Friday, November 19, 2010

Migration Mayhem Continues...

If September had been good for migration this year, then October was spectacular. End to end, it produced an amazing number of great birding days as the weather continued ideal for falls of migrants, day after day after day, until we began to think that there really couldn't be any more birds left in Canada! So, as with the last post, here's a very much abridged diary of October highlights - but with more pictures this time!

October 2nd
After a brief respite from birds while we had wet and windy weather, a cold front swept through Cape May overnight and yet again the birds arrived in force. There was nothing particularly noteworthy at Higbee's Beach this morning, but common birds were everywhere and included my first-of-season Grey-cheeked Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow and Northern Wren. The bulk of birds today consisted of both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Indigo Buntings, Northern Flickers and Blue Jays. Highlights for me were two Yellow-billed Cuckoos, several Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and two Blackburnian Warblers. A magic day continued at work in the evening with the now expected warbler show in the trees along East Lake Drive, which today included three Blackburnian and a Bay-breasted Warbler and oodles of regular stuff.

House bird: Golden-crowned Kinglet

October 3rd
A walk around the garden before work revealed four species of woodpecker out there, including our first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (the others being Northern Flicker and Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers). Other nice yard birds included Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Brown Thrasher, Swamp Sparrow and Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers. Michael O'Brien's timing was (almost) perfect this morning as I walked into work at 9AM and immediately got a message saying that an American White Pelican had landed in the bay, just off Coral Avenue - two minutes from work! A quick bit of back-pedalling and I was soon looking at what is a very scarce bird at Cape May - and even rarer south of the canal. The bird drifted on the tide and gave great scope views, before work beckoned; Michael reported a second bird that flew in and joined the first shortly after I left.

Year bird: American White Pelican
House bird: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

October 5th
A pre-work walk at the Migratory Bird Refuge turned out to be a good move as migrants were a-hopping! A good passage of American Kestrels was taking place, at least five Sora Rails called from the marsh and swamp and Savannah Sparrows were plentiful. Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets were heading south in small groups and five Wilson's Snipe and a Long-billed Dowitcher were in the pools.

After work, one of our regular frisbee sessions was interrupted periodically as we counted Great Blue Herons rising out of the marsh and heading out over the bay. By the time dusk had fallen, we had counted 292 Great Blues heading out over the bay, including a single flock of 30 which made a fine sight as they circled way out over the water. In addition, four Brown Pelicans and many Double-crested Cormorants headed southward too. Last knockings at home, against a wonderful orange sunset, saw an American Woodcock whizz over the garden and a Black-crowned Night Heron rose from its daytime roost in the woods beyond our garden, called a few times, then almost got taken by a mighty female Peregrine that raked right across the sky - what an end to the day!

It's not all birds! This male Dot-lined White was found soon after emergence from its chrysalis at the state park before our frisbee game.

October 6th
Today started early for me as I was woken up at 6AM by the local Coyote pack howling outside - what a start to the day!! Two pairs of Great Horned Owls were calling at each other too. Several American Kestrels and two Northern Harriers passed over the garden. My Wednesday walk highlighted with two Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the beach and three Broad-winged Hawks overhead.

A lunchtime walk at the state park turned up a mating pair of Chinese Praying Mantises for me. This non-native species is the largest mantis found in Cape May and so far the only species I have seen here. Note how much larger the female is and note that colour is not any use in identifying species here - though many people here think that it is.

October 8th
Action stations! Another northwest front brought a mass of birds our way, with the Morning Flight counter totting up some 36,000 birds heading north in the first couple of hours of daylight! When I got up this morning, I immediately noticed big numbers of American Robins moving through the area (in all directions it seemed!) so I thought I ought really stay around the house and see what tunrs up - and what a great move it proved to be! In actual fact, I had things that I needed to do, so I only spent a chunk of the morning and a half hour or so in the evening looking for birds, but remarkably I chalked up 74 species, over, in or around our garden. From an amazing early morning movement that saw 14 species of warbler in the garden, through an excellent mid-morning raptor movement that included three Bald Eagles and at least 26 Broad-winged Hawks going over, to a sunset moment that added American Woodcock and two Common Nighthawks drifting over, it had been an amazing day - and all rounded off with a great meal at the Mad Batter's with Ralph and Brenda Todd who had been over here from the UK to enjoy the highlights of a Cape May autumn.

So here's the full list for the garden for today:

Canada Goose  - 31
Double-crested Cormorant  - 3
Turkey Vulture  - 12
American Black Vulture  - 8
American Kestrel  - 6
Merlin  - 1
Peregrine  - 3
Osprey  - 4
Bald Eagle  - 3
Northern Harrier  - 5
Sharp-shinned Hawk  - 35
Cooper's Hawk  - 12
Red-shouldered Hawk  - 2
Broad-winged Hawk  - 26
Red-tailed Hawk  - 7
Killdeer  - 2
American Woodcock  - 1
Laughing Gull  - 2
American Herring Gull  - 1
American Mourning Dove  - 55
Common Nighthawk  - 2
Belted Kingfisher  - 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  - 2
Yelow-bellied Sapsucker  - 4
Downy Woodpecker   - 1
Northern Flicker  - 5
Eastern Phoebe  - 1
Eastern Wood Pewee  - 1
Red-eyed Vireo  - 1
Blue Jay  - 60
American Crow  - 10
Fish Crow  - 3
Cedar Waxwing  - 4
Carolina Chickadee  - 4
Tree swallow  - 200
Golden-crowned Kinglet  - 12
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  - 15
Carolina Wren  - 2
Northern House Wren  - 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch  - 3
White-breasted Nuthatch  - 1
Grey Catbird  - 1
Northern Mockingbird  - 4
Brown Thrasher  - 3
European Starling  - 20
Eastern Bluebird  - 1
American Robin  - 450
House Sparrow  - 15
American Goldfinch  - 2
House Finch  - 1
Tennessee Warbler  - 1
Nashville Warbler  - 1
Northern Parula  - 6
Blackpoll Warbler  - 1
Magnolia Warbler  - 4
Black-throated Blue Warbler  - 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler  - 50
Black-throated Green Warbler  - 1
Palm Warbler  - 6
Black-and-white Warbler  - 5
American Redstart  - 10
Ovenbird  - 1
Northern Waterthrush  - 4
CommonYellowthroat  - 4
Red-winged Blackbird  - 100
Common Grackle  - 2
Bobolink  - 6
Song Sparrow  - 3
Swamp Sparrow  - 1
White-crowned Sparrow  - 1
Field Sparrow  - 1
Eastern Towhee  - 1
Dickcissel  - 1
Northern Cardinal  - 6

House birds: Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Dickcissel, White-breasted Nuthatch,, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Wood Pewee, Broad-winged Hawk, Nashville Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Common Nighthawk

Considering that our management policy for our meadow so far has been one of 'hands-off' to see what develops, we have been pleasantly surprised with how it is developing. In October it looked pretty spectacular when all the Frost Aster came into flower. It's been nice that so many neighbours have stopped by to say how good it's looking too - including one of the local township commissioners!

Butterflies have made the best of our garden already this year, including this White-M Hairstreak that I found on October 10th.

Yep, another day, another Cape May lighthouse-sunset shot!

Alternatively, another day, another Sunset Beach sunset shot!! Both these pictures were taken on the same day - I particularly liked the Double-crested Cormorants enjoying the view from the concrete ship.

OK - this is getting long-winded again - so I'll break October here and finish it off in the next post in a couple of days.