Thursday, March 6, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014
[This adult Razorbill was "naked-eye" on the north side of the 8th Street Jetty in Avalon, NJ.]
I love the sounds of the late winter ocean, and I'm not talking about the surf crashing, though that's nice enough. No, I'm talking about the courting ducks, the plaintive whistles of male Black Scoters and the barking of Long-tailed Ducks. That's what you hear when you get out of the car at Avalon, NJ now, from the many ducks that have accumulated there at the mouth of Townsend's Inlet.
Today there was also a nice close Razorbill, which set me to thinking about why I don't find rare birds more often. The first reason is one of my favorite birding theorems:
RARE BIRDS ARE RARE.
But there are other reasons. Like, I don't look hard enough. I left several thousand dollars worth of scope and graphite tripod sitting in the truck because I didn't feel like carrying it. Having the scope in hand interferes with quick binocular and camera use, but without the scope you are obviously range-limited. I'm even more range limited at least some of the time, because when I'm thinking about pictures I'm thinking about, and looking for, close birds, i.e. naked eye birds, which is what the Razorbill was. You'd be surprised how far away you can identify a bird naked eye once you try it, but even so, you find more birds if you scan with binoculars and scope.
Another thing that limits my rare bird finding is that I just don't enjoy looking for one species, no matter how rare. This explains why I drove by Stone Harbor Point today, thought briefly about searching for the Smith's Longspur that was there a few weeks ago, and just said, nah, I'd rather not devote a lot of time looking for one rare bird when I can spend the same time looking at many common birds. Like the flocks at Avalon.
It's not even that Razorbills are all that rare from shore in the winter. I'd describe their status as "You usually don't find one, but now and then you do." The Ebird filter doesn't even flag a single Razorbill in Cape May County, though I wonder a little about that, maybe it should.
Posted by Don Freiday at 2:59 PM
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Sunday, February 23, 2014
[Bonaparte's Gull behind the ferry at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal, NJ, Saturday morning, February 22, 2014.]
I've never had a bad trip on the Cape May - Lewes Ferry, and that string of good times continued this weekend as we cruised over to Delaware to spend a night at a B&B in Lewes and hit some birding spots on the other side of the Bay. Bonaparte's Gulls fed actively in the prop wash of the big boat before we set sail, and scoters, Red-throated Loons, and a couple Red-necked Grebes dotted the bay's surface close to both the NJ and DE shores. The Delaware breakwaters hosted a bunch of Great Cormorants, and one cruised past the ferry for a picture.
Once in Delaware we hit Cape Henlopen State Park, where the featured species, Brown-headed Nuthatch, cooperated as it always has for me at this site. Other stops included Silver Lake, which is where all the Canvasbacks are, in case you were wondering. Canvasback used to be an abundant duck on the east coast back in the days of market gunning, through the early 1900's, and the flocks on Silver Lake - several hundred - made me wistful to have seen this species in its former glory.
Besides about 4 Red-necked Grebes seen on the ferry crossing, another 4 were foraging in the Indian River boat basin near the Burton Island Nature Trail, so the incursion of this species has made it to Delaware. Red-necked Grebes are so common since the Great Lakes and other inland water bodies are largely frozen, which pushed them south in numbers we haven't seen in years.
Anymore, no trip to Delaware is complete without a visit to the Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehobeth Beach, highly recommended. I'm nursing a 60-minute IPA as I write, my go-to beer whenever it's available, which it is in a lot of places in Cape May, thankfully.
[Immature Great Cormorant cruises past the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Note the well-defined white belly, thick neck and overall heaviness of the bird, which separate it from Double-crested.]
[Brown-headed Nuthatch at Cape Henlopen State Park, DE, where they are reliable. Listen for the "squeaky duck" calls. They respond pretty reliably to a whistled imitation of an Eastern Screech-owl, which is what lured this one in for a photo.]
[Canvasbacks at Silver Lake in Delaware. The lake is annoyingly private property, but you can look from the road with caution. Worth it for the spectacle of several hundred "cans" together.]
Posted by Don Freiday at 7:54 PM