Cape May Rare Bird Alert - 2/17/1994
You have reached the Cape May birding hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. Highlights of the week ending Feb. 17, 1994 include RED-NECKED GREBE, EURASIAN WIGEON, WILLET, SHORT-EARED OWLS, AMERICAN PIPIT, AMERICAN TREE SPARROW, SNOW BUNTING, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, NORTHERN ORIOLE, COMMON REDPOLL, EVENING GROSBEAK, an update on upcoming pelagic trips, and other announcements.

The big story this week was the unprecedented flight of RED-NECKED GREBES into our area. The fun apparently started on Feb. 10, when a local birder found a flock of 15 grebes well off Cape May's beachfront. The birder felt they had to be Horned Grebes due to the quantity of them but was uneasy about the identification. On Feb. 11, another birder found what was then an amazing four RED-NECKS near the Bunker at the State Park. Then all hell broke loose on Feb. 12. The original observer, hearing about the 4 at the Bunker, found a remarkable 15 RED-NECKS in 20 minutes, including four in the Cape May Canal. He alerted others and started an avalanche of sightings that didn't abate until at least 126 birds, considered a rare winter visitor, had been found.

Maximum counts at various sites: 24 at Stone Harbor, 12th; 2 at Reed's Beach, 12th; 23 off Town Bank, 12th; 17 in Cape May Harbor, 14th; 5 at the Bunker, 12th; 7 at the Ferry Terminal, 12th; 4 in the Cape May Canal, 12th; 3 on Lily Lake, 13-17th; 15 off Cape May, 10th; 19 off Sunset Beach, 12th; 3 at Poverty Beach, 12th; 35 in the Wildwoods, 13th; 24 at Stone Harbor, 12th; 1 along Bayberry Drive, near Stone Harbor Blvd., 13th; at 3 at May's Landing, 15th. Other reports out of our area include 1 at Mannington Marsh, Salem Co., 13th; and 6 in the Lewes, Delaware harbor, 14th. We suspect that these grebes have come our way due to the cold winter in the Great Lakes Region. Lake Superior has frozen solid for the first time in 16 years; and northern Lake Huron is also frozen. Both are areas in which Red-necked Grebes winter in at least small numbers. We would like to learn the full scope of this flight; we are very interested in hearing from birders that have seen this species. Please call the Observatory with details.

Birders searching for Grebes have found other species of interest as well. A Harbor Seal was found off the State Park Feb. 12th. A SHORT-EARED OWL, 10 HORNED LARKS, and a SNOW BUNTING were all at the Concrete Ship Feb. 12. One hundred PURPLE SANDPIPERS were on the Cape May Point Jetties Feb. 12. Three BLACK SCOTERS were at Poverty Beach Feb. 12, and a male SURF SCOTER was off Cape May Point on Feb. 13. 150 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS were at Hereford Inlet on Feb. 12, and the WILLET, spending at least its 3d winter in Avalon, apparently has survived the brutal weather, and was also found Feb. 12.

If it weren't for the Red-necked Grebes, AMERICAN TREE SPARROW would be the story of the season. This scarce to rare winter visitor has been seen in much larger than usual numbers. TREE SPARROWS were found at a number of sites this week: at least 4, possibly 7, were at the cornfield on Bayshore that hosts the big Blackbird flock; 2 were at a Goshen feeder all week; 2 were at Lily Lake Feb. 12; one was along Stone Harbor Blvd. on Feb. 13; 3 were at Higbee Beach on Feb. 14, and one was at the South Cape May Meadows Feb. 16.

An adult male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD continues to be seen nearly daily among a big flock of blackbirds, mostly Common Grackles, in a field of standing corn along Bayshore Rd. just south of New England Rd. in North Cape May. It has been seen every day since first being seen on Feb. 5, but it can take perseverance to search through the fifteen-thousand-plus blackbirds in the area. A flock of 4 HORNED LARKS was seen flying over the site Feb. 14. Also in the area is a flock of about 50 COMMON REDPOLLS that is seen nearly daily. One COMMON REDPOLL visited a Goshen feeder Feb. 15, and two were in the dunes near St. Mary's on Feb. 12. Should you observe any Redpoll flocks be sure to look through them for Hoaries; one lucky couple in Maryland is reportedly playing host to five Hoaries in a flock of 350 Commons. Please let us know of any Redpoll reports.

A male EURASIAN WIGEON is being seen in the pond on the Coast Guard property along Ocean Drive. Four BLACK VULTURES were over the State Park on Feb. 17. One IPSWICH (Savannah) SPARROW was at the Cape May Point jetties Feb. 12, and another was at the Meadows Feb. 15. Thirty AM. PIPITS were found at the Beanery on Feb. 12. A trip to Mannington Marsh in Salem Co. on Feb. 13 found 150 MUTE SWANS, 30 TUNDRA SWANS, 10 RUDDY DUCKS, 1 BALD EAGLE, 300 HORNED LARKS, 2 AM. PIPITS, 1 LAPLAND LONGSPUR, and 1 SNOW BUNTING. Ten FOX SPARROWS have been frequenting the feeders at CMBO, along with at least two BROWN THRASHERS, 2 HERMIT THRUSHES, and a YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER. Other feeder birds of note include a NORTHERN ORIOLE, all winter at a feeder in Seaville, and two EVENING GROSBEAKS at a feeder in Dias Creek. This species has been amazingly scarce this winter after putting on a strong fall flight.

With the advent of warmer weather, AM. WOODCOCK are gearing up for their spring courtshp season. Three were heard "peenting" on the CMBO grounds this morning, Feb. 17.

Pelagic trip announcements: the Miss Chris fishing boat, Capt. Fred Ascoli, had a birding pelagic trip on Monday Feb. 21 (President's Day), but it has been POSTPONED until Feb. 27. This trip will be going 15 to 40 miles offshore; leaving at 5 AM, out 12 hours, cost $50/person. Call (609) 884-3939 to register or for more information. Sure to fill quickly, a pelagic trip is scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend by Armas Hill's Focus on Nature tours. The boat leaves from Barnegat Light at 8:30 PM May 27, goes out to Hudson Canyon and returns at about 6 PM the following day. Cost is $89. Call (302)5291876 for details or registration. In addition, the Miss Chris runs Saturday fishing trips starting Feb. 19, twelve hours long, leaving at 5 AM, and fishing for cod, pollock and ling. Birders are welcome but the focus is fishing and you still have to pay. Call Fred Ascoli as above for information.

[program notes omitted -ll] Cape May Bird Observatory is a research and education unit of the New Jersey Audubon Society. Our aim is to perpetuate and preserve the ornithological significance of Cape May. Your membership supports these goals and this birding hotline. For more information regarding Cape May birding, our programs and field trips, phone our office or write to CMBO, PO Box 3, Cape May Point, NJ 08212. If you're in the area please stop by our headquarters at 707 East Lake Drive, Cape May Point. The Cape May birding hotline [(609) 884-2626] is a service of Cape May Bird Observatory and includes sightings from Cape May, Atlantic, and Cumberland counties and adjacent areas. Updates are made on Thursday evening, more often if warranted. [Compiled by Pat Sutton, CMBO; transcribed by L. Larson (llarson@pucc.princeton.edu).] Please report sightings of rare or unusual birds to CMBO at (609) 884-2736. Thank you for calling; good birding.

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