CAPE MAY 2010
Courtesy James P. Smith
A most interesting tour developed as a series of cold fronts brought a mixed bag of weather conditions to the Cape May peninsula, which in turn brought birds a plenty. Most notably, we experienced major flights of warblers on the very first and last mornings of the tour with well over a thousand warblers passing Higbees Beach on both days. Northern Parulas, American Redstarts, Black-throated Blue and Cape May Warblers featured heavily on the first morning, whilst the last morning was all about Yellow-rumped, Blackpoll and Palm Warblers, some of these passing by in hundreds. The week included an impressive tally of seven Connecticut Warblers with no less than three on the last morning seen relatively well. One was even photographed as it zipped past the infamous dike at Higbees Beach.
The weather conditions might have been described as 'volatile' at times, but it did ground some great shorebirds especially at Cape May airport where we found a slew of 'grass-pipers' – American Golden Plover, Upland, Baird's and Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits, Stilt and White-rumped Sandpipers and Piping Plovers were all seen well at various sites on the tour, and the waterfowl and shorebird extravaganza at Brigantine was something to behold. It was simply packed with birds including an early party of Snow Geese, an out of range Yellow-headed Blackbird and a trio of scarce sparrows: Seaside, Nelson's and Saltmarsh all feeding close together in the corner of one of the large impoundments.
Raptors filled the air on almost all of the days of the tour and it was easy to become complacent about Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Peregrines, American Kestrels, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Northern Harriers – they were simply everywhere!
Although we had no major rarities this year a few scarcer species did show up, much to the delight our group. A Western Kingbird flew past Higbees Beach on the first morning, two Dickcissels were found with House Sparrows in front of the raptor viewing deck at Cape May Point, a very obliging Philadelphia Vireo performed outside the Cape May Bird Observatory HQ, and we enjoyed prolonged views of a Red-headed Woodpecker. To add a touch of the bizarre, some of our group saw a Virginia Rail on a front lawn in the middle of downtown Cape May!
Thanks to a fun group for making the tour so thoroughly enjoyable!
James P. Smith, Gill, Massachusetts, USA