Sunday, 2 June 2013

Cape May, The Sequel. Part 33 and a third.

So where was I?  Oh yes, Cape May.  Where men are men, and the moths are scared!

The 13th May started again at the Belleplain State Forest, to see if we could catch up with some of the birds we missed a few days ago, and also to explore the forest for ourselves.  An excellent start was had with this splendid White-breasted Nuthatch.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Another Magnolia Warbler was seen, plus Eastern Wood-Pewees, Scarlet Tanager, Pine Warbler, Eastern Kingbird, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher.  Spending more time by the damp woodland at the Sunset Road bridge, a skulking Hooded Warbler was heard again but not seen.  Then after a time, a bird was seen to land on the road.  Only a stonking male Prothonotary Warbler!  After a hop about on the road, the bird spent a number of minutes in the overhanging branches of a tree, giving absolutely wonderful views.

Following that success, the remaining time at Belleplain revealed Summer Tanager, Eastern Bluebirds, Red-tailed Hawk, an Eastern Phoebe, American Goldfinch and 2 Wood Thrushes.

American Goldfinch
Eastern Wood-Pewee, image courtesy of Kay

Wood Thrush
The rest of the day was spent at the Cape May Point State Park.  It could've been very easy just to sit at the Hawkwatch platform and slowly nod off to sleep, so some walking was done to make sure that didn't happen.  One each of American Coot and Ruddy Duck were new for the trip, it would've been easy to overlook them before now. 

Plenty of Cliff Swallows were around too, hawking insects from the lagoons.  Someone had also claimed a Cave Swallow here, which is like a paler version of Cliff Swallow and really should be in Mexico.  But alas, as hard as we tried to pick it out, all we could see were Cliff Swallows.  Never mind, and not something I was expecting to get.

The next day, the 14th May, took us back to Higbee Beach for a morning walk.  We had our first Hairy Woodpecker here, plus 3 Great Crested Flycatchers, female Summer Tanager, Black-throated Green Warbler and a cracking male American Redstart.  Over the course of our time spent in woodland, we had noticed these web things in trees and bushes.

I had assumed they were spiders webs of some kind, and thought nothing of them.  But after talking to an American birder, they are in fact caterpillar cases of the Gypsy Moth.  Which would explain why this morning in particular, they were proving attractive to hungry birds.  A natural bird table for Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, but particularly for a Baltimore Oriole and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Baltimore Oriole

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Another check of the state park had 3 American Wigeon this time, plus an excellent selection of soaring raptors which included a Broad-winged Hawk in amongst the Red-tailed Hawks, a single Bald Eagle, Turkey and Black Vultures.

An afternoon walk around the Rea Farm produced an American Kestrel which was new for the trip, also a female Prothonotary Warbler, a sight never to be tired of.  I also did my good deed of the day here.  Whilst taking a walk through some damp woodland, along a disused railway line, we found a Terrapin flat on it's back and unable to move.  The reptile must've thought it was one of those Ninja Turtles, so when climbing over the metal railway line it would've flipped itself over, before it could have chance to say "Cowabunga!".

Now, in nature you're not supposed to interfere.  But you couldn't help feeling sorry for this little chap, it could've been stuck there for hours.  So I flipped the little fella back up again, and we made sure it carried on it's way after successfully climbing over the other side of the old railway line.

Great Crested Flycatcher at the Rea Farm, image courtesy of Kay
Brown-headed Cowbirds at the Rea Farm
During the course of the day, we decided that we really ought to try somewhere at dusk, for the possibility of Owls or Nightjars, that kind of thing.  So following dinner, we took a 10 minute drive over to the Cape May Refuge, along the Kimbles Beach road, where we saw the White-crowned Sparrow previously.  The songbird trail here had a good mixture of mature and new trees, so it looked a likely spot. 

As darkness descended, something flew across out of the corner of my eye.  I thought it was the size of an Owl to begin with.  Thankfully the bird flew back towards us and we could tell it was a Nightjar of some kind.  After a process of elimination, the clucking sound it made plus no white on the wings, meant that it was a Chuck-Will's Widow!

Much larger than our European Nightjar, and slightly larger than a Common Nighthawk.  When it was almost pitch dark the bird landed on the ground in front of us, and you could make out it's huge head in proportion to it's body.  Great stuff, a brilliant way to finish a day.

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