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

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