Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Diary Update - February

Somehow I've got myself in a muddle! It feels like I've been too busy to get out and see what's happening over the last six weeks or so and yet, when I look back through my diary (the hand-written one that is!), I see that I have actually notched up one or two birds for the old year list, as well as some new birds on our house list. Here's a catch up on my wildlife diary notes, following on from the last one - which I see only went up to January 31st!! If it gets too long, I'll make it a two-parter.

February 2nd
Megan and I spent the afternoon at Poverty Beach, a lovely quiet place in the winter. Actually, most of Poverty Beach lies within the US Coastguards base so is off limits; which of course means that it regularly gets good birds! All you can do is to walk out to the coastguard sign then scope for birds around the wooden pilings at around three quarters of a mile away (I just measured it on Google Earth!). So not the greatest of views, but it's surprising what you can see with a good scope. We essentially went because a first-winter male King Eider has been hanging out there and we did manage to find him. You won't be surprised to hear, though, that there are no pictures! Four Great Cormorants were also there, as well as the usual scattering of Common and Red-throated Loons, Buffleheads and Purple Sandpipers.

Cape May harbour held 210 Ruddy Ducks and the Coastguard Ponds at Two-Mile Beach were full of American Black Ducks, Northern Pintail and Hooded Mergansers, as well as three Pied-billed Grebes.

Driving back via Wildwood, Sunset Lake proved worth a look with three Horned Grebes, two Ruddy Ducks, 65 Greater Scaup and two Common Loons, plus a scattering of Red-breasted Mergansers and Buffleheads.

Year Birds: Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe

February 3rd
Driving to work along Bayshore Road, I noticed an Eastern Phoebe sitting on a fence near what I know as the Willow Pond (a big garden pond with willows on one side!). One or two of these flycatchers occasionally winter in Cape May, though picking this winter would seem to be a poor choice. There's been one or two reports from Cape Island of late, which perhaps all refer to the same one, roaming, individual.

A lunchtime visit to The Beanery to photograph Skunk Cabbage which was coming into flower proved fortuitous as I found a nice Northern Wren and two Wilson's Snipe.

Year Bird: Eastern Phoebe

February 6th
It says in my diary "Baaad Day"! Snow and high winds all day with our electricity cutting off somewhere arouns 8:30AM. I kept the bird feeders clear as best I could, but the snow just came too thick and fast. Modern life can be interupted so completely in such instances: we immediately had no water (an electric pump draws our water from a well) so no drinking water and no toilet!; no cooking (electric oven) and no heat - yep, the oil heater needs electricity! Even the birds had to suffer as the garage door is electric and we couldn't get to the bird food, the emergency camping stove, the saw (to deal with a large branch that came down on our phone line) or the snow shovel! Early to bed!!

February 7th
A sunny day but, with nearly two feet of snow on the ground, it remained very wintery. A Great Egret on Cape Island Creek was a surprise and our garden feeders (we got some emergency supplies in!) attracted an American Woodcock and two Eastern Meadowlarks.

Superbowl night tonight so we had a big get-together, the highlight of which was putting together a list of birds seen on TV during the Superbowl advert breaks!!! Sad? Obsessive? It's a fine line!

Year Bird: Eastern Meadowlark (and new house bird!)

February 10th
As if we haven't had enough - a hideous day of foul weather, with overnight rain turning to snow, accompanied by more high winds. The evening before, we had only just got our electricity back on so at least we were back in our own house after three nights staying with friends. Luckily this time, we weren't cut off - I guess there were no more trees left to fall down onto the wires!! Drifting snow and dangerous driving conditions resulted in a state of emergency being declared and things were getting very desperate at our feeders; Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles with ice welded to their faces, clung on to the swinging feeders in the high winds and one Common Grackle even managed to attack and kill a White-throated Sparrow which it carted off and ate on the Arctic waste that used to be our front lawn. A lone Carolina Wren was working around the leeward side of our maple, clinging to the trunk like a treecreeper.

February 11th
After banging on about the idiots who can't drive to save their lives around here when there's just a little bit of snow around, I got stuck in a drift on the way to work this morning. Serves me right! Another day of shovelling snow and maintaining the bird feeders and not too many visitors at the bird observatory!

Bonaparte's Gulls continue to ride the winds gracefully around Sunset Beach and a nice surprise was a Horned Lark which was feeding on a little bit of road cleared of snow on the corner of Bayshore Road and
Stevens Street. American Tree Sparrow and Great Black-backed Gull were nice house ticks (the latter a new bird for our house list) and we actually added our first genuine 'house bird' when we discovered that a Carolina Wren has taken to roosting in the basement!

Year Birds: Horned Lark, American Tree Sparrow

February 14th
Two American Tree Sparrows at the Rea Farm shop on the way to work this morning. Lunch time I followed up a report of a Black-headed Gull (yes I know, I've seen millions of them in the UK etc etc....) at the ferry terminal but couldn't find it. A nice male American Kestrel was on wires along Bayshore Road and I added it to the house list in the evening.

After work I had another shot at the Black-headed Gull and missed it again, but enjoyed a nice adult Bald Eagle flying over the canal bridge and found six Tundra Swans on the canal by the ferry terminal. About 150 Ring-billed Gulls were in the snowy car park, waiting for scraps while the beach held plenty of Sanderling, three Ruddy Turnstones and a Purple Sandpiper. A party of 11 Horned Larks flew south.

February 15th
Third time lucky! A lunch time jaunt back into North Cape May got me the Black-headed Gull, though I searched all the way up to Townbank Road before I found it. More Horned Larks and Purple Sandpipers graced the beach and dozens of American Robins, desperately seeking food wherever there was no snow, were rummaging on the strand line.

Year Bird: Black-headed Gull

February 18th
Still very cold with much snow lying on the ground, but I managed a lunchtime walk around Cape May Point State Park. Not surprisingly, it was very quiet for birds, but a nice party of eight female Hooded Mergansers flushed from the main drain and a Great Horned Owl flew out from a stand of pines.

February 22nd
A Harbour Seal was on the concrete ship at Sunset Beach before work and Black Scoters literally swarmed offshore with birds moving up and down the bay in all directions - a fabulous sight, and a fabulous sound too as many of the males were courting the females with their wonderful whistles.

A lunchtime walk around the state park provided me with a fly-over Buff-bellied Pipit and a female Blue-winged Teal and the regular male Redhead on Lighthouse Pond. In the afternoon, I followed up on some noisy American Crows outside my office window and found them mobbing a Great Horned Owl.

Year bird: Blue-winged Teal

February 25th
Another quick lunchtime visit to the state park revealed good numbers of American Robins and a couple of Northern Flickers feeding on the grass east of the lighthouse. Best of all was a superb breeding-plumaged male Pine Warbler hopping around on the grass right beside the entrance road - and me with no camera of course! The Pine Warbler really was a ray of sunshine, being brilliant yellow below, like a male Yellow Wagtail; hopefully a nice preview of what is to come later in the spring....

Year bird: Pine Warbler

So February finished with my year list of birds on 132 species.