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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Martin Selzer

January 21, 2012
Cape May, New Jersey

The weather forecast for the day scared off everyone but Peter Burns, who was determined to join me birding this day. Once we were south of Milleville on Route 55 all signs of the snow were behind us. Now the day was still overcast and we had periods of light rain throughout the morning and much the afternoon but we still managed to target bird our way through Cape May County to a successful day. That’s not to say the initial journey was uneventful until we escaped the snowy roads of the immediate Philadelphia area. While we didn’t encounter any trouble ourselves other than a slower than normal trip but we did witness several accidents being cleared up and the evidence of cars having spun out. Apparently people weren’t following Sgt Phil Esterhaus’s warning to the watch patrol at the beginning of every shift on Hill Street Blues and “being careful out there”.

Using a combination of bird highlights posted in the days leading up to the field trip and text notices from Louise Zemaitis who was feeding me updates all day (Louise had spoken to Wyncote Audubon the night before) so she knew I would be leading this trip. Peter and I criss-crossed our way from the bay to the coast and the Point to Avalon and back again (more on that to come).

We started with the Rufus Hummingbird at CMBO Goshen after a quick stop at the Wawa meeting location to see if anyone else would be joining us. Since no one had indicated they still would be joining us I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there.

Then we took looks down Reed’s and Cook’s Beach Roads before the first notice from Louise set us off in search of a Black-headed Gull and a Black-headed Kittiwake around Norbury Landing. By the time we were just about there, the kittiwake was reported east heading into the canal but we did find the Black-headed Gull somewhere in the North Cape May area along Beach Drive in North Cape May and then a group of Bonaparte’s Gulls at the Ferry Terminal for good measure.

We knew the Eurasian Collared Doves and Dickcissel were being seen in the Whildin Avenue vicinity so that was our next stop. As we turned down Whildin Avenue sitting on the wires crossing Harvard Avenue was one of the Collared Doves. We didn’t even have to get out of the car for this bird either. We were having a really good day and I was beginning to worry about the trip report and all those people who had decided not to come along because of the weather. Do I tell the truth or do I swear Peter to secrecy that the trip wasn’t so good because of the snow and rain. If you are reading this you know which path I chose.

At the un-developed lot at the corner of Harvard and Whildin, the House Sparrow flock could be heard in the brush in the so we grabbed our umbrellas (it was raining now) and quietly stood across the street and waited for the birds to emerge from the cover of the multiflora rose tangles. After a few minutes the House Sparrows began to come into view but no Dickcissel, then from down the street more House Sparrows flew into the multiflora rose and sure enough, the Dickcissel joined them. It took a few more minutes before we got a full-frontal view but we were now 4 for 5 for the day and went to have lunch back at the Lighthouse State Park. By the end of the day, Peter had collected 4 lifers which may have explained his enthusiasm for wanting to make the trip.

After lunch we found a pair of Fox Sparrows around the entrance gate feeding amongst the White-throated Sparrows. We then made our way to the Beanery where we did not see either the Bell’s Vireo or the Yellow-Breasted Chat but we did see a couple Swamp Sparrows, 2 more Fox Sparrows and a Gray Catbird.

Next stop was Nummies Island, where we found four Marbled Godwits, numerous Black-bellied Plovers and American Oystercatchers, Brandt, Long-tailed Ducks and Common Loons. Stone Harbor Point yielded some Sanderling and not much else before we headed to the Avalon Seawatch where we had a small flock of Common Eider and Black and Surf Scoter. While we were there we received our last message from Louise which was about a Glaucous Gull at the St Peter’s Jetty in Cape May Point. So we were southward bound again. We arrived in time to find the 2nd winter Glaucous Gull on the jetty. We also had 2 Tree Swallows fly over our heads and had Ruddy Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers also on the jetty here before it was time to call it a day without going down Jake’s Landing Road and trying for Short-eared owls. It would have been dark by the time we got there and really could we have asked for much more today?

I then had to shovel out an ice encrusted side-walk and driveway in the dark when I got home but it was worth it!!

Martin Selzer