Northern Flicker, there was a Red-bellied Woodpecker and 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. A Cedar Waxwing, 3 Blue Jay, 6 Red-eyed Vireo, 1 White-eyed Vireo, 3 Merlin, an American Kestrel and 2 Sharp-shinned Hawk completed the array of species and another good day in the field.

Black-throated Blue Warbler (female)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Magnolia Warbler

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

When it rains it pours!

25 September 2014

Cape May

Very heavy rain fell overnight and continued throughout the day. It was therefore an easy decision to take a lay in. I was still out before breakfast and checked the small woodlands along the boardwalks at the State Park in the rain. There were a few birds around and I found 3 Black and white Warbler, 1 Blackpoll Warbler, 1 Prairie Warbler, 1 Pine Warbler, 1 Parula Warbler, 3 Magnolia Warbler, 6 Common Yellowthroat, 2 American Redstart, 10 Gray Catbird, 2 Carolina Chickadee, 2 Brown Thrasher and a Mourning Dove. Despite the weather there were a few birds of prey with 2 Merlin, a Sharp-shinned Hawk and an Osprey. A flock of 11 Pectoral Sandpiper and 2 Semi-palmated Sandpiper flew through, a Belted Kingfisher fished the lake, and 2 each of Great Blue Heron and Snowy Egret fed around the edges, while 50 Tree Swallow hunted over the bushes.

Gray Catbird
I returned to Cape May town for breakfast and spent much of the morning editing photos from the previous few days. Eventually after lunch the rain eased off so I headed over to Higbee's Woods to see of anything had been put down by the rain. With some effort I found a few birds including a Black and white Warbler, a Northern Waterthrush, a Red-eyed Vireo, a Brown Thrasher, 2 Northern Flicker, 10 Gray Catbird, 2 Northern Cardinal and a hunting Cooper's Hawk. With few migrants around and after the flock of waders through the State Park earlier I decided to try the Meadows. I literally had to wade down the paths only to find the previously muddy pools completely flooded. A few waders were restricted to the narrow edges where 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, 12 Least Sandpiper, 9 Semi-palmated Sandpiper and a Lesser Yellowlegs were found. Ducks were the only birds seemingly enjoying the weather and Black Duck had increased to 7 among the 30 Mallard, 6 American Wigeon, 4 Shoveler and 8 Gadwall. However the highlight was my first properly wild Ruddy Duck, an immature bird swimming around the deeper pool. A Cooper's Hawk rested briefly on the tower and 2 Osprey fed over the pools, where 150 Tree Swallow were flocking. About a dozen Savannah Sparrow flushed from the path edges as I walked back to the car.

I finished the day at the Northwood Centre where numbers and reduced but variety was still available in the form of 3 Black and white Warbler, 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1 Blackpoll Warbler, 1 Prairie Warbler, 3 Magnolia Warbler, 2 American Redstart, 1 Palm Warbler, 4 Red-eyed Vireo, 4 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and 2 Parula Warbler.  A very tame Mourning Dove was wandering around in the road, the usual Belted Kingfisher rattled from behind the hedge and 2 Peregrine hunted down the streets.

A dull day with few photo opportunities. Hopefully better weather and more birds tomorrow....