Hawkwatch - Thursday, October 19, 2017

A moderate flight of raptors migrated through today.  A rare-for-the-area dark morph Rough-legged Hawk was spotted to the north of the hawkwatch, heading west. A little later in the day a light morph Rough-legged Hawk was spotted too.You never know what exciting birds will show up at the Cape May Hawkwatch!

Tomorrow's forecast is northwest winds and sunny skies. See you at the hawkwatch! 
Female House Finch taking a break from the morning flight migration.


Light morph Rough-legged Hawk migrating by.

Surf Scoter

Today's totals. Click on the image to see a larger view.

Hawkwatch - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Blue Jay flying over the hawkwatch

Today's totals. Click the image to see a larger view.

Hawkwatch - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I apologize for the delay in posts, but Cape May sure is busy these days and it's getting harder to get those daily blogs up right on time. Tuesday was another raptor-filled day; unfortunately, the clear blue skies made it difficult for viewing and counting. Early morning visitors were treated to the Rough-legged Hawk again (that was first seen on Monday afternoon) along with lots of Sharp-shinned Hawks. Interestingly, we saw very few falcons! It seems like their migration has peaked while the buteos, like Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, are just beginning.

Cape May
Cape May Point, New Jersey, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Oct 17, 2017

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture                4              4              4
Turkey Vulture              75            120            271
Osprey                       9            525           2600
Bald Eagle                  32             92            264
Northern Harrier            12            139            368
Sharp-shinned Hawk         911           2626           7795
Cooper's Hawk              233            618           1194
Northern Goshawk             0              0              0
Red-shouldered Hawk         16             17             19
Broad-winged Hawk           18            421           1066
Red-tailed Hawk             37             66            123
Rough-legged Hawk            0              1              1
Golden Eagle                 0              0              0
American Kestrel            14           1280           6710
Merlin                      11            736           1781
Peregrine Falcon             2            697           1034
Unknown Accipiter            0              0              1
Unknown Buteo                0              0              0
Unknown Falcon               0              0              4
Unknown Eagle                0              0              0
Unknown Raptor               0              0              0
Mississippi Kite             0              0              1

Total:                    1374           7342          23236

Observation start time: 06:00:00 
Observation end   time: 16:00:00 
Total observation time: 9.92 hours

Official Counter:        Melissa Roach

Red-winged Blackbirds take a break on the bare sapling.
The Rough-legged Hawk making one of it's closer passes by the platform.
An immature Cooper's Hawk with a shiny new piece of jewelry.
An immature Red-tailed Hawk soars overhead.
And one more bird against the blue sky, this time a young Bald Eagle.

Seawatch - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SO.MANY.BIRDS.  Over 21,000 birds, in fact!  Today was quite the busy day; it started out slow with poor visibility because of the haze over the water (due to warm water meeting cool, 44 degree air) with northwest winds, but ended the day with excellent visibility, warmer temperatures, and easterly winds.  The morning was overall slow, with only several thousand birds by noon, but then the winds shifted and the scoters started moving.  

Around 14,000 Black Scoters and 5000 Surf Scoters headed south within the last 5 hours of daylight.  Numerous other species were mixed in, including a total of 17 White-winged Scoters, and a smattering of scaup, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, a shoveler, Mallard, American Black Duck, pintail, wigeon, and a Common Eider.  

Also notable today was the first push of Red-throated Loons, with six birds in different stages of molt, some still in their breeding plumage!  Another highlight of the day was an adorable Golden-crowned Kinglet that flew in off the dunes behind me and landed on the arm of my chair, while I was sitting in it!  

For some photos that illustrate how great the migration (and lighting) was this afternoon, check out Andrew Dreelin's eBird checklist.  Despite being his day off from being an Interpretive Naturalist, he came up to the Seawatch to enjoy the spectacle of visible waterbird migration.

Looking ahead: Saturday, the 21st, is looking to be an excellent day for our Fall Festival!  Light east and southeast winds should have the birds close to shore and moving in numbers, especially given the date!  The migration will only pick up from here, however, so don't let the winds stop you from coming to the Seawatch!

To see today's totals, check out Trektellen: http://trektellen.org/count/view/1747/20171017

To see the whole season's totals, use this link.  Notice we are nearly to 100,000 birds as I write this!

Hawkwatch - Monday, October 16, 2017

What a SPECTACULAR way to start the week! The cold front came through New Jersey a little later than expected so it was a soggy, foggy, chilly start to the day but I knew it was going to be a great day because American Kestrels (and a few other raptors) were moving in the rain. Once the front finally cleared and the rain stopped, migration cranked into high gear with droves of Kestrels and Sharp-shinned Hawks. While Peregrine migration seems to have peaked, we still saw good numbers of Merlin (97) and ended the day with 828 American Kestrels! Not only is this an excellent count this late in the season (Kestrels typically migrate sooner than other raptors), but it adds to our already impressive Kestrel total for the season which is now at 6696.

The super fun flight got even MORE exciting when Trish Miller spotted a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK slowly making its way in the direction of the state park. While distant at first, it crept closer and closer to the platform because suddenly stooping and going out of site. But low and behold, it stooped on one of the Cape May Raptor banding stations and was caught by the professionals, who so graciously brought the beautiful bird up to the platform for visitors to see up close.

All-in-all, just an awesomely fun October raptor flight with some of the best people to help and enjoy it with. Check out the numbers below!

Cape May
Cape May Point, New Jersey, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Oct 16, 2017

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture                0              0              0
Turkey Vulture               0             45            196
Osprey                      55            516           2591
Bald Eagle                   6             60            232
Northern Harrier            36            127            356
Sharp-shinned Hawk         688           1715           6884
Cooper's Hawk               83            385            961
Northern Goshawk             0              0              0
Red-shouldered Hawk          0              1              3
Broad-winged Hawk            6            403           1048
Red-tailed Hawk              6             29             86
Rough-legged Hawk            1              1              1
Golden Eagle                 0              0              0
American Kestrel           828           1266           6696
Merlin                      97            725           1770
Peregrine Falcon            10            695           1032
Unknown Accipiter            0              0              1
Unknown Buteo                0              0              0
Unknown Falcon               0              0              4
Unknown Eagle                0              0              0
Unknown Raptor               0              0              0
Mississippi Kite             0              0              1

Total:                    1816           5968          21862

Observation start time: 06:00:00 
Observation end   time: 17:00:00 
Total observation time: 10.83 hours

Official Counter:        Melissa Roach

Locally rare here in Cape May Point, this Rough-legged Hawk shows its classic white base to the tail
and pale patches near the wing tips. 
Rough-legged Hawks, or Roughies as they are often called, are just as beautiful in the hand.
Licensed raptor banders Alex (holding bird) and Caylen (far right) give a brief demo about the Cape May Raptor Banding Project and how special this catch really is.
And then she (yes, the banders aged and sexed it) was free to go about her migrating business.
Let's not forget the other birds from the day. Here goes a Merlin zipping by.
Onlookers were on edge as this Cooper's Hawk (left) relentlessly tried to nab a Belted Kingfisher over Bunker Pond.
Don't worry, the Kingfisher bested the Cooper's Hawk and proudly chattered away after his victory.

Morning Flight, Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The day before (Monday) was when this cold front we are now experiencing moved through. Rain was the state before latest morning and early afternoon clearing and so no count was able to be conducted, nor was any morning flight migration activity noticed during the precipitation. 
There were steady ~10mph winds from the NNE this morning and so a good flight was bound to happen. Interestingly, it took about 30 minutes to really get started and the most abundant bird migrating during the first quarter hour of the day was Sharp-shinned Hawk. 
The songbirds got cranking to the tune of ~1900 individuals, mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers (1507) for three hours. A curious highlight was my first-ever Rough-legged Hawk from the MF site. I say curious because this light morph glided and circled to the north over the eastern treeline, while the bird seen at the Hawkwatch that morning (and the prior afternoon) had flown generally south over the bay to Delaware! A nice overall standard variety of species featured two northbound Pine Siskin.


Seawatch - Monday, October 16th, 2017

SO.MANY.HERONS.  Today's 401 Great Blue Herons was the third highest single-day record for the Avalon Seawatch.  Beyond that, however, scoter and cormorant numbers were quite low.  Other highlights include a small push of Brant and dabbling ducks, four Great Egrets, a northbound White-winged Scoter, and a Merlin that took a Sanderling and ate it right on the jetty!

See the day's totals here: http://trektellen.org/count/view/1747/20171016

Morning Flight - Sunday, October 15, 2017

We had birds-a-plenty up on the Higbee dike this morning with Yellow-rumped Warblers moving in droves. The light Southwest winds created MULTIPLE flight paths early this morning with birds going North, South, West, high overhead, and over the ocean! Couple that with the dark, cloudy skies it was a counter's nightmare (because every bird was basically a black streak flying across the sky). Some of my favorites from the day included a late Scarlet Tanager, pushes of both Dickcissel and Savannah Sparrows, and a flyby Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. 

The Trektellen totals live here: http://www.trektellen.nl/count/view/1746/20171015

Not a lot of photo opportunities today, but I really liked this molty molty Blue Jay.

Cheers to the start of another week!

Seawatch - Sunday, October 15th, 2017

The calm before the storm!  Today was an incredibly slow day of southwest winds, slowing the count down considerably.  Very few scoters and cormorants today, but a nice push of 41 (southbound) Northern gannets was a nice change of pace.

Tomorrow a cold front is coming through, so expect an increase in birds everywhere in Cape May by Tuesday!


Hawkwatch - Sunday, October 15, 2017

Southwest winds meandered many of the birds into the far northern viewing limits of the Cape May Hawkwatch. Small kettles of Sharp-shinned Hawks pushed through the skies as Osprey and Merlin flew overhead. Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Robins zig-zagged among each other in the early morning hours. If you haven't seen the early morning flights of songbirds, you must witness it! The flurry of songbirds (especially on busier mornings of migration) is spectacular and breathtaking. Keep an eye out for early morning American Kestrels, Northern Harriers, and Ospreys, as these three species are known for taking flight in the early hours of the day.

Two of the three Dickcissel seen this morning were found feeding among the edges of the bushes. As the day progressed Peregrine Falcons and Northern Harriers were seen flying gracefully over the distant horizon. Sharp-shinned Hawks and a Merlin concluded today's count in the late afternoon hours.

Osprey migrating by past the hawkwatch.

One of the three Dickcissel seen this morning. They are such handsome birds!

Find the Turkey Vultures among the Tree Swallows.
This is what the skies looked like while scanning for raptors.

Peregrine Falcon

Merlin flying towards the hawkwatch with speedy wings.

Today's totals. Click on the image to see a larger view.