Monday, February 14, 2011

Cape May Weekend

This weekend I was down at Cape May. With slightly warmer temperatures in the last two weeks, this weekend offered a chance to check out some of the places that were frozen when I visited earlier in the season. The peninsula has been unusually quiet over the past two months or so, with very few reports of rarities. This weekend was no different. The first stop on Saturday was at Avalon, where an Eared Grebe had been reported from the seawatch location. There was no sign of that, or any other grebe, but there were Long-tailed Ducks fairly close to shore and a mixed raft of Surf and Black Scoters farther out.

Saturday ended with a trip up to Jakes Landing to watch for owls. I did not see the reported Rough-legged Hawk, but I did see a first-winter Bald Eagle, which flew overhead just above treetop level. A few other birds flew around: American Black Ducks, a Great Blue Heron, an American Bittern, a few Northern Harriers, and a Red-tailed Hawk. An American Coot swam up to one of the boat ramps and started walking up. Finally, a little after the sun had dipped below the horizon, three Short-eared Owls finally emerged and started coursing over the marsh. Occasionally, two of the owls would get too close to each other for comfort, which would result in a brief aerial scuffle before they continued on their way.

Yesterday morning, the first stop was the Beanery. It seemed more quiet than usual, without the mixed flocks of sparrows and other songbirds that are usually all around the perimeter of the back field. One flock of Rusty Blackbirds flew overhead near the entrance, and other blackbirds were flying around. A Wilson's Snipe flushed and then flushed again, showing its distinctive russet rump as it flew away. One American Tree Sparrow was along the back field's fence line, and in one of the bushes, there was a flock of 18 Savannah Sparrows. The pond near the farm buildings held some ducks, including a Gadwall and 7 Ring-necked Ducks. A stop at the Meadows produced more waterfowl, which included a half dozen Northern Shovelers, a lot of Gadwall, a dozen Green-winged Teal, and some American Wigeons.

An afternoon stop at Cape May Point State Park produced more of the same. There were 8 Hooded Mergansers on Bunker Pond in addition to the American Wigeons and Gadwall. One sighting I did not expect, mainly because it has not been reported for a while on the blogs or listserves. Three Tundra Swans (one adult and two immatures) were present along with some Mute Swans on the first plover pond. They moved around more than the Mute Swans, and they were less tolerant of human activity on the trail along the pond. The adult looked especially white under the afternoon sun. Click the photo at right to see more photos of the swans.