Sunday, August 21, 2011

Parasitic Jaeger and Brown Booby (in NJ!)

This has been quite the year for life birds, including exotic ones (Rufous-backed Thrush, Black-vented Oriole, Laysan Albatross, Short-tailed Albatross, Gray-hooded Gull), so when a Brown Booby turned up in Cape May I doubted my luck would run so far as to have it stick around.

Instead I headed for Bombay Hook NWR (Smyrna, DE) in the morning to look for shorebirds, and apart from the belated year bird American Avocet and some Blue Grosbeaks wasn't all that blown away by things. Checking email I saw that the Booby was still being seen, so I made a 2.5 hour "sprint" across the southern tier of NJ to Cape May, where I saw the Brown Booby perched on a distant marker just before 1pm. Since there was a 1:30 sailing of "The Osprey" I called them up while looking at the Booby through the scope and hopped on the boat to take a closer look. And a closer look it was, with the Booby seen from perhaps 50 feet away.

What's even more remarkable is that it was an adult - usually only juveniles go way out of range. Notably other Brown Boobies had been seen very recently in Massachusetts and Maine - a mini invasion of a Caribbean bird that only breeds in the USA on the Dry Tortugas.

Also seen from the tour were several Whimbrel, a Marbled Godwit and a few Black Terns amongst commoner species. After the tour ended I braved traffic to go to the "Concrete Ship" at Cape May Point. I hadn't even put the 'scope down when a Parasitic Jaeger flew by (a dark-ish juvenile). I had been extra-conservative about Parasitics despite seeing two in Avalon over a decade ago, and "seeing" one or two on pelagics, but this was getting silly so I decided to add it to my life list after all. Also at the Concrete Ship were lots of terns (Common, Forster's, more Blacks, Least, Royal), a lot of Laughing Gulls, with Sanderling and Semipalmated Sandpiper on the beach. I couldn't pull in any Storm-Petrels out over the ocean but it was windy and murky by this point. I headed home through a line of strong storms flash-flooding the roads in places.