Saturday, August 12, 2017

Eclipse Planning

[NOT an eclipse, this crescent moon was over Cape May October 13, 2012. I haven't decided if I am going to photograph the coming eclipse, or just  experience it. B&H Photo has some great eclipse photography tips.]

Here's the skinny on the timing of the eclipse for Cape May:

Partial solar eclipse visible (77.85% coverage of Sun)
Magnitude: 0.8195
Duration: 2 hours, 41 minutes, 10 seconds
Partial begins: Aug 21 at 1:22:25 pm
Maximum: Aug 21 at 2:46:12 pm
Partial ends: Aug 21 at 4:03:35 pm

You can go here for a map to check the timing elsewhere.

Animals behaving in strange ways during celestial events is the stuff of legends, but the legends are based in facts. For example, birds will likely slow or stop their singing during the eclipse. The trouble is, birds will not be singing much when the solar eclipse begins on August 21, since a) it's August and most birds are pretty much done singing, and b) it will be mid-afternoon. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to both seeing the eclipse (obligatory disclaimer: don't look right at it) and observing any changes in the behavior of birds and other wildlife.

This map shows the globe view of the path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.
[Map of the eclipse path, courtesy of NASA.]

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thoughtful Thursday: Storms

[Short-billed Dowitchers joined the Laughing Gulls in the Cape May Point State Park parking lot last Monday when heavy rain and high tides flooded all the normal habitat. These dows are juveniles, told by the neat bright buff edges to the upperpart feathers. If you want to get fancy, find their tertials and note the bright internal markings, which separate them from Long-billed Dowitcher juveniles, which lack these markings. Click to enlarge.]

The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. 

- Epictetus

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Catching Up

It's been a coon's age since I've had a chance to blog, thanks to business commitments.  Accelerating straight to the present, last night's nearly full moon spawned a, well, horseshoe crab spawn, and this morning on Delaware Bay it looked like late May, with hordes of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Sanderlings, other shorebirds, and Laughing Gulls. Except the gulls are beginning to sport the white heads of their winter plumage. Many people don't realize horseshoe crabs spawn well into summer, and southbound shorebirds take advantage of their eggs the way they do in the spring.

Another thing last night spawned was songbird migration, thanks to the northwest wind following the passage of a weak cold front. Dozens of Yellow Warblers, with American Redstarts, a few of both waterthrushes, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler flew north along the bay in morning flight. Fall migration in Cape May is sooooo weather dependent, and last night's conditions were ideal.

Wandering back in time, I had cause for a March trip to southeastern Wyoming:

[Ferruginous Hawks winter in the plains, and this was one of several I saw in Wyoming near the Nebraska border on a Cheyenne-High Plains Audubon field trip. Note the dark leggings and white wing patches, and whitish tail. There is not yet a confirmed Cape May record for this range-restricted species, but a fall of frequent strong NW winds could bring one. November would be the month to look. Click to enlarge.]

I was lucky enough to spend a chunk of May at Presque Isle, a peninsula poking into the south shore of Lake Erie that is well-known for spring migrants, though not nearly as well known (or crowded with birders) as Great Lakes sites farther west like Magee Marsh. 24 species of warblers, or more, every day for five days straight - good stuff! But my absolute best spring highlight was this:

[This incredible female Bobcat eventually passed within feet of me as I lay on the side of a woods road near Millbrook, NJ. Bobcats are rare enough in the state to be classified as endangered, and somehow, despite hundreds of hours of time in their NW NJ haunts, I had missed them - until last May. This one had obviously recently given birth, since her belly swung loosely and low underneath her. Click to enlarge.]

June found me in Maine for the Acadia Birding Festival (you must go, extremely well run and great birds) and then for National Audubon's Hog Island Audubon Camp (also a must-go, great birds, leaders, and a historic vibe):

[Atlantic Puffin flying home to Eastern Egg Rock in Maine last June. Enough said about why you need to go.]

My August schedule is lighter, perfect timing for southbound shorebirds and the first of the warblers. Stay tuned.