Sunday, October 1, 2017

Migration of a Different Kind

Cape May in fall is touted as "off the charts" and "so many birds". This marketing brings many birders to Higbee beach in September and October expecting lots of birds. Us "locals" know that the migration phenomenon only happens when conditions are right. Those conditions consist of winds blowing from the northwest overnight and birds bottled up to the north of NJ waiting for the right winds. Even when everything looks right, the birds sometimes fool us and don't show up. That happened this weekend. The winds blew out of the northwest on Thursday night but Friday morning left us birders high and dry for the most part. Luckily, there were a few stray birds. We saw over 50 Northern Parulas. This one posed on a posy for us. The ID here is the green patch on the back and split eye ring.

Northern Parula
This young Black and White warbler was lit up by the morning sun. The ID here is that this "black" and white is really more "brown" and white. 

Black and White Warbler
This House Wren was none too happy with us walking past. Kind of giving us the stink eye.

House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are showing up on their way south. This one was really trying to show off. They are so twitchy that they are hard to photograph.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Once this little flurry of birds past through, I went to work. Other birders found some more migrants but not the quantities that we expected.

Saturday was worse than Friday. Barely any birds at all. Peanut and I walked the fields, went to breakfast, birded some other places, then I went to the State Park at the lighthouse to sit at the hawkwatch hoping to see a show. I did get a show but not of the bird variety. I walked up the trail between the hawkwatch and the beach dunes and walked into a dream world of Monarch butterflies.

Monarch Butterfly Roost
The photo above depicts 80 butterflies. They were everywhere. Flying, feeding on flowers, and hanging on the cedar trees. Click on the video below to see them in action.

I've never seen anything like this before. I met a woman who monitors Monarchs. She said that the butterflies were stopped in NJ due to the high winds and that they would spend the night roosting in the trees. If the winds were good on Sunday, they would head south. And they did.

There were so many Monarchs that there weren't enough flowers for them to each have their own.

Feeding Frenzy
I also learned to tell the difference between male and female Monarchs. This one is a male. Notice the 2 little spots on the viens.

Male Monarch Butterfly
This one is a female. No spots.

Female Monarch Butterfly
All in all, an amazing experience. I hope the birds come through soon.

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