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Monday, May 13, 2013

Cape Island Coyotes at the World Series of Birding

We thought this was a good sign but it was just an advancing thunderstorm
        It was 1:30AM on May 11, 2013, when a knock came on the door telling me to get out of bed and let's get birding. It was Bill Roache, reluctant captain of the BCDC Cape Island Coyotes World Series of Birding team gathering his team of birders. I rolled out of bed and met in his kitchen along with the other constituents of the team, Susan D'Amico and Jason Kessler. Enthusiasm was high as we made the short drive over to the Cape May Meadows where we would commence our big day of birding.
        As we hiked the trail towards the ocean we immediately noticed the lightning coming off the Delaware shore heading our way. We also noticed the complete lack of nocturnal bird sounds. We were able to scratch out some Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards and calling Least Sandpipers before we were hit with a downpour of mega proportions. Of course none of us had on rain gear. That was all left back in the vehicle because we knew we wouldn't get caught in the rain. No way.
           Back at the car after a change of clothes we moved on to Bayshore Ave in search of owls. When we arrived we searched for owls but no luck. We did manage to pull out a Chuck-Wills-Widow calling from the canal area. Higbee Beach also wasn't giving up any of its owls that evening. Let's just say the rest of the nocturnal birding wasn't a big producer of birds. 
           Just before dawn we went to the concrete ship and scanned the bay. Forster's Terns and DC Cormorants were the most common birds but we also managed some gulls and one Black Scoter. At the state park we picked up the pace with Great Egret, Glossy Ibis, Purple Martins and three species of swallows. Along the beach we observed Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Gadwall, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a good find were 2 Caspian Terns.
American Oystercatcher at Plover Ponds
            Departing the state park we arrived at Higbee Beach. Warblers were hard to find but we did manage to find a few. Prairie, Black-throated Blue and Green Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Redstarts and Parula were seen, plus a fly over Summer Tanager was one of my highlights. Blue Grosbeaks and Orchard Orioles were quite common today but thrushes of any kind were non existent throughout the day. We had fly over shorebirds at Higbees also. Solitary Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers and Black-bellied Plovers. Also we found Pine Siskin and White-crowned Sparrow.  At the Cape May-Lewes Ferry jetty we found Purple Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-breasted Merganser and Black Skimmers.
           Off again, this time to the beannery. Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireo plus Eastern Bluebird were seen. The difficult to find below the canal in Cape May category produced Hairy Woodpecker, but missed the Prothonotary Warbler. As all of spring migration so far this year, today was in general pretty gruesome. We couldn't find a nuthatch or Great Blue Heron. No thrushes and just a few warblers.
Parasitic Jaeger
           Once again the rains came and so we went to the store at the concrete ship and stood on the covered porch for a sea watch. We were told that we just missed a Western Grebe but we made up for it by spotting Common Tern, Sanderling and Dunlin, both loons and best of all 5 Parasitic Jaegers. We also saw a flock of about 12 Black Scoters fly past our location. But as of yet, 1:00PM we still haven't found a Northern Gannet. We could tell by now that this wasn't going to be our best day.
             The World Series of Birding teams were not able to get on the Coast Guard Station this year but at the harbor we did find some lingering Brant, one Ruddy Duck and a flock of shorebirds that contained some Whimbrels. Bill thought he saw a Bald Eagle but it disappeared quickly behind some buildings and we never did find one today. In fact, raptors of any kind were impossible to find. One of the big misses for the day was Black Vulture. The next day they were everywhere around the cape. A quick trip to Poverty Beach only produced a Black Tern but no Royal Terns.

              We finished the day at the Meadows where we were rained on once again and added nothing. We finished the day with a below average total of 128 species. We managed to come in second place once again this year. Our only consolation was that all teams reported low totals. The winning team for the whole state only reported 186 species when usually they get 220. It was amazing that Brian Quindlen's (a Delco guy) youth team won the event beating out the favorite DVOC team by 4 birds. So after 18 hours of birding we headed home for a long night's rest and start planning for next year.
Susan D'Amico, Bill Roache & Jason Kessler

Susan D'Amico with the bicycle team in the background
           The next day we met for the breakfast banquet and awards ceremony. Since my wife Sharon was coming down to pick me up I left the ceremony after breakfast. We went over to the state park and were just getting ready to walk the trails when Susan called me and told me they just got word of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher along Seagrove Ave which was just around the corner from us. So we quickly hopped in the car and drove over. There was already a crowd of about 30 cars parked along the road. We managed to spot the Flycatcher almost immediately. In another 15 minutes most of the participants at the awards ceremony appeared at Seagrove Ave also.

BCDC Cape Island Coyotes


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