Monday, October 20, 2008

Cape May Birds

Since my mother was in town for the weekend, I spent Sunday afternoon birding with her around Cape Island, once my banding duties were done for the morning. Higbee's Beach was fairly quiet in the afternoon. Many hawks passed overhead – mostly sharp-shinned but also a few Cooper's and a red-tailed. Songbirds were mostly sparse, but one of the big tower fields had loads of sparrows. I saw swamp sparrows most frequently, but a few song and white-throated sparrows were in the mix as well. And, of course, a fall bird walk like today's would not be complete without many yellow-rumped warblers.

After leaving Higbee's, we stopped at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (a.k.a., the South Cape May Meadows). As at Higbee's, the refuge was fairly quiet. The main attraction was the gathering of freshwater waterfowl near the lookout platform. Many species were represented, including green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, black duck, gadwall, and the ubiquitous mallard. The bushes along Sunset Boulevard held a nice collection of sparrows. While swamp sparrows were still the dominant species, there was a bit more diversity here than at Higbee's. The flocks included song, savannah, white-throated, and white-crowned sparrows. There may have been more represented, but they were all moving too quickly to be certain. Raptors at the Meadows included a merlin and an adult female northern harrier.

In the evening, a stop at St. Peter's in Cape May Point turned up large flocks of black scoters and sanderling around the jetty. I also caught sight of a few dozen black skimmers rounding the point and heading up the bay. So skimmers are still here, even if I have not seen them in Bunker Pond for a month or more.

This weekend I had some of my best banding demos yet. For the Sunday morning demo, I had four Cooper's hawks - adult male and female, plus hatch year male and female - in addition to a sharp-shinned hawk and a red-tailed hawk. Saturday's demo had a similar variety. I am hoping that we have some good sets of birds for next weekend's demos.