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Saturday, July 23, 2011

April 18, 2011 cloudy Cape May, NJ

I would like to say that I have not had the time to write this blog post but I would be lying. I was in fact just being plain out lazy. Though I loath to admit it a lot of the trip I have forgotten details of and am sadly unable to write a good long blog post on the trip. I will, however, write about some of my most memorable walks.

The Meadows

Day number 1 The Meadows
We were taking a tour led by Pete Dunne who was going to guide us through The Meadows and hopefully point out some good birds. Instantly Pete and the other tour leaders started pointing out great birds. Brown Thrasher, year bird! American Coots, nice birds! Wilson's Snipe, nice bird! Swamp Sparrow, year bird! Blue-winged Teal, nice bird (Yesterday it was a life bird but last night we had visited this location and had seen these stunning ducks)! Green-winged Teal, nice bird! Northern Shoveler, nice bird! It went on and on.

Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal

"Cliff Swallow" called Pete Dunne. Over head flew a swallow, personally I couldn't see how he identified it but he told us that it had a "rubbery flight". I still haven't figured out how birds can have a "rubbery flight" but who cares it's a life bird either way.

Red-winged Blackbird, one of the commonest residents of The Meadows

On the beach we had Piping Plover, American Oystercatchers and Northern Gannets; all three species year birds. An immature gull flew by which Pete quickly identified as a Lesser Black-backed Gull which is a scarce gull in the area and a life bird. I couldn't figure out how he identified this one either. I think it had something to do with the wing length but I couldn't see that field mark.

Forsters Tern

As we walked back over the dunes watching agile Forsters Terns diving in the marsh, a handsome Bald Eagle soared over. We found a Prairie Warbler singing in the bushes being accompanied by a life bird Yellow-throated Vireo! (I spotted the vireo I was while looking through another birder's scope at the warbler and the vireo popped up into view).

After seeing the vireo we didn't see much else and a little while later the walk ended.

Later that day we went to another tour led by the same group of people. We arrived early and had enough time to bird the pine woods before the rest of group arrived. The woods had quite a few nice species highlighted by the discovery of a handsome Yellow-throated Warbler which was a year bird.

Around then the rest of the group arrived and we drove over to the other parking lot to meet them. Before going to the mudflats (which is the best bit to see birds at Heislerville) we went to check out the heron rookery, which is located on an island on a lake. across from the mud flats. On the island we had Black-crowned Night Heron (year bird), Snowy Egret, Great Egret and best of all a Cattle Egret! I spotted the Cattle Egret lazing about in the trees with the other herons. It was a small white egret with an orange bill and an salmon colored tufts of feathers on chest, back and head, They apparently came to the USA from Africa. Flying across the Atlantic to South America and from there they spread upwards to the States. This all happened in the late 1800s. But recently their numbers in New Jersey and most of the Northeast have greatly diminished and they are now very uncommon in Cape May.

All the egrets were in full breeding plumage their freshly grown fan of feathers (which are used in their displays) sticking gracefully out in every direction imaginable.

We moved on to the mudflats. There were thousands upon thousands of Dunlin, along with Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet and Black-bellied Plovers. At one point while we were watching them a Peregrine Falcon flew by sending the Dunlin into a panic. They flew up into the air and started spinning in a ball-like formation to make it harder for the falcon to chose one as its target. The falcon flew around the area for a little while longer before departing still hungry.

We then got back into the car and drove to another nearby birding hotspot. There we had birds such as: Glossy Ibis, Northern Shoveler and Blue-winged Teal. Getting back into the car we drove down to a salt marsh (passing a very picturesque Osprey stationed on its nest) were we found all the usual shore birds. We heard a bird cackling out in the marsh which the tour leaders told us was a Clapper Rail! It was a life bird!

Osprey

It was a really good day!

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