Misty Cape May Morning

Today we took our first summer birding trip down to Cape May Point State Park. It was a really hot day, around 90 degrees, but we still managed to see 30 species birds. On the drive down it was pretty foggy, and it was still pretty misty by the time we got down to the Point.

Misty Morning at the Hawkwatch Platform Pond (Image by BirdNation)

Bird species along the main trail included Mute Swans, Mallards, Tree Swallows, Common Yellowthroats (heard), Forster’s Terns, Laughing Gulls, Ospreys, Northern Mockingbirds, Purple Martins, Canada Geese, an Eastern Kingbird,and Red-winged Blackbirds. There were also hundreds of tiny toads hopping across the trail.

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Tree Swallow (Image by BirdNation)
Purple Martin female
Purple Martin female (Image by BirdNation)

We had a few fun surprises on the beach. Two Brown Pelicans flew by over the ocean.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans (Image by BirdNation)

After I took the above picture the pelicans skimmed very close to the ocean’s surface. They used an aerodynamic phenomenon call the “ground effect”. As the pelicans fly close to the water with their full wingspan, the air is “funneled” between their wings and the ocean surface. This effect allows the birds to stay aloft and increases efficiency. Eventually the bird must gain some speed by flapping and slightly ascending in order to continue its glide. Many birds use the ground effect over water, but this principal also works on land.

Another interesting thing to note about these Brown Pelicans: the bird on the left is an adult and the one on the right is immature. You can see the whitish-yellow of the adult’s head that the immature bird lacks.

We also spotted pods of dolphins! They were relatively close to the beach, and would occasionally leap out of the water (wish I captured that in a picture!).

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Bottlenose Dophin Fins (Image by BirdNation)

There were also many pairs of American Oystercatchers. Some pairs were just strolling along the beach together, while others were guarding/sitting on eggs. This pair has a banded Oystercatcher, so I’ll submit my band findings to the American Oystercatcher Working Group and let you know what I find out.

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Taking a stroll (Image by BirdNation)
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Banded American Oystercatcer (Image by BirdNation)

This couple added some furnishings to their nest site…

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Decorating the Nest (Image by BirdNation)

We were also really lucky to catch a glimpse of this couple’s two eggs (from a safe distance behind the barrier zooming in with the camera of course!) It was our first time seeing American Oystercatcher eggs.

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American Oystercatcher Eggs (Image by BirdNation)

Our final beach surprised was a Sanderling in breeding plumage. It was all by itself, so I wonder where its flock mates went. Sanderlings are usually at the shore in the winter, so I think this little guy missed the memo that its summertime now.

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Sanderling in breeding plumage (Image by BirdNation)

Our misty Cape May trip was a great way to start off our summer birding.

Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer!

Happy Summer Solstice!

I can’t believe summer is already here. This will be an interesting summer for me. I’m usually off for 10 weeks, but this year I have a summer job. Here’s a picture of my workplace:

I’m a nature summer camp intern at Rancocas Nature Center. I’m excited that I get to spend the next few weeks working outside and learning more about nature 😁.

Now that it’s a new season, I’ve been reflecting on my year list. Since winter (where we observed 81 species) I’ve added 71 species to the list, bringing my total to 152 species in 2018. We had a great spring migration this year. Here are some of the highlights.

  • Team BirdNation participated in the 2018 Great American Arctic Birding Challenge from March 1-June 1. Overall we observed 62 species on the checklist.
  • 60 species, including our first Caspian Tern, at Forsythe NWR during Global Big Day
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Willet on Global Big Day (Image by BirdNation)
  • Added 2 warblers to our life list: Northern Parula at Amico Island and Canada Warbler at Patuxent Research Refuge
  • Took a “mini vacation” to Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland. Saw Pileated Woodpeckers for the first time in 3 years
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Patuxent Research Refuge on a rainy day (Image by BirdNation)
  • Red Knots for the first time ever at Fortescue Beach as well as thousands of other shorebirds and Laughing Gulls
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Semipalmated Sandpipers (Image by BirdNation)
  • Our first Wilson’s Snipe at Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve
  • Met Pete and Phoebe, the resident pair of Piping Plovers at Barnegat Light SP
  • Had an awesome trip to Forsythe with my friends Deborah and Bella, where we saw 51 bird species, some snakes, and tons of turtles
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Black Skimmers and Laughing Gulls (Image by BirdNation)

Spring migration was awesome this year. We got 5 life list species (Wilson’s Snipe, Red Knot, Canada Warbler, Northern Parula , and Caspian Tern), and went on lots of great birding trips.

Summer always ends up being a little slow due to the heat, but you never know what will show up. We are also heading to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in August, so that’s something to look forward to. Can’t wait to see what the summer will bring!

How was your spring migration this year? What birds did you see? Tell us about them in the comments! 

Also, don’t forget to join the flock on Instagram, @birdnation123

The Waders: Wood Stork

This week’s featured Wading Bird is the Wood Stork. Last year on my birthday, we saw a juvenile Wood Stork in Cape May, NJ. Since the Wood Stork range is the southeastern United States, our Wood Stork was considered a rarity and delighted many excited birders for a few weeks in NJ.

Description:

Adult:

  • Large bird, standing at about 3 feet tall
  • Mainly white with black flight feathers
  • Bald, scaly looking heads
  • Thick curved black bill with long neck
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Wood Stork adult (Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP via nrp.org)

 

Juvenile:

  • Similar plumage colors to adult
  • Pale bill that darkens with age
  • Grayish feathers on neck

Range:

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the Caribbean, coasts of Mexico

Habitat:

Cypress swamps, lagoons, marshes, ponds. Mainly freshwater habitats

Diet:

  • Fish, reptiles, invertebrates, amphibians, aquatic insects, nestlings
  • Forages in shallow water with bill partially open; snaps bill close in contact with prey
  • Sometimes uses its feet to stir up prey or flaps to startle prey

Breeding/Nesting:

  • Courtship: A male starts off aggressive towards a female, but once he accepts her into the territory will bring her sticks and preen her. Pairs stay together for one breeding season.
  • Nesting: Colonial nesters in trees above standing water. Nesting locations include mangroves, stands of cypress trees, or flooded impoundments. The pair will construct a nest of sticks that is lined with greenery and guano. The nest will end up being 3- 5 feet wide and take 2-3 days to construct.
  • Young: Both parents will incubate 3-5 eggs for 28-32 days. The young are fed by both parents and will be guarded in the nest by a parent for about 5 weeks. First flights occur around 8 weeks, but the young will usually stick around the nest to be fed and to sleep until about 11 weeks.
Wood Stork
Wood Stork juvenile (Image by David Horowitz)

Vocalizations:

Usually silent except during nest. Young makes clattering bill noises while adults make croaking sounds.

Conservation:

Wood Storks are considered uncommon. Their populations have declined over the years. Threats include changes in water levels, nest predation  from terrestrial animals, and habitat degradation.

Fun Facts:

  • The Wood Stork is the only native stork species in North America.
  • When temperatures  rise in the late afternoon, Wood Storks will soar high in the thermals just like raptors.
  • Wood Storks used to be known as the “wood ibis”, even though they are not ibises.

 

You can check out our previous Wading Bird post about Black-crowned Night-Herons here.

Forsythe Fun with Friends

I recently took a trip to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR with my friends Deborah and Bella. It was their first time visiting the refuge. Both Deborah and Bella have worked at nature centers, with Bella currently working in horticulture. I had such a blast spending the day with them, and learned a lot of new information from them about plants and snakes.

We started our trip taking a short walk around the visitor center and Lily Lake. A few birds around this area included Wood Ducks, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbirds, House Finches, and Purple Martins, as well as tons of beautiful flowers/plants.

Before entering the wildlife drive we spent some time at the Eco Leeds Boardwalk and Gull Pond. Highlights included fiddler crabs, Barn Swallows, Great Egrets, and Least Terns.

We even had a special surprise: snakes! I have never seen snakes at Forsythe before, so I’m glad I was able to see them with Deborah, “the snake lady” :-D.

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Snake among the lilies (Image by BirdNation)

The wildlife drive was really active. Birds included Red-winged Blackbirds, American Crowns, Snowy Egrets, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Gull-billed Terns, Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, Forster’s Terns, American Oystercatchers, Willets, Greater Yellowlegs, and Ospreys. Bella made what I think was the most exciting find of the trip: 3 Black-crowned Night-herons foraging. Black-crowned Night-herons usually forage at dawn or dusk. I usually see them roosting during the day, so it was amazing to see them foraging in the middle of the day. There were also lots of turtles out and about crossing the road. I helped a Northern Diamondback Terrapin get across who was trying to dig a hole for her eggs in the middle of the drive.

 

Overall we saw 50 species. I had a wonderful time at Forsythe with Deborah and Bella. I’m looking forward to another adventure soon!

 

An Evening at the Lake

We had lovely weather today; it was relatively cool for a June day. Dave and I decided to take advantage of the cool weather by going to one of our favorite parks, Haddon Lake Park.  We’ve walked around Haddon Lake easily over a hundred times over the years, but there was something very different about this time.

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The Fountain (Image by BirdNation)

They added a fountain. To be honest, I’m not really sure how to feel about it. Of course, my immediate response was, “How’s it going to affect the birds?”. It didn’t really seemed to have an impact on the amount of activity we witnessed.

Every year, Red-winged Blackbirds nest in the same shrubbery. This year there were a juvenile blackbirds hanging around the shrub and being fed by the adults.

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Young Red-winged Blackbird (Image by BirdNation)

As usual, there was multitudes of Mallards and Canada Geese. There were young birds with the adults in different stages of development. We heard this Mallard duckling peeping loudly. It seemed to have lost its mother.

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Mallard Duckling (Image by BirdNation)

A few minutes later, the female Mallard returned to her duckling and they spent the rest of the time swimming together.

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Female Mallard with her duckling (Image by BirdNation)

There were also Canada Geese goslings…can you find the ones in this picture?

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Canada Goose with goslings (Image by BirdNation)

…as well as finding a sleepy Domestic Goose gosling with its family.

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Domestic Goose chick (Image by BirdNation)

Other birds at the lake included Downy Woodpeckers, a Red-tailed Hawk, American Robins, House Sparrows, a Common Grackle, Gray Catbirds, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and this lovely Eastern Kingbird.

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Eastern Kingbird (Image by BirdNation)

It’s always a pleasure to go back to Haddon Lake. We have so many special memories, and each visit feels like going home.

Spring Odds and End

To me, birding is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. I pretty much try to go birding as much as possible. How often we go birding depends on the week and season. During spring migration, it’s not unusual for Dave and I to go birding 4-5 times per week (after work and at least once/sometimes twice on the weekend). Today I wanted to share some spring birding pics from some of our smaller excursions.

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Red-winged Blackbird, Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve (Image by BirdNation)
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Yellow Warbler, Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve (Image by BirdNation)
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Mourning Dove, Barnegat Lighthouse State Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Cedar Waxwing, Palmyra Cove Nature Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Magnolia Warbler, Amico Island Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Magnolia Warbler, Amico Island Park (Image by BirdNation)