Monday, March 7, 2011

Red-throated Loons Staging at the Mouth of Delaware Bay

[This Red-throated Loon was remarkably confiding as it pushed prey up against the beach near the Cape May Ferry terminal, a definite weekend highlight. Click to enlarge photos.]

As we crested the dune at Douglas Park, north of the Cape May Canal near the ferry terminal, we were delighted to find a Red-throated Loon feeding literally against the beach. When it dove, I raced down to the water and plopped down in the sand, hoping for the closest photo opp. I've ever had on this species. A game of cat and mouse ensued - the loon was not at all shy, but covered a lot of water on each dive and surfaced unpredicatably. Eventually I just settled in one place and waited for it to give me a chance. Great fun, and a wonderful opportunity to study this species at close range.

We bumped into Mark Garland and his group at the park. Mark pointed out 3 Horned Grebes in the channel, and we discerned an adult Great Cormorant perched on the channel marker at the end of the Higbee jetty. The shorebirds Vince had (see his comment on the winter shorebird post below) were apparently somewhere else, but Kathy and Roger Horn found one of the Black-headed Gulls farther north along the bay.

March is the month Red-throated Loon numbers begin building in Delaware Bay. At peak, thousands may be present at one time, but the phenemon lasts for weeks so many more individuals could be involved, staying a while and then moving on. An iconic field trip is to hit Sunset Beach and nearby points in latest March or early April, to see not only loons but also Northern Gannets, which can be in the hundreds or thousands as well.

The Common Redpolls continued at my feeders all weekend (though to the chagrin of some visitors, not constantly!), and several other CORE reports emerged around Cape May.

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