Cape May, September 2001

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Observers: Brad Robson, Shaun Robson, Terry Elborn and James Phillips
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Weather and summary

Sat.16th New Jersey weather: W4 c20ยบ 2/8. 08.00hrs flight from Heathrow to JFK cancelled and replaced with 13.00hrs flight to Newark resulting in loss of planned visit to Jamaica Bay. Only species recorded were from car and all were regularly seen throughout the rest of the trip; most notable were an Osprey and three Red-tailed Hawks. Several warblers were heard calling in flight over CMP after dark promising much for tomorrow. Trip list 12.

Sun.17th W4 - WSW later 0/8, mild - v.warm. Higbees 06.25 - 12.15hrs; Hidden Valley 13.35 - 16.00hrs; SCMM 16.00 - 18.50hrs. Higbees had experienced a good flight on 16th and we were enjoying the remnants which surpassed our best day in 1999. Eighteen species of warbler, dominated by American Redstarts and beginning with a fine adult male, lead the long list of highlights which included a female Golden-winged, 2 Blue-winged, 3 Canada and 2 Tennessee Warblers; 2 Philadelphia and a Warbling Vireo; single Veery, Swainson's and Wood Thrush; a Lincoln's Sparrow and 30+ R.b.Grosbeaks. The flight included 200+ warblers and numerous frustratingly unidentified calling passerines the best of which were 3 Dickcissel and 15 Bobolink. SCMM proved to be more productive than on any visit in `99 with 4 L.Yellowlegs, 8 Least, 12 Pectoral Sandpipers and a Common Nighthawk whilst c300 Black Skimmers were off the 2nd Avenue jetty at dusk. Day list and trip list 103 species.

Mon.18th WNW 3, 2/8, warm, dry going to SE 4, 8/8, dry later. Higbees 06.35 - 10.10hrs; Cold Springs Campsite 10.30 - 12.15hrs; Stone Harbour 13.30 - 18.00hrs. A general clear out occurred as expected though numerous warblers remained. JP had a wonderful 45mins in the woods adjacent to the car-park at Higbees with very close range views of Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Swainson's Thrush, 2 N.Waterthrushes and a Bay-breasted Warbler. The rest of the team were left chasing shadows but the lake at Cold Springs proved fruitful with Swainson's Thrush sitting on wires and a parade of warblers and Baltimore Orioles. Stone Harbour added Blackpoll to the growing warbler list from the beach scrub. The expected suit of shorebirds, terns and gulls were enriched by a flyby Gull-billed Tern. Day list 90 species; trip 128.

Tues.19th E3 - 5, 8/8, warm with mostly light, persistent rain becoming drier for a time after a torrential downpour early pm. Visit to Higbees cancelled due to rain so we headed up the coast to Brigantine and remained there for the day 07.50 - 18.15hrs. On arrival hirundines were moving steadily east over the car-park. The majority were Tree Swallows as expected with an estimated 1,000+ throughout the day and a few Barn Swallows mixed in as well as 15+ Chimney Swifts. A bright adult male Pine Warbler in conifers near the administration buildings brought a splash of colour in the grey morning and kept the total rolling along. As expected the huge flocks of shorebirds were both impressive and frustrating in that they were often so distant but the second circuit produced some excellent views of Western and Semi-ps, Least, Pectoral and 2 White-rumped Sandpipers, both Dowitchers but unfortunately no Stilt sands. A juvenile Clapper Rail hiding partially in a tidal creek was an addition to the trip list but the highlights were all along one stretch of the north bank as the sun came out. Firstly stunning views of Seaside and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows, a Gull-billed Tern and a flock of eight very obliging Bobolinks. More rain put the final dampeners on a visit into the woodland which produced only one roving mixed flock though did include both species of nuthatch. Day list 82, trip 146.

Wed.20th Rain stopped about midnight and the W6 died to 0/8 and still by dawn. SW3 and very hot later (78F in the shade) made birding difficult. Higbees 06.30 - 11.00hrs; Stone Harbour 12.00 - 16.15hrs; Hidden Valley 17.00 - 19.15hrs. The change back to a westerly airflow brought a small and welcome arrival of passerines. Cedar Waxwings were again over Higbees as well as c15 Baltimore Orioles, Great-crested Flycatcher (with another in the dune scrub at Stone Harbour), 2 Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Cape May Warbler, Purple Martin and the best an immature Red-headed Woodpecker which fought off several flickers to be filmed in a dead tree. The quick return to Stone Harbour had been brought about by the news that Piping Plovers had been seen there in recent days though we were unable to find them. A flock of Semi-ps, Westerns and Least Sandpipers at c5m distant was a superb bonus as was a juvenile Stilt sand. The evening at Hidden Valley as the heat of the day subsided produced good views of Swainson's Thrush, overhead Common Nighthawk, 5 shapeshifting Blue Grosbeaks and a calling Great Horned Owl. Day list 101, trip list 156.

Thurs.21st SSW6, 6/8, dry. Higbees 06.40 - 10.25hrs; Cold Springs Campsite 10.30 - 12.00hrs; CMP 13.15 - 17.00hrs (inc.raptor watch point 14.15 - 16.00hrs) and SCMM 17.30 - 20.00hrs. One team member down through the middle of the day Ovenbird was the bird of the morning with the remaining three catching up with 2 in the woods next to Higbees car-park. Other interesting passerines at Higbees included a typically brief Yellow-breasted Chat and a Veery. JP around CMP early am noted 2 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at garden feeders and a single dubious Snow Goose at Lily Lake which remained through the day. The best raptor passage of the week was light by 1999 standards but c2hrs in the afternoon produced 23 Osprey, 2 Marsh Hawks, 39 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 5 Cooper's, 2 Broad -winged, 1 Red-tailed, 93 Kestrels, 6 Merlin and 4 Peregrine. Additionally hirundines were also moving with 19 Cliff Swallows amongst the commoner species. Evening at the meadows found Sora, 2 American Bittern, 3 Marsh Wrens and 11 Common Nighthawks. The conversations around the raptor watch and observatory were all about what was going to arrive the next morning given the ideal weather forecast and building excitement. Day list 99, trip list 163.

Fri. 22nd NW3 overnight, 0/8, dry, cool early am. Higbees 06.20 - 11.30hrs; Cold Springs Campsite 11.30 - 12.15hrs; CMP 12.15 - 14.00hrs; raptor watch 14.00 - 15.00hrs; Higbees 15.15 - 17.30hrs; Hidden Valley 17.30 - 19.30hrs. Our high expectations were amply rewarded with an amazing early morning flight involving 1000+ warblers and many other passerines. Birds were zooming in every direction involving several highly sought after species. Of the many highlights 25 species of warbler including 10 Blackburnian, male Golden-winged, 6 Bay-breasted, all three Wilsonia species and c75 Black-and-whites lead the way followed by 3 Veery, 4 Grey-cheeked, 3 Swainson's and a Wood Thrush; both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers; Eastern Screech Owl in a tree at Cold Springs; four species of Vireo and 3 Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Passerines and particularly warbler flocks were active all day long and superb views were had including numerous bright adult males. By contrast the anticipated good raptor flight didn't materialise. The day ended at Hidden Valley with 2 calling Great Horned Owls. Day list 108 without any effort at shorebirds or wildfowl, trip list 174.

Sat.23rd SE2, 8/8, mild. Early morning showers progressed into prolonged periods of rain pm. Stone Harbour 07.00 - 09.10hrs; Jamaica Bay, New York 14.00 - 18.00hrs. . Planned last visit to Higbees cancelled due to rain and original alternative of Stone harbour nearly cancelled due to heavy rain as we approached the turn off from the Garden State Parkway. Fortunately we persevered and an organised search of the shell beach produced 2 highly sort after Piping Plovers. Six Brown Pelicans, fly-by Gull-billed Tern, Black and Surf Scoter all made the detour worthwhile. A visit to the Wildwood side of the bay next time looks promising with huge flocks of shorebirds out on the sand. The drive to NY was uneventful and the rain began in earnest as we arrived at Jamaica Bay. The water level in the east pool was quite high though reasonable numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl were present. An American Golden Plover was reported from West Pool but seemed to have gone though an Eared Grebe was still there. A small number of passerines braved the atrocious weather and eastern towhee was added to the trip list. It seems that once again forces conspire to prevent a full visit to this reserve. Day list 84, trip list 182.

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