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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Martin Selzer

January 19, 2013
Cape May, New Jersey


We met at the Hawk Watch Platform at the Cape May Point Lighthouse State Park and started our day by checking out the collection of waterfowl on bunker pond, and then the plover ponds before walking the trails. The ponds held American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shovelers, American Coots, Hooded Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, Gadwall, Canada Geese, Pied-billed Grebes, Double-crested Cormorants, and a very distant hen Canvasback. Unfortunately we couldn’t re-find the hen Eurasian Wigeon that was reported to us by our friends leading the CMBO morning walk at the point. In the skies over the ponds we had Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Black and Turkey Vulture and a Belted Kingfisher.

Along the trails we didn’t have much activity until we got back along the red trail near the split towards the bird blind on lighthouse pond. Here we ran into a few Yellow-rumps and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and then the Townsend’s Warbler that has been wintering in the area for more than a month now. It took a few minutes but EVERYONE in the group got great looks at this warbler. On lighthouse pond we added Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks to our day’s list. While most of us were looking at the ducks a couple members of the group picked up Orange-crowned Warbler and Field and Song Sparrows. Not bad having 3 species of warblers in January before having a 2nd species of goose.

From there it was time to look for the King Eider at St. Mary’s Jetty. Unfortunately after an extended stay at the surf around this jetty, the eider had just recently started to wander. Still we went to St Mary’s to look because you never know. Well no eider and only a couple very distant Black and Surf Scoters. Time to keep moving so we went to the cross-over at St. Peter’s to scan the ocean there. At the cross-over we noticed a photographer and happily realized his subject was a flock of Red Crossbills busily feeding in the pines in the dunes. We all quietly watched from the street and then joined him at the cross-over and were enthralled by these birds picking apart the pinecones. There were a few Red-breasted Nuthatches here too, but today they played second fiddle to the crossbills. If the day ended here I think most people would have been very, very satisfied. BTW –there was no eider to be seen in the surf here.

So we then went to the Harbor to find the Western Grebe which isn’t really a challenge since it rarely strays very far from the buoy it seems to have formed some sort of pair-bond. Here we also found Brant, Red-breasted Mergansers and noted Bufflehead even thought they were on the other ponds. While having a quick lunch break, KeeKeeKerr notices alerted us that the King Eider was now being seen at the Higbee’s Beach Jetty so we quickly changed plans and headed there.

The eider was quickly found although it had drifted a bit away from the shoreline in the time it took for us to arrive. A pair of Long-tailed Ducks landed next to the eider to help pad our list. We also had a flock of Dunlin on the jetty here with a few Sanderlings on the shore and 1 or 2 Ruddy Turnstones and a few Purple Sandpipers poking their heads up from the rocks. From here we made a dash to the Villas WMA where we added a few passerines with the most notable being a Fox Sparrow.

We then went to look for the Western Tanager in Cape May Court House and even though we did see a couple Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and a White-breasted Nuthatch and we even though we waited 40 minutes we did not see the tanager. Apparently it and the Crested Caracara were out and about planning their early appearance here for Sunday morning (timing is everything in birding as it is all aspects of life).

Our day ended at Jake’s Landing with Red-tailed Hawks, a pair of Bald Eagles and several Northern Harriers but no Short-eared Owls

Thanks to everyone in the group for helping find birds, assist getting people to see all the birds and making it a really wonderful day.

An additional tip of my binoculars to the proprietors and staff of no less than 5 South Jersey Wawas that were visited by field trip participates throughout the day during the course of our travels. It wouldn’t be a day birding in New Jersey without your coffee, food and facilities.

Martin Selzer