Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rarity Month - and Abundance Month

 [Ash-throated Flycatcher first found by Jim Dowdell at Cape Island Preserve. Friday November 18, photographed here in late afternoon - and apparently not seen since.]

November is called rarity month by many Cape May birders, but spectacle in numbers beats rarities any day, so with some "good" birds this weekend, how cool were the swarms of Northern Gannets, scoters, teal and Red-throated Loons passing the Avalon Seawatch on Saturday? Very cool, thought I, and Tom Reed, Clay Sutton, Sam Galick, and others at the seawatch. And just as cool was the continued abundance of short-distance migrants like bluebirds, waxwings, robins, yellow-rumps, sparrows and towhees at Cox Hall Creek WMA, and elsewhere around Cape May.

Friday afternoon found me in pursuit of cheese to melt over some pheasant breasts obtained with the assitance of my pup Daniel Boone (today I added more "hero" pics to his slide show in the right hand column of this page). Since Roger Horn's text about the re-located Ash-throated Flycatcher reached me just as I was leaving the wonderful Seaside Cheese Shop in Cape May (with a delectable pepper-laced pecorino), how could I not go for it? Results above, and below.

[This Fox Sparrow, one of a flock of 4, intercepted me as I went for the Ash-throated Flycatcher. Fox Sparrows came in hard and heavy this weekend. Many could be seen, and their long high seeees flight note heard, from thickets in Cape May County.]

Lucky for me, Roger escorted me to the Ash-throated Flycatcher, lucky because it had moved and Roger made a nice pick on it along the north hedgerow of the first field at TNC's Cape Island Preserve, which is accessed from the end of Wilson Avenue off Broadway, by the way. The flycatcher was incredibly active until dark, moving all around that first field, and I'm not surprised it disappeared, since "moving all around" is a symptom of zugenruhe, or migration restlessness. That bird probably migrated somewhere else Friday night.

Saturday morning was to be all birds, and I started by trolling the backstreets of the Villas, looking for fruit-laden cedars and general patches of activity. At "Lake Champlain," the detention pond named for the street it's on, a cormorant perched in sillhouette stopped me.

 [Thick neck, with narrow "trout" head shape (as opposed to broader smallmouth bass head shape on Double-crested), and thick bill identified this Great Cormorant on Lake Champlain in silhouette, before plumage marks were apparent. Weird location for a normally saltwater, or at least big water, bird.]

Next stop on the way to Cape May on Saturday was the ferry terminal and environs. There's a pretty good thicket to the right as you drive into the terminal, and it was loaded with Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, sparrows including several Fox Sparrows, and of course, Yellow-rumped Warblers.

[Speaking of orange tail tips on Cedar Waxwings. . . these birds were at the Cape May Ferry Terminal Saturday. Note the upper right bird, and see post below.]

I decided to put a stop to the Eurasian Collared Dove-less NJ list (mine), finally, and checked in on the three still hanging out at the corner of Lincoln and Whildin in Cape May Point. How long have these things been there? I can't even remember, but you see them so commonly to the south now that somehow I haven't mustered the will to notch one for NJ. Until Saturday.

 [Eurasian Collared Dove, Cape May Point on Saturday.]

If you can find fruiting eastern redcedars, work them  - and you can find lots of them, since everywhere in southern NJ some members of this species have superabundant fruit. I've been hearing numbers like 10,000 for Cedar Waxwings on last week's Cape May big flight, and many of these seem to have stuck around. Cape May Point has plenty of cedars, and birds are there, e.g. around Lily Lake.

[As rare as a collared dove in Cape May Point, this White-breasted Nuthatch was on West Lake Drive. I also had a singleton Red-breasted Nuthatch on Saturday, a scarce bird this fall.]

[Warblers on the weekend before Thanksgiving are hard to come by, so I was pleased to find 6 species: Yellow-rumped, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, Palm, Orange-crowned, and this Pine Warbler. The Pine was on West Lake Drive in Cape May Point.]

Cox Hall Creek WMA in the Villas is practically in my backyard, and it has been utterly loaded with birds. Today (Sunday) I clicked 87 Eastern Bluebirds, and carefully counted  25 Eastern Towhees amongst a riddlement of sparrows. At least 6 Red-headed Woodpeckers are wintering there, seeming to most often give their trilled krrrrrr contact call.

 [Eastern Towhees surged across the paths in the southeast portion of Cox Hall Creek WMA today, white tail-corners flashing.]

[Three Field Sparrows play hide and seek, Cox Hall Creek again.]

[Chipping Sparrows remain common at Cox Hall Creek, and some winter there, while elsewhere in the state this is a rare winter bird. Note the dark lore, which separates this bird from the rare Clay-colored.]

Today's (Sunday's) Cox Hall Creek highlight for me started with a rising seep while I stalked about trying to photograph some of the wary towhees - a whole lot of birds were making a whole lot of notes in the southeast part of the WMA, but this one stood out. In addition to the flight calls CD-ROM by Bill Evans and Michael O'Brien, another useful resource for the criminally insane - oops, I mean those trying to learn warbler flight notes, which are often given by birds perched as well as in flight - is the Rosetta Stone for warblers. And this sound was one of the Vermivora, and I was pretty sure which one. . . .

 [Orange-crowned Warbler, a bright one, at Cox Hall Creek WMA today. Yellow undertail coverts, white eye arcs, dark eyeline, pale eyebrow, longish tail, active head (looks around a lot), stays low, forages in goldenrod and thickets.]

[My fifth weekend warbler, a Palm at Cox Hall Creek today.]

[How about a quiz silhouette? Cox Hall Creek WMA today. The day's eBird list is below - it's one of the species listed.]

I spend this afternoon trying to photograph American Woodcock in flight - you'd be surprised how many of them are present, once you start walking off trail. Which, by the way, where allowed, has much to recommend it. Perhaps the results will wind up on Wordless Wednesday.

Villas--Cox Hall Creek WMA (Villas WMA), Cape May, US-NJ
Nov 20, 2011 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
52 species

Canada Goose 10
Mute Swan 2
Wood Duck 22
Gadwall 2
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3
Cooper's Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 3
American Woodcock 7
Mourning Dove 8
Red-headed Woodpecker 6 careful count
Red-bellied Woodpecker 10
Downy Woodpecker 3
Northern Flicker 4
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 20
Carolina Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 8
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 4
Winter Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Eastern Bluebird 87 actual count by clicker
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 100
Northern Mockingbird 3
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 200
Cedar Waxwing 25
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Eastern Towhee 25 careful count, all in same area, essentially a flock
Chipping Sparrow 35
Field Sparrow 15
Fox Sparrow 8
Song Sparrow 10
Swamp Sparrow 10
White-throated Sparrow 20
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 8
Red-winged Blackbird 50
Rusty Blackbird 10
Common Grackle 100
Brown-headed Cowbird 40
Purple Finch 4
House Finch 20
American Goldfinch 5