Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Couple Terns, A Couple Warblers

 [Roseate Tern on the Cape May Point State Park, NJ beach today. Click to enlarge all photos. Things to note include the slim dark bill (this one has a little red at the base, not always the case), very pale upperparts, including flight feathers (compare with the Common Tern in the background), and the long tail projection past the primaries.)]

It's getting to be that time of year when things like cleaning out the storage shed and other projects, even mowing the lawn, get put off. A bit of a cold front brought a few land birds to Cape May, NJ today (Sunday), and the tern flock at Cape May Point is massive and growing, making for a fun project: filtering Common and Forster's Terns for rarer things.

I spent an hour first thing in the first field at Higbee Beach WMA, where I was in birds constantly even if they were the same three: Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, pretty much in that order of abundance. A Worm-eating Warbler was the treat of the morning, that and a Yellow-breasted Chat that peaked out of a thicket for a look at me. Then it was off to the beach and the terns.

The best tern thing for me was what the Gull-billed Terns were doing. We (the usual suspects were patrolling the beach, including Tom Reed, Glen Davis, and Richard Crossley, plus "migrant" David LaPuma) were surprised to see Gull-billeds at all, since they don't forage in the rips offshore like the other terns, but they had another trick in mind. The adult Gull-billeds would "wait on" over the beach flock like Peregrines circling their prey, then swoop (not quite stoop) down on Common Terns bringing fish in to feed their young. Fish stolen, the Gull-billeds then fed their own young the prize - there seemed to be two adult Gull-billeds tending three young.

Neat stuff. It was also great to catch up with Dave LaPuma, now working for Leica. Dave's here to help with the ABA's Camp Avocet over in Delaware, though they're planning to venture up to Cape May for one of the camp days.

 [Roseate Tern in flight over a Common Tern, Cape May Point today.]

[Adult Gull-billed Tern waiting for its next victim, likely to be a Common Tern with a fish to be stolen.]

[The beauty on the bottom right is a juvenile Gull-billed Tern, the upper right bird is a juv. Common Tern.]

[This juv. Black Tern was in Cape May on Saturday. Today I saw an adult out in the rips.]

[Yellow Warbler, the predominant migrant warbler of early August.]

[American Redstart at Higbee Beach today. The orange - as opposed to yellow - chest patch indicates that this is a hatch year male, not female.]

[Lovely Comet Darner at Higbee today. "Possibly the most visually striking dragonfly in New Jersey," according to Barlow, Golden and Bangma's NJ dragonfly guide, which you really should own if you pursue nature in NJ.]

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