Morning Flight - Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wow, what a weekend! I’m still reeling from the amount of birds that have passed through Cape A-May-zing over the past two days. If you thought yesterday was awesome (and it was), there was a greater spectacle to be had today, even by Cape May’s high bar.

With the convergence of the weekend with good conditions for migration and word of yesterday’s great flight, another crowd of observers assembled on the dike hoping for another good morning. The winds had stayed out of the north overnight until midnight, at which point they switched to being light out of the northeast. So the question was: would it be a moderate echo of the morning before, or would a new influx of migrants bring more surprises?

The birds took sunrise for the migratory equivalent of a starter’s pistol, and things got busy *fast,* with groups of high warblers moving against the cloudy skies. The flight line to the east quickly filled up with warblers and a host of other songbirds to form a chaotic menagerie of jumbled silhouettes, mostly headed north but a struggle to sort through with a busy flight already happening right on top of us.

At the same time, flickers erupted out of the Higbee fields and came bounding over the treeline towards us. Pods of nuthatches poured out of the vegetation all the way from the dunes to overhead. I had *not* been expecting The Bird Force to be flowing at this magnitude, but clearly I should have, since both flickers and nuthatches really move on days where the winds are light. As with yesterday, tasks were quickly divvied up (including the ever-critical “flicker clicker”), and the callouts from the crowd had me “playing the data piano” as I entered species into Trektellen.

Yesterday’s nuthatch total was easily shattered within the first hour of the count, and they just kept coming in droves! Even with tasks delegated, we were running on all cylinders until around 8:30, when the bulk of the flight tapered off sharply. I think I literally caught my breath; the adrenaline had me feeling like it should have been 10:30! But the birds weren’t done by a long shot. A steady stream of nuthatches and flickers continued late into the morning. We ended the day with 913 northbound Northern Flickers (almost a top 3 flight for the count), but even more impressively we finished with 512 (!!!) northbound Red-breasted Nuthatches! This represents a new *all-time peak day count* for the official Morning Flight Songbird Count, which is totally awesome! The previous high was 427 from October 5th in the fall of 2012, which stands out in the memory of many as a fabulous fall for boreal birds. This portends well for an interesting late season in Cape May (and the entire northeast and mid-Atlantic!) this fall. So if you feel like you’ve missed out, just come on down in October when the next front is lining up!

As with yesterday, there was a good supporting cast of woodpeckers to complement the flicker fest. A handful of both Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers bounded by the count today, providing good looks. There’s just something so entertaining about seeing migrating woodpeckers!

Coming to a sap well near you!
Blue Jays still put in a solid showing with 225 southbound individuals, but compared to yesterday, far fewer headed north back up the flight line (“only” 160 northbound). It seems like many were content to hang out on the island, so I guess they found some good oak trees!

Much maligned, ever beautiful.
Although they are usually the most colorful and entertaining part of morning flight, the warblers had the show stolen from them for the most part. Still, we had some fun numbers of warblers comprising 17 actively migrating species consisting mostly of Blackpolls, Palms, and Yellow-rumps (which made their first notable influx today) but also including great views of Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Cape May, American Redstart, and more.

Oh, what a lovely, indelible day indeed. Once more I owe huge, enormous thanks to the cast of helpers: Adehl Schwaderer, Jerald Reb, Ross and Melissa Gallardy, Dave Nicosia, Kyle Bardwell, Lisa Wolf, and more. Busy days at Morning Flight truly require a team effort, and your assistance is vastly appreciated!

As always, you can find our official count totals on Trektellen here, and our complete eBird checklist of the day’s observations here.

Bring on the next day!

We'll be seeing a lot more of you very soon!

Morning Flight - Saturday, September 29, 2018

Hopes for a good flight were high as the continuation of NW winds from Friday’s cold front brought a large crowd to Higbee this morning. Fortunately the birds did not disappoint, not by a long shot! The winds were surprisingly still at daybreak, but three Common Nighthawks headed north just before the start of the count, always a good omen.

After a relatively quiet first 30 minutes, birds started moving big-time. Northern Flickers, those beautifully yellow-coated, black-dappled beasties were out in force and powering their way up the bayshore. With a diverse host of songbirds accompanying them, I was quickly becoming overwhelmed with birds! That’s a great feeling except when it’s your job to count all of them! Thankfully Brett Ewald (former Hawk Counter and current Program Director) stepped up to the plate as the designated “flicker clicker,” which freed me up to count everything else.

And boy, did I need the extra time! Flocks of Blue Jays overhead and far to the east were up in the air and slowly making their way southwest against the pale orange and cloudless sky. Much later on in the morning, they started to stream back north along the flight line in typical fashion. I like to think of Blue Jays as the songbird version of Broad-winged Hawks, since they both move in large flocks and like to stay inland because they’re afraid of water! Counting them requires a little patience-- I watched flocks make several botched attempts to cross north over the canal before finally getting the numbers and the courage to go for it!

Warblers were zipping north in good numbers for most of the count, and we ended up matching Thursday’s flight for the most diverse day for actively migrating warblers with 20 warbler species. Northern Parulas and Blackpoll Warblers headlined the flight with 113 and 55 northbound individuals respectively, but the uncontested warbler standout of the morning was the CONNECTICUT WARBLER that *finally* flew by the count! This skulky trans-Atlantic migrant is one of the true blue specialities of Cape May and the Morning Flight Count, where many a birder have scored their lifer before it made the jump to the Amazon Basin. However, we had been having rotten luck with them past the count this fall corresponding with the washout conditions for the first 2/3rds of September. Big thanks to Dave Hedeen for spotting this bird!

Northbound Northern Parula, © Ross Gallardy
One of the major highlights of the morning was the outstanding supporting cast of diversity, which threatened to steal the show. Mixed in with the flickers were Red-bellied Woodpeckers (12 south), Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (3 south), a Downy Woodpecker, and a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker (keenly spotted by Steve Mirick) made for our most diverse Pici-day of the season.

On top of that, we had *two* southbound Yellow-headed Blackbirds that were both adult males! Add that to the 15 Scarlet Tanagers, 5 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, 4 Ovenbirds, 4 Eastern Wood-Pewees, 4 Eastern Phoebes, 3 Dickcissels, a Philadelphia Vireo, another nighthawk later on that buzzed the lip of the dike in front of everyone, and the first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the fall, and you have an incredible morning!

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Brett Ewald, Adehl Schwaderer, Jerald Reb, Glen Davis, Ross and Melissa Gallardy, Dave Nicosia, Kyle Bardwell, Lisa Wolf, Joe Gyekis, Dave Hedeen, Steve Mirick for their help counting and/or spotting birds. And it was an absolute joy to share such a great flight with a big crowd of fellow bird migration enthusiasts!

As always, you can find our official count totals on Trektellen here, and our complete eBird checklist of the day’s observations here.

Bring on the next day!

(Original, abbreviated blog post below just for kicks!)

It has been a very busy, birdy day in the best "classic Cape May in late September" kind of way! Given that, it pains me greatly to write an abbreviated blog post so that I can go to bed and have enough energy to count next morning (which should also be interesting). Don’t worry though, I will expand greatly upon this blog post tomorrow evening.

Here's the short version: we had a wonderful Morning Flight at the Higbee dike this morning, and the best part was the big crowd that showed up to enjoy the spectacle together (I will thank a number of people by name for their help counting in the full post tomorrow). As for the birds, we had solidly busy warbler flight (nothing too crazy), but most notable was the great diversity across the board featuring awesome flights of Northern Flicker (579) and Blue Jay (540), plus good numbers of Scarlet Tanagers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and much, much more. Oh, and *finally* a Connecticut Warbler! Huzzah!!!

For totals official count totals, please check our Trektellen page here and for photos and notes, please see the complete eBird checklist here.

Bring on the next day!

Seawatch - Saturday, September 29, 2018

Today was another slow day with northwest winds.  There were some decent sized flocks of Double-crested Cormorants that ended up totaling nearly 400 birds, but the flocks were few and far between.  There were far fewer scoters, gulls, and other birds.  The afternoon, however, saw an uptick in butterflies!  85 Monarchs and dozens of Common Buckeyes flew by the Seawatch, which was quite enjoyable to watch and count.

Check out the totals here!

Good birding,

Hawkwatch - Friday, September 28, 2018

Today was a stellar day to see so. many. birds. All from the platform! A solid day of raptor migration took place all day long, and the evening hours streamed Peregrine Falcons and Merlins through at impressive rates. Sharp-shinned Hawks swirled high in the sky, and a few Cooper's Hawks flew by too. Songbirds were all over... high, low, and sometimes among the raptors. Today visitors experienced thousands upon thousands of Tree Swallows dazzling the cloudy skies. It's a mesmerizing spectacle to behold! By the end of the day 514 Chimney Swifts had been tallied from the hawkwatch. We were only four Chimney Swifts short of setting a state high count!

Tomorrow's forecast is looking fantastic for an exciting flight of raptors. When I wrapped up today, raptors were migrating late into the evening hours. Often time this can translate into busy mornings of migration. With day two of northwest winds and now sunny skies, who knows what will show up tomorrow. Bring your binoculars and join in the fun as fall migration takes place.

We're getting some Broad-winged Hawks migrating by, thanks to these fantastic west winds!
Just look at these stunners!

Tree Swallows galore over town!

Blue Jays flying by us hawkwatching folks. 

Handsome little male American Kestrel, showing off his "white Christmas lights."

Merlin, the mid-sized falcon.

Adult Peregrine Falcon.s

Today's totals.
Good hawkwatching,
Erik Bruhnke

Seawatch - Friday, September 28, 2018

Another day of westerly winds, another slow day with little migration!  The highlight of the day was a couple of hours in the late morning when flocks of Black Scoters were coming by consistently, adding up to over 400 for the day.  However, that was short-lived, and not much else was on the move.  Diversity was certainly up, with some Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintail, an American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, and even a White-winged Scoter (going north) being tallied today in small numbers.

Check out today's totals:

With tomorrow's northwest winds, I expect the Seawatch to be a bit quiet, while the Hawkwatch and Morning Flight should be hopping!

Seawatch - Wednesday & Thursday, September 26 & 27, 2018

It's been a relatively slow couple of days here at the Seawatch.  Wednesday had only northbound Black Scoters, with none moving southward, and a small movement of Common Terns.  Today was a bit more notable, with 472 Double-crested Cormorants migrating, along with 67 American Oystercatchers.  However, the day started off with a Red-headed Woodpecker coming in off the ocean, then continuing southward down the beach; quite a surprise!  The first Red Bats of the season came in off the ocean early in the morning as well.

Check out the totals at Trektellen below:



Good birding,

Hawkwatch - Thursday, September 27, 2018

Cape May Point, New Jersey, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Sep 27, 2018

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture                2             30             30
Turkey Vulture              30            213            213
Osprey                     426           3693           3693
Bald Eagle                  26            208            208
Northern Harrier            12            110            110
Sharp-shinned Hawk         292            839            839
Cooper's Hawk               97            410            410
Northern Goshawk             0              0              0
Red-shouldered Hawk          0              0              0
Broad-winged Hawk           22             87             87
Red-tailed Hawk              2             31             31
Rough-legged Hawk            0              0              0
Golden Eagle                 0              0              0
American Kestrel            89           1763           1763
Merlin                      68            910            910
Peregrine Falcon            44            511            511
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:                    1110           8805           8805

Observation start time: 05:30:00 
Observation end   time: 17:00:00 
Total observation time: 11.5 hours

Official Counter:        Tom Reed 


Mostly cloudy, 66->69ºF, winds N->ENE 10mph.

Raptor Observations:
Steady movement through much of the day, with another impressive showing of
Osprey. Accipiters increased through the morning, with many mixed kettles
of Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks by the early afternoon. 

Non-raptor Observations:
Short-billed Dowitcher (1), Common Gallinule (3+), Parasitic Jaeger (10+),
Caspian Tern (1), Cape May Warbler (ca. 10), Blackpoll Warbler (100+),
Northern Flicker (75)

Morning Flight - Thursday, September 27, 2018

It was a great late September day for Morning Flight at Higbee this morning! We had our best day so far for Northern Parula (233), as well as Blackpoll (275), Palm (161), and Magnolia Warblers (8). The conditions were thankfully dry (unlike the big flight on the 23rd), but clouds still made identification challenging. Despite that fact, this was our most diverse day for warblers, with 20 species in active migration. Northern Parulas were hot out of the gate early this morning but shortly thereafter gave way to Blackpoll and Palm Warblers, which carried the rest of the morning. Speaking of carrying things, it was really cool/weird to see a Black-and-white Warbler and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak each carrying a prey item in their bills as they flew! Taking notes from Osprey, it seems?

Look how long those wings are!
That's a champion migrant right there. 
We also had a good late-end flight of American Redstarts (103), which were mixed in over the course of the whole morning. A nice warbler treat of this morning’s flight was an Ovenbird! They’re pretty uncommon past morning flight (averaging ~12 per fall), and the period of strong east winds in early-mid September prevented us from seeing more. Last on the warbler front, Cape May Warblers made a solid showing with 22 northbound individuals and several crisp males mixed in.

Cape May Warbler in cloudy Cape May.
That thick white wing bar really pops, even at a distance!
Another pair of single day high counts so far came from our boreal brethren: Red-breasted Nuthatch and Blue Jay! We had 27 northbound Red-breasted Nuthatches this morning, edging out several previous days in the low 20s from August/September, and bringing us to 132 for the season so far. This was our first real “influx” day for Blue Jay after the trickle yesterday. Most of that came in a flock of 60 that sped south on the winds. One distinctive mark for Blue Jays in flight is how slow they appear, but it’s a different story when they have a 10 mph tailwind! We didn’t see any Purple Finches this morning (the third expected boreal irruptor), but perhaps on Saturday! And of course, there should be lots more of these species in October, weather willing.

With another round of NW winds starting Friday at midday and through Sunday morning, conditions are looking primo for Saturday morning, so come on down weekend warriors! Here’s hoping we finally get a Connecticut on Saturday. 

Thanks to Molly Jacobson and Jerald Reb for assisting with the count this morning, and thanks to everyone who came out and enjoyed the spectacle! As always, you can find the link to the official count on Trektellen here and the complete eBird checklist here.

Bring on Day 59!


Michael O'Brien, Richard Crossley, and Doug Gochfeld recorded an even larger morning flight further up the flight line along the Delaware Bayshore near Delhaven! They had ~4,250 warblers, and I will post the link to their checklist here once it's finalized. Although Higbee is usually the best place to see morning flight in Cape May, the whole area is a system and occasionally other places produce great flights too! Does this mean that there were a lot of birds that re-oriented *before* they made it to the point? Lots of questions...

Morning Flight - Wednesday, September 26, 2018

It was a tranquil morning on the dike as a trickle of birds moved through on SSE winds and humid conditions, including a few Cape May and Blackpoll Warblers.

The highlight of the morning was an adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler that was foraging low for moths along the lip of the dike! If I were a warbler, I would have much rather fueled up on some delicious moths (Hawaiian Beet Webworm Moths, to be precise) than migrate today.
Once more into the breach! 
In non-warbler news, a handful of Blue Jays were a sign of what will hopefully prove to be a nice irruption of them. The Hawkwatch can also be a great place to see active migrating Blue Jays in good numbers, since they like the oaks around the State Park.

Lastly, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was a welcome surprise, even if it was a brief look!

As always, you can find the link to the official count on Trektellen here and the complete eBird checklist here.

Bring on Day 57!

Hawkwatch - Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Today's strong southeast winds were no match for those speedy Peregrine Falcons and Merlins. Over the course of the day 114 Peregrine Falcons were seen racing past the hawk watch, as were 105 Merlin and 103 Osprey (and a bunch of really cool birds). Most of the day's flight was far to our north, as a result of the blustery and warm winds out of the southeast.

First Common Loons of the season for this year's Cape May Hawk Watch.

Baltimore Oriole.


One of the 114 Peregrine Falcons that migrated past the Cape May Hawkwatch yesterday!


Osprey past the lighthouse!

Another Peregrine Falcon, for good measure!

Today's totals.

Hope to see you at the hawk watch!
Erik Bruhnke

Morning Flight - Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A decent amount of birds were flying this morning despite the ESE winds, but they were scattered and flying in both directions!

Northern Parulas barely edged out American Redstarts today (37 to 33 northbound), and a few uncommon warblers like Blue-winged Warbler and Ovenbird flew by. No single species was terribly abundant today, but the few we had pushed us over a good milestone: over 3,000 northbound American Redstarts! Excluding the falls of 2015 and 2017 that had mega flight days for redstarts (which we try not to let bias our expectations around here), this puts us a few hundred birds shy an average season. Given that we had terrible weather for practically all of their peak flight period, I’ll take it! I’m curious to see how many we’ll get as we close out this week, since there’s good conditions coming but redstarts tail out fast.

Common Yellowthroats continue to move along with Blackpoll Warblers, some of which look absolutely massive right now as they are loaded up calories to make their trans-Atlantic flight to South America (an equivalent feat would be if I were to balloon up to 350 pounds and then lose all of that weight swimming from Cape May to Venezuela). Belted Kingfishers, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and Dickcissel all made appearances as well.

There was also solid diversity this morning outside of typical Morning Flight fare, with raptors and seabirds notably moving past Higbee. The Merlin gauntlet continued, bolstered by a diverse smattering of raptors including my first *adult* Cooper’s Hawk of fall. Meanwhile, 270 Black Scoters, 4 Surf Scoters, and a couple of Common Loons provided a nice bonus. In accord with the movement I was seeing, the Hawkwatch and the Seawatch also had busy days today; over 100 Merlin and Peregrines from the Hawkwatch, and multiple Manx and Cory’s Shearwaters plus a good start for Black Scoters at the Seawatch. It’s a great feeling when all three of the counts have fun days; the zugunruhe flows strong in Cape May!

This winged wizard was content to snack on a Green Darner. 
Stay tuned for the days to come, as the coming days and the weekend still look good! You know where to find us (same Bat time, same Bat channel). And as always, you can find the link to the official count on Trektellen here and the complete eBird checklist here.

Bring on Day 57!

Not too many chances for flight shots, but some good 'ops in the little walnut!
There were three at once in the tree!

Hawkwatch - Monday, September 24, 2018

It was a day of howling east winds and frequent rain. The hawk count persisted through the conditions, tallying 100 Merlin, as well as many Osprey, fast-flying Peregrine Falcons, and more! 

Solitary Sandpiper that landed near the hawkwatch to feed in the flooded grassy field!

Osprey over the Cape May Lighthouse.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon.

Today's totals.
See you at the hawkwatch,
Erik Bruhnke

Morning Flight - Monday, September 24, 2018

Despite my efforts, Morning Flight was rained out this morning! I made it through the first hour after sunrise before driving rain from the east heralded our first rain out day of the season. Womp womp, it happens.

While today wasn’t a good *flight* day, there are lots of warblers are on Cape May Point right now -- they just aren’t flying! Hidden Valley and the Northwood Center/Lake Lily are loaded up with migrants that have arrived over the past few days and are ready to fly south as soon as conditions change-- redstarts, parulas, Black-and-whites, plus good numbers of Blackpoll and Cape May Warblers.

And speaking of change, later this week looks good for Morning Flight as moderate to light NW/NNW winds are in the forecast for Wednesday night going into Thursday night and Friday night going into Saturday. Keep an eye on the forecast and come on down if the prediction comes true! A fresh influx of migrants will hopefully be here!

As always, you can find the link to the official count on Trektellen here and the complete eBird checklist here.

Bring on Day 56!

Hawkwatch - Saturday & Sunday, September 22 & 23, 2018

The past two days' flights of raptors have brought on so many thrills. Saturday's migration was exceptional as over 1,500 birds of prey moved through the skies!

The most numerous raptors on Sunday were 538 Osprey and 535 American Kestrels. It seemed like rivers of Osprey covered the skies at times. While scanning around and picking up the many Osprey throughout the day, gently-swirling kettles of Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks would appear incredible high up. Accompanying these accipiters were uncommon treats of Peregrine Falcons and Northern Harriers. It is near impossible to describe the true essence and thrill of counting and witnessing these incredible numbers of raptors moving throughout the area.

While locking onto a "line" of high up Osprey, I noticed that their numbers were increasing without losing migrational structure in the sky. As the moments progresses, more and more Osprey came into view. One of the treasure hunt challenges of counting the busy days of raptor migration is picking out the oddballs and different species. Over the course of 5 minutes this one line of raptors included 46 Osprey and 15 Peregrine Falcons.

The excitement built as the hours continued into the evening. Without any sense of slowing down, Osprey plowed through the air with ease as they meandered over the hawk watch, around the lighthouse, and over the bay. Merlin numbers peaked in the late evening as dozens of these dark and speedy falcons took over the airspace, most of them eating dragonflies on the go.

American Kestrel.

Peregrine Falcon (bottom right) and American Kestrel (upper left).

Osprey (flying to the right),
Peregrine Falcon (perched on the lighthouse railing),
and plastic Great Horned Owl (inside).


Saturday's totals.

Sunday's totals.

Good hawkwatching,
Erik Bruhnke

Avalon Seawatch - Sunday, September 23nd, 2018

After a pretty good day yesterday, today was very slow thanks to a constant stream of rain.  NE winds pushed some dabbling ducks, mostly more Northern Pintail, south again today, but further offshore.  This is about a week earlier than when I started seeing dabbling duck flocks year!

The first Surf Scoter of the season went by today, but was unfortunately going north!  Also of interested was a single Belted Kingfisher coming off the water, and a flock of 11 Great Blue Herons heading south.

Only 60 Black Scoter and 144 Double-crested Cormorants were counted today, but the rain caused some bad visibility, so it's possible there were more out there that went by unseen, or that they all landed somewhere to wait out the rain!  There was also a noticeable movement of Laughing Gulls, which will only increase as the season continues and it gets colder.

Although there is more rain in the forecast, please come on out and see Tom Reed, who counts on Mondays and Tuesdays!

Total count over at Trektellen.


Morning Flight - Sunday, September 23, 2018

Lots of birds were up on the radar last night, riding northeast winds down the coast from New England towards us here in Cape May. With incoming birds gauranteed, the quality of the flight this morning was going to be determined by the weather conditions. Namely, how much precipitation was there going to be in the morning, and were birds still going to fly through it?

After spending a few minutes on the dike, the answers became clear: yes, it was going to be raining all morning, and yes, the birds were going to keep flying right through it!

Although not overwhelming from a pure numbers basis, this was definitely the most challenging flight of the season from an ID standpoint. Even birds immediately to our west were shrouded in silhouette (I don’t think it was physically possible to ID a Bay-breasted Warbler above the treeline) this morning, but it was too rainy to bring my camera out. That said, so many birds were moving in pulses that I would have missed too many had I tried to chimp things, which is why you should never rely *too* much on a camera! I really do apologize that I'm writing about such a great flight without any visuals, but even with photos Morning Flight will always be something that has to be seen in person to get a sense of the full spectacle (so come visit!).

Now onto the birds: Northern Parulas officially took the baton from American Redstarts today, and man did they run (I mean fly) with it! We had 227 parulas followed by 105 redstarts and 77 Palm Warblers (northbound totals). Those nice numbers were complemented by a healthy swath of warbler diversity, with 17 actively migrating species (that includes Common Yellowthroats, which were busily darting north through breaks in vegetation).

Another warbler highlight of the morning were Blackpoll Warblers, which are a classic NE wind species since they are pushed onshore from their typically pelagic migration. The real total of Blackpolls was likely much higher than 28 though (perhaps upwards of 50-75), as lots of poorly lit and silent birds had to be relegated to “biggish warbler sp.” The birds were still flying through the rain, but some were clearly not pleased to have their feathers dampened-- I watched one Blackpoll shake itself off while flying! Write that one down in the “only in Cape May” book.

I can’t take credit for counting these numbers by myself, though! Interpretive naturalist Adehl Schwaderer did a great job of spotting warblers passing through “the gap” in front of the platform *while* entertaining a big crowd. And like an angel in the outfield, Marshall Iliff materialized to pull new warbler species out of the sky.

Merlin were also pulling warblers out of the sky as they zoomed and bombed their way around Higbee this morning, although with a more deadly intent. I put my bins on a Merlin and saw an upside down pair of little songbird feet protruding from its talons, and I also watched another Merlin land in the treeline to consume its hard-won prey. Who knows how many scores of songbirds were eaten this morning? The spectacular convergence of songbird and raptor migration in Cape May makes for a beautiful river of life and a deadly gauntlet of depredation all at once.

The “bonus diversity” contingent put on a strong show this morning too, with a Lark Sparrow, Philadelphia Vireo, and a Yellow-throated Vireo. Yellow-throated Vireos are not annual past Morning Flight, and this bird was adroitly spotted by David Wilcove as it flew in to the little walnut on the dike and then shot down the road.

Lastly, a few Savannah Sparrows dropping down along the impoundments were a reminder that October’s sparrow-y goodness will soon be here. Thanks to everyone who came out to the count this morning to enjoy the spectacle! It’s always a pleasure, no matter the conditions!

As always, you can find the link to the official count on Trektellen here and the complete eBird checklist here.

Bring on Day 55!