Morning Flight - Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Although the radar signatures were fairly light last night, there was a great end-of-the-regular-season flight to be had at Higbee this morning! That’s the power of a cold front and WNW winds for you.

As expected, the flight was utterly dominated by American Robins (13,978 north) and Yellow-rumped Warblers (9,052 north). Watching robins and Yellow-rumps fill up the orange early-morning sky with flocks upon flocks of silhouette pepper flakes is truly a magical experience.

On top of this, finches put in another strong showing late into the day with 227 northbound Purple Finches, 154 southbound Pine Siskins, and 1,955 American Goldfinches! The latter number is a new single day high count for American Goldfinch, more than doubling the previous record set earlier in the season of 998 (to be fair, American Goldfinches were not always counted at the Morning Flight Count since the initial focus was long distance Neotropical migrants, but hey-- you gotta start at some point!).

A Dickcissel, two Eastern Bluebirds, and a northbound Hermit Thrush late in the morning (!) were all great bonus birds for the count. Another highlight of the morning was a great dune flight of Sharp-shinned Hawks, making for my second day with over 300 of them. The combined songbird and raptor flights along the bayshore at Higbee are so entertaining to watch, as Sharpies dive through cover and harriers and Red-tails hover over the impoundments looking for songbirds. Of course, Erik had many more Sharp-shinneds (1,091) from the State Park today-- it’s been a great October for the HawkWatch as well as the Morning Flight Count!

As always, you can find our official count totals on Trektellen here, and our complete eBird checklist of the day’s observations here, along with photos! Blogger was glitching out on the photo uploads tonight for some reason.

Bring on the next day!

Seawatch - Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday was an extremely slow day overall, with WSW winds and not much scoter movement.  At times, hundreds of cormorants would come by in the span of a few minutes, then go quiet for a long while before more would come.  8500 cormorants were counted; most were traveling over Sea Isle or directly overhead, which is much better than being out over the horizon!  Five Great Cormorants were seen in the mix as well.

Honestly, so little else was migrating that I don't know what else to say!  Check out the trektellen link for the full species list!

Better days are ahead of us!

Good birding,

Morning Flight - Monday, October 29, 2018

With moderate winds straight out of the west and a beautifully clear sky, it *should* have been a good morning for visible songbird migration at Higbee. However, precipitation from Friday’s nor’easter, now over Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, blocked out the bulk of migratory activity last night.

Nearly all activity was concentrated on the far eastern treeline, and I spent much of the morning staring down the scope counting a trickle of American Robins and Yellow-rumps. That said, any morning where you can watch Sharpies, Red-tails, and harriers hunt against an orange sky as Tree Swallows swirl is a great time in my book!

The highlight of the morning was breaking 2,000 Purple Finches for the season! We only needed three more, and we had 34 northbound today. I just can’t get tired of them!

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!

Hawkwatch - Sunday, October 28, 2018

The first half of the day was socked in with drizzly conditions and overcast skies. The raptor migration overall was quiet for this portion of the day, but as the day progressed the skies cleared of dark clouds. Moments later the sun began to shine. Raptors began to pour through.

Sharp-shinned Hawks took over the skies, fluttering high and low. Cooper's Hawks and aerodynamic Northern Harriers cut low over the fields. A smattering of Red-tailed Hawks and a few Red-shouldered Hawks pushed through. A few Merlin and American Kestrels flew their way southward. A juvenile Peregrine Falcon took hold of the blustery conditions and moved through with ease.

The winter finch flights of Pine Siskins and Purple Finches continues. As the early afternoon hours came around one very late Cattle Egret was spotted as were two Cave Swallows.

Adult Abietacola (northern race) Red-tailed Hawk.

Cattle Egret.

This Double-crested Cormorant flew by with a broken neck.

Today's totals.
Tomorrow's forecast is blustery northwest winds. There is a good potential for a strong raptor flight at the hawkwatch. Hope to see you there!

Erik Bruhnke

Morning Flight - Sunday, October 28, 2018

West-southwest winds continue here in Cape May, and while there are still birds moving through, there are considerably fewer “in the system” at the moment. Thankfully, another front is forecasted to come through on Monday afternoon and go overnight into Tuesday! This bodes well for a good late-season flight.

Today, I was content to count a few hundred American Robin and Yellow-rumped Warblers (311 and 369, respectively). Another 25 Blackpoll Warblers were a good addition to the ever-growing new season record, which is now over 3,700 northbound individuals! 8 Dark-eyed Juncos were nice too, which are a favorite of mine to see in Morning Flight (we had 91 on Thursday’s big flight, but there was too much else to discuss!).

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!

Hawkwatch - Friday, October 17-27, 2018

While exploring Cape May, you may hear the phrase "so many birds." People use it frequently to describe the murmurations of Tree Swallows that swirl seemingly endlessly over the Cape May Point State Park. Sometimes people use the phrase to mention the kettles of buteos or lines of small falcons that zip over the hawkwatch platform. This phrase is often spoken-of while experiencing the intense movements of songbirds that fly past Higbee's Dike in the early morning hours. The vast lines of scoters, cormorants, and loons at the Avalon Seawatch bring many visitors to speak of this phrase. These words flow naturally when considering the beautifully diverse bird migration here in Cape May.

The past week and a half has been filled with SO. MANY. BIRDS. The Fall Festival brought hundreds of birders to Cape May to enjoy spectacular presentations, social gatherings, afternoons of reconnecting with friends, a variety of booths, and of course the spectacular migration that occurs here. There's a unique sense of family and sense of place found throughout Cape May. The birds leave us in awe, and that leaves us with vibrant memories.

Recently the Cape May Hawk Watch surpassed 45,000 raptors for the season. The daily totals are strikingly busy, and they are continuing to add up fast. We're having banner fall, when comparing previous October totals and season totals from recent years. When looking at the month-by-month raptor totals, there have been more raptors documented from the hawk watch this month than were observed all of last fall! Every migration is different, and we're experiencing many booming daily totals.

Black Skimmers flying by the lighthouse.
Juvenile Northern Harrier

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Northern Harrier eyeing up a Ruddy Duck.

Tree Swallows galore!

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

One of many Yellow-billed Cuckoos we've seen from the hawk watch platform!

Light west winds and partly sunny skies are expected tomorrow. Hope to see you at the hawk watch!
Erik Bruhnke

Morning Flight - Saturday, October 27, 2018

A brief count was conducted in the midst of today's Nor'easter that brought howling east winds, massive swell, and flooding to much of Cape May County.

A pair of Wilson's Snipe, a couple of Pine Warblers, and a few Purple Finches (every one is a new record!) were the highlights of a day characterized by angry but starkly beautiful weather.

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

Seawatch - Saturday, October 27, 2018

WOW!  What a day!  A nor'easter was passing off the coast, bringing strong rain and winds overnight, and it was still in full effect when I arrived to the Seawatch this morning.  Just the walk from the car to the shack was difficult, with 30+ mph winds and rain in the face.  Visibility was poor, but as it lightened up a bit, we saw a good number of birds flying by, many of them over the jetty and beach!  Several scoter flocks even flew behind the shack and over some houses, which is practically unheard of, as most scoter make a sharp turn at the jetty to stay over water!  Even a Common Eider, a Black-legged Kittiwake, and a Parasitic Jaeger flew over the beach, quite close to the shack!

On top of the good birds, the waves were quite extreme!  Huge waves, probably over 10 feet in height, were crashing over the jetty.  As high tide approached, the waves came up under the shack and took our deck on a bit of a ride down the beach, as well as two of our window panels!  Lucky they didn't get swept out to sea and were later retrieved.  Even two of the concrete barriers up on the jetty were knocked off of the jetty!  It was quite a sight!

After a pretty busy morning, the flight shut down for the rest of the day, more or less, and wasn't helped by periods of rain and fog.  One nice surprise, however, was a flyby Marbled Godwit heading south down the beach.

Also worth mentioning was that there was a good proportion of Surf to Black Scoter, being about 50:50 for the day, and there were quite a lot of loons, especially in the morning.  A slower day than I expected, but not too slow!  There many peak days ahead!

Check out our totals here:


Morning Flight - Friday, October 26, 2018

Andrew Dreelin ghostwriting for Tom Reed again, who is still out of typing (but not counting) commission with his broken finger. TR had a "marvelous" day at Higbee, which began quite cold (39 F) and gray at dawn with a NE breeze, feeling much like November.

Fittingly, November birds came through in a big way! 

Another solid count of Purple Finches (294) was highlighted by a Common Redpoll that flew north by the count mixed in with a flock of Pine Siskins, a Red Crossbill that went south, and a Lapland Longspur that went north at the end of the count! Common Redpoll and Red Crossbill are entirely new species for the Morning Flight count, and this was also the first *northbound* Lapland Longspur.

Diversity continues to drop off markedly as we progress later into the season, but a score of both Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 63 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 4 White-breasted Nuthatches, and 4 Brown Creepers were good numbers given the day's conditions. A high-for-the-date 39 Blackpoll Warblers also flew north past the count, contributing even more to an outstanding season for them.

The 10 day forecast has a big southerly component to the winds, but a front lining up for Monday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon could bring another great late season flight!

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!

Seawatch - October 25-26, 2018

Thursday and Friday were two very busy days!  Thursday had over 25,000 southbound birds and today (Friday) had over 34,000 southbound birds!  12,000 Black Scoters on Thursday and 13,000 today kept me quite busy, as they came by consistently and often in large flocks.  Surf Scoter numbers were much lower, with only around 2000 and 3000 respectively.  Double-crested Cormorants were the bulk of the rest of the flight, with 7500 and 14,800 respectively!

Today had a good push of Green-winged Teal, with 581 moving past, mostly with scoters.  Other notable birds were 87 Brown Pelicans and at least one Black-legged Kittiwake today.

I am admittedly quite tired, so I'm going to leave you to peruse the totals while I get some sleep!


Good birding,

Morning Flight - Thursday, October 25, 2018

Lots of birds were up on the radar last night on moderate NW winds, and another preemptive call for assistance was raised for the count! Just for kicks, I started the count 15 minutes early to see if I could capture any interesting numbers of the late season species that like to do their thing earlier in the morning. The pre-sunrise drive down the winding, wooded road to the dike scored a darn-late Eastern Whip-poor-will, which is a hard bird to find on Cape Island to begin with.

The first few minutes ere surprisingly quiet (unlike the busy kinglet flight on Monday). Texts started coming in on the RBA about sparrows and other birds littering certain streets across Cape Island. Were the birds going to engage in morning flight, or had they all been grounded? I had a feeling the wave would be on its way shortly, and that it was.

Minutes later, some Hermit Thrushes shouted their flight calls from various points across the sky, and soon I was counting several in active morning flight! I may have mentioned before that Catharus thrushes are quite rare in morning flight here in Cape May. Their descent/morning flight typically happens much earlier, and they seem less prone to get up and engage in re-orientation behavior here. So it was a real treat to see them zooming along early this morning!

11 northbound is the highest single day count of Hermit Thrush for the count, and it’s the highest season total (it was previously 9 for both of those; every season total for HETH in the MF dataset has come from just one day, illustrating that Catharus at Morning Flight count are truly a special thing!).

The late-season diversity mixed in with the Yellow-rumps was impressive, as Blackpoll (28) and Palm Warblers (30), Chipping Sparrows (31), Dark-eyed Juncos (91), and more also headed north in the flight. Northern Flickers once again made a late push-- the 504 northbound put us at 4,693 for the season, which is the second-highest flicker total on official record!

We also had *another* mega flight of Eastern Phoebes, surpassing even Monday’s outstanding flight. We had 285 north past the count today, and we are now 631 for the season (the previous season high was 166)! A solid kinglet flight (194 Ruby-crowned, 63 Golden-crowned) occurred as well, and we are having a Top 3 season for both species, with the potential for more!

On the boreal front, we had a great day for Purple Finches, with 330 northbound! This shatters the previously all-time season high of 1,486 from 2010 and puts over 1,600! Wow! Red-breasted (51) and White-breasted Nuthatch (21) were also flying in solid numbers, and we are having a Top 3 flight for them as well. This October truly has been a banner month for landbird migration on a lot of levels!

Interestingly, there have been very few Blue Jays in morning flight past the count since the end of September when there was a significant push of them that has since seemed to taper off. Maybe they’re all hanging out at our backyard feeders (certainly many are enjoying our well-stocked feeders). For bonus diversity, an Orange-crowned Warbler, 2 Black-throated Green Warblers, a Baltimore Oriole, and 2 Yellow-billed Cuckoos, were all wonderful to see. We also had another Vesper Sparrow, which is another season high count (even though it’s just 4!).

Many thanks to Brett Ewald, Erik Bruhnke, Adehl Schwaderer, and Jerald Reb for the notable assistance and great company on the dike this morning! Tomorrow morning will have winds out of the NE and should still be interesting, but an offshore storm coming in that afternoon will bring strong east winds and rain this weekend. However, a front is lining up nicely for October 30-31, which is historically a great time for American Robins!

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

Morning Flight - Wednesday, October 24, 2018

It was a bumping day of abundance at the Higbee dike today! Ripping NW winds (gusts up to 25) brought good numbers to the count today but stifled diversity (as is typical for the first day of a strong front). 7,345 Yellow-rumped Warblers streamed north from out of the treeline, giving my clicker finger a good workout. Present in moderate numbers during the early morning, American Goldfinches (998, the peak flight ever for the count) and Purple Finches (276) took over later on in the morning after Yellow-rumps had tapered off. We are truly having a special fall for finches in the region. We shattered the American Goldfinch total long ago and are in exciting, uncharted territory for them this fall. And although we have not had any Top 3 Purple Finch flights, we have had numerous consistently good (100+) days for them and are now in position to break the all-time record for the Purple Finch season total at the Morning Flight Count!

A great Sharp-shinned Hawk flight brought additional entertainment to the count today, watching a mix of immatures and adults dive through cover to flush Yellow-rumps and finches out from their hiding places. Four Bank Swallows and a northbound Vesper Sparrow near the end of the count period were welcome bonuses! No morning flight season has ever had more than 3 northbound Vespers. Will we be the first?

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!

Seawatch - Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Today was a nice flight, totaling 14,000+ birds, primarily scoters and cormorants.  Double-crested Cormorants were evident throughout the day, with large flocks here and there with smaller groups filling the time between.  Over 6000 were counted, with early morning and dusk pushes containing the biggest flock sizes.  Most birds were heading down Sea Isle, but many were far out at the horizon, disappearing for extended periods of time when they got too close to the water. 

6400 scoters graced the Seawatch today, a respectable number for this time of year and sub-optimal winds.  Many flocks were too far out to confidently assign to species, but some of the late evening flocks came close and gave great views in the afternoon lighting.  142 Green-winged Teal, along with an Eider, a couple Long-tailed Ducks, and 7 Bufflehead highlighted some of the diversity today.  Also worth mentioning is that Northern Gannets have become more common and were easily seen throughout the day, many close to the jetty, so if you are looking to see some gannets and good scoter numbers, then these next few weeks are best!

Thanks to the 15+ mph Northwest winds, quite a few birds were flying in off the ocean today.  Four Northern Harriers and an American Kestrel were the most interesting raptors coming off the ocean today, along with the more expected Merlin and Peregrine Falcons.  Passerines coming in included a good number of Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Goldfinches, along with some Pine Siskins, a couple Chipping Sparrows, a Brown-headed Cowbird, a Purple Finch, and an American Robin.

Check out the Trektellen totals here:


Morning Flight - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

There were birds in the air this morning, but they were overwhelmingly headed towards the point on today’s SW winds! Finches dominated the flight today, with American Goldfinches (510), Purple (112) and House Finches (84), and Pine Siskins (26) all heading south past the count today. 
Migration counters appreciate species with uber-distinct flight styles.
Meadowlarks are no exception. 
460 American Robins also flew south, but warblers were few and far between with only 112 southbound Yellow-rumps and handfuls of Palm and Blackpoll. Some cooperative Eastern Meadowlarks, another foot-level Brown Creeper, a late Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker winging its way down the shore were the bonus highlights of the morning.
Red-headed Woodpecker over Black Scoter.
Not too many places where you can take that photo. 
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!

Seawatch - October 20-21, 2018

Two more days of westerly winds brought somewhat slow but very interesting days.  As we are approaching peak scoter days, the winds matter much less, and so we still managed over nearly 5000 scoters on Saturday and 15,000 on Sunday.  The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly the 3 Red-necked Grebes that flew by, the first two in the rain, on Saturday, plus two Horned Grebes.

A good push of Laughing Gulls occurred with over 3000 counted.  Sunday brought over 4000 Double-crested Cormorants, with plenty more to come in the coming week.  A nice number of goldfinches and siskins were seen and heard coming off the water, and a Humpback Whale was seen not far offshore for the morning on Sunday.  Finally, a nice push of herons occurred on Sunday with 127 Great Blue Herons, 74 Great Egrets, 3 Snowy Egrets, and 24 Black-crowned Night-Herons.


These next two weeks will most certainly see the peak flights of the season, and the coastal storm bringing easterly winds this coming weekend could prove to produce a huge flight.  Stay tuned!

-David Weber

Morning Flight - Monday, October 22, 2018

A diverse horde of birds took advantage of the light NW winds on the second day of the cold front this morning! Sparrows were flushing from the road as I pulled up to the dike, and both species of kinglets (infamous for their pre-sunrise movements) were already flying in big numbers as I was getting set up. The temptation to count them was strong, but I had to wait until 7:01 to begin! I estimate around 60 escaped the count while I was there, but only the birds truly know how many moved pre-sunrise.

I spent the first 15 minutes of the count peering over the lip of the dike and surveying the sea of Phragmites to count Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets darting low, which were moving in similar proportions until Ruby-crowneds pulled ahead big time. Several Brown Creepers also shot low across the leeward side as well. This elfin forest sprite is one of my favorite birds to see in morning flight-- I just wish they would get up higher so I could get a flight shot!

Little did we realize how many phoebes would be flying today. 
Here's a Ruby-crowned Kinglet that got above the phrag.
Check out that eye ring and the yellowish flanks! 
As the sun continued to creep into the cloudless sky, long strands of American Robins began picking up over the dike, with Yellow-rumped Warblers dotting around them like flak. I stared at the spectacle, utterly in awe of the sheer number of birds moving. The contrast between the meatball-sized kinglets jumping through cover and the river of robins was quite the incredible and amusing contrast.

Thankfully we had predicted that today would be a big flight day, and help from the wonderfully supportive Cape May community was on the way. Glen Davis (former counter and my MF mentor) arrived and began making rate-of-passage estimates for the American Robins and Yellow-rumps, while still somehow finding time to pick new species out of the chaos, such as our first official Orange-crowned Warbler for the count. David Weber (our seawatch counter, on his day off) and Maria Smith (former interpretive naturalist) jumped into action counting kinglets and nuthatches. Adehl Schwaderer (also on her day off) once again clicked flickers while trading off data entry with me. Pulses of finches, waxwings, woodpeckers, and general songbird diversity kept me plenty occupied. It quickly became clear that Eastern Phoebes were moving in a big way this morning, as one after another continued to be called out to me. I quickly tossed an extra clicker to Maria Smith who began counting them fastidiously.
I just can't help myself--I love sapsuckers!
Yellow-rumps kept pouring. American Robins kept streaming. Northern Flickers kept bounding. Kinglets kept zipping. And phoebes kept chugging their way past us in ever more surprising numbers! The previous single-day record for Eastern Phoebe past the official count was 51. It’s now 265!!! Holy Janice! Big kudos to Maria for counting half if not more of that total.
This robin came after the main pulse, hence the better light.
That's a new angle on a phoebe for me. 
As temperatures and cloud cover increasing with time, the massive pulse of birds tailed off around 8:30 AM (at which point I could handle counting most things by myself), but there were still busy numbers of Yellow-rumps, phoebes, kinglets, nuthatches, and woodpeckers passing through until 11:30. A late-in-the-day Lark Sparrow, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Black-billed Cuckoo were great bonus birds.

We finished the day with just over 11,000 American Robins and Yellow-rumps, and 407 flickers (we’re over 4,000 and have the 3rd highest count for them in the dataset, if I hadn’t mentioned that already), 23 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and 14 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. 
An adult male Red-bellied Woodpecker bounds by. 
391 Ruby-crowned Kinglets (top 3 single day flight!), 114 Golden-crowned Kinglets, 189 Purple Finches, 105 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 10 White-breasted Nuthatches, 14 Brown Creepers (top 2 single day flight!) were also great totals for a very busy but very fun morning.

Nuthatch comparison!
Size is hard to judge in flight but note the more elongated profile of the WBNU. 
A final, hearty thank you to everyone who came up on the dike and helped or just enjoyed the spectacle! Counting is much easier when you have a birding community like Cape May supporting you! The winds will be out of the SW tomorrow morning, but another cold front will be coming through Tuesday evening. It’s a great time to be in Cape May!

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!

Morning Flight - Sunday, October 21, 2018

It was a howling ripper on the Higbee dike today! Driving rain and hail started the count, kicking me off the dike in the first 15 minutes. I only stayed in my car for another 15 minutes because the precipitation passed through so quickly, and then birds started flying in its wake. Northwest winds were sustained throughout the count at around 25 mph with gusts into 30 mph. There were literally warblers that I couldn’t identify because I was shivering so much from being wet in the wind! These conditions strongly influenced the flight lines today by largely keeping songbirds low and along the dunes or even just above the road.

Much like the first day of the cold front that came through on October 16th, Blackpoll Warblers were flying in big numbers today. We had 442 northbound individuals today, and we are nearly 1,000 birds over the previous season-high! I hope to hypothesize about why this might be in future posts, but not tonight. Yellow-rumped Warblers were also moving through the dunes but in limited numbers (for their standards), with 684 northbound.

Although today’s flight was fun, there was a much better flight to be had at the Coral Avenue dune crossing. Sam Wilson had somewhat fewer Blackpoll Warblers but nearly 10,000 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 900 American Goldfinches, 250 Pine Siskins, and 130 Purple Finches! Just another reminder Cape May is a system, and flights can be better for certain species at different places depending on the conditions. However, I think the day will belong to Higbee tomorrow with the lighter NW and lots and lots of birds up on the radar tonight! It should be a great day across Cape May in general though.

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!

Morning Flight - Saturday, October 20, 2018

We had to have a slow day eventually! It was a much more quiet day on the Higbee dike this morning with cloudy weather and blustery WSW winds. The usual October cast was present, but they were reduced to moving in trickles, except for American Robins which were moving both north and south along the eastern treeline.

While this morning was on the tranquil side, there’s still good weather in the forecast for the next week! See the image below for a regional weather summary.

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!

Seawatch - Friday, October 19, 2018

The first day of the Fall Festival was an excellent day with a strong flight!  The first hour saw a strong push of scoters, primarily Black Scoter, and we ended the day with 10,000 Black Scoter and 2500 Surf Scoter heading south.  Interestingly, we saw lots of northbound scoters, totaling 8000 birds.  These were no doubt part of the 15,000+ scoters that Tom Reed counted leaving the Delaware Bay throughout the morning.  These birds are wrapping around Cape May and heading north to winter anywhere from Long Island to Maine!

There was also a nice flight of dabbling ducks, headlined by Green-winged Teal, of which there were 821 southbound birds, often in sizable flocks but also mixed in with scoters.  Northern Pintail and American Black Ducks were making their presence known today, with over 100 of each flying by throughout the day.  Lots of Wood Ducks were also seen, totaling 75 for the day, often flying right overhead.  Northern Shoveler and American Wigeon came by in small numbers but were always a treat to see.  Other notable ducks seen were both Greater and Lesser Scaup, 9 White-winged Scoter, a Long-tailed Duck, and some Bufflehead.

A Horned Grebe was seen sitting in the inlet, but was not seen actively migrating so it was not "counted."  Some interesting birds came in off the ocean today, including another Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a Belted Kingfisher, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Cedar Waxwing, kinglets, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, and a Dark-eyed Junco. 

3500 cormorants moved by, mixing with scoters and sneaking by over Sea Isle, making counting challenging!  A late Black Skimmer headed south and a Common Tern was also seen in the huge gull feeding flock off the jetty, which included over 250 Bonaparte's Gulls!

The birds are picking up!  Come on out to the Seawatch!

Good birding,

Morning Flight - Friday, October 19, 2018

Regular readers of the blog may be getting tired of hearing me wax romantic about the flights lately, but things have just been that good! It’s truly a blessing. With lots of birds on the radar last night and winds light out of the west in the morning, today’s flight was truly one of astounding abundance and surprising diversity for the date. And the best part was that it was enjoyed by the Fall Festival crowd! The flight was great not only at Higbee, but also at the HawkWatch and the South Cape May Meadows (Cape May is a whole system, as they say). There were simply birds everywhere, all day.

Tom Reed was swing counting at the Higbee dike this morning, but I am writing the blog today because TR broke his right index finger last week, and I just love sharing the good word about Morning Flight. The off-day allowed me a much-needed morning to bop around the Bayshore, the Point, and of course Higbee, soaking up the spectacle without having to worry about counting (although I couldn’t resist chipping in a little while on the dike). But thank goodness someone much more experienced was counting today-- I think I would have been flooded by the onslaught tide of Yellow-rumps, Robins, and finches!

We had our peak flight so far for Yellow-rumped Warbler and American Robin (11,892 and 5,511 northbound), entering the realm of rate-of-passage estimation for the Yellow-rumps. Both of these classic short distance migrants are such joys to watch move in big numbers. We also surpassed the previous all-time season total for American Goldfinch for the official Morning Flight Count today! The previous season high was 1,563 from 2015, and today’s flight of 545 northbound lands us at 2,044 with much more finch flight window to come! On top of that, a great Purple Finch flight of 330 northbound puts us within striking distance of another Top 3 season total. If you had asked me in the dregs of mid-September whether I was writing blog posts like this, I wouldn’t have known what to think.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the morning was the stellar Northern Flicker flight for the date, which just yesterday I had mentioned as getting late. Tom counted 1,058 of these golden stunners winging their way north, our peak flight for them this season. This fall has been full of wonderful surprises (when TR is surprised by something in Cape May, that’s how you know it’s a big deal), and this is now a Top 3 season total for Northern Flicker in the official count database!

The other surprise was the awesome movement of Black Scoters along the Delaware Bay today, which poured south in shifting, racing waves past the count (TR estimated ~18,000 during the MF count period). Although these scoters were cheating across the Bay (there are always a subset that do that), it is a great time to visit the Avalon Seawatch, which is really ramping up now! The photography conditions from the jetty there in the clear orange, afternoon light are tremendous.

But who am I kidding-- there’s great birds to be witnessed everywhere in Cape May right now, so COME BIRDING!!! Thanks to Evan Obrecian (a veteran Morning Flight counter from the early 00’s) and Jerald Reb for their help with the count today.

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!