Sunday, August 5, 2012

Migrants in the Heat

 [Great-crested Flycatcher in wing molt, Cox Hall Creek WMA, Cape May County, NJ, Saturday August 5, 2012. Not a migrant - quite yet.]

Walking made you feel like breaking into an Olympic breaststroke Saturday morning, so thick was the air. We had the dogs out at dawn at Cox Hall Creek WMA, where, despite the heat and southerly flow, we noticed some birds that pretty much had to be August migrants. Those being, in particular, two Yellow Warblers. Yellow Warbler, to my knowledge, did not nest at Cox Hall Creek WMA this year. Two Red-eyed Vireos out in the middle of the WMA, away from the heavy woods they prefer for nesting, were also intriguing and probably migrants.

It's getting very quiet in the woods, anywhere you go. Like Bear Swamp, Cumberland County, where we banded this morning for our final MAPS outing of the year, and heard almost no song beyond the Red-eyed Vireos. Certainly, no Ovenbirds, no Worm-eating Warblers, no Kentucky Warbler - those birds are still there in the woods, no doubt, but they are done nesting and laying low. And molting. Like the Great-crested Flycatcher pictured above, most of our songbirds molt in late summer, prior to fall migration.

[Black Gum leaves are turning, and some are already falling. Pushing autumn through our door. Cox Hall Creek WMA Saturday.]

[A White-breasted Nuthatch with places to go, Cox Hall Creek WMA on Saturday. Probably not too far, for this essentially non-migratory species. Click to enlarge.]

Seeking relief from the heat, in the afternoon on Saturday I walked the beach to the tip of Stone Harbor Point, which thankfully offered a refreshing breeze, not to mention a refreshing dip in the ocean. The beach was loaded with birds, several thousand of the migrant shorebirds you'd expect on an August beachflat: Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, a few Western Sandpipers, Willets, American Oystercatchers, Piping Plovers.

[Stone Harbor Point was loaded with birds on Saturday.]

Among the hoards were a few Red Knots, which did not linger in the face of frequent beachwalkers.

[Red Knots, including one in winter plumage, on Saturday at Stone Harbor Point.]

[Another bird in pre-migration molt: Piping Plover at Stone Harbor Point on Saturday. Most birds begin wing molt with their innner primaries, and this bird has 5 new inner primaries nearly completely grown in.]

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