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!

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