Sunday, February 28, 2016


[Two islands vegetated largely by Brazilian peppper (an exotic invasive species although one useful to some native species) constitute the Fellesmere Grade/Stick Marsh wader rookery near the head of the St. John's River in Florida. Taken with my iPhone at about 6:35 p.m. February 28, 2016, handheld. Click to view.]

Rookeries (nesting colonies of various bird species) are of course birder magnets, so twice today we found ourselves at the Stick Marsh rookery south of Palm Bay, Florida near the town of Fellesmere. A spectacular array of Roseate Spoonbills, Great and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue and Tri-colored Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, and mainly Glossy but also some White Ibis kak, croak, squabble, and fly in and out, especially at dawn and dusk. Add Anhingas, squealing Limpkins, chuckling American Coots and Common Moorhens, and other Florida standards - a Snail Kite flew by this morning - and this site, at least right now, is a must see for birders visiting the Space Coast region.

Rookeries form where food is abundant but nesting and roosting cover is not, which perfectly describes this region when it comes to fish-eating waders.

How many birds involved, you ask? In the ~ 3 minute video above, I estimate ~350 ibis, egrets, herons and spoonbills flew in or out. We were there for a half hour, and the flight was reasonably constant. So, extrapolating, 3,500 waders came into or flew out of the rookery while we were there - and I doubt I captured more than a third of the birds coming in while I videoed, and this also does not count the birds that were already in the trees and stayed put! "Spectacular" does not do this place justice.

This morning we chatted with David Cox of the Florida Conservancy about the birds and threats to them. David was there surveying the rookery. Waders like spoonbills and herons are seriously threatened by climate change and accompanying sea level rise, whether we're talking about Florida or Cape May, NJ. We need to learn all we can about what these inspiring species need, and provide it.

This particular rookery is also threatened, albeit unwittingly, by fisherman roaring by and even through in loud boats. A no wake zone and some barrels blocking the channel bisecting the two islands would go a long way to help the colony, and would be a small inconvenience to the fishermen using this popular area (and I speak as an avid fisherman).

[Roseate Spoonbills were mainly flying out of the rookery at dusk, suggesting they were going off to feed at night. Click to enlarge. More stories and photos from the Florida trip to follow.]

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Not a Paper Ring

[Bald Eagle pair, Green Creek Marsh, Cape May, NJ, February 22, 2016. Click to enlarge.]

I've had it to here, being where love's a small word
A part time thing
A paper ring
I know it's been done havin' one girl who loves me
Right or wrong
Weak or strong

- Johnny Cash

A well done cover of Solitary Man.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Great Northern Diver

[Common Loon, a.k.a. Great Northern Diver, near Avalon, Cape May, NJ, February 22, 2016. Click to enlarge photos.]

[No other bird has legs so far back on its body.]

[A sea of biodiversity.]

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Higbee Beach Controlled Burn

[Controlled burn at Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, Cape May, NJ today. Burning reduces the fuel load, and also makes for some good habitat. Watch the burned areas for Vesper Sparrows when they migrate through Cape May in April, and for other bare ground loving species in general. The burn also releases nutrients; these burned areas will green up first in the spring.]

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Please Support The Champions of the Flyway, and the CMBO COTF Team!

Learn more about the LEICA Cape May Bird Observatory American Dippers here, on the American Birding Association blog.

Thoughtful Thursday: Hope

[Avalon, NJ, February 8, 2015.]

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

-  Albert Einstein

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Descending

[Dunlin, Sanderlings, and Purple Sandpipers descend to roost on the 8th Street Jetty in Avalon, NJ on Monday during the new moon high tide, when there was nowhere else to go. Click to enlarge.]

Monday, February 8, 2016

After Nor'easter Jonas

[Two-mile Beach during Jonas. Click to play.]

We had a heck of a nor'easter in the form of Jonas two weeks ago. People talk about hurricanes, but it is the fall and winter northeast storms that do the most work on the south Jersey coastline. North Wildwood had record high tides during Jonas, higher than superstorm Sandy and higher than the great storm of 1962.

[Trying to be sensible, I holed up with the dog during Jonas. . .for a while. My many feeders were getting pounded; later in the week even a female Yellow-headed Blackbird appeared for a brief visit (she's not in this photo). Click to enlarge all photos. Del Haven, NJ, January 23, 2016.]

Of course, one must see what's going on outside when the winds are topping 60 mph and we're getting hit with 3 consecutive full moon high tides, right?

[Northern Harrier over the flooded marshes of Nummy Island during the northeaster. The harriers concentrated on the causeway for hunting, because that's where the rodents had to go.]

[This American Oystercatcher seemed quite shell-shocked from the storm. Nummy Island the Saturday of the storm.]

[After the storm passed, this male Long-tailed Duck bizarrely appeared on tiny "Lake Champlain," a detention pond in the Villas. He was stuck there for a day, because the pond was 90% frozen and there was no room for diving ducks to patter across the surface to take off. He made for a strange trio of species, with American Coot and Mallard. . .]

[In the aftermath of Jonas, hundreds of knobbed whelk shells were found deposited on Cape May beaches, like this scene at Two Mile Beach, where the video at the start of this blog was taken.]

[Two Red Knots and one of the 10's of thousands of Knobbed Whelk shells, Two Mile Beach.]

[Two weeks later, today, we had another big tide, this one associated with the morning's new moon. This scene is at Nummy Island at high tide. I did find 3 Saltmarsh Sparrows and 1 Seaside Sparrow along the causeway.]

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Hunger

[Carolina Wren eating millet, Del Haven, NJ, January 23, 2016. Click to enlarge)

Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.

- Les Brown