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It's always a treat to see a Cape May Warbler in Cape May. Despite the name (the species was first collected here), it's not a particularly common species in the county. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
When it comes to fall migration in Cape May, it's all about the weather -- particularly the wind direction. In a perfect world, the week of our tour is dominated by massive cold fronts roaring down out of Canada, sweeping all the birds of the northern forests south before them and bringing clear, blue-sky days. Unfortunately, this year our week was instead dominated by relentless east winds and persistent rains. But this being Cape May, there was still plenty to look at -- even if it was a little soggier than we might have liked!
Among our top sightings were a trio of rails on a single day: a showy Clapper Rail that danced along the edges of the saltmarsh at Two Mile Landing, a confiding Sora foraging in shallow waters at the Meadows, and a furtive Virginia Rail that darted back and forth across open gaps in the reeds just behind the Sora. "Salty sparrows" also gave admirable performances, with Nelson's and Saltmarsh sparrows providing nice comparative studies as they perched, one after the other, in the Spartina grasses of Nummy Island, and a close Seaside Sparrow peering from the saltmarsh at Shell Bay Landing. A most out-of-place American Bittern huddled among the ivy leaves 20 feet up a big poplar tree, peering down at the hordes of birders admiring it from below. A couple of drake Eurasian Wigeons, regular vagrants to Cape May most winters now, floated among the other ducks on several area ponds. A Great Cormorant rested on a rocky jetty, mere feet from a trio of Double-crested Cormorants for easy comparison. A big mob of Black Skimmers -- more than 550 in all -- rested on the sands of Cape May's beach, or lifted, wings whirring and "poodle barks" echoing, into the air before resettling again. In all, we found 16 species of warblers, including a busy mob of Nashvilles bouncing in and out of the millet field at Higbee's, a late Blackburnian flicking through a cedar at Higbee's, a Cape May Warbler and the tour's only Black-throated Green in a mixed flock near CMBO's Northwood Center, and a Prairie Warbler flitting along the edge of the parking lot at Cape May Point SP. And who will soon forget the last minute excitement of Doug's spotting of the Western Kingbird, which perched on a roadside wire and drew ever-increasing numbers of excited birders as we watched.
Thanks so much for joining us for the week -- and for coping with the less-than-ideal conditions that plagued some of it. Your sharp-eyed spotting, humor and easy companionship made for a very pleasant week, despite the sogginess! Doug and I hope to see you again soon on another adventure somewhere.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
Common Eider is a late arrival and winter visitor to Cape May, so finding one in September was a bit of a surprise. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) [I]
WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)
GADWALL (Anas strepera)
EURASIAN WIGEON (Anas penelope)
AMERICAN WIGEON (Anas americana)
AMERICAN BLACK DUCK (Anas rubripes)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
This American Bittern apparently failed "Being a Bittern 101". Or at least it forgot that it's supposed to roost in the grounds among the reeds rather than 20 feet up a tree! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Anas discors)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Anas clypeata)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca)
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)
COMMON EIDER (Somateria mollissima)
We had a nice up-close-and-personal encounter with a few young Yellow-crowned Night-Herons along the back channels off Jarvis Sound, thanks to our boat trip. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)
BLACK SCOTER (Melanitta americana)
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)
An eye-to-eye encounter with a Great Cormorant on our back bay boat trip was a treat, especially as it was right beside a trio of Double-crested Cormorants for convenient comparison. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
Our first morning at Cape May Point State Park brought swirling kettles of raptors, including a few young Broad-winged Hawks. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
We saw lots of Ospreys during the week, including many carrying fish. Unfortunately for the Ospreys, the Bald Eagles saw them too! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus)
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
CLAPPER RAIL (ATLANTIC COAST) (Rallus crepitans crepitans)
A mx of Sanderlings and Western Sandpipers snooze on a Stone Harbor jetty. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)
SORA (Porzana carolina)
AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
A coffee and pit stop at the local Wawa convenience store yielded an unexpected bonus in the form of the tour's only Solitary Sandpiper -- appropriately alone in the parking lot's drainage pond. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
Guide Doug Gochfeld created this video montage of some of the tour's highlights.
RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)
WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)
The number of newly-emerged Common Buckeyes visiting the Baccharas plants at Cape May Point SP on our first day was truly staggering -- as many as 60 on a bush! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)
PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)
HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (Larus fuscus)
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL (Larus marinus)
The gang heads out on our first sunny morning. Photo by participant Cheryl Chessick.
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus varius)
Seeing a flock of 550 snoozing Black Skimmers on the Cape May beach was a real treat. When they all leapt into the air to avoid a passing Peregrine? Magic! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Picoides pubescens)
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Picoides villosus)
NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
This confiding Nelson's Sparrow was one of three "salty sparrow" species we saw in quick succession. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens) [a]
ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)
EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)
WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)
A brown-eyed young White-eyed Vireo can cause confusion! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)
RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)
HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)
Red skies in the morning -- an ominous sign of things to come! Photo by participant Leslie Crocker.
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)
TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon) [*]
Our only Blue Grosbeaks were brown youngsters or females. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)
CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)
BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
NASHVILLE WARBLER (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)
Northern Parulas were among the most common of the tour's warblers. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (Setophaga fusca)
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
Pine Warblers are among the first to arrive in Cape May in the spring, and are largely gone by the time of our fall tours. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum)
PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (Setophaga coronata)
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Setophaga virens)
A gang of Ruddy Turnstones rested on a marina wall in the rain, seen from our back bay boat, the Osprey. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
NELSON'S SPARROW (Ammodramus nelsoni)
SALTMARSH SPARROW (Ammodramus caudacutus)
SEASIDE SPARROW (Ammodramus maritimus)
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)
FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla)
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)
At times, standing under the constant streams of passing Tree Swallows was sort of like being at the bottom of a snow globe! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)
EASTERN TOWHEE (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus) [*]
BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)
Birds weren't the only thing flying in Cape May. We also had a number of dragonflies, including this handsome Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater)
BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [I]
A Common Nighthawk hunting over the Cape May Bird Observatory's Northwood Center capped off a fine first evening of birding. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (Spinus tristis)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)
EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)
MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethica)
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)
Totals for the tour: 152 bird taxa and 4 mammal taxa