Saturday, September 28, 2013
Posted by Don Freiday at 2:51 PM
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Sunday, September 22, 2013
[Bald Eagles chasing Ospreys are regular sightings at the Cape May, NJ hawkwatch, but this one has a twist - the Osprey has not a fish, but a clam stuck to a talon. Maybe that's why the eagle eventually broke off chase. We can age this eagle, by the way, as a second year by the ragged trailing edge of the wing, which has a mix of longer juvenile feathers from last year and newer, shorter feathers which have replaced juvenile ones. Click to enlarge photos.]
Well, with north winds overnight it looks like tomorrow should be a good day for passerine migrants at your favorite patch, which for me would be, but won't be, Higbee Beach WMA, since I'll be travelling to West Virginia for some training. Bummer. But spending the late afternoon on the hawkwatch at Cape May Point, NJ was a fine consolation, with a good falcon flight. Official counter Tom Reed said today would be his first four-figure flight of the fall.
The best line of the afternoon comes courtesy of Tom Johnson, who spoke tongue-in-cheek as he joked and coaxed Richard Crossley to come out to morning flight tomorrow. Tom deadpanned,
"But we need the elders to tell us what the birds are, so we can add them to our lists."
Anyone who knows Tom knows he doesn't need help i.d.'ing birds - he among other things writes the ABA's photo quiz column in Birding - so this line really had me chuckling. Not to mention the "elder" part directed at Richard, who still strikes one as young even though he's been on the birding forefront for a long time. Richard, in turn, made a remark about all the young guns. . .
Many a truth is said in jest, and the "tell us what the birds are so we can add them to our lists" thing happens way too often in the birding world, in my humble opinion. Better to learn from the experts, but then identify the birds on your own.
Posted by Don Freiday at 8:05 PM
[Tagged Monarch at Cape May Point State Park, NJ this morning. This year's monarch migration has been lackluster so far, but we did see a few nectaring on sunflowers and blue mistflower along the trails. Visit the Cape May Monarch Monitoring project for more info and a blog on this season's monarch migration.]
A nice hawk flight was getting underway this morning, but the bugs stole the show during a walk on the Cape May Point State Park trails. We'll see about getting some hawk pics later in the afternoon, but for now here are the bugs.
black-and-yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia, had plenty of prey in its web. ]
Posted by Don Freiday at 2:15 PM
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
HUGO is the banding code for Hudsonian Godwit, and I guess I can stop my grumbling about them. Hudsonian Godwits have been reported with some regularity at Forsythe NWR, NJ this summer/fall, including a remarkable 50 (!!) seen by my friend Scott Barnes and part of a NJ Audubon field trip in August. Understand, I work at Forsythe, and drive the tour road looking for birds after work at least once a week, plus occasional quick swings around the 8 mile loop during lunchtime, so you'd figure I'd eventually see one. It paid off tonight. Most Hudsonian Godwits migrate offshore, but I had a hunch that the northeasterlies of yesterday and this morning might put some on land.
Posted by Don Freiday at 7:14 PM
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Back when I was a bird-crazy teenager, I would go through birding magazines (there were no blogs then, no web sites either) trying to identify the photos of each species without looking at the caption. So here's a suggestion - try that first, don't look at the caption, just look at the birds and see how you do.
Other than a VERY nice first hour or so of morning flight, a big push of landbirds didn't really materialize on the ground in Cape May today, despite the apparent aligning of the stars for one (cold front after days of poor migration.) Hawks were aloft however, and I spent most of the day getting my eye back in for the hawkwatching season.
Posted by Don Freiday at 5:50 PM
Friday, September 13, 2013
First try flicking your eyes back and forth between these two, noticing the Western's bigger head, thicker neck (or neckless look), and subtly more attenuated rear end. That last point was mentioned to me by Kevin Karlson the other night, and I haven't tested it much, but it seems Westerns have a bit of a dip or narrowing at the top rear of the body that Semis don't. This particular Western doesn't have a particularly long, drooping bill, but it is subtly more "Western" than the Semi's.
We can also skip the structure and just note the plumage. Westerns molt earlier than Semis, and by September most are nearly all the way into winter plumage (plain gray upperparts feathers), compared to the Semi which still wears breeding plumage with a few winter feathers coming in. Looking closer for any remaining breeding plumage clues, we see a few of the Western's retained spots on the side/belly, and looking really hard it seems there is a rufous feather still hanging on in the ear covert.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
"Diligence is the mother of good luck."
- Benjamin Franklin
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Sunday, September 8, 2013
"Maybe we should just get breakfast somewhere and wait for the text message."
That was my lame suggestion to Beth for finding the juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger that spent its third day around Cape May today, but I'd missed it on a couple of non-chasing just-scanning attempts yesterday and figured the odds were someone else's eyes would find it this morning. And they did - after Richard Crossley put it to bed off St. Mary's last night, Vince Elia texted it out first thing this morning.
Me? I was home drinking coffee at the time, but in my defense it was barely 7:00 a.m and it didn't take long to pull it together and get to Cape May (I live a long 20 minutes away from the point). And eventually, see the jaeger with the cast of characters that had assembled on the platform next to St. Mary's. I was interrupted by a fine male Cape May Warbler on the streets of Cape May Point as I hustled to St. Mary's.
To really understand all this you need to know that we have a wonderful text message bird alert system set up by Bob Fogg called Keekeekerr (as in the Black Rail vocalization), and all the locals and some out-of-towners are on it, and so most rare birds are texted almost as soon as they are seen. If you're coming to Cape May, I strongly recommend you plug in to Keekeekerr. I hope I never resort to sitting by the phone rather than birding for the joy of it, but it is, how shall I say, reassuring to know that as good birds are found, word of them is spread like wildfire.
Posted by Don Freiday at 8:15 PM
Saturday, September 7, 2013
With almost no wind to speak of overnight, I figured Higbee Beach WMA, Cape May, NJ would have a few birds, but not many. That it was cool overnight, down to 50-something, inspired me to get up and give it a go. Northwest wind or not, cool nighttime temperatures inspire migration, and I strategized that a cool dawn would bring birds to the sunlit edges. Sometimes the slower days at Higbee are perversely better, in one sense, for birding - instead of the frantic movement and brief glimpses that characterize a super-busy morning, on days like today the birds seem to linger a bit, allowing better views.
Sure. As a law professor advised me once long ago, all reasoning is rationalization. If I want it to be a good day at Higbee, or anywhere, I'll find myself the reasons to make it so. It'll be like Aesop's the fox and the grapes next. The fox and the cold front, I didn't want one anyway. . .
Visions of Golden-winged Warbler danced in my head this morning, to no avail, but the first bird I got glass on in the pre-sunrise light was a bright Blue-winged Warbler. Then came a real highlight, a Mourning Warbler in the shrubby patch in the middle of the first field. A few this's and that's followed, but truly not much. My eBird list from the morning has 41 species on it, including 10 species of warblers, as follows:
Northern Waterthrush 4
Blue-winged Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 2
Nashville Warbler 1
Mourning Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 8
American Redstart 4
Northern Parula 4
Magnolia Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
27 individual warblers is not spectacular for 2.5 hours of looking, but not terrible. You get jaded by the big days, for example last Wednesday there were 800 American Redstarts in the first hour at Morning Flight at Higbee. 27 individual warblers was still worth getting up for. Here I go rationalizing again. The average warbler is what, a third of an ounce? So 9 ounces of warblers is what I saw this morning.
When is anything worth it? Was it worth an early wake-up on a blissful cool clear morning, and 2.5 hours of slow stalking for the birds I got? Worth missing a sleep-in? Hell, it's Roar to the Shore weekend, I could have been borrowing someone's Harley and rumbling into Wildwood instead of patrolling a quiet Higbee Beach WMA. I'm confident my rationalizing wouldn't convince the Roar crowd that the way I spend my Saturday morning was worth the time.
But you, dear reader, are not part of the Roar to the Shore crowd, I'm guessing. Or maybe you are, I have known a motorcyclist/birder or three.
Right. Higbee had some birds, and it was worth it.
Here's another thing I've been ruminating on: pictures. Or the lack thereof. This morning among these 41 species, 10 warblers, I managed photos of 3, count 'em, 3 species. They're the photos in this blog. Now maybe I'm not going to grab the camera for every bird I see, I've got a lot of catbird and redstart pictures for example, but how come I didn't photograph the Mourning Warbler or the Nashville or the Blue-winged? It's because I couldn't, that's why. Birds pop up, drop down, camera refuses to focus on them, it's too dark, operator error. . .and I'm still a birder who carries a camera, not a photographer who watches birds, which means when a bird pops up, it's the binoculars that come up first, not the camera. That's not good or bad, it's just how it is.
The fox and the photograph. . .
Posted by Don Freiday at 12:25 PM