Thursday, 7 June 2012

Jersey Birds, Part 1

For those unaware of Cape May, I suppose it's like an American equivalent of Spurn.  A peninsula of land with the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Delaware Bay to the west.  Birding started on the 25th May with a pair of House Wrens using a nest box just outside the motel room window. 

Following this the day was spent at the end of Cape May point, calling in at the main birding information centre, the Northwood centre.  Here you can pick up a copy of the "Kestrel Express", a leaflet detailing all the guided excursions, and a map of all the birding sites in Cape May county.

The Cape May point state park is a good starting point for birding.  You can tell you're onto a good start when you park up next to a colony of Purple Martins!  Five of these colony nest boxes were full of them.

Some of the common species were around the car park and trails, including Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Mourning Dove, Brown-headed Cowbird (factoid, Cowbird is a parasitic nester!), Eastern Kingbird, Chimney Swift, Common Yellowthroat, Carolina Wren, Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee and a pair of Orchard Orioles.

The state park also contains plenty of lagoons, which attracted Great White and Snowy Egrets, Glossy Ibis, waders such as Short-billed Dowitcher and a old wooden jetty that forms a roosting spot for Forster's Terns.

Then there's the beach.  Large parts of which were cordened off to people for the colonies of Least Terns:

And a couple of territories of the endangered Piping Plover.

Adjacent to the state park is the Cape May migratory bird refuge, also known as "The Meadows".

An excellent selection of birds were in and around the lagoons here.  Waders included more Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, American Oystercatcher, Willet, Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover and Sandpipers.  More Forster's and Least Terns, but also a Black Tern and a Royal Tern, here with a Black Skimmer.  The only Bonaparte's Gull of the trip was also seen here.

One of the main reasons for travelling to Cape May was to catch up with the American warblers.  One of the best in looks and name, in my opinion, is the Prothonotary Warbler.  The best place to try and catch up with Prothonotary is the Rea Farm (aka The Beanery), which is only accessible on guided walks.

Rea is the name of the family that run the working farm, they don't farm Reas (the large, flightless bird of South America) which was what I thought!  It also used to be a Lima bean farm, hence Beanery.

Good numbers of Indigo Buntings were here on the 26th May, but seeing Prothonotary Warbler didn't sound too hopeful, indeed one was singing deep into a thick damp area of willows.  Other new birds here were Great Crested Flycatchers, a very snazzy male Baltimore Oriole, Tufted Titmouse, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers and a female American Redstart.

Towards the end of the walk the leaders reached a willow-fringed pond which yielded a few Black-crowned Night Herons and a Wood Duck.  Then, as the Wood Duck left a small and very yellow bird flew across and landed on a branch in full view.  It's a male Prothonotary Warbler, and needed no hesitation to have a look through one of the guide's scope!

Following that success, and the only chance I would get to walk round the Rea Farm, the rest of the day was spent exploring the beaches on the Delaware Bay side.  Large numbers of waders gather here, en route to the arctic, to feed on the eggs of Horseshoe Crabs.  There were literally thousands, upon thousands, of Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Plenty of Knot, Turnstone and Sanderling also present.  Plus lots of Laughing Gulls also taking advantage of the Horseshoe Crab eggs in a feeding frenzy.  This picture doesn't really describe the atmosphere and sound of all the Laughing Gulls calling, it's like the audience of a Peter Kay gig!


Phil Jones said...

We were both on the East coast of America at the same time !! who would of thought it ( I was a bit further down in Florida - see ' Birding with the Clayheads '
Looks like you had a good time - a few ticks there for me.
ATB - Phil J

Richard Powell said...

Hi Phil

Yes the other Clayheads told me you were in Florida, when we were all looking at the Doxey Bluethroat.

It's well worth a visit if you want to try a different part of the USA. There's more blogging on the way!