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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Martin Selzer
January 17, 2015
Cape May, New Jersey
The beauty of a field trip to Cape May, any time of the year, is that there is always something there to see. You just have to have a little bit of luck and keep your eyes and ears open. Once I settled on meeting at The Cape May Point State Park I was counting on birds hanging in around the trails there and in and around the jetties at the point. I also had CMBO’s weekly series of walks and the local birding community to keep me posted on what was around. Then all I needed was to get the group on the birds once we found them.
With all that said, a loosely formed plan was set in motion as about 18 club members met me at the Lighthouse. We started off in search of the Orange-crowned Warbler at the small parking lot by the Lighthouse but we never found it. We then started off on the Red Trail in the park when the first text alert set us off in search of a flock of Common Redpolls along the dunes near Whildin Road. No luck there either (with the Redpolls that is, we found the dunes and Whildin Road no problem). While searching the dune grass in vain for the Redpolls and looking at Surf Scoters, a text alert told us there was a Yellow-breasted Chat back at the small parking lot by the Lighthouse. We hadn’t seen it earlier, so we started walking back to the Lighthouse and made a feeder stop when things starting picking up.
A Ruby-crowned Kinglet attracted our attention, quickly followed by a House Finch; then a Purple Finch and then 2-3 Pine Siskins. All of a sudden we were finding some birds and the day was looking up. Back at the small parking lot it was quiet until the Chat revealed itself, first spotted by Jack Betz. About 2/3rds of the group was able to get good looks at it. We also had a few Hermit Thrushes here. Hmmm, maybe there were some birds around today. We then finally made it to the Red Trail 2+ hours after we started out. As we came around a corner, Tom Reed quietly pointed out a Barred Owl to us, safely off the trail sitting there in the sun. All of a sudden we had gone from missing out on a couple target birds (OCWA and CORE) to having a serious discussion about the bird of the day. We also had picked up a few ducks on the little bit of open water on Lighthouse Pond and some soaring raptors.
As we kept walking along the Red Trail, someone spotted a Brown Thrashed back amongst the Holly Trees and Bayberry and then Alan Crawford, announced that he had an American Woodcock feeding back near the thrasher. Well things then got interesting as we had to find the well camouflaged shorebird in the shadowy leaf-litter and then get everyone to see it. Fortunately there were at least 2 Woodcocks so we worked at it and worked at it and persevered. We finished walking the Red Trail back to the gate in hopes of picking up some sparrows. We had Song, White-throated, Field and Swamp along the trail. Our Fox Sparrows for the day would have to wait till we visited the Northwood Center to not see Common Redpoll at the feeders there. While heading back to the car, another series of texts alerts indicated that Redpolls were being seen at Barnegat and all along the Bayshore.
We took a quick lunch break at the small parking lot where most of the folks who had missed the Chat got it but the Orange-crowned Warbler continued to skunk us. Then we headed to the Harbor before heading to Nummies Island and Stone Harbor Point. I figured we had as good a chance of lucking into redpolls along the coast as anywhere plus there were other birds we could find there.
We crossed the bridge from north Wildwood and pulled off the road. As I was getting out of my car to scan the inlet for waterfowl and the mudflats for shorebirds (this is a great spot for Marbled Godwits and American Oystercatchers), Alan starts yelling “Common Redpolls in the Goldenrod”. HOT DAMN, we had stopped right across from a flock of 5 of the very birds we had hoped to find. Scope views for all. Unfortunately, one car that had been ahead of me, only heard me say, “Stone Harbor Point” when we left the harbor, so after getting a soul-satisfying scope view and making sure everyone was looking at the Redpolls, I called them to get them back. Hey, you get in front of the field trip leader you run these risks.
From here we made stops at Stone Harbor Point and the Avalon Seawatch. At both spots we found Surf and Black Scoter, Long-tailed Ducks, Horned Grebes but not very much else. The day ended at Jake’s Landing Road where we had quite a few Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and distantly perched Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and a lone Short-eared Owl. The folks who stuck it out till dark also had calling Clapper and Virginia Rails.