Monday, November 5, 2018

NJ - Cape May - Day 4 October 13th


Red-eyed Vireo - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 13th, 2018. 
Image appears courtesy of John Watts.

The day began cool with strong North-westerly winds. The pre-dawn air above the motel was filled with the sounds of passing migrants including the identifiable flight calls of Swainson's Thrush, Blackpoll and Cape May Warblers. At 06:45 hours we headed for Higbee Beach once more finding Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll Warblers as we parked the vehicle. From then on we enjoyed a strong flight of migrants over the Higbee Bech dike before showers forced us back down the banking at 08:00 hours. Even so, it was clear that many birds were on the move and with the help of the resident CMBO Morning Flight counter Andrew Dreelin, we enjoyed some great views of fast moving migrants passing north over and along Higbee dike; Northern Flicker (mobs!), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Brown Creeper (4), American Redstart, Northern Parula, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-rumped, Cape May, Blackpoll, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue and Black-and-white Warblers, an impressive flight of Purple Finches and a few Pine Siskins. As if the that wasn't enough, the walk back to the vehicle was neatly interrupted by a nice show of sparrows in the phragmites  with Lincoln's, Swamp, Song and White-throated Sparrows all giving fine views along with a Blue-headed Vireo and a Cape May Warbler.

Northern Flicker - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 13th, 2018. 

Cape May Warbler  -  Higbee Beach dike, Cape May Island, NJ. October 13th, 2018. 


We headed north for brunch in Avalon and then settled in for a seawatch at the CMBO Avalon Seawatch hut. We'd only just arrived when a Yellow-billed Cuckoo came flopping over the dunes, flew between us and headed into town. Apparently the same bird had come in off the sea and tried to settle inside the seawatching hut! Amazingly, we went on to witness a further four Yellow-billed Cuckoos coming in off the sea flying west and north-west trying to make landfall. I say "trying" because a couple certainly didn't make it. The local Great Black-backed Gulls made easy work of picking them off over the ocean - I can only imagine how many actually perished. Beyond the cuckoos we had a fairly steady seawatch but had some nice flights of scoters, a few Greater Scaup and even a few flocks of Wood Ducks moving south over the ocean. The big migrant of the afternoon was Double-crested Cormorant with about 1500 passing south during the three or so hours that we spent there.

Double-crested Cormorants - Avalon Seawatch, Cape May Co., NJ. October 13th, 2018.


Great Blue Herons - Avalon Seawatch, Cape May Co., NJ. October 13th, 2018.


Wood Ducks - Avalon Seawatch, Cape May Co., NJ. October 13th, 2018.

Common Loon - Avalon Seawatch, Cape May Co., NJ. October 13th, 2018.

Caspian Tern - Avalon Seawatch, Cape May Co., NJ. October 13th, 2018.

Returning to Cape May Island, we headed for the hawkwatch once more and weren't disappointed with a good showing of Broad-winged Hawk including several small kettles, and nice looks at 'tundra' Peregrine. Small falcons were notably fewer, perhaps not surprising, after the previous day's huge passage. Passerines showing well close to the hawkwatch in the late afternoon sunshine included Yellow-billed CuckooRed-eyed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, White-crowned and Field Sparrows. We spent the remainder of our time watching swallows over the dunes and bunker pond, and although it took a little while, we eventually got all of our party onto a late Purple Martin and a couple of Barn Swallows to round off another terrific day.

Bald Eagle - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 13th, 2018. 


Purple Martin (with Tree Swallow) - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 13th, 2018. 



Red-eyed Vireo - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 13th, 2018. 


Nashville Warbler - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 13th, 2018. 


Field Sparrow - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 13th, 2018. 

MA - first Northern Shrike of the fall and plenty of irruptive finches


Northern Shrike - Montague, Franklin Co., MA. November 5th, 2018. 
Distant dig-scoped shot - bird was quite mobile and difficult to get close to. 

A cold, clammy morning with complete cloud cover and light winds from the northern quarter. As pretty as crisp, sunny autumnal days can be I usually find the birding is better when it's completely overcast. Early morning was busy with Snow Bunting (1), Pine Siskin (15), Evening Grosbeak (10) and Belted Kingfisher (1) all on North Cross Road, Gill - the latter being unusual in rural Gill at this time of year away from the Connecticut River.


Barton Cove, Gill looked pretty quiet from what I could tell but the Turner's Fall Rod and Gun club was more productive with Common and Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneye (1), Ring-necked Duck (1) and Lesser Scaup (1) all present though the highlight had to be a close encounter with an American Pipit on the grass by the parking area.

American Pipit - Turner's Falls, Franklin County, MA. November 5th, 2018. 


American Pipit - Turner's Falls, Franklin County, MA. November 5th, 2018. 


Northern Shrike - Montague, Franklin Co., MA. November 5th, 2018. 


Snow Bunting - Montague, Franklin Co., MA. November 5th, 2018. 


Snow Bunting - Montague, Franklin Co., MA. November 5th, 2018. 

From Turner's Falls I headed south for what I thought would be a short visit to Wills Ferry and South Ferry Roads in Montague. Though initially quiet, this relatively peaceful spot captivated my interest for a good 75 minutes highlighted by a very showy and vocal Northern Shrike closely followed by a ridiculously tame Snow Bunting at my feet - quite literally! Moreover, a Red Crossbill flew over heading east toward Montague Plains and giving the classic, repeated 'gyp-gyp' flight calls.  Small numbers of Purple Finches and Pine Siskins also flew over mostly heading west, with three Snow Buntings eventually lifting up from the fields and ultimately heading west rounding off a terrific morning. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

MA - more goodies as a brilliant October draws to a close.


Yellow-billed Cuckoo - Mill Village Road, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 26th, 2018. 
Found by Harvey Allen and Dawn Winkler. One of the latest documented records for Franklin County. 
Image appears courtesy of Dawn Winkler


The daily dose of birding excellence continued through to the month's end in Franklin County. Again, I tried to limit my drive time to within a 20 minute radius of our house in Northfield. Here's a summary of some of the latest highlights;


Bufflehead - small fall-out on October 30th with at least 31 from three sites in Turner's Falls and 8 on the Connecticut River at Montague.


Cackling Geese (2) just left of center - Upinngil Farm, Gill, October 29th, 2018. 

Cackling Goose - continued excellent showing through to the end of the month. For example, 3 at Turner's Falls on the 25th, 1 at Tri-town Beach from the 28th - 31st, and 2 at Upinngil Farm, Gill on the 29th.

 Northern Harrier - juvenile, Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 26th, 2018.

 Northern Harrier - adult male, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 30th, 2018.

Northern Harrier - singles at Northfield Meadows and Turner's Falls Airfield, the latter site included a male on the 30th.


American Coot - Tri-town Beach, Whately, Franklin Co., MA. October 30th, 2018. 

American Coot - one at Tri-town Beach, Whately through to the 31st.

Common Gallinule - first-winter at Tri-town Beach through to Oct 30th, continuing from the 19th when it was initially found by Josh Rose.

Pectoral Sandpipers - Hell's Kitchen, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 28th, 2018.

Pectoral Sandpiper - 5 together at Hell's Kitchen on the 28th with 3 still present on the 29th.

Semi-palmated Plover - Hell's Kitchen, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 28th, 2018.

Semi-palmated Plover - 1 at Hell's Kitchen on the 28th was still present on the 29th.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - 1 on Mill Village Road, Deerfield, Franklin Co., October 26th, 2018. Seen by Harvey Allen and Dawn Winkler.

Eastern Screech-Owl - 1 (giving whinny calls) on North Cross Road, Gill at dawn on the 30th. Unusual here.

Horned Lark - 29 south over Northfield Meadows on the 28th. A poor autumn for this species so far.

Snow Bunting -  1 - 2 at Northfield Meadows and Turner's Falls Airfield from the 28th - 31st. 


Evening Grosbeak - male, Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 26th, 2018.

Evening Grosbeak -  a male in Northfield Meadows on Oct 26th, another westbound over North Cross Road, Gill on the 27th.


Pine Siskins - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 31st, 2018.

Pine Siskin - daily flyovers, most birds heading west but 40 feeding along a field edge on Meadow Road, Montague on the 28th (Brian Kane), and 35 in similar habitat in Northfield Meadows on the 31st.

Black-throated Green Warbler - 1 on North Cross Road, Gill on the 28th.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - small numbers at multiple locations but an impressive 25 in Northfield Meadows on the 31st.

Palm Warbler - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 31st, 2018.

Palm Warbler - 1- 5 in Northfield Meadows through to the 31st. All appeared to be of the 'yellow' eastern form.

Common Yellowthroat - 1 in Northfield Meadows on the 29th.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - small numbers at multiple locations throughout but 14 at the Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club on the 29th was unusual and included one flock of 11.

Winter Wren - 1 on North Cross Road, Gill at dawn on the 30th.

White-throated Sparrow - up to 300 in Northfield Meadows through to the end of the month.


White-crowned Sparrow (adult) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 31st, 2018.

White-crowned Sparrow - continued incursion with relatively good numbers (up to 20) through to the end of the month in Northfield Meadows, and smaller numbers (2 - 6) on Pine Meadow Road, Northfield, Turner's Falls and Monatgue.


Fox Sparrow - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 26th, 2018.

Fox Sparrow - continued presence at Northfield Meadows (up to 8) to the month's end plus 16 in Montague on the 28th (Brian Kane).

American Tree Sparrow - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 29th, 2018.

American Tree Sparrow - 1 on Meadow Road, Montague on the 28th (Brian Kane) and 1 in Northfield Meadows on the 29th.

Swamp and Savannah Sparrows - about 25 + of each species in Northfield Meadows through to the end of the month.






Wednesday, October 31, 2018

NJ - Cape May - Day 3 October 12th



American Kestrel (in migration) - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 
The CMBO counters tallied over 5400 for the day.

We met at 06:45 hours and headed over towards Higbee Beach for another attempt at the Morning Flight. Severe thunderstorms had awoken some of our party during the night but hadn't disturbed others, including me! On arrival at Higbee Beach dike we didn't even bother getting out vehicle as the whole area was being pounded by near gale force WNW winds. Instead we headed for the sheltered hedgerows and fields of Higbee Beach WMA but only found a single Eastern Phoebe. Having seen Black and Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed and Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Osprey on the move before sunrise we decided to head for the dedicated CMBO Hawkwatch Platform at Cape May Point State Park. Even though it was still relatively early, raptors were scattered all over the sky with flurries of American Kestrels, Merlins and Cooper's Hawks setting the theme for the rest of the day. Indeed, the day belonged to the small falcons and we had difficulty tearing ourselves away for brunch though we needn't have worried as raptors poured through at an even heavier rate in early afternoon. The end result, according to CMBO staff, was a new one day record for American Kestrel with over 5400 recorded but I think I was secretly more impressed with the Merlins that peppered the sky throughout the day sometimes playfully (and not so playfully) stooping at the thousands of Tree Swallows gathering over the dunes and bunker pond. Apparently the CMBO staff tallied almost 500 Merlins for the day!

Merlin  - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 
Migrant of the day for my money.


Osprey - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 


Great Blue Herons (in migration) - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 


Snow Geese with Canada Geese - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 
The specks all over this shot are Tree Swallows.


Snow Geese - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 


Tree Swallows - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 
Absolutely mesmerizing numbers of Tree Swallows passing through Cape May.


Eastern Phoebe - Higbee Beach WMA, Cape May Island, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 


Cape May Warbler - Cape May Point State Park, NJ. October 12th, 2018. 

This isn't to say that we weren't too overwhelmed to look at other birds during the course of the day and with a great selection of waterfowl on view at bunker pond that included Snow and Cackling Geese, Eurasian and American Wigeons, and Blue-winged and Green-winged Teals, we didn't have to go too far. Indeed, the state park was the place to be with Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos, and Blackpoll, Yellow-rumped, Nashville and Cape May Warblers all putting on a fantastic show and seemingly oblivious to the hordes of admiring birders.




Monday, October 29, 2018

NJ - Cape May - Day 2 October 11th

Saltmarsh Sparrow - Two Mile Landing, Wildwood Crest, Cape May Co., NJ. October 11th, 2018. 
Image appears courtesy of David Hughes. 

We awoke to some seriously heavy showers and thunderstorms fueled by a brisk south-easterly wind. Our plan for seeing the Morning Flight at Higbee Beach was washed out on the first morning of the tour so we ultimately opted for a seawatch under cover at the end Sunset Boulevard on Cape May Island. Within minutes we started to see Parasitic Jaegers passing south, some distant but many fairly close to shore between the beach and the 'Concrete Ship'. We settled in for what would become an extremely enjoyable three hour seawatch tallying around 100 Parasitic Jaegers along with a seemingly endless stream of Laughing Gulls, Forster's Terns, some Royal Terns and a few Common Terns, plus flocks of Surf and Black Scoters and with a single southbound Brown Pelican. Bald Eagle, Osprey, Peregrine and Great Blue Heron all came in off the bay whilst we were there.


Brown Pelican - southbound over Delaware Bay from Sunset Beach, Cape May Island. October 11th, 2018. 
This would prove to be the only Brown Pelican of the whole tour. 



Black Scoters - Delaware Bay from Sunset Beach, Cape May Island. October 11th, 2018. 



Laughing Gulls and Forster's Terns  - 'Concrete Ship' from Sunset Beach, Cape May Island. October 11th, 2018. 



Great Blue Heron - southbound over Delaware Bay from Sunset Beach, Cape May Island. October 11th, 2018. 



Parasitic Jaeger - southbound over Delaware Bay from Sunset Beach, Cape May Island. October 11th, 2018. 
An excellent morning for this species with around 100 counted over three hours from 07:15 am.

After an enjoyable brunch at a Beach Ave restaurant, we headed north with some tricky salt marsh species in mind, in particular the Ammodramus sparrow group. Fortunately, though windy, the weather cleared up enough for us to spend several hours at Two Mile Landing where we ultimately had a brilliant sparrow study with exquisite views of Seaside, Saltmarsh and Nelson's Sparrow close together. A Clapper Rail jumped in on the action too and with Brant, Semi-palmated and Least Sandpipers and Boat-tailed Grackles all on show, we were kept busy for a while. After a short coffee break in Wildwood with Fish Crows calling around the cafe, the showers returned and set in for the evening. We ended up back under cover at the end of Sunset Boulevard where we were treated at an amazing show of Royal Terns streaming south, presumably heading for  roost, and a huge flock of Black Skimmers heading NW across the bay.

Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sparrows - Two Mile Landing, Wildwood Crest, Cape May Co., NJ. October 11th, 2018. 


Nelson's Sparrow - Two Mile Landing, Wildwood Crest, Cape May Co., NJ. October 11th, 2018. 


Seaside Sparrow - Two Mile Landing, Wildwood Crest, Cape May Co., NJ. October 11th, 2018. 

A brilliant (if not a little challenging) first day came to an end with a fine evening meal at a local Cape May restaurant.