Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Birdiest Weekend?

[Adult Broad-winged Hawk over the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher along Seagrove Avenue in Cape May, NJ this morning. The broad tail bands and barred breast make it an adult. Click to enlarge photo.]

It was a weekend full of highlights, with the World Series of Birding being run and some fancy birds found the day after in Cape May. I happen to have a special fondness for Broad-winged Hawks because of so many positive experiences with them, like big flights at Chimney Rock in the fall years ago and watching them build nests in High Point State Park in the spring, so I'll call the two that became my year Broad-wingeds my personal avian highlight.

What, not the Swallow-tailed Kite, Mississippi Kite, or Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, you ask? Okay, it's a tie - everything was a highlight. Thanks to west Texas a few weeks ago, the flycatcher was not a year bird, but the kites, appearing at the "Stevens Street Hawkwatch," were. The Stevens Street hawkwatch is simply the highest point on Stevens Street, near the Beanery on Cape Island, and when kites are reported anywhere in Cape May, this is where locals go to look for them. As Vince Elia put it, never chase a kite where it was last seen, because it's not there anymore.

It was Vince who found the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and texted it to Keekeekerr while many of the rest of us were sharing highlights from the 30th running of the WSB. Many, many people got to see that bird, a lovely long-tailed male, rushing over there once the WSB program was over. It was like looking for cheetahs on a modern African safari  - you don't look for cheetahs, you look for Land Rovers, or in this case, Prius's and other cars parked on Seagrove and birders gathered around scopes.

My WSB team, consisting of me, Pete Dunne, Will Russell of Wings, and Luke Seitz, a birding phenom and Cornell freshman, scored 143 species on a "route" that began with a big stay on the hawkwatch at Cape May Point State Park (from which we garnered 67 species), and then evolved into a routeless survey of Cape May and Cumberland counties. We crept through Belleplain, ears to the windows for Summer Tanagers and Hooded Warblers, worked Heislerville where Luke picked a handsome Stilt Sandpiper from the second pool, and finished with 143 species in the marshes and woods of Cumberland County in the Dividing Creek area, which were riddled with noseeums, a.k.a. gnats, and also birds. Perhaps I need to revise the weekend highlight, to a Chuck-wills-widow on Hansey Creek Road  that called point blank next to us, then, when I imitated its call, flew over our heads and down the road out of sight.

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