Cape May Rare Bird Alert - 3/10/1994
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 Mar. 10, 1994 include RED-NECKED GREBE, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, EURASIAN WIGEON, COMMON BLACK-HEADED GULL, ICELAND GULL, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, FORSTER'S TERN, SNOWY OWL, SHORT-EARED OWL, PURPLE MARTIN, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, news of a recent pelagic trip, reports of spring migrants, and other announcements.

The Miss Chris fishing boat went out of Cape May on March 6 to about 38 miles offshore, and found 100 RED-THROATED LOONS and 100 COMMON LOONS; 35 RED-NECKED GREBES, 30 of these in the harbor; 1200 OLDSQUAW, 500 SURF SCOTERS, 2000 BLACK SCOTERS, 4000 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, and 23 RAZORBILLS.

The recent storms on March 2 created the second highest tide since the deadly storm of March 1962, and caused quite a bit of erosion; the rough waters dredged up and deposited thousands of shellfish including whelks, moon snails, crabs, clams, and starfish -- attracting thousands of gulls, including an adult LESSER BLACK-BACK at the South Cape May Meadows beach on Mar. 5-6, a first-winter ICELAND at Stone Harbor Mar. 7, an adult COMMON BLACK-HEADED GULL in near-breeding plumage at Poverty Beach Mar. 7, and a returning FORSTER'S TERN at Second Avenue also Mar. 7.

Other waterbird migrants noted this week include a DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT headed north over Cape May Point Mar. 7, 2000+ GREEN-WINGED TEAL including one of the Eurasian race at Brigantine Mar. 8; two male BLUE-WINGED TEAL at the Beanery Mar. 5; 3 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS flying north over South Cape May Mar. 6; and another flying past Cape May Point Mar. 9. Up to 4 COMMON SNIPE were at a rainpool at Bayshore and Stevens in West Cape May. One observer counted waterbirds flying out of the bay from Sunset Beach Mar. 8. Tallies were: 3 HORNED GREBE, 26 N. GANNET, 15 GREATER SCAUP, 127 OLDSQUAW, 25 SURF SCOTERS,6 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, 2 COMMON GOLDENEYE, and one HOODED MERGANSER. A good concentration of HOODED MERGANSERS was found on the pond at Tuckahoe, 40+ on Mar. 5. Despite much diligence, we were not yet able to turn up the first LAUGHING GULL of the season, so barring one being found further north in the state, the coveted LaGu award is still up for grabs. Also, be on the lookout for other early migrants such as Piping Plover and Osprey.

With most of the rest of NJ and parts of neighboring states still with significant amounts of snow on the ground during much of the week, those here in tropical Cape May with none of the white stuff have enjoyed seeing some early passerine migrants. The highlight among these is probably the female PURPLE MARTIN at Cape May on Mar. 8, with other notable sightings including the following: up to 14 TREE SWALLOWS from Cape May Point, 5 EASTERN BLUEBIRDS at Sunset Beach Mar. 8, a male Pine Warbler at Cape May Point Mar. 9; small flocks of RUSTY BLACKBIRDS at Higbee and Cape May Point. For the first time in a month, RED-NECKED GREBES are being relegated to the middle of this hotline. This is not for lack of birds. Other locations besides the 30 in Cape May Harbor mentioned already include 2 at Great Egg Harbor River Mar. 5; Sunset beach; Lily Lake; the Coast Guard jetty; South Cape May Meadows, and Stone Harbor, where 20 were seen Mar. 5.

The male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD continues to be seen in the field of standing corn on Bayshore Rd. just south of the intersection with New England Rd. Only 4 COMMON REDPOLLS were reported at this site on one day this week, but they may still be present as they were never easy to find. Also check the local Canada Geese on New England Rd.; five birds of one of the small races have been in this flock for a week or so. Thousands of SNOW GEESE were feeding at Goshen Landing this week. Finally, a pot-pourri of goodies that didn't fit anywhere else on the tape: a male EURASIAN WIGEON continues sporadically on the Coast Guard property along Ocean Drive. A SNOWY OWL was seen at Brigantine Mar. 3, not since, and a SHORT-EARED OWL there Mar. 5.

A note to BREEDING BIRD ATLASERS: It's time to survey for N. SAW-WHET OWLS. THey call on territory as early as February and certainly into March, April, and May. March may seem early but by late March the din of Spring Peepers is so intense you may not hear the owls. In this past week many of us have heard the beginnings of the Spring Peepers. So if you do survey for Saw-whets, be alert for any call you can't identify. We had a bird March 2 in Lebanon State Forest making a lisping call that sounded a bit like a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher and a bit like baby squirrels. Another call it made sounded somewhere between the whine of a cat and the mewing of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

[local nature notes and 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 CMBO staff; 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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