Cape May September 21-23

- by Ann Mitchell

Eight super birders joined me for a great weekend! It was a combination of Swirling winds (not necessarily to ouradvantage), swarms of Swallows, and a cacophony of Carolina Wrens. Saturday was a zero at the Dike at Higbee Beach other than Carolina Wrens. Winds were south (up to 30 mph), and they continued like that all day. After the dike experience, we walked around the grounds. We saw local birds including a Brown Thrasher, numerous Cardinals and Carolina Wrens, but not much else. We next stopped at the Cape May Bird Observatory where people could get maps and checklists of the area. They have many books, t-shirts, caps, etc. for you shopping pleasure. There was a great diversity of optics there, also. The Hawk Watch, other than Merlins, was just as devoid of migrating birds. Because of the winds, I decided Stone Harbor might have better birding opportunities. Our first stop was the Wetlands Preserve. We saw many Willets and Black-bellied Plovers. A Long-billed Dowitcher was among the Willets. A Tricolored Heron showed itself. Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons were hanging out together. It was nice comparing their differences.

Next we went to the Stone Harbor Beaches at the end of 2nd Street. A couple of us were wearing shorts. The wind was really whipping the sand around. I had to go to the water's edge where the sand wasn't blowing, because it felt like needles going into my skin. There were MANY Sanderlings, Semi-palmated Sandpipers and Black-bellied Plovers. A couple of us saw Red Knots. Stone Harbor definitely ended up being more "bird worthy". As we were leaving the beach, we noticed a wedding was going to take place there. We felt bad for the women in short dresses. OUCH! We then ended the day having a great dinner at The Lobster House. (Different from the chain version).

The next morning (winds were WNW) we headed to the Nature Conservancy spot which is on the way to the Hawk Watch. We had great looks at Palm Warblers. Some of us saw a Seaside Sparrow, but it was a REALLY quick look. There were Mockingbirds galore. At the Hawk Watch we saw numerous Black Vultures, (apparently their sightings have been increasing in numbers over the years). There were many Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, and all falcons were present. Comparing the flight patterns between the Sharpies and Coopers was a learning experience for many people, as well as the Kestrels and Merlins. A couple Broad-winged Hawks, a Red-shouldered Hawk, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and numerous Osprey also were present. One of the local field trip leaders talked to us for awhile. He said that the best winds were NW winds for the Hawk Watch, not WNW because the birds come close to us and then turn back north. Another not great feature of the weekend was clear skies. There were no cloud markers to point out the raptors. Everyone left between 1:00 or 2:00 except for Gary Kohlenberg and me who stayed another night. Neither of us like to drive home on a Sunday.

Normally this would be the end of the Bird Club trip report, but you must read the following: Gary and I went to the Hawk Watch Monday morning around 8:00. The wind was NW. No one was at the Hawk Watch when we arrived. Beside the Hawk Watch is a pavilion, and beside that are trees, spruce and deciduous. We were looking at warblers hopping around for a couple hours. There were 15 species total. We saw two Yellow-throated Warblers in the Spruce tree which later the Hawk Watch counter reported that they were rarely seen. Anyway, I think birders should stay longer than 1 and 1/2 days. The weather is all important. The longer you stay, the more you see!