Cape May Weekend

Date: Oct. 1-2, 2011

Location: Cape May, NJ and surrounding areas

Reported by: Joe Giunta

We started the trip at 9:00am on Saturday morning. Leaving from the Audubon Center on 23rd St. we took the van, making one stop along the way, and arrived at the Cape May Point State Park at about 1:30pm. This is the location of the world famous hawk watch. The weather conditions were excellent for a hawk flight. Many Merlins, Kestrels, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks were flying over the platform. We also made note of few Peregrines and one Northern Harrier. We also saw a few duck species, egrets and herons from the platform. Overhead flew a number of both Royal and Forster’s Terns. After about two hours on the platform we walked the ponds on the ocean side. Here we saw some migrating Palm Warblers. We did an ocean view and we did see about four dolphins breaking water not too far out.

We left this venue and headed towards our motel, the Acacia. Our group made a stop just before turning into the hotel. We explored a marshy area that had some shorebirds and one of the highlights of the trip. From the end of this area and across the bay we were able to scope an adult Brown Booby. The bird has been at this location since hurricane Irene passed this area in August. It was a ‘lifer’ for almost everyone. The motel was very pleasant and its location right on the ocean made for a nice environment. We checked in and almost immediately left for our next venue which was the Wetlands Institute at Shone Harbor. Here we saw some Yellow-crowned Night-Herons as they left their roost area and headed out for an evening of feeding. The sun was starting to set and I want to get to dinner so we drove to the Lobster House which was back near our motel.

The next morning we were on the beach at 6:30am for sunrise over the ocean. We were also looking for birds and did pick up Sanderlings and Dunlin. Over the ocean we saw many Royal and Caspian Terns. After about one half hour we checked out of the hotel, picked up coffee and breakfast items and headed towards the warbler platform of Higbee Field. The warbler flight was very good and we would see 13 warbler species in and around Higbee Field. Many hawks and at least two Bald Eagles were flying overhead. At Higbee Field we also saw the “Big Three , namely Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole and Scarlet Tanager. We left Higbee Field and headed towards the CMBO (Cape May Bird Observatory) visitors center/nature store. Right outside of their building we had probably the highlight of the trip. About 200 feet from the entrance of CMBO we saw 7 Cape May Warblers in one tree at one time. With the Cape Mays were other warblers like Parula, Black-and-white and Blackpoll. There is nothing like seeing a Cape May warbler in Cape May. The bird was a ‘lifer’ for some in our group. After picking up some information brochures and books we headed back to Cape May Point SP and the hawk watch. The conditions were not as favorable as the previous day. We did see some hawks and an excellent view of a Green Heron. We left the tower and explored the trails and ponds on the landward side the tower. We tested out our identification skills on some eclipse plumage Blue-winged Teal and many American Wigeon. Another highlight of the trip occurred here as we had a beautiful Tennessee Warbler at eye-level only 10 feet away. No binoculars necessary!

We left Cape May Point SP, picked up some sandwiches and headed towards our last venue, Jakes Landing. This spot is known for sparrows and rails. In the winter time it’s a great spot for owls, especially Short-eared Owls. We tried to call in both the Seaside and Saltmarsh sparrows but all we got were two birds that popped up and then disappeared. The weather started to turn against us so we got back in the van and set the Tom-Tom for NYC. Just before we left this venue we saw a small flock of Palm Warblers and two perched adult Bald Eagles. They seemed to say “Glad you had a nice time, come back again next year”. We forced ourselves to leave this spot and head back to the city. We exited the van at 23rd St, NYC, at about 7pm. A great trip had by all!

Species Seen: 85

Pied-billed Grebe
Brown Booby
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Wild Turkey
Clapper Rail
Greater Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Laughing Gull
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
American Robin
Carolina Chickadee
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
European Starling
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Palm Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Boat-tailed Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

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