Monday, October 20, 2008

Cape May Day 3 - Oct 18th

White-rumped Sandpiper - molting juvenile, Avalon, Cape May. Hand held digibin shots using Canon Powersot A560 through Leica 8 x 42 binoculars.

Avalon beach and seawall with shorebirds sheltering from the North-eastern wind in the foreground

We got a rather late start this morning but decided to try for Hidden Valley, part of Higbee Beach WMA. It was clearly much colder than the previous days with a strong North-eastern wind making birdfinding difficult. We had a few birds of interest (Wood Duck, Eastern Meadowlark, several Blackpoll Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows) but gave up in the conditions and headed north to the Avalon seawatch.
Black and Surf Scoters migrating south at Avalon, Cape May - thousands poured southwards all day.

The decision was a wise one. When we arrived the seawatch point was well represented with birders and stream upon stream of dark-winged scoters (all Black and Surf) poured past. Outside of the scoters, variety was rather limited with a handful of Northern Gannets plus a few dabbling ducks, mostly Green-winged Teal and Northern Pintail, passing with the scoters along with a single Greater Scaup. After an hour, I had a walk along the seawall with Matan and a found nice flock of shorebirds sheltering from the wind. The flock included a few Western and Semi-palmated Sandpipers and a single juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper. Just before we left an exhausted Blackpoll Warbler turned up in a tiny group of pines by the seawatch station with a Brown Creeper in the same pines just a few minutes later to add a touch of the bizarre!

Blackpoll Warbler - exhausted migrant next to the Seawatch point at Avalon.

Later I returned to the Avalon seawatch to find an even bigger group of birders, and the scoter migration continuing unabated. The migration included slightly more variety later in the afternoon with Common and Red-throated Loons, Brants and several large mixed flocks of Great and Snowy Egrets passing high overhead. The day ended on a high when a sub-adult male King Eider flew past alone just before 6pm. What was almost certainly the same bird was found off Cape May the very next day and featured in this post on Cape May Bird Observatory's website.

Birders gathered at the Avalon Seawatch, Cape May.

Today's scoter migration really was a spectacle which we felt privileged to witness. Although I haven't see the official totals from the day, I would guess that something in the region of 80,000 dark-winged Scoters passed the Avalon seawatch on October 18th.

Purple Sandpiper - on the jetty in front of the Seawatch point, Avalon, Cape May.

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