Sunday, January 2, 2011

Kicking Off 2011 - 53 Species and 56 Degrees

Barbara and I headed to Jersey on New Year's Day in search of ducks and things. My initial plan was to scout out new territory at Shark River and Manasquan Inlet, but we decided to stick with what we know and head to Cape May for the day. We did try something new across from the Navy Yard, a place called Riverwinds Golf Course, to try for Canvasback ducks which were reported there last week. No luck, but we did meet a very nice kayaker and got to see some Mummers prepping for their big day.

We made 9 stops in Cape May starting with Jake's Landing Road and ending at Jake's Landing Road. We got 5 Northern Harriers - 2 of them Gray Ghosts - and a great little Savannah Sparrow on our first stop. None of my Harrier photos came out, but this Savannah Sparrow seems to be saying "You looking at me?"

Off to Cape May Point, where we saw a line of about 20 cars pulling out of the parking lot. It was the CMBO official field trip which we missed out on but we crossed paths several times throughout the day. We were very pleased with a different gull find at St. Mary's by the Sea:


Barbara pulled the ID right out of her ass - Bonaparte's Gull - by the dark spot behind the eye. I also knew that it was something different by that field mark and the buoyant appearance when floating. We also got up close and personal to this Killdeer until a van decided to park right in front of it:

We continued along the shore stopping at the Coast Guard station, 2 Mile Landing (where we saw 4 Fish Crows picking at a dead Clapper Rail but didn't count the rail in our day total), the fish processing plant, Stone Harbor Bridge and Stone Harbor Point where we saw both Black and Surf Scoters and a flock of Snow Buntings. Unfortunately, the weather turned dreary by then so the photo opportunities stopped.

We had quite a few species tallied for the day by the time we left Stone Harbor Point but I told Barbara that I would get us an owl before we went home. So we stopped back at Jake's Landing Road at 4:30 PM and so did the CMBO group. The parking lot was packed with cars and birders. As if right on cue, a Short-eared Owl rose from the reeds chasing a Harrier right across the creek in front of us. It was soon joined by a second owl. The 2 of them then saw a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on top of a cedar tree and started swooping down on it. Then the Harrier joined in on the fun for a few swoops drawing more "oohs and aahs" from the group. This is a terrible photo due to very low light but I hope you get the idea:

That was better than fireworks. The CMBO group reported 72 species. Barbara and I made it to 53 - excluding the dead Clapper Rail which isn't bad. Did I mention that it was 56 degrees? What a difference a week makes.
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