Seawatch - Friday, December 22, 2017

The last day of the season was quite busy!  It was a nice warm day topping out around 52 degrees, with southeast and south winds that produced over 4000 birds!  The best birds of the day were 3 Harlequin Ducks and a Red-necked Grebe, all heading south without landing.  We also had good numbers of Common Eider (10) and White-winged Scoter (22).

Of course, the bulk of the birds were gannets, Red-throated Loons, and both scoters, with about 1000 birds for each.  52 Red-breasted Mergansers and 51 Long-tailed Ducks were nice sights throughout the day to keep the variety up a bit.  Six Horned Grebe, both Greater and Lesser Scaup, and a single American Black Duck rounded out the waterbird diversity for the day.

Overall, I could not ask for a better last day of the season!  A big thank you to everyone who came out to visit throughout the season!  Remember that although our season ends today, the birds do not!  Get out to the ocean and do some seawatching over the next few weeks as birds keep heading south!

TODAY: 4286


Seawatch - Friday-Tuesday, December 15-19, 2017

My last full week was quite a bit better than the previous week, but certainly makes me miss the amazing days from October and November!  Unlike last week, this week almost every day was over 1000 birds, and Sunday and Tuesday were each around 3000!

The bulk movement this week continues to be Northern Gannet, as expected for this time of year.  Sunday was a bit different, as both Red-throated Loons and scoters each ended up being over 1000, which proved to be an excellent overall day due to the diversity.  No rarities or unusual birds this week, but a few more Common Goldeneye, several Great Cormorants, and our first Common Mergansers of the season were notable sightings.

Besides the birds, there was a Harbor Seal hanging out around the jetty and inlet for at least two days this week.

Friday, December 22nd is our last day!  Come out and say hello!  It should be a pleasant, warm day given the time of year!


Friday: 1313
Saturday: 932
Sunday: 3049
Monday: 1214
Tuesday: 2727

Seawatch - Friday-Tuesday, December 8-12, 2017

Another December week consisting of mostly north and west winds produced very slow days with only a few hundred birds.  However, by Monday and Tuesday there was a considerable uptick in numbers, with nice push gannets both days, a relatively good number of scoters.  Nothing unusual or exceptional this week, but there continues to be a good chance for alcids before the season ends on Friday, December 22nd!

Check out the numbers below, and click the day for the full totals!

Friday: 659
Saturday: 419
Sunday: 564
Monday: 1533
Tuesday: 1882

Seawatch - Wednesday & Thursday, December 6-7, 2017

It seems like Seawatch is finally starting to slow down with only 3,000 bird counted on Wednesday and 1,200 on Thursday. Wednesday's highlights included a late (and far) Parasitic Jaeger, a single Snow Bunting, and 2 Great Cormorants foraging along the jetty. Thursday was much quieter but there was some pretty sweet Peregrine Falcon drama in the afternoon as two birds battled it out right over the jetty (presumably over a prey item that I didn't see). It looks like the weather is about to turn and actually feel like winter (cold, wind, and snow??) but we'll see what goodies may come our way at Avalon.

Wednesday's totals:

Thursday's totals:

Photo time!

It's pretty fun having TWO Great Cormorants hanging out with you all day.
These Peregrines seem happy enough...
I spoke too soon! They DO NOT like each other!
They eventually departed ways with all feathers intact.

Seawatch - Friday-Tuesday, December 1-5, 2017

While the season is clearly winding down at this point, this past week had a series of slow but steady days, dominated, as expected, by Red-throated Loons and Northern Gannets with a smattering of scoters.  The weekend had a small peak, hitting around 6000 birds Saturday and 5000 birds Sunday, while the rest of the week was around 2000 birds each day.  Another 20 Common Eiders headed south this week, continuing a nice near-daily showing of this species.  Long-tailed Ducks and Red-breasted Mergansers continue to come by in small numbers; we're still due for a more sizeable push of these species.   

One fun sighting on Friday was a male American Kestrel that picked a small mammal off the jetty, then landed with it on the snow fencing to the south of the shack and preceded to pick it apart.  A notable push of 240 Laughing Gulls occurred on Sunday, the biggest movement in well over a month.  Despite strong south winds, Tuesday was the slowest day of the week, only highlighted by a Razorbill early in the morning. 

In non-bird news, a Humpback Whale that was first seen on Wednesday continued through the weekend, relatively close in the inlet.  A very late Monarch butterfly also headed south past the Seawatch on Monday.     

Check out the totals below, and click the day to see the full breakdown:

Friday: 2435
Saturday: 6348
Sunday: 4870
Monday: 2232
Tuesday: 2229

Seawatch - Wednesday & Thursday, November 29-30, 2017

The Avalon Seawatch closed out the month of November with incredibly pleasant, albeit unusually warm, weather and plenty of birds. Wednesday saw just under 10,000 birds but it was the mammals that stood out that day. There were still at least 6 Bottlenose Dolphins hunting just beyond the jetty as well as quite the cooperative Humpback Whale that made appearances throughout the day! The whale was seen again on Thursday but not nearly as much. 

Thursday morning saw a BIG push of Red-throated Loons that became a slow and steady movement for the rest of the day (a total of 7,089), and we also had a season high-day for Northern Gannets (3,201). And although it was the end of November, we still had a great day of diversity including American Wigeon, Common Eider, Horned Grebe, Green-winged Teal, and a super late BROWN PELICAN

In other exciting news, we officially broke the all-time season high count for Black Scoter on Thursday with a new record of 257,398!! The previous season high was 256,633 and with three full weeks left of the season, seems like we will only add to that new record. Check out the totals below, and make sure to check out the Seawatch in the upcoming weeks.

A big flock of White-winged Scoters during the big Red-throated Loon push Thursday morning.
There are plenty of Common Eiders making their way this far south this year.
American Wigeon trailing behind a small flock of Common Eider.
Scoters right on the tail of this late Brown Pelican.
White-winged Scoters flying high.

Hawkwatch - Thursday, November 30, 2017

Today marks the last day of the 2017 Cape May Hawkwatch. It's been an exciting fall with many raptors and and incredible diversity of birds overall. We started the season out with a Mississippi Kite and wrapped up the season with four Rough-legged Hawks and a Swainson's Hawk (all quite rare for the hawkwatch).

As the season progressed beyond the first week of the count, we could see the flow of raptors change as waves of adult birds followed the earlier waves of juvenile birds. Each raptor species peaks in different timeframes. Most recently we've been experiencing waves of the larger late-season birds like Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and more! Migration is all about a chain reaction of food availability. When the prey items on the lower portion of the foodchain become scarce or migrate south, the predator items follow. The timing of each raptor species coincides with their food. The American Kestrels follow dragonflies and the smaller birds. Sharp-shinned Hawks' numbers are at their most impressive count when warblers are migrating through in diverse and densely-formed flocks. Every day at the Cape May Hawkwatch is a treat, and every day is different than the day before.

We've had some stellar days of raptor migration this fall, including an exceptionally noteworthy flight of American Kestrels (largest season total since 2003, largest day count since 1999)! A total of 1,936 American Kestrels were tallied at the Cape May Hawkwatch on September 28th of this fall. To see a severely declining raptor zip through with such intensity gave us all goosebumps. I teared up a little while counting them. Sheer migration magic of such a beautiful species, and once again, a species of concern. The flight was fast-paced as they raced south with the strong north winds. Their populations are plummeting throughout much of the country, and they are just one of the indicator species that connects our actions in the environment with their survival as a species.

How can we help the American Kestrels and other animals in the environment? A big yet simple step is to plant native plants around our homes. Make your neighbors aware of how special it is to see dragonflies and butterflies in their yards (not to mention an increase in birds), and how native plants require little care once planted. These personal stopover sites provide homes to migrating songbirds and insects, as well as the wildlife that lives there year round. It's a big world out there, and year after year natural areas are becoming more infringed with populated areas. Providing a home to birds in your yard makes a bigger difference than you may realize. We're all in this game of survival, together. It was fantastic to watch SO. MANY. BIRDS. with you from the Cape May Hawkwatch this fall. Please be good stewards of the land, and enjoy the birds!

Good birding,

Little shuffle between a Cooper's Hawk (below) and Northern Harrier (above) shortly after sunrise.

Eurasian Wigeon (left) and American Wigeon (right)

Great Black-backed Gull

Two Double-crested Cormorants and a Great Cormorant (right) flying by.

Wrapping up the season. Here's today's count totals. Click the image to see a larger view.

Hawkwatch - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Light west winds and full sun on a warm November day moved raptors through to the north of the hawkwatch. A late-season American Kestrel migrated by in the early morning hours. We're up to three Eurasian Wigeon that mingle with the more common American Wigeon.  One Gray Ghost (adult male Northern Harrier) put on a stellar show for us as it patrolled the back edge of Bunker Pond. It's an exciting time of fall when the game of migration is not about numbers (although we can still get good flights currently), but more often the diversity and the likelihood of aberrant birds showing up. There's a nice cold breeze expected tonight, and it will be interesting to see if that brings some birds through the upcoming morning hours.

Tomorrow marks the last day of the 2017 Cape May Hawkcount. Stop on by and see what raptors are flying. It will be fun to see you there!

Adult male Northern Harrier, also known as a Gray Ghost.

Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk flying over. Note stout wings showing the bowed trailing edge, slender and squared-off tail, and petite head. This small accipiter species flutters through the air.

Drake Eurasian Wigeon with several American Wigeon.

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

Hawkwatch - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

South winds in late November resulted in a mere trickle of raptor migration today, but it was certainly a pleasant and bird-filled day. While true migrant hawks were scarce, we still had plenty of views of Bald Eagles spooking up all the ducks, close views of Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, and hunting accipiters and harriers over the marsh. We even had looks at the (very active) Gray Kingbird found earlier in the morning by Mike Lanzone while he was at Coral Avenue!!

Cape May
Cape May Point, New Jersey, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Nov 28, 2017

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture                0            163            167
Turkey Vulture               0           1407           1799
Osprey                       0             50           2724
Bald Eagle                   0             97            424
Northern Harrier             7            274            764
Sharp-shinned Hawk          20           1830          10716
Cooper's Hawk                3            280           1715
Northern Goshawk             0              1              1
Red-shouldered Hawk          2            374            462
Broad-winged Hawk            0             11           1131
Red-tailed Hawk              2            495            715
Rough-legged Hawk            0              0              4
Golden Eagle                 0             10             13
American Kestrel             0             25           6857
Merlin                       1             92           2051
Peregrine Falcon             0             29           1117
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
Short-eared Owl              0              2              2
Swainson's Hawk              0              1              1

Total:                      35           5141          30669

Observation start time: 06:00:00 
Observation end   time: 16:00:00 
Total observation time: 9.07 hours

Official Counter:        Melissa Roach

This young Bald Eagle repeatedly flushed the ducks on nearby ponds which meant the two Eurasian Wigeons landed on Bunker Pond for great looks from the platform.

Sorry to break it to ya, Mockingbird, but the water fountains are turned off for the season.

Seawatch - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanks to southeasterly winds, today was an excellent day with over 26,000 birds!  The first hour was jam packed with over 5000 birds, including 2600 Red-throated Loons.  It was quite hectic, with flocks and streams of loons passing by, with gannets in the distant as well as mixed in with the loons, while flocks of scoters flew past faster than the loons and geese tried to sneak by in high flying flocks overhead.  Ring-billed Gulls also pushed through in some numbers, with nearly 200 in that first hour to make my job even harder.  

Red-throated Loons passed by in significant numbers, with 9681 today.  This is likely to be the season peak for loons, surpassing last year's peak flight of 7293.  Gannets are still a bit behind, with only 2470 today; we are still due for a bigger day, hopefully!  A nice late season push of 1128 Double-crested Cormorants was attempting to get our cormorant numbers up to a respectable number, as we are still way behind average for cormorants.  

Other notables include: the first push of Canada Geese (645), a nice push of teal (421), a diversity of dabblers including wigeon, shoveler, Mallard, black duck, pintail, and Wood Duck, and a remarkable 25 Common Eiders (this would be 20% of last year's total eiders!). 

Two notes:

1) We have almost set the season total record for Black Scoter!  We have 253,136 thus far and the best season ever had 256,633.  We only need 3498 more Black Scoters to set a new season record!

2) Thursday is forecasted to have more east winds switching to the south throughout the day.  I predict it will be another good day, potentially similar to today!

Check out the day's total here:

Seawatch - Sunday & Monday, November 26-27, 2017

Two more days of northwest winds, two more slow days with little movement.  Sunday had a mere 1460 birds, continuing the trend of half of the total being Red-throated Loons and Northern Gannets.  114 Double-crested Cormorants, 2 Snow Buntings, and a late Common Buckeye were some of the notable sightings that day.  Monday had nearly 3000 birds and considerably higher diversity, hosting flocks of Canada Geese, Snow Geese, and Tundra Swans, plus a Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, and a Gadwall.  For the first time in a while, Surf Scoters outnumbered Black Scoters, although the overall numbers for each were under 500.  A nice 16 White-winged Scoters passed by, as well as 4 Horned Grebes. 

Tuesday and Thursday are forecasted to have east and southeast winds, so expect much better days ahead!

Check out the totals here:


Hawkwatch - Monday, November 27, 2017

Well, I don't know if I could ask for a better late November day at the Hawkwatch platform. It was pleasant weather with sunny skies and cool (but not too cold) temps, and there are apparently plenty of raptors still heading this way! Although not true birds of prey, the sky was simply dominated by Turkey and Black Vultures today and was quite the sight to see. There were plenty of goodies to find mixed in with the vultures during the midday hours. We saw impressive late-season numbers of Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks as well as a big (final??) push of Sharp-shinned Hawks. Not to mention Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, a lone male Kestrel, and two Merlins terrorizing the starling flight.

Non-raptor goodies were plentiful today as well! We had 2 Orange-crowned Warblers, Nashville Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting, and a Brant all hanging out right around the platform. It was crazy. Then, late in the afternoon, 6 Sandhill Cranes (first reported by Richard Crossley at Exit 0) made their way right down to the point and past the platform. Although they made an attempt to cross the bay, they quickly changed their minds and turned back around. With the count quickly coming to a close, it was certainly a fun-filled November day. Tomorrow's south winds will almost certainly create a slow raptor day, but maybe the late-season songbirds will still be hanging about.

Cape May
Cape May Point, New Jersey, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Nov 27, 2017

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture               57            163            167
Turkey Vulture             165           1407           1799
Osprey                       0             50           2724
Bald Eagle                   6             97            424
Northern Harrier             8            267            757
Sharp-shinned Hawk          67           1810          10696
Cooper's Hawk               10            277           1712
Northern Goshawk             0              1              1
Red-shouldered Hawk         22            372            460
Broad-winged Hawk            0             11           1131
Red-tailed Hawk             51            493            713
Rough-legged Hawk            0              0              4
Golden Eagle                 0             10             13
American Kestrel             1             25           6857
Merlin                       2             91           2050
Peregrine Falcon             0             29           1117
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
Short-eared Owl              0              2              2
Swainson's Hawk              0              1              1

Total:                     389           5106          30634

Observation start time: 06:00:00 
Observation end   time: 16:00:00 
Total observation time: 9.08 hours

Official Counter:        Melissa Roach

Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Indigo Bunting
Sandhill Cranes!

Hawkwatch - Sunday, November 26, 2017

The cool northwest winds invited a good flight of raptors past the Cape May Hawkwatch today.  November is the time of fall when many large raptors move through the area. We had a great flight of Turkey Vultures today as well as a few Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and their mid-sized counterpart the Red-shouldered Hawk.

Late-season non-raptors are also moving through. We had exciting views of a beautiful flock of Snow Geese flying high overhead. Eastern Bluebirds and American Pipits are making daily appearances in the morning hours, and one hardy Monarch was seen flying by.

You never know what is going to fly past the Cape May Hawkwatch. See you at the platform!

Hawkwatch - Wednesday-Saturday, November 22-25, 2017

It's been a busy week of migration at the Cape May Hawkwatch. Earlier in the week we were treated to cooler temperatures (especially on Thanksgiving) that brought bountiful amounts of raptors and songbirds, including a few rarities. From a Red Crossbill, Northern Parula, White-eyed Vireo, and several Baltimore Orioles to exciting flights of buteos and vultures, the past few days have brought much bird life through the area.

Come to the hawkwatch tomorrow and see what birds are flying! Slightly cooler temperatures and light northwest winds are expected.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk and a Turkey Vulture

Eurasian Wigeon (right two birds) with American Wigeon

Our second-of-the-fall Iceland Gull

An extremely late Northern Parula showed up!

Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Mallards

Red-tailed Hawk

We've tallied 23 balloons "migrating" past the Cape May Hawkwatch this fall.
They litter the environment and are a hazard to aquatic life.

Bobert the Northern Bobwhite has been making near-daily appearances at the hawkwatch.

Totals from Wednesday. Click the image to see a larger view.

Totals from Thursday. Click the image to see a larger view.

Totals from Friday. Click the image to see a larger view.

Totals from today (Saturday). Click the image to see a larger view.

Seawatch - Saturday, November 25, 2017

While the overall total today was better than yesterday, it was a similarly average day.  The first hour was packed with 1500 Red-throated Loons, and the second hour had a good push of gannets, but after that it died down to a slow but steady trickle of birds.  Loons and gannets accounted for over half of today's total, while scoters filled in the rest.  Not a lot of diversity today, with only a few scaup, bufflehead, and mergansers.  Today's surprise was a late Monarch butterfly heading south!

See the totals here:

Seawatch - Wednesday & Thursday, November 22-23, 2017

It may be late November, but the Seawatch is still going strong. We had seen a string of slower days because of the Westerly winds (pushing the birds farther out from shore) but Wednesday was highlighted by the season's first Razorbill flying by in the afternoon. We also saw over 3,000 Red-throated Loons on Wednesday with an assortment of other birds seen here:

Thursday was Thanksgiving, and I was thankful for a fun day of seabirds! Just over 10,000 birds were tallied and it was quite diverse. I was treated to a single Snow Bunting flying right along the beach early in the morning. A small flock of Purple Sandpipers made appearances on the jetty throughout the day along with scoters and loons floating nearby. Visitors were also treated to Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Horned Grebes, Common Eiders, and Great Cormorants. All of Thursday's fun can be found at the link below: 

A Black Scoter (left) and White-winged Scoter (right) fly over a second Black Scoter that is still contemplating whether to take off with them or not. 

Here come some close Brant.

Common Loon
One of these Corms is not like the other. Can you spot the Great Cormorant?

Seawatch - Friday, November 24, 2017

Today was a good day, with calm winds from the southwest.  1500 Black Scoter and 1500 Red-throated Loons comprised the bulk of the 5000 birds counted today. A few hundred Gannets, cormorants, Surf Scoters, and other ducks rounded out the count into a very average day!

Check out the totals here:

Seawatch - Monday & Tuesday, November 20-21, 2017

Monday and Tuesday were two equally slow days, with just over 2000 birds each day.  As usual for this time of year, the majority of these birds were Red-throated Loons and Northern Gannets.  We still have yet to have a huge push of either species, so we are looking forward to that happening, hopefully soon!  A small push of Laughing Gulls, around 80, on Tuesday was notable, as were two Ross's Geese heading south, relatively close over the jetty with a Snow Goose.  There was also a flight of 191 Ring-billed Gulls on Monday.  A nice flow of southbound Forster's Terns was the most I've had in well over a month, with 146 birds.

Check out the totals here:


Hawkwatch - Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I suppose 77 raptors in late November with strong southerly winds isn't THAT bad, but it certainly felt like a slow day out on the ol' Hawkwatch platform. I was very happy that the temps warmed up to a balmy 56 degrees today, and there were LOTS of other birds to look at and sort through.

Cape May
Cape May Point, New Jersey, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Nov 21, 2017

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture                0             85             89
Turkey Vulture              13            649           1041
Osprey                       0             49           2723
Bald Eagle                   1             76            403
Northern Harrier             9            222            712
Sharp-shinned Hawk          33           1433          10319
Cooper's Hawk                9            218           1653
Northern Goshawk             0              1              1
Red-shouldered Hawk          2            266            354
Broad-winged Hawk            0             11           1131
Red-tailed Hawk              5            358            578
Rough-legged Hawk            0              0              4
Golden Eagle                 0             10             13
American Kestrel             0             21           6853
Merlin                       3             77           2036
Peregrine Falcon             2             29           1117
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
Short-eared Owl              0              2              2
Swainson's Hawk              0              1              1

Total:                      77           3508          29036

Observation start time: 06:00:00 
Observation end   time: 16:00:00 
Total observation time: 9.18 hours

Official Counter:        Melissa Roach

Cooper's Hawk
Cedar Waxwings
Two late Baltimore Orioles seen foraging in the cedars right beside the platform.
Cooper's Hawk
Bonaparte's Gull
For interested parties, our local platform celebrity, Bobert the Northern Bobwhite (a captive-bred bird) is, in fact, still alive.