Sunday, March 16, 2014


[Pair of Wood Ducks at "Lake Champlain," a little pond/detention basin in the Villas on Saturday March 15, 2014.]

I thought about going to Belleplain State Forest this weekend, but sensibly talked myself out of it.  Relatively speaking, Belleplain is still like a tomb in March, with only the hope of a phoebe among the few residents to break the silence of migrants yet to come.  Not the Belleplain of April or May, with its butterflies and breeding birds galore.

If it's migrants you want, March is a good time to look for ducks. So I did, and found a few.  Wood Ducks on "Lake Champlain" in the Villas, a glorified detention pond that deserves a little glory, since it was good not only for the woodies but for 3 Red-necked Grebes, shovelers, ruddies, Hooded Merg, etc.  Delaware Bay has plenty of scoters, Bufflehead, and a few more Red-necked Grebes, one can say cavalierly this winter with the big influx of the latter species, big enough that I don't even report RNGR to normal rare bird channels anymore.  This year.  Don't take the grebes for granted, it'll likely be a different story come next winter.  Rounding out the duck report, both Eurasian Green-winged Teal and Eurasian Wigeon are spicing Lighthouse pond at Cape May Point State Park, or were on Saturday.

[Pair of Bufflehead shows their wing pattern as they land in the Cape May canal on Saturday.]

What else.  Two pairs of Mourning Doves are on eggs in feeble stick nests in my tiny yard already, and cardinals are singing from high places everywhere, rushing spring along. The doves can nest so early because they, like all doves, will feed their young crop milk, a slurry derived from cells sloughed off the walls of their crops, to which will be added partially digested seeds as the young mature and can handle that. Hence, no need to wait for insect to feed their offspring.

I've been doing a good job of striking out on the rare gulls that are found along Delaware Bay near where I live every late winter, i.e. Black-headed and Little.  It's a tide thing, and it seems like you want to be at the hotspots like Miami Beach (Villas, NJ, has its own Miami Beach as well as Lake Champlain. . .) about two hours before high tide, when the tide pushes the gull flock close to shore but there still is enough shallow water and sandbars for the birds to feed and rest.  I haven't hit the tide just right yet, even though I live here, and have only seen one Black-headed, once, this spring.  There are apparently at least four, plus a Little Gull.  This morning I was up at daybreak and head to Miami to find, about an hour before high tide, not a single gull of any description.  Aaargh.

 [Northern Cardinals are singing all over, a delight that always reminds me of the first cardinal song I ever heard.  I didn't know what it was, and just had to track it down.  That was, my goodness, all of 35 years ago.]

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