Hawkwatch, 31 October 2016

Today was a fine example of what a good front can produce throughout the latter portion of the hawk migration. Tallying almost 600 raptors today, we had views of both kettles (flocks of raptors) as well as great raptor diversity. From the early-season Osprey to the late-season Golden Eagle and Northern Goshawks observed today, it was a great day to be out at the hawkwatch! North winds persisted all day long today, bringing birds to our viewing vicinity (although just a bit high at times). Tomorrow's migration flight could possibly follow today's impressive migration. See you at the hawkwatch!

Juvenile Northern Harrier

Immature Golden Eagle

Merlin eyeing up the Tree Swallows

Bald Eagle

Feisty Carolina Wren patrolling its territory around the hawkwatching platform.

Northern Gannet seen from the hawkwatching platform this morning

Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk migrating low.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are a stunning and common songbird species to see this time of year!

Totals from today.

Hawkwatch, 30 September 2016

Raptors were far-flying today as they pushed through the warm southwest winds. Red-shouldered Hawks are continuing to migrate through as Sharp-shinned Hawks flutter delicately off in the distance. Merlins flew by at their typical lightning-fast speeds. Although somewhat "slow," the atmosphere today was amazingly pleasant and comfortable. With fewer birds passing through today, every bird is savored just a little more! Tomorrow's forecast looks exciting with a major temperature drop and northwest winds starting tonight. From myself and the naturalists, we'd love to see you there tomorrow. Bring your binoculars and get ready to scan the skies!

Handsome Green-winged Teal
Cattle Egret

Eastern Bluebird outdoing those blue skies

Red-breasted Nuthatch on a mission!

Today's bird totals.

Hawkwatch, 29 October 2016

Raptors and non-raptors alike pushed through the skies today, many of them heading southwest into the southwesterly winds. Red-shouldered Hawks were the stars of today. Standalone kettles of Red-shouldered Hawks formed several time throughout the morning. The largest kettle (flock of raptors) seen contained nine Red-shouldered Hawks. A total of 84 Red-shouldered Hawks flew past the hawkwatch since this morning's sunrise!

A Yellow-rumped Warbler helps scan the skies.
Both the counter and the warbler were looking for raptors!

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin.

Horned Lark

Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk.
Today's sightings.

Avalon Seawatch, 29 October 2016

     It was a beautiful and eventfull day at the seawatch! The morning was frosty but the air quickly warmed up into the high 50s. A calm southeast breeze turned gusty in the afternoon but brought the birds closer inshore for great visibilty. Surf and Black Scoters were flying close along the jetty and distinguishable with binoculars. Red Throated Loons were on the move again today but the Northern Gannets stole the show. Thousands of Gannets flew south past the sea watching shack today! The Gannets were reportedly on the move yesterday afternoon off the coast of Massachusetts and today they continued their flight southward with 4,043 individuals passing by South Jersey. Among the mix was also a Booby!

     By the end of the day the count totalled in at 15 thousand birds and there are lots more to come! Join us at the seawatch, sunrise to sunset, at 8th and 9th Street beach in Avalon.

Hawkwatch, 28 October 2016

Northwest winds blew through the skies today as raptors fought to keep their flight going strong. The seasonally-cool day brought over 400 raptors along the Cape May Hawkwatch today. This morning started off with dozens of Northern Gannets migrating off shore as Sharp-shinned Hawks fluttered overhead. As the day progressed the thermal-loving Red-tailed Hawks soared through in good numbers. Good numbers of Northern Harriers frequently patrol along the lower edges of Bunker Pond in search of a meal as they migrate past the hawkwatch. There is so much life migrating through Cape May right now. Today's strong northwest winds could likely leave tomorrow with a fun flight of raptors. On a different note, it will be interesting to see if any western vagrants show up with the blustery and brief southwest winds expected to take place tomorrow. See you at the hawkwatch!

Adult female Northern Harrier

Adult male Northern Harrier, sometimes called a Gray Ghost.

Handsome male American Kestrel.

Sleek and powerful Peregrine Falcon

Adult Red-tailed Hawk hosting immature (pale) eyes.

Not all Red-tailed Hawks have red tails, such as this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.

Adult sharp-shinned Hawk

Today's migrants.

Avalon Seawatch, 28 October 2016

     The day dawned with nearly 10,000 birds flying southward over the ocean. Northern Gannets, Scoters, Red Throated Loons, and Double Crested Cormorants dominated todays count. The total for today's count came to 15,207 birds. Yesterday's count came to 18,913 birds (the second biggest day thus far!). Along with a record number of Northern Gannets (1,234) we sighted two Black Legged Kittiwake and a Bufflehead! Today's count also brought our season total up to 208 thousand birds!

     Thank you to all who have brought snacks and company to the seawatch! Join us on the beach, sunrise to sunset, at 8th and 9th Street.

Morning Flight, 20-28 October 2016

Late Fall, and the So.Many.Birds CMBO Festival was in effect, and the morning flight returns were solid, but not crazy huge, and very interesting, as always!  

Day by day:

10/20/16    Moderate east winds, seasonably warm, surprise migration after 4-5 days of relative migrational inactivity, the second highest songbird count of the season as of 28 Oct.
985 songbirds were counted, and rarities abounded with 2 (maybe 1 but both flew north 20 min apart) Western Kingbirds, a Yellow-headed Blackbird, and still a Bobolink.  Yellow-rumped Warbler numbered up to 4947 north and 725 south. An early, high, and to-the-east southbound flight largely preceded a lower and dispersed northbound flight.  Blackbirds made up for the rest of the majority of the flight. 


10/21/16   Cloudy with light east winds, seasonably warm. 1263 of the 1633 (77.3%) songbirds counted were southbound Tree Swallows.  A very light later-October flight with representative species like American Pipit, Purple Finch, and Rusty Blackbird occurred.


10/22/16    Very heavy northwest wind and constant light rain, little signs of direct liftoff on the radar.  5 Mourning Dove, 2 Dark-eyed Junco, that's it !!


10/23/16    A heavy west wind, but with rain to the north overnight that seemed to halt a songbird takeoff in those areas, seasonably warm and clear.  A light flight but with good finds of Cave Swallow and Lapland Longspur.


10/24/16    A moderate west-northwest wind and cool temps, high pressure, northwest-ish winds continued but to not cause a large magnitude flight.  1382  songbirds passed mostly north, and some to the south.  There was an impressive northward flight of Sharp-shinned Hawk with 329. A Horned Lark landed for 10 minutes on the impoundments. 


10/25/16    clear and cool with moderate northwest winds, and with a large nocturnal radar noticed, creating good conditions for a classic late-October morning at the Higbee dike. 5 experienced counters/observers help reign in a fantastic diversity including Brown Creeper and Baltimore Oriole.  It was the largest flight of the season as of 28 Oct. There was a much huger flight happening out to the east of 100,000-200,000 songbirds, mostly northbound American Robins.  This was noticed from ~1,000-2,500 meters east of the counting sight and was estimated consistently through the first two hours after sunrise.  There will be more discussion of this and other cool features of the season's flights in upcoming Morning Flight blog posts!


10/26/16    light northeast winds and the chilly climate may have halted a potentially larger flight.  Over 2,400 songbirds were counted and 2 late Cape May Warblers, flying together, was a nice highlight.  


10/27/16    light eastern winds (ESE) continued along with the cold temps and similar diversity and numbers to yesterday happened, more of the flight was to the south than to the north.  More discussion of this effect will also appear in upcoming posts.


10/28/16    calm northwest wind with a clear and cool atmosphere, but not so many birds were on the radar last night, and the very light flight today seemed to confirm this radar prediction.


Hawkwatch, 20-25 October 2016

Throughout the past week Cape May has been filled with outstandingly 
large array of birdwatchers, raptor enthusiasts, life-devoted raptor biologists, and migrating birds. Earlier last week was the Raptor Research Foundation conference, held right here in Cape May! Friends reconnected with friends and world-renowned raptor experts gathered to share their groundbreaking studies. It was a privilege to be in the presence of so much talent, all sparked with one topic... Birds.

Birds are a key part of the ecosystem. They connect us to the world around us and take our breath away through their lives, beauty, and seasonal movement. As I'm typing this right now, dozens of recently-arrived White-throated Sparrows are feeding in the backyard, each of them scratching throughout the leaf litter in their own manner to uncover seeds and insects that fuel their migration south. A Brown Creeper is zig-zagging up the nearest tree trunk while Yellow-rumped Warblers glean the smallest insects holding close to intact leaves. A juvenile Cooper's Hawk just darted through the yard at amazing speeds, flushing the busily-feeding sparrows and warblers. The spectacle of migration is phenomenal and this can be seen in many of our yards especially with the help of native plants that these birds need for survival.

Perfectly coinciding with the more recent Cape May Fall Festival this past weekend were So. Many. Birds. As the weekend approached winds began to turn out of the northwest, a prime wind direction for seeing bird migration in Cape May. The air cooled and the days smelled and felt like fall. As the festival progressed kettles of Sharp-shinned Hawks filled the air with falcons and buteos flying by at lightning-fast speeds. We've had some outstanding days of raptor migration over the past week. The western and northwestern component to the winds brings birds but cooler temperatures too. There is a brief front moving through today which will be followed with more northwest winds tomorrow. Yesterday's count included FOUR Golden Eagles. The latter portion of fall in addition to northwest winds can bring this beautiful species through as well as other northern raptor species. Dress warm, bring your binoculars, and see you at the hawkwatch!

Keep your eye out for Cave Swallows from the far south! Here's one from earlier this week. 

Adult Bald Eagle 

Gray Ghost (adult male Northern Harrier)

Northern Harrier migrating at dawn.
This species is one of several raptors known for migrating in the early morning.

Osprey migrating through migrating Tree Swallows.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Hawkwatch, 26 October 2016

Cape May
Cape May Point, New Jersey, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Oct 26, 2016

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture               18             65             65
Turkey Vulture             154           1407           1541
Osprey                       8           1166           4213
Bald Eagle                  25            213            339
Northern Harrier            38            338            472
Sharp-shinned Hawk         449           9960          11782
Cooper's Hawk              201           2299           2526
Northern Goshawk             0              0              0
Red-shouldered Hawk         41            107            112
Broad-winged Hawk           18            315            438
Red-tailed Hawk            135            268            307
Rough-legged Hawk            0              0              0
Golden Eagle                 4              5              5
American Kestrel            15           1218           3357
Merlin                      22           1312           1816
Peregrine Falcon             8            711            937
Unknown Accipiter            0              0              0
Unknown Buteo                0              0              0
Unknown Falcon               0              0              0
Unknown Eagle                0              0              0
Unknown Raptor               0              0              0

Total:                    1136          19384          27910

Observation start time: 06:00:00 
Observation end   time: 16:30:00 
Total observation time: 10.5 hours

Official Counter:        Tom Reed


Seasonably cool. Mostly sunny. Winds N/NNE 5-10mph during AM, becoming
NNW/NW 10-15mph during PM. Significant cloud cover arriving from the west
at conclusion of day. 

Raptor Observations:
Lighter winds helped produce the season's first significant buteo flight,
with numbers of RTHA and RSHA present during the AM. All 4 Golden Eagles
appeared during the first half of the day; the first 2 individuals crossed
Delaware Bay (at least 1 subsequently seen at Cape Henlopen). Good hit of
Cooper's Hawks during the midday hours; influx of Bald Eagles and Northern
Harriers during the PM. 

Non-raptor Observations:
Eurasian Wigeon (2), Parasitic Jaeger (3), Short-eared Owl (1), Barn
Swallow (1), Blackpoll Warbler (5), Pine Siskin (1)

Cloudy w/ chance of PM rain, 63ºF, winds SE 10-20mph 

Avalon Seawatch, 21 October 2016

     The past two days at the seawatch had SO MANY BIRDS! Yesterdays count totaled in at 13,321 individuals and today 8,584 birds of 28 different species were sighted from the beach. These totals included some firsts for the season including Purple Sandpiper, Long-tailed Duck, Common Eider, and Bonaparte's Gull! We've seen a great influx in Northern Gannets flying both near and far throughout the day as well as close flocks of Surf and Black Scoters by the hundreds. Long winding strands of Double Crested Cormorants continue to fly along the horizon and gulls are on the move. Another highlight of the day were two Humpback Whales waving their flukes in the distance and smacking the waters surface no more than 2 miles offshore. The live data link can be accessed ~ here ~ at any time to see what species we are counting at the seawatch.

     Today's visitor tally exceeded the average with over 100 people! The weather was clear and sunny for most of the day but a thick fog rolled in near the evening reducing visibility to the jetty. The wind is increasing and the air is cooling this weekend so come out to the seawatch to birdwatch! 

When & Where: sunrise to sunset, at 8th and 9th street beach in Avalon.

Hawkwatch, 19 October 2016

Cape May
Cape May Point, New Jersey, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Oct 19, 2016

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture                0             35             35
Turkey Vulture              31            441            575
Osprey                      94            958           4005
Bald Eagle                   3            144            270
Northern Harrier            15            189            323
Sharp-shinned Hawk         658           6501           8323
Cooper's Hawk              144           1757           1984
Northern Goshawk             0              0              0
Red-shouldered Hawk          0             39             44
Broad-winged Hawk            0            214            337
Red-tailed Hawk              5             53             92
Rough-legged Hawk            0              0              0
Golden Eagle                 0              1              1
American Kestrel            53            832           2971
Merlin                      14            726           1230
Peregrine Falcon            31            628            854
Unknown Accipiter            0              0              0
Unknown Buteo                0              0              0
Unknown Falcon               0              0              0
Unknown Eagle                0              0              0
Unknown Raptor               0              0              0

Total:                    1048          12518          21044

Observation start time: 06:15:00 
Observation end   time: 16:15:00 
Total observation time: 10 hours

Official Counter:        Tom Reed


Record warmth. Partly cloudy during AM, sunny during PM. Winds SW 5-10mph
during AM, W/WNW during PM. 

Raptor Observations:
Today's flight was generally slow-moving and spread along a broad front
through most of the day. Light, assorted movement during AM, with a
noticeable arrival of accipiters in the PM once winds shifted to W/WNW. 

Non-raptor Observations:
Eurasian Wigeon (1), Parasitic Jaeger (5+), Bobolink (2), Dickcissel (1)

Partly sunny, chance of a shower, 71ºF, winds SE 10mph 

Morning Flight, 16-19 October 2016

Since the super Friday and strong Saturday counts at the Higbee dike, the last 4 days have been lighter, but with a different behavioral aspect of a southbound morning flight of songbirds into low-moderate southwest winds. Yellow-rumped Warbler has, of course, been the most abundant, given both the the time of season and the species' propensityr to readily migrate into a headwind and along the coast. 

While Sunday-Wednesday was all very prominently south and mostly higher than
100 feet up in the air, Sunday also featured a later-developing northbound flight at just about the time when the southbound flight slowed down significantly. Overall numbers of songbirds through the half-week ranged from about 1,500 to 3,600 individuals. 

What happens the next few days is bound to be exciting. A quick low pressure system is to the south while cold front action will abound to the northeast and northwest. It's going to be good on Saturday, but Thursday through Tuesday could all be really good days and nights of migration. Surface and upper-level winds will be heavy starting on Saturday and that magnitude could be good or bad. Get out birding. Get down to Cape May for the So.Many.Birds Fall Festival. You won't regret it.

Hawkwatch, 18 October 2016

Strong south winds were no match for today's flight of raptors. We had a surprisingly good movement of raptors that plowed through the headwinds. As for the season right now we're 4 birds short of 20,000 raptors. Here's a great day of hawkwatching tomorrow!

American Bittern 
Northern Harrier 
Today's bird totals.

Hawkwatch, 17 October 2016

The southern winds are continuing into yet another day. Over 200 raptors were tallied from the Cape May hawkcount today. A gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker flew by the hawkwatching platform early in the morning. Following this uncommon visitor was a steady trickle of Sharp-shinned Hawks took place throughout the morning hours as well as the early afternoon. In addition to the raptors seen today there was  a Northern Gannet and dark morph Parasitic Jaeger seen from the platform. You never know what you'll see from the Cape May Hawkwatch!

Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker migrating by today.

Osprey and a Rock Pigeon.

We saw many Osprey carrying fish today.

Southern Gray Tree Frog resting on the hawkwatching platform.

Very distant tagged Monarch.

Today's bird totals.

Hawkwatch, 16 October 2016

The day started off with sunrise and moonset taking place at the same time. The early morning glow of lavender and orange filled the air. One of the first sightings of the day was an Osprey carrying a recently-caught  fish for breakfast. A nearby immature Bald Eagle had different plans for the Osprey's meal. After several minutes of pursuing the Osprey, the Bald Eagle got ahold of the recently-dropped fish. South winds and sunny skies made for another day of high-flying raptors.

Bald Eagle attempting to steal an Osprey's fish.

The chase for the fish!

Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker that flew by today.

Today's totals.

Morning Flight, 15 October 2016

A Gray-cheeked Thrush torpedoed toward dawn with just enough torque to allow a fine look at its extremely long fuselage.

High, southward songbirds led the pre-dawn charge against the light of the eastern sky. Warblers, appearing mostly to be Yellow-rumpeds, sped south in a very loose, continuous stream for the first 20 minutes after the dawn.  Tree Swallows clicked-in ten minutes into the liquidy flow. Multitudes more tiny passerine specks, out of count range, could be discerned with the greatest of vaguety off toward the daylight.  Meanwhile, low-creeping kinglets and crowd-surfing Blackpolls swooned the western crowd of watchers.  I thought the morning could creep up to be a distressing task of worrying about many missed glimpses, as a large, speedy, insidious mid-October flight can be like.  But the low winds and pleasant avian groupings lived up to a mellow and super-take-in-able songbird flight viewing experience, and the flight passage was half of yesterday's when the western-aspect cold front seemed to get influenced by oceanic easterlies for largely coastal movement.

Given the report from Cape May's own, Derek Lovitch (of Sandy Point, Maine, Morning Flight fame) from Coral Ave and the dune this morning, the continued southerly surge of birds on into the day, without stopping, could have sourced the 'over 4,000 songbirds counted there, with 60-70% Yellow-rumped Warbler' that later fed the supply of birds that had appeared for the northward flight a few miles north at Higbee and the Cape May Canal. It's really valuable data for the Morning Flight Project in comparing multiple site's results. And it's really cool!  Thanks to Michael O'Brien, Don Freiday, Tom Reed, Michael Lanzone, Erik Brunhke, Meaghan Lyon, Doug Gochfeld (of Coney Island Creek Park, Brooklyn, Morning Flight fame), and any others I might be omitting, for keeping some records of what's been happening around the Cape May peninsula this season.  

Anyone remember yesterday when I texted out to the 'CMBO birds' WhatApp group that 4 Northern Cardinals were in the marsh in Wildwood Crest? They were all juveniles, appearing pretty male-ish and were flying and landing well into the marsh and along its brushy edge.  Today continued the trend of putative morning flight low-fliers-- the hay bale stompers at the idea of what a "morning-flighting-bird-species/population is and what conformities it possesses.  A Tufted Titmouse got counted today as did an Eastern Towhee, like yesterday.  These species are also present as breeders, the towhee also breeds and very sparsely winters-- so how does the significance of perceived Morning Flight behavior shape the whole equation?  More sources of data like the aforementioned coordinated counts, tracking and telemetry capabilities, nocturnal acoustic sampling, radar, and weather correlation analysis are on the horizon for all who bird and the links we will continue to make with migration will attempt to further enlighten a global perspective on migratory bird biology. 

White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue-headed Vireo, Pine Siskin, Vesper Sparrow,--- these are the birds of a lifetime birding with my best man Dave Hedeen. The two of us stood and enumerated 3,667 landbirds, of which 2,298 were warblers of 12 species.  The experience of trying to detect and recognize every bird you possibly can is one of growth.  It's all about the bird.  Experiencing a flight such that occurs at Higbee Beach, or any possible vista for flight, over and over, is one way to encounter many ways of perceiving the freewheeling birds that flew through our secerning of captivations.  All is Zen.

A SHaKin' iT uP BiG sHouT OuT to Tom & Amy !!!


Hawkwatch, 15 October 2016

Light east winds and strong thermals shot birds high in the sky today. Despite the high-flying conditions 472 raptors were tallied from the platform today. Great company and a wide array of birds made for a great day.

Cooper's Hawk
Eastern Meadowlark


Yellow-rumped Warbler

Today's Totals