Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blackpoll Morning, Karl's Place, and Monarchs

 [The bird of the day: Blackpoll Warbler, one of thousands at Higbee Beach, Cape May, NJ today, Saturday Sept. 29, 2012. Click to enlarge photos.]

If you see a flock of 40+ birds rising over the trees, and you at first think they are warblers, your mind recalibrates. They can't be warblers, right? Must be blackbirds or waxwings or something. Warblers don't fly in flocks of 40.

Yeah they do. Or did, today. Morning flight in Cape May was mind bending, and from our vantage did indeed feature multiple flocks containing dozens of Blackpolls plus many other species. Well, not exactly flocks, I don't think warblers really flock, they just find themselves in the same place at the same time going the same direction sometimes. It was a blackpoll morning - just ask Cameron Rutt, who had the challenging job of counting morning flight today, including the biggest movement of Blackpolls in Cape May ever, that I'm aware of.

I especially admire Blackpolls, long-distance migrant champions when it comes to warblers, breeding far north and wintering in the Amazon basin. It's a journey of 5,000 or more miles one way for some Blackpolls, including for many a flight over the western Atlantic on their way south that can exceed 1800 miles nonstop. No wonder their wings are so long!

Today was a flight day in Cape May. Northwest winds following a front that cleared yesterday evening made it happen. Someone asked me how many species of warblers I saw today. That's almost like asking about someone's life or year list - pretty personal question.  But like with any other list, I as usual had no idea what the number was (numbers are just numbers, but birds are birds), but couldn't think of any I was "supposed" to see in late September that I didn't. The actual number seems to be 24, accrued between Higbee Beach WMA, Sea Grove Ave., the state park, and around Lily Lake. Not bragging - the birds were putting themselves in front of anyone looking. Particularly along Sea Grove Avenue where something like 40 birders eventually accumulated in the vicinity of Karl Lukens' house, to greet him when he returned from leading a local walk. . . .Sea Grove Ave. happened to be hot today, not exactly a typical Cape May hotspot the way Lily Lake, Higbee or Cape May Point State Park can be, but the birds were finding food there and staying as a result.

 [Northern Waterthrush in Karl Lukens' driveway today.]

 [Karl, are you home? Black-throated Blue Warbler peers into Karl Luken's window.]

 [Veery in hedge between houses along Sea Grove Ave., Cape May this morning.]

Several thousand birds later, no lie, I followed Vince Elia's lead and went home for a lunch break and tried to nap, but when a Tennesee Warbler and 3 Red-eyed Vireos tussled for space at the bird bath, I knew there would be no resting until dark. Vince does a "stay-cation" in Cape May each fall, and just started this year's. Can you say jealous?

We'll spot a few more warblers from today on the blog later this week, probably including Pine and Cape May for the "Fri-D" blog.

 [Tennesee Warbler through my window screen, on the bird bath today.]

And, oh yes, the Monarchs moved too!

[Between 2,000 and 3,000 Monarchs roosted this evening at the south end of Cape Avenue, where it meets the dunes at Lincoln Ave. in Cape May Point.]

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