Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Perhaps Not Missing After All

Yesterday morning I did a little birding around Cape May Point before returning home in the afternoon. A dawn seawatch at the dune crossing near St. Peter's produced a lot of seabirds. Most striking were the Northern Gannets. Dozens of them were flying close to shore, in and out of Delaware Bay. Double-crested Cormorants were most numerous, with over 1,000 cormorants passing the point and heading north in the hour I watched from the platform. A few Common Loons flying overhead were a treat; I usually do not get to see them in their breeding plumage. Several Willets passed the point and flew up the bay. Meanwhile, a few dozen Black and Surf Scoters remain around the point.

At the next stop, Cape May Point State Park, I hoped to see some newly-arrived warblers since there had been a good flight into New Jersey the previous night. It ended up being quieter than I had hoped, with only a handful of the same species I had seen the previous day, along with my first Common Yellowthroat of the year. However, just as I was preparing to finish the loop and move on to the next place, there was a flurry of activity around the junction of the red and yellow trails. First, I saw a Swamp Sparrow on the ground. Then, I looked up to find the source of an odd Yellow-rumped Warbler song I was hearing. When I finally saw it, a yellow throat made clear that it was not an expected Myrtle, but instead the Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler that I had missed the day before. It was extremely cooperative, sitting out in the open and singing for several minutes. Other birders saw and reported it later, so it stuck around the same area at least through the morning. If it is the same individual, I find it interesting that it stuck around Cape May Point and managed to elude so many birders for a day and a half after its initial discovery on Sunday morning.

A stop at the Nature Conservancy's preserve (a.k.a. the Meadows) turned up a mix of waterbirds and landbirds. Even though they were few in number, the Willets made their presence obvious by flying around, calling, and sometimes perching on the tops of poles to call and look around. Along with the Willets, I saw my first Greater Yellowlegs of the year. I counted nine singing male Common Yellowthroats around the preserve's loop. A few other warblers were migrating through. One treat was a bright male Yellow Warbler, my first of the year. Some ducks and American Coots are still at the refuge, though in fewer numbers than their late winter peak. Gadwall are most numerous, with smaller numbers of Green-winged Teal, American Black Ducks, and Northern Shovelers.

Unfortunately, I was so excited by the Audubon's Warbler sighting that I forgot to take photos. (You can see ones by other birders here, here, and here.) In the meantime, enjoy this photo of a Snowy Egret from the Meadows.