Monday, November 29, 2010

October part 2

Well, yes, another blog post and I've fallen behind again! Thanksgiving crept up on me and I didn't get October finished before I was heading off south for a few days. Still, that means there will be a post about something other than Cape May shortly, but for now here's the rest of October (much abridged of course to get it all in!).

October 13th
After a few days hanging out with friends and doing a few other things, it was back to the birding today with the Wednesday morning walk producing the first American Coot of the autumn and two male Ring-necked Ducks on Lighthouse Pond. Sharp-shinned Hawks were moving in good numbers, along with a handful of Broad-winged Hawks, while Yellow-rumped Warblers seemed to be everywhere and numbers of Swamp and Song Sparrows, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers were up.

On the way home, a magnificent juvenile Peregrine of the big and impressive tundra breeding race was on a powerline pole on Sunset Boulevard. I spent some minutes getting as close as I dared with the camera, only to find that it was perfectly happy to sit and stare at me while I stood immediately beneath it!

A prey's-eye view of a mighty tundra Peregrine - what a fabulous bird!

This bird even let me walk around the back for some more shots!

October 17th
A very wintery feel to the birds at Higbee's Beach this morning with Yellow-rumped Warblers dominating. A good number of Dark-eyed Juncos also moved through and at least five Purple Finches were down in the trees (the first of what was to be an amazing autumn for this species)

Year bird: Purple Finch

October 18th
I decided to head up onto Higbee Dike today rather than tramping the fields - and it proved to be a good move! The highlight of a great morning flight was a Northern Shrike - a real rarity here at Cape May and the first for quite some years. It flew right by us, landed on the reeds on the north side of the impoundment, then eventually headed off northward, over the canal. This morning I also notched up my first Cape May Pine Siskins - though little were we to know at the time that it was to be a bumper season for them. Red-breasted Nuthatches were passing us by at a rate of knots and the day ended with a record count for Cape May of 220 - as well as a record count of 23 White-breasted Nuthatches. A single Rusty Blackbird was my first of the season and Purple Finches continued to build up in numbers with the first one noted at the feeders at work today.

A visit to the Hawkwatch Platform lunch time proved a good move as I was there when a Golden Eagle was found, a Bald Eagle which had just been trapped by the hawk banders was brought along for release and a Clay-coloured Sparrow decided to hang around long enough for me to get a picture. A late Nashville Warbler was also present, lurking down in the weedy edge to the marsh.

Year birds: Pine Siskin, Northern Shrike, Golden Eagle, Clay-coloured Sparrow

Almost dejavu!! Almost exactly a year since the Golden Eagle was trapped at Cape May, I find myself looking at another eagle in the hand - this time a juvenile Bald Eagle... 
Arthur discovers that Bald Eagles can be as much of a handful as Golden Eagles!

Jordan prepares the Baldie for take-off...

Just time for a close-up before the bird is released.

October 19th
A quiet day, but a pair of Purple Finches in one of our Silk Trees saw another species added to the garden list.

House bird: Purple Finch

October 20th
This week's walk saw a continuation of the swarm of Yellow-rumped Warblers at the state park and an impressive movement of Buff-bellied Pipits though, as usual, they all flew straight through. Several Northern Harriers, including two full adult males, passed us by and an amazing flock of some 40 Pine Siskins was feeding on Giant Sunflower heads with American Goldfinches. Three Purple Finches were now visiting the feeders at work.

October 22nd
On and on, this autumn just doesn't seem to want to end! The autumn migration of songbirds at Cape May this year has been truly amazing nd doesn't look set to stop yet. The best thing of all for me is that nearly all of the big falls have happened on a Friday which is one of my regular days off! Can't complain about that!

For this morning, my diary says: Higbee's was fact so many birds were moving through that it was down right dangerous at times! Chipping Sparrows seemed to predominate today (apparent from the expected Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Robins) and there was good numbers of White-throated, Swamp, Song and Field Sparrows too, as well as my first Lincoln's Sparrow of the season. A big raptor floght took place today over home, which included five Bald Eagles during the relatively short time that I was looking, while Tree swallows seemed to be massing all over Cape Island. Our afternoon saw us at The Beanery, where we enjoyed a Western Kingbird that Pat Sutton had found; here too we found plenty of sparrows, including at least three Vesper Sparrows and I flushed a Lapland Longspur from the old Pumpkin patch. Weird sight of the day was of a flock of 15 Surf Scoter which hurtled high overhead, heading south and which may well have passed over our house!

Always nice before breakfast! A juvenile Bald Eagle gets escorted off the patch by American Crows. This bird flew right over my head as I was cycling back home from Higbee's Beach.

Year birds: Western Kingbird, Lapland Longspur, Lincoln's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow

October 23rd
Another good day for birds around home as a Northern Goshawk powered its way south less than 100 yards to the west of our garden and Megan pulled the biggie out of the hat by spotting a Golden Eagle heading towards us!! We watched it pass right overhead and continue northward over the canal - awesome! Later, I counted 23 White-throated and two White-crowned Sparrows at our feeding station, with Song, Field and Swamp Sparrows also in the yard.

Year bird: Northern Goshawk

October 24th
Early morning saw masses of American Robins pouring through the garden, along with Chipping Sparrows and a few Purple Finches; a Pine Siskin called overhead but I didn't clap my eyes on it. Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers fed in good numbers in our meadow and five White-crowned Sparrows were at the feeders. In the evening, a Wilson's Warbler was a late addition to our garden list. A real highlight for me this evening came when we were on our way home from friends and a Coyote crossed the road less than a half mile from our house - the first I have ever seen (at last!!).

October 25th
I had just got to The Beanery and inadvertently flushed a male Northern Harrier at lunch time, when I got word of an American Golden Plover. Heaidng over to the South Beach, I soon found the bird, with a party of 12 Grey Plovers and a single Dunlin. The plovers were a little skittish but I did manage some reasonable pictures of the 'goldie'.

Year bird: American Golden Plover

Juvenile American Golden Plovers can be rather grey in colour, making them tough to spot amongst flocks of Grey Plovers. Note that this bird is clearly smaller than the Grey Plovers behind (Black-bellied Plovers in the USA) and note the smaller bill and more obvious white supercilium behind the eye.

A couple more shots of the American Goldie. I thought I'd missed this one for the year as they are regular but not common here and usually pass through much earlier in September or early October.

October 28th
Today my diary says: It's been a lot slower for birds for a couple of days - little was I to know what was about to happen!! My evening began with a Cave Swallow at the state park before we headed over to a friend's house for our final big get-together of the autumn season. It was not long before very obvious 'migratory restlessness' was overcoming large numbers of American Robins shortly before the sun set, but even this was not enough to warn us of what was to come. However, having Scott shove his iphone in my face and say "Look at that, have you ever seen it right across the bay before?!" was enough to warn us all! Scott was checking the local dopler radar courtesy of the internet and the signs were ominous. The broad front of migrating birds was stretched out right across the waters of Delaware Bay.... Now go to my 'Ultimate Migration' post to see what hit us!!

Year bird: Cave Swallow

Taken from the comfort of my office chair! This female Red-bellied Woodpecker has been systematically emptying the bird feeders and stuffing sunflower seeds into any nook and cranny she can find in the building - it's costing us a fortune!!