Monday, June 14, 2010

Southern NJ, June 12th

I headed out pre-dawn to try my luck with the weather and look for breeding birds in southern NJ. With rather mixed success. At 6:30am at Jake's Landing the typical birds were evident: Osprey with young, Seaside Sparrow, Marsh Wren, vocal Clapper Rails, Willets. I didn't find any Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows and the cloud cover was not especially conducive to photography since photo ops and sunny intervals were rather asynchronous.

Headed back through the woodland to the road I heard Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, White-eyed Vireo and saw Brown Thrasher. I decided to try and wait out the variable cloud cover and went to the nearby Sunset Rd bridge at Belleplain State Forest. Despite being early in the day the amount of song was limited: Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, an emphatic Acadian Flycatcher were heard but there was no sign of Prothonotary Warbler or Louisiana Waterthrush. Or much else.

I went further down along the Delaware Bay shore and stopped at Kimball's Beach Rd at Cape May NWR to check out shorebirds - there in small numbers and to my eyes just Semipalmated Sandpipers, with no sign of their larger cousins (Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone, Knot).

From there I headed down to South Cape May Meadows (SCMM), the Nature Conservancy site near Cape May Point that is more correctly called "The Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge" these days. The weather was overcast so I went to the Concrete Ship and scanned the ocean, picking up a few Northern Gannets heading north. All immatures. At SCMM I left the camera in the car courtesy of unremitting cloud cover and walked around, seeing Piping Plovers getting agitated over every crow and Osprey. There were also Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmer, Least Tern and Foster's Tern. Best birds were the duo of singing Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak at the entrance. Activity was relatively low and the light was pretty bad so I started to work my way north, filling up with gas near the road for Wildwood. I was just turning onto the Garden State Parkway northbound when I caught sight of a clearing patch in my rear view mirror, so turned around at the next exit and headed back to SCMM in the hopes of better light.

At SCMM I had basically the same species, but at least a little sun as the overcast cleared out for a while, and a few birds including Least Terns were relatively cooperative fishing near the viewing platform along northernmost trail. A small number of Common Terns dropped in, and at one point full alternate plumage adults, a first summer Common Tern were on the same sandbar as adult Forster's Tern and first summer Laughing Gulls. An interesting mix of plumages but apart from the Common Terns nothing new was seen on my second go around SCMM. Least Terns were in an active colony on the beach, and American Oystercatcher and Piping Plover chicks were present along the roped off areas of the beach.

Finally I went north once again and visited Brigantine/Forsythe NWR to see if there were any residual migrating shorebirds. While I did get a view of two Clapper Rails bathing in the channel, the number of shorebirds (apart from the breeding Willet) was quite low and consisted of three Greater Yellowlegs and a small group of Semipalmated Sandpipers. Gull-billed Tern was also a new bird for the day. Greenheads were out, but not yet in truly ferocious numbers and the dearth of shorebirds let me keep my car windows up for most of the time. The main benefit of birding Brig on this day is that it delayed my arrival home so that I missed the first half of that rather dire 1-1 draw between the USA and England in the World Cup.

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