Saturday, August 23, 2014

Swallowing Up Summer

I told you in the last post that people's view of summer and nature's view of summer are sometimes different. Birds are already migrating even though we were boogie boarding today. Tree swallows amass in Cape May in August before taking off to southern destinations. Here is a view of the iconic Cape May Lighthouse obscured by swallows

Cape May Lighthouse
Even the Cooper's Hawk has to navigate through the swarms of swallows.

Cooper's Hawk
Shorebirds are starting to arrive in the Villas and surrounding areas. This Semi-Palmated Plover found a tasty worm on the Villas Beach.

Semi-Palmated Plover
Harvey and I found a few beauties today at Higbee dredge spoil. They were pretty tame and came very close even though Roxy was with us.

Least Sandpiper - Juvenile with fresh plumage
 There is a sandpiper called "Solitary" but it was not so today. We saw at least 6 of them. This one got so close to me and Roxy that my camera couldn't focus anymore. This is after just landing in front of me.

Solitary Sandpiper
The sandpiper caught a sand flea and proceeded to gobble it up. Zoom in to see the flea.

Solitary Sandpiper - with sand flea
Of course, other birds are migrating too. Unfortunately, I don't have any good photos of the many warblers, orioles, or kingbirds that are on the move. I'll have some soon.  Harvey found this really cool moth this morning. No folks, he didn't color it in with a highlighter - that is the real color.

Pink Moth on Sunflower
I can never resist taking photos of any Bald Eagle that flies over. Here is the resident Bald Eagle of the Cape May Canal.

Mighty Eagle
Let's hope for north west winds. That is what we need to bring birds to Cape May.

Monday, August 11, 2014

"Yip" "Yip" "Yip"eee for August

August is a weird month for birders. It's weird because most of the northern hemisphere considers August the epitome of summer. Everyone is thinking about days on the beach. One of my favorite birds nests on the beach. They fly close to the water and "Yip, yip yip" like puppies. They nest in colonies along the beach which are roped off to protect them from beach going vacationers like us. Here is one of the happy couples.

Black Skimmers
 This one has an itch. Check out the schnoz on this guy.

Scratch that itch
Here is another happy couple with their little fluff ball of joy.

Black Skimmers with Baby
The babies are the color of sand. They even have spots that look like shells and stones. Here are 2 little play pals on the beach.

When Mom and Dad are out fishing, the chicks find little divots to hide in. They are perfectly camouflaged - except for that schnoz!
Skimmer Chick - camouflaged
Skimmers' beaks are so big that they can't sleep like other birds with their beaks tucked under their wings. No, they just flop their heads down on the sand.

Napping on the beach
Like mother, like daughter - the chicks flop their heads on the sand to sleep even though their beaks aren't big enough to get in the way yet.

Lullaby Time
Here is a close up to show you what that beak is all about. The bottom mandible is longer than the top and shaped like a knife. They drag that through the water's surface while they fly and feel for fish. When they feel one, they snap their beak shut to snare the fish.

Close-up of Skimmer Beak
Skimmers also put on an aerial show in their free time. Even way up there, you can see that schnoz!

Skimmer Antics
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other birds to see in August. Some of them are already done with all of that chick raising stuff and headed back south - in August. More on that later.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FarmStock 2014

I made it out to FarmStock this year which was really great. As usual, Mark and Linda volunteered me to lead the "bird walk". The walk is scheduled for 7:30 which means that we start an hour later after everyone rouses themselves, gets much needed coffee and opens their eyes after a fun night of drinks and music.

Of course, the bird walk is more like a walk down to the Buffalo Creek with me hoping that a bird - any bird - shows up or sings or something. And as usual, the walk started off with no birds in sight or earshot. I tried to entertain the group by pointing out butterflies and such but they weren't interested. Thank goodness we heard a few and got to see a few too. Eastern Kingbirds were chirping. This one posed for me later in the day.

Eastern Kingbird
 When leading a bird walk for non-birders, you really hope to see big birds or red birds or blue birds or something showy and flashy. Of course, the only bird that would show itself was this immature Swamp Sparrow. B.O.R.I.N.G. The crowd lost interest and started lagging behind. A leader's worst nightmare.

Swamp Sparrow
We finally made it down to the creek which thankfully was more interesting. The group perked up a little bit when we got to the duck blind. A few birds showed up. We saw this Killdeer and a Solitary Sandpiper too.

Juvenile Wood Ducks quickly took cover when we arrived. I snapped this photo before they ducked (pun intended) behind the reeds.

Wood Ducks
The group lost interest again and we headed back to the camp for breakfast and a tractor ride. I guess all leaders have to suck it up when there are no birds. I think they forgot all about it once the tractor came out of the barn.

Tractor Ride!

A leader's worst nightmare - seeing the best birds of the day after the official walk has ended. Case in point:

Female Kingfisher

This female Kingfisher sat right next to the duck blind and chattered away. Her mate was there too. I could just cry. This is one of those birds that could get someone really interested in birds and birding. God forbid they show up when I have the group with me.  I give up.