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We saw plenty of migrating Ospreys on this tour, including more than a few hunting over Bunker Pond at Cape May Point State Park. Photo by participant Pam Pappone.
Our week at New Jersey's southernmost tip started with a bang, with two days of wet weather. That might not sound ideal, but our experiences showed otherwise. The sogginess meant that migrants dropped down wherever they happened to be -- and a bunch of them just happened to be over Cape May! We braved the drizzle (and some far more persistent rains) and found plenty to keep us entertained. Squadrons of Northern Parulas swarmed through trees along the edge of Lake Lily, hordes of American Redstarts flicked in the junipers outside the bird observatory, a six-pack of Cape May Warblers bounced higher and higher through some roadside trees, and small numbers of other species mingled among them, testing our ID skills. Merlins and Peregrine Falcons showed off their flight skills in the winds over Sunset Beach, while bedraggled Fish Crows looked on.
Unfortunately, the migration train came to a screeching halt once the weather cleared, but there were still birds to enjoy. An Ovenbird and a Northern Waterthrush strode, side-by-side for convenient comparison, along a leaf-strewn bank. Dozens of Northern Flickers bounded past, flashing golden underwings. A surprise (late) Canada Warbler danced through tangled vegetation along a field edge. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull lurked among a big mixed flock of gulls and terns. Black Skimmers rose in twisting ribbons over the beach, then settled back down on the sand. A Philadelphia Vireo flitted along the edge of Higbee's parking lot with a little group of warblers, and a Yellow-throated Vireo did the same near the bird observatory. Cooper's Hawks and a few Sharp-shinned Hawks flap-flap-glided over fields and parking lots, giving us the chance to practice identifying them. A Bay-breasted Warbler, still showing traces of color on its flanks, moved through dark junipers. Shorebirds pattered along the sea front, probing the water's edge. And, of course, who will soon forget our many great dinners at all those fine Cape May restaurants!
It was great fun sharing my former "backyard" with all of you. Thanks for your good humor, enthusiasm, interest in learning and fine companionship. I hope to see you again on another adventure somewhere, some day!
Note that CMPSP in the following list refers to Cape May Point State Park, and Forsythe NWR is Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
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
The iconic Cape May Light stands in the background of just about any shot of Cape May Point. Photo by participant Sharon Kirkpatrick.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
BRANT (Branta bernicla)
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) [I]
WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
Birds aren't the only things that migrate through Cape May. Monarchs do as well -- by the thousands! Photo by partipant Sharon Kirkpatrick.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
AMERICAN BLACK DUCK (Anas rubripes)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca)
BLACK SCOTER (Melanitta americana)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
Participant Marsha Hand snapped this portrait of a trio of roadside Black Vultures checking out some potential roadkilled dinner.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
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)
Close encounters with both Peregrine Falcons and Merlins hunting over Sunset Beach was a highlight of a windy, wet morning. Photo by participant Pam Pappone.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
CLAPPER RAIL (ATLANTIC COAST) (Rallus crepitans crepitans)
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
We found a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the county's beaches, including this one snapped by partipant Sharon Kirkpatrick.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)
Finding a Cape May Warbler in Cape May was high on everybody's wish list. Result! Photo by participant Pam Pappone.
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
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)
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)
A Ghost Crab eyes us from beside its burrow in the dunes. Photo by participant Marsha Hand.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)
Yes, that's one wet, bedraggled Fish Crow -- which gives you some idea of what the weather was like that morning! Photo by participant Pam Pappone.
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Picoides pubescens) [*]
NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)
EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)
PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)
RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos) [*]
FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)
The famous fields at Higbee Beach WMA were pretty quiet on our visits -- until we found the little mixed migrant flocks that is! Photo by participant Marsha Hand.
TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)
CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
We saw Black-and-white Warblers hitching their way up and down trunks and branches on most days. Photo by participant Pam Pappone.
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)
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
NASHVILLE WARBLER (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
Yes, it was as raw and windy as this picture makes it look -- but the Sanderlings were trotting around on the beach anyway! Photo by participant Marsha Hand.
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea)
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)
A few young Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were still hanging around area feeders. Photo by participant Pam Pappone.
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum)
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (Setophaga coronata)
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
CANADA WARBLER (Cardellina canadensis)
Passerellidae (New World Buntings and Sparrows)
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)
FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla)
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
Palm Warblers were a regular, tail-wagging presence throughout the tour. Photo by participant Marsha Hand.
BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater)
COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [I]
The Common Grackles regularly found in Cape May belong to the subspecies stonei, one of the "Purple Grackle" forms. Photo by participant Pam Pappone.
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (Spinus tristis)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)
EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)
PAINTED TURTLE (Chrysemys picta)
Participant Marsha Hand snapped this picture of a mixed gull and tern roost on the beach near our hotel, with three species of terns (Royal, Common and Forster's), Black Skimmer, and Laughing Gull all in the frame.
NORTHERN RED-BELLIED TURTLE (Pseudemys rubriventris)
DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN (Malaclemys terrapin)
SOUTHERN GRAY TREEFROG (Hyla chrysoscelis) [*]
We had a couple of crabs on the tour:
The Atlantic Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata) is the only species of ghost crab found along the Atlantic coast of the United States. This was the sizable pale crab that kept an eye (or two!) on us from the mouth of its burrow along the Coral Avenue dune crossover. Their burrows can be more than 4 feet long!
The Atlantic Marsh Fiddlers (Uca pugnax) were the small crabs we saw in the salt marshes -- particularly where we looked for our Clapper Rails. They get their name from the male's single oversized claw, which is used for both fighting and waving displays.
Totals for the tour: 130 bird taxa and 2 mammal taxa