Monday, 11 May 2015

Cape May - the crazy week

Arrived NJ during afternoon of Saturday 02 May spending the first week scouting for our team 1000birds. Birding straight away checking Belleplain State Forest in the north of Cape May County, the northern edge of southern breeding specialities including Summer Tanager. Tanagers were on territory, Ovenbirds were everywhere and Yellow-throated Warblers were plentiful.

Returned to Belleplain a few times during the week and connected with the elusive Louisiana Waterthrush at Sunset Bridge, Pine and Worm-eating Warblers plus hidden Acadian Flycatchers giving their harsh "pizit" call. To the east of the forest the "Pee" fields held Eastern Meadowlark and a pair of Bobolink. Back in the forest Eastern Phoebes were on tertotory and stunning Wood Thrushes sang their melodic song.

The Delaware Bayshore marshes were rich in birdlife and would prove good for the birdrace. Northern Harriers and Bald Eagles hunted whilst nesting Ospreys chilled out on their nesting platforms and nearby snags. Clapper Rails scolded each other, Seaside Sparrows and Marsh Wrens sang from tbe marsh and edges respectively and Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere. The flood across the channel at Jakes Landing Road held 100s of waders and a dwindling flock of Green-winged Teal - 100 down to 20 midweek.

The Atlantic marshes stretching from Avalon the 15 miles or so to Cape May in the south held Hudsonian Whimbrel, Brent Geese, the speciality Night Herons, Little Blue and Tricoloured Herons plus a variety of waders.

Wintering birds lingering off shore or in the sheltered back bays included Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Blue-winged Teal and Red-necked Grebes. Scoters had thinned out with scattered sightings of Black and Surf.

Always nice to bird Cape May Point but the weather wasn't productive for migrants, easterly winds and the onshore breezes produced foggy conditions drom midweek. A fair selection of passerines.

Which birds scouted for the World Series of Birding would linger for us, would we have any nice surprises or disappointments?

Not going to go into much depth here about the birdrace, more to follow on the trip report, but we had a flying start. Virginia Rail at Jakes a calling Eastern Screech Owl down the road, and then the "biggy"... Black Rail calling at Stipson's Island Road at the north eest corner of Cape May County just before 1am. We spread the word via text, thanks to the brilliant rule change to allow folk to share sightings. In the day we connected with Painted Bunting at Cape May (lifer), but passerine migration was zero in the south of the state. We finished on 141 not good enough to take the Cape May County trophy. Congratations to the guys from Israel and local birding legend Tom Reed who retained said trophy. Many thanks to all including Tom for the help with scouting notes and sharing gen prior to and during the big day. Nice to catch up with friends across the pond. Cheers to Nick, Bob and Marc my teammates, and to Nick and Emy for putting me up for the week, it was nice to escape the UK election fever.

As I type this it's 0950 Monday 11 May and the fog is clearing but the winds are still from the SE.  Saw the Painted Bunting a couple of hours ago but otherwise quiet with Hooded Warblers singing at Higbees and a hidden Northern Waterthrush in song at the Bunting site. Time to go birding after a fine breakfast at George's Place on Beach Avenue, Cape May.



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