Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Hurricane of Birds

 [Pearls of great price, three Evening Grosbeaks over Cape May Point, NJ this morning. Click to enlarge all photos.]

What passed over Cape May Point this morning cannot be put into pictures, and probably not words, either. Waves of robins - I dunno, 80,000? Similar numbers of Red-winged Blackbirds, in tight flocks storming the dunes, parting around us. Waxwings, let's say 10,000? Pine Siskins - 3,000? More? Michael O'Brien clicked over 300 White-winged Crossbills, and there were way, way more Siskins. And Red Crossbills, and just a spicing of Evening Grosbeaks, the first I've seen in NJ in something like 15 years. We collected on the dunes of Cape May Point, and hardly used binoculars, gaping open-mouthed at the spectacle.

It should be noted that most of the fancy finches in this post were detected by ear first - learning those ringing, zinging calls is the way to detect these things. I can't wait for deer season, because with this many finches around, who knows what full days of listening from a tree stand in the woods of north Jersey will bring?

What brought it to Cape May was stiff west-northwest wind at the beginning of November. Other fancy stuff I saw included Golden Eagle from the hawkwatch and an Orange-crowned Warbler in the first hedge at the Beanery. I was not there for the Franklin's Gull seen from the hawkwatch first and dunes later, nor for the White-winged Dove or Scarlet Tanager in Cape May Point. We all wondered how many birds we were missing - can you imagine, given these?

Lest it be forgotten, Scott Whittle compared Purple Finch calls to Dolphins clicking, perhaps the first time such comparison has ever been drawn. . .

 [Male and female White-winged Crossbills over Cape May Point today. Your looking for a bird slightly bigger than a siskin with big old wing bars and the voice of stones skipped on ice - chew, chew, tschew, something like that.]

[This Purple Finch was so hungry it fed unabated at point blank range on multiflora rose hips at the Beanery, never even cleaning its bill between berry bites.]

 [Sam Galick pointed out this Blue-headed Vireo, getting late for this species, at the Cape May Point dunes.]

[Big flights are not without carnage. This Red-winged Blackbird was brought up by a local resident, apparently hit a wire and fell from the skies. Road-killed robins were all too evident along local roads and the Garden State Parkway today - insignificant compared to the volume of the flight, but I feel for each one.]


  1. Sounds amazing Don. Can't wait to make it out there...I got to experience some east coast migration (in the Florida Keys/Tortugas) for the first time in several years last month, I always forget how good it is compared to here on the west coast.

  2. Hope you do make it out here for a day like today! Although the west coast certainly has its own allure!