Sunday, August 3, 2014

White Ibis in Cape May

 [This juvenile White Ibis at the South Cape Meadows, Cape May, NJ was a delightful evening surprise today.]

[The juvenile White Ibis was flighty, and eventually took off headed east.]

What Happened to the Freiday Bird Blog?

"What happened to the Freiday Bird Blog?"  Enough people have asked me that question since I took most of June and all of July off from posting to the blog that I'm finally inspired, on this rainy Sunday morning without much else to do, to put pen to paper again, so to speak.
I was about to say something like I haven't been getting out much, haven't been getting many good photos, haven't seen anything outstanding to write about since June until just yesterday, August 2, when an American Avocet flew by me, Mark Garland, my wife Beth, son Tim and his companion Allison as we birded at Cape May Point State Park in a light drizzle.  The avocet was high and headed south and no decent photo was possible, but it looped around the point and may still be in the area. Perhaps the pools at the Higbee Beach WMA dike would be a good place to check for it?
Anyhow, I was about to write something like I haven't seen or done much worth writing about, but when I finally downloaded the last month + of photos off the camera I find that not to be true.  I'll let the photos tell the story below. Let's just say the blog took a little summer vacation, maybe because I've been busy with work and life, maybe because I've had a bit of the summer blues which now that southbound migration has begun and we can look forward to new birds every day, well hopefully those blues will move on.
To begin the "summer vacation" story, in late June I had time for an amble around Cape May Point State Park, which at that time had mainly the usual locals, bird wise, plus, much less usual for June, singing Yellow-throated Warbler and Northern Parula.
 [Blue Grosbeak at Cape May Point State Park, June 28, 2014.  Several males sang there that day, more than are usually there, it seemed to me.]

[Least Tern, Cape May Point State Park, June 28, 2014.  Some Least Terns have already headed south (as I write on August 3), they pull out early. I haven't heard how their nesting colony on the South Cape May beach faired this year.  I do know several pairs of American Oystercatchers successfully raised young, but that Piping Plovers have had an abysmal year in Cape May County with, if I've heard correctly, just one nesting pair.]

[Little Wood Satyr, Cape May Point State Park, June 28, 2014.]

In mid-July, Beth and I took our annual camping trip up in north Jersey at High Point State Park with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis.  This is one of my favorite places on earth. Despite the July time frame, when many birds are too busy feeding young to sing much, we had 57 bird species just from our campsite! 

 [Black Bears are often a bonus in High Point.  This cub was one of three with a sow there during our July camping expedition.]

 [Moonrise over the Kittatinny Ridge in High Point State Park, as seen from our campsite.]

[Lovely, fresh Mourning Cloak at the Kuser Natural area, High Point State Park in mid-July.  This animal may survive to and through the winter, emerging next spring - Mourning Cloaks are one of a few butterflies that overwinter as adults.]

Later in July, Beth and I had occasion to travel to the Tampa, Florida area, mainly to see family, but we did get a little birding in:

 [White Ibis are yard birds around Tampa.]

 [Gray Kingbird at Weedon Island Preserve, FL.  It was good to get this bird back in the file of search images, since they show up, albeit with extreme rarity, in Cape May occasionally.]

[Limpkin at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, FL, where they are common.  We don't get these in Cape May, at least not yet.]

Finally, on July 25 we joined the Cape May Bird Observatory Friday evening walk at the Cape May Meadows to see old friends, both human and bird.  The highlight for me was a Bobolink flying over, a sure sign of more southbound birds to come.

[Black Skimmer at the South Cape May Meadows, NJ July 25, 2014.]

So there you have it, that's where the Freiday Bird Blog has been while on summer vacation.  I'm hoping to write more regularly - and more importantly, to get out and bird and enjoy life more regularly again now, so stay tuned.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer Is

[Piping Plover at twilight, Stone Harbor Point tonight.]

Summer is here, it seems, and while Song Sparrows sing in the dunes in the company of House Finches,  only a few Sanderlings linger on the beaches, the rest now well off to the Arctic.  I spent the evening watching a Piping Plover being a plover, while I was being me, and the sun set behind us both. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Greetings from Michigan

[Why go to Michigan?  Here's the number one answer from a birder's perspective, a singing male Kirtland's Warbler near Grayling in the central Lower Peninsula. Click to enlarge photos.]

It's a trip every serious birder must do, the trip to Michigan to see the Kirtland's Warbler in its Jack Pine breeding habitat.  There are, of course, many more birds to see in Michigan than the Kirtland's, but that's the foundation of the trip.  We chose to join one of the Michigan Audubon sponsored Kirtland's Warbler tours, and were not disappointed, as we were put in excellent habitat and eventually got crushing looks at this rare and localized songbird. The day before, we'd found a couple singing male Kirtland's by searching roadsides, but were unable to lay eyes on one. I'm running out of North American breeding birds left to find as "lifers," so this was a nice "tick" for me.

We started our trip by flying to Detroit, renting a car and working our way north.  We stopped at well known migrant trap Tawas Point on the western shore of Lake Huron, where, while there was no fallout to speak of, we did find a few migrant warblers. You could really sense how great this site must be on a fallout, with relatively low habitat at the point making viewing pretty spectacular for the birds we did find.

 [Wilson's Warbler, Tawas Point, MI May 29.]

 [Singing male Northern Parula, Tawas Point MI May 29.]

[American Redstarts are VERY common in Michigan, including this one at Tawas Point May 29.]

After Tawas Point and the Kirtland's tour, we built in a couple days to explore Whitefish Point and other spots in the Upper Peninsula, from our home base in Mackinaw City near the junction of Lakes Michigan and Huron.  Whitefish Point yielded a spectacular Blue Jay migration and a good hawk flight on the last day of the count there, today, May 31.

 [A small portion of a migrating Blue Jay flock at Whitefish Point, MI May 31.  Faced with an open water crossing, which jays do not like whether headed south in Cape May or headed north on the shores of Lake Superior, flocks of jays circle back and regroup.]

 [Whitefish Point Bird Observatory conducts a spring hawkwatch where today for the first time I saw both Broad-winged Hawks, above, and 2 Rough-legged Hawks, below, on the same day.]

[Whitefish also conducts spring and fall waterbird counts.  This Common Loon passed over today.]

[Another spot we hit was Wilderness State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan, where this Barred Owl responded readily to hooting at midday.]

I shouldn't go any further without giving a special shout-out to friend and professional birder/ornithologist Tony Leukering, who has been doing bird surveys in MI and agreed to meet us and bird with us this week.  Tony's showed us some remarkable country and birds, too.  We've got one day left, and have high hopes for that pearl of great price, Connecticut Warbler, somewhere in the U.P. I should also mention, for those who might make this trip someday, that there are plenty of mosquitoes and blackflies in Michigan in late May, so come prepared!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Little Bit of Higbee, and Horseshoe Crabs on the Bay

 [The star, or starlet, of the pools atop the Higbee Beach dike Monday morning: Wilson's Phalarope.]

I went to Higbee Beach WMA, NJ Memorial Day morning with visions of Mourning Warbler and other late migrants in my head, but alas, migrants were few indeed.  I had three birds I believe were likely migrants, those being a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a Willow/Alder Flycatcher and an American Redstart. A previously reported Wilson's Phalarope still lingered at the dike, and there was other action at Higbee, too:

[First Year male Orchard Oriole singing away at Higbee Beach WMA, where they breed.]
[These two Northern Cardinals were intent on battle in the Higbee parking lot, though I didn't see actual contact.  A good thing - having been bit by cardinals while banding, I can say that they probably avoid bill to bill conflict at all costs, because the cost of a bite would be high.]

Memorial Day evening we had signed on to do a horseshoe crab survey at Reed's Beach, and a big spawn was underway as the tide crested and then fell.

[Over two dozen horseshoe crabs fit in our meter-square quadrat at some sampling points Monday night - heartening news for crabs and crab-egg-eating shorebirds.]