Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cape May! --Day 1

Cape May in early October after a cold front is probably the fall birding in the United States, and I was lucky enough to be there in that situation 2 weeks ago. The famed location certainly did not disappoint.

We didn't get to Cape May until 11, but there were still tons of birds around. Our first stop was the CMBO Center and Bird Store, on the shores of Lily Lake. It is supposed to a good spot for warblers, vireos, and other small migrants, and it certainly upheld that reputation. As soon as we got out of the car, there were birds flitting everywhere, and I quickly saw Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blackpoll Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, Northern Parulas, Redstarts, Black-throated Green Warblers, and, best of all, a single Cape May Warbler- a life and a cool bird to see. Plus, as we were in Cape May, it was a fitting spot to see my first one.

There were quite a few hawks flying over as well, mostly Sharp-shins, but with some broadwings, a few harriers, a merlin or two, and an eagle thrown in. I decided to head to the hawkwatch. There was a steady flight of birds there, with many accipiters, all falcons- including good looks at peregrines, some harriers and broadwings, and 5-6 eagles, a pretty good total for a fairly short time spent there. After that, I started on a loop around the Cape May Point State Park, which is adjacent to the hawkwatch. There were not as many birds as at CMBO, but there were still Yellow-rumps, Palms, Parulas, a single Pine Warbler, a Kinglet, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, as well as many flyover raptors. A single Killdeer on Bunker Pond was the only one of the weekend.
(Bunker Pond, the Hawkwatch Platform, and Cape May Lighthouse)

Butterflies were in abundance. Most common were Monarchs, but there were some others, mostly Common Buckeyes, which I had never seen before. Cape May seems to concentrate migrating monarchs the same way it does birds, and they were everywhere. 

I biked back to the center, stopping on the way for a pond full of wigeons, gadwall, teal, and a single drake Wood Duck. The birding, which had been good before, became great. I spotted 12 warblers, all great looks, including Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Black-throated Blue and Green, Magnolia, and Black-and-White. Yellow-rumped Warblers were abundant, but Parulas were even more common, sometimes with up to 4 or 5 per small tree.
 The really incredible thing about the birds was how close they were. I probably got within 3 feet of a parula, 4-5 of a Black-throated Blue, and even Blackburnian, normally a treetop bird, came down to eye level at close range. Another quite good bird was a Philadelphia Vireo, which also gave great looks, and there was always a couple raptors overhead, including Sharpies, Merlins, and a Peregrine that all dove at smaller birds, though none were successful.

I was planning to only stop briefly at the center before heading to The Meadows, another famous birding spot nearby, but there were so many birds, and so close, that I spent all afternoon in front of the CMBO store watching them, and new ones kept turning up- another Philly Vireo, another Blackburnian, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, a couple of kingfishers, and a Bay-breasted Warbler.

By the end of the day, I had seen one lifer, Cape May Warbler, one ABA bird, Philadelphia Vireo, and 14 different warblers. Even better, I got really great looks at all of the birds, which is always good. Great birds, at arm's length, at eye level- birding at its best!

No comments:

Post a Comment