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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cape May - Lewes Mini Pelagic

Terminal Building
      The Birding Club of Delaware County met on 11/17/12 at the Cape May - Lewes Ferry dock at 9AM for what was going to be a very breezy ride to Lewes. We had eighteen brave souls attend the inaugural cruise and amazingly not one of the spirited crew got seasick. 
      Since there was a large boy scout troop that arrived in between all of us birders, it took a lot longer than anticipated to buy everyone's tickets. One birder, Janet Foote, tried what she thought would be a faster way to get her ticket, by using an automated machine but the machine ended up eating her credit card and the attendant had to take the machine apart to retrieve it (Seen in below photo upper left).
A few of the guests arrive
      Well, we managed to leave on time and as we were pulling out everyone was bundled up and ready to bird. Leaving the canal area Chris Langman spotted a few Purple Sandpipers at the end of the jetty and there was also a Ruddy Turnstone mixed in the flock. We managed to spot Herring, Ring-billed, Great Black-backed, Laughing and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the crossing.

Anxiously awaiting a flock of Scoters
Surf Scoter (Photo by Amy Langman)
     We started getting birds about a mile out when Bill Roache found the first three of several dozen Northern Gannets.  
Northern Gannet
     At first it was quite hard to pick out the distant scoters and identify them to species but we eventually were able to approach all three species close enough for good viewing and identification. We also had a ton of Red-throated Loons that were being flushed off the waters in front of the approaching ferry. I started counting them on the return trip and got up to thirty and gave up. We probably saw at least two hundred of them.  As we got closer to Lewes we enjoyed a quick pass of a Long-tailed Duck off the starboard bow. Just before the terminal dock we spotted a Peregrine Falcon perched on the tower on the end of one of the jetties. 
Peregrine near Lewes (Photo by Amy Langman)
      Other ducks we were able to find were Red-breasted Mergansers and Buffleheads. One Horned Grebe was spotted in Lewes along with Double-crested and Great Cormorant. Sanderling and Dunlin were on the beach at Lewes and we tried to find an Oystercatcher or a flock of Snow Buntings at Cape Henlopen beach as we passed by but to no avail.
       But the highlight of the day came about halfway across the first crossing. The group was standing on the bow and I happened to look over the side and back towards the stern when I saw a small dark bird approaching the ferry. I have seen female Red-winged Blackbirds on this crossing in the past, so I was expecting this bird to be that species. Suddenly as the bird quickly passed right next to and below me, I realized what I had. I yelled out to the group "White-winged Crossbill!". As if to give the birders a better view the bird flew across the bow and circled around and flew right back towards us. The bird crossed right in front of us, so close that I thought I felt the breeze as it passed. It hung around the ferry for about five minutes trying to find a place to land and take a rest, but it was very nervous about where to put down. It finally made a quick landing on the front netting on the bow next to two surprised passengers. Everyone was able to enjoy great looks as the  bird constantly flew around in front of all of us.
White-winged Crossbill onboard (Photo by Amy Langman)
White-winged Crossbill circling ferry (Photo by Amy Langman)
        As we returned to Cape May, Amy Langman found an all white gull sitting on the jetty that she believes was an Iceland Gull. This was gull species number six. We ended the trip with 26 species from the ferry. So I would have to say that the trip was a success.
       After the trip I went and drove around town near the state park in search of crossbills but had no luck. However, I was able to see approximately 30 or so Cave Swallows flying around the beach along Harvard Ave which parallels the beach. Also I found four species of dove today. Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, 2 Eurasian Collared-Doves and to my surprise a White-winged Dove.
White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove with Cave Swallow in background left of wire
Cave Swallow (Photo by Amy Langman)

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