Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cape May - Songbird Morning Flight

One of the daily events at Cape May during migration is the "Songbird Morning Flight."  There is a tower at Higbee Beach with an interpreter and on top of the nearby hill is a person who is counting the songbirds.  Officially Morning Flight begins at 8:00 A.M.  Songbirds migrate at night, so they fly in and get ready to forage and rest for the day.

I got up and out twice for morning flight. The first morning was right after the front had come through. It was pretty and sunny, but the wind was fierce.  There was only one other person besides me and the interpreter on the platform.  A few other people came and went Because of the wind, the interpreter was not expecting us to see much. The small songbirds were just getting bounced around too much. However, the large great black-backed gulls seem to sail with ease through the gusty wind.  The smaller hawks were visibly fighting against the wind. The first morning I saw the greater black-backed bulls,  yellow rump warbler, sharp shinned hawk, cooper's hawk, and a peregrin.

The second morning was a much calmer day in terms of the wind. I got to the tower at 8:00 A.M. and it was filled with people.  There were definitely more small birds in the air.  We had two interpreters in addition to the counter on the hill. I was actually a little relieved to see that even these "pros" couldn't identify all the little birds as they went zipping by.  They did identify a blackpoll warbler by its call as it went by.   The counter on the hill is expert at identifying the warblers, but apparently even so the count includes large numbers of "unidentified" warblers. We saw a number of northern flickers, a flock of kildeer.  and a lot of yellow-rumped warblers.  Crossing along the bay were double crested cormorants and a brandt.  I especially enjoyed seeing the common loon fly over us.  Two bald eagles passed over when I first arrived.  Good sightings of sharp shinned hawks and cooper's hawks.

People came and went from the platform during the hour or so I was there the second morning.  One group was an Audubon society tour from New York City.

My bird list for both days:

Yellow-rumped warbler
Black poll

Sharp Shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Peregrin Falcon
Northern harrier

Dark eyed junco
Swamp Sparrow

Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Golden Crowned Kinglet

Double crested cormorant
Great black-backed gulls
Common Loon (in flight)

Great blue heron

Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
American Robin
Mourning dove

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