Cape May Rare Bird Alert - 9/16/1993
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 Sept. 16, 1993 include: SWAINSON'S HAWK, FRANKLIN'S and LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, SANDWICH and BLACK TERNS, LARK SPARROW, LARK BUNTING, hawk flights, the start of the fall seabird count, local nature notes and news of upcoming programs.

Today, the 16th, a visiting British birder thought that in Britain, with wet East winds blowing, one checks the coastal shrubs for vagrants. Since that was the weather we enjoyed today, he proceded to walk along the dunes bordering Cape May Point and found Cape May's first record for LARK BUNTING in a long, long time. The bird, a probable imm. male, played cat and mouse with eager birders for a while, but was eventually ticked by most who sought it. The bunting perched occasionally on fences on top of the dunes between the crossovers at the end of Coral and Lake street. To find the bird mount either of these crossovers and look over all the fencing on the dunes. A scope is sometimes necessary to view it satisfactorily. Please stay off the dunes themselves. A LARK SPARROW was also seen in this vicinity today 9/16.

An adult winter FRANKLIN'S GULL was found on 9/11 coming to roost with lots of LAUGHING GULLS near the clamshell pile located at the west end of the drawbridge on Ocean Ave. just north of the canal. The bird was known to be present at nightfall and may still be around. It may be very difficult to relocate as there are numerous Laughing Gull roosts scattered around the back bay salt marshes north of Cape May. Recently, an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL has been seen sporadically on or around the shellpile.

Speaking of the back bay marshes, recent boat trips through the marshes to Champagne Island (a sand bar in Hereford inlet visible from N. Wildwood) have produced some notable species and large concentrations of other more normal species. Notable species include AM. BITTERN, PEREGRINE FALCON, WHIMBREL, and SANDWICH and BLACK TERNS. Champagne Island often hosts large numbers of shorebirds, gulls, and terns, and this week did not disappoint. Among the thousands of SANDERLINGS were ROYAL and COMMON TERNS, as many as 13 BLACK TERNS, two different adult SANDWICH TERNS (a banded bird late last week and an unbanded one on 9/15), 11 PIPING PLOVERS, a few DUNLIN, 20+ WESTERN SANDPIPERS, and a few RED KNOTS. This is the best place in NJ to see SANDWICH TERN and lingering PIPING PLOVERS. For details of future trips call Jersey Cape Nature Excursions (609) 898 9631.

A big passerine flight on the night of Sept. 10-11 produced enough birds to provide exciting land-birding at Higbee Beach and elsewhere for 2 - 3 days afterward. Passerine highlights for the week include an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER on 9/14; a male GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER for several days; a male LAWRENCE'S WARBLER (the recessive hybrid of Blue-winged and Golden-winged); KENTUCKY and WORM-EATING WARBLERS; numbers of CONNECTICUT WARBLERS, and several DICKCISSELS.

The passage of the cold front last weekend brought far and away the best raptor flight of the season. A total of 1355 birds was counted. This included 2 BLACK VULTURES, 419 OSPREY, 2 BALD EAGLES, 51 N. HARRIERS, 306 SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS, 882 AM. KESTRELS, and 20 MERLINS. Also passing the platform that day was the season's first BAIRD'S SANDPIPER, 2 LESSER GOLDEN PLOVER, and a locally unprecedented flight of CLIFF SWALLOWS. Estimates vary but all agree that at a minimum 1200 CLIFF SWALLOWS flew by that day. 60-75% of the swallows seen from the platform were Cliffs, with the second most numerous species being BANK SWALLOWS. Barn and Tree Swallows, normally the most abundant hirundines here, ran a poor third and fourth, together comprising only some 5% of the flight; the only other swallow that day was one N. ROUGH-WINGED.

Other raptor news is highlighted by the sighting of a light-morph SWAINSON'S HAWK on Sept. 15 and 16. The bird lingered over the platform for 15-20 minutes on the 15th after first being found north of the canal near the Seashore Campground by a birder who thankfully decided to go to the platform to inform the crowd there. It was seen again early this morning near the South Cape May Meadows but not afterward.

Due to lack of rain the South Cape May Meadows have been less exciting this week. The only birds of note were a couple of WILSON'S PHALAROPES and SORA and VIRGINIA RAILS. Hopefully the predicted rains of the next few days will help.

The Observatory's first full-time seabird count started yesterday. The tally was only 3 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS; but we predict great things to come. We are helping Dave Ward expand the coverage on a project started by him years ago. Come join the counters at the end of 7th street in Avalon for some exciting seabirding.

Local nature notes follow. A new county record butterfly was seen this week in a garden in Cape May Point. An Arcola [?] Skipper was number 104 for the county checklist. Goldenrod, wild Sunflower, and flowering sedum around Cape May are attracting Sachems, Monarchs, Painted Ladies, and American Ladies, Buckeye, and more. The State Park trails have also been good, especially patches of mixed flowers. A few Hummingbirds are still coming to feeders, but they are on the move. One or several Humpback Whales have been sighted over the past week, including one seen on the 13th off Avalon.

Upcoming programs daily through mid-October: Each Sunday through September, a birdwalk at Higbee Beach begins at 7:30 AM in the parking lot. On Mondays, a birdwalk leaves from the State Park Picnic Pavilion at 7:30 AM. Every Tuesday evening a "sunset bird walk" meets at 6:30 PM at the Meadows, until Sept. 7 when the walks meet at 5:30 PM due to daylight savings. Every Wednesday, a birdwalk for beginners meets at 7:30 AM at the Nature Conservancy's property at the Cape May Meadows. Every Thursday at 7:30 AM a walk leaves the parking lot on New England Rd. for Hidden Valley. On Friday, a birdwalk meets at the Concrete Ship at 7:30 AM. Hawk ID workshops take place at the State Park's education building every Friday at 9:30 AM and every Saturday at 1 PM. Birdwatching for Beginners two-day workshop is scheduled for Sept. 26, Oct. 23, and each month thereafter. Other special programs as well; call for details and registration.

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 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. Please report sightings of rare or unusual birds to CMBO at (609) 884-2736. Thank you for calling; good birding.

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