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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Martin Selzer

January 18, 2014
Cape May, New Jersey


A group of 22 people in 12 cars (so much for reducing our carbon footprint on this day) met at Stone Harbor Point for this day’s efforts to find winter’s visitors to the Cape May area. While the temperature was seasonal, a strong wind was with us all day creating a brisk wind chill and keeping land birds scarce.

At the point we did find several mixed flocks of Surf and Black Scoters out in the surf along with a few Common Loons and Long-tailed Ducks. Along the beach were a few Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone. From here we moved on to the free bridge to Nummy Island to search for the pair of hen King Eider which has been there for the prior month. Now I had stopped and looked for these ducks prior to meeting the group as I was running ahead of time. I had found them but I hadn’t said anything in case they had picked this moment to disappear. By the time the group arrived the sun was out and we had wonderful views of these eiders, Red-throated Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Buffleheads and a Northern Harrier.

We then moved on through the Wildwoods to Two Mile Beach National Wildlife Refuge. The hope was for more and better looks at sea ducks, shorebirds and maybe, just maybe a lingering Snowy Owl. Sometimes your plans don’t work out as well as they look on paper but you don’t know that till you execute them. We did have an adult Bald Eagle soaring overhead as we returned to our cars after our little walk on the beach.

Next we drove to the Cape May Lighthouse State Park. After a quick pit stop, we checked out Lighthouse Pond to search through the waterfowl there. We quickly found 3 drake Redheads, numerous American Widgeon, Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shovelers, a Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Pintails, and yes a drake Eurasian Widgeon. Sometimes your plan DOES work out just like you think it will on paper. We then walked the yellow trail to the wooden gate where the Ash-throated Flycatcher HAD been seen a few weeks ago. As I said land birding was quiet today and all we could muster up here were a few Song and White-throated Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wrens and Chickadees. We then went back to our cars for a lunch break before going on a “DOVE QUEST”

The area around Lincoln and Whildin Streets the last few years has been home to 2-4 Eurasian Collared Doves and from time to time a White-winged Dove has seen fit to visit Cape May Point too along with Mourning Doves. This winter is such a time, so we went to 113 Harvard Avenue to check out the feeder that the White-winged Dove has been frequenting. When we arrived all we found was a very well fed squirrel monopolizing the feeder. So we checked the dunes for the dove and the Painted Bunting that also has been in the area (no joy or doves or buntings there) as well as checked the surrounding streets. After about 20 minutes we returned to the feeder and saw a Mourning Dove on the feeder and another dove was on the ground. When flushed it, we could see it was the White-winged Dove. Fortunately it went to a tree right by the feeder than to its favorite Black Pine trees across the street in the dunes. Okay, this didn’t quite work out as perfectly as the ducks on Lighthouse Pond but it worked out a heck of a lot better than Two Mile Beach NMR!

We then started to work our way up the bay to try to find birds. We stopped at Miami Beach in the Villas hoping to find some gulls and shorebirds. Mostly we found a strong breeze coming in off the bay. Undaunted we went out to Reed’s Beach and guess what, the wind was still blowing strong and the Snow Goose flock was deep in the marsh.

Our last stop of the day was Jake’s Landing Road. Yes, the wind was still a blowing and it was far too light to legitimately expect Short-eared Owls (apparently the NJAS Raptor workshop didn’t have them either. Conditions just weren’t favorable). What we did have and I really wouldn’t have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it was a small Harbor Seal on the boat launch sunning itself. Apparently it had come up the creek from the bay and just needed a place to rest and get warm. For those concerned the seal was long gone by the time the raptor workshop had arrived as they did not see it. Now I’ve seen River Otter and Muskrats here but this was a first. The seal was instantly was proclaimed the BEST BIRD of the day (yes we understand it is a mammal) but sometimes the voting goes that way.

Thanks to everyone who came along today.

Martin