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Sunday, September 28, 2014

In the Zone at Cape May

Zone-tailed Hawk (photo by Dave Eberly)

          There we were, standing on a platform above the beach along Coral Ave, just the five of us. Gary Becker, Rob McGraw, Bob Kelly, Dave Eberly and myself were birding around the cape this morning just hoping to pick up a few good birds, maybe a jaeger or Connecticut Warbler. We were watching a pod of Bottlenose Dophins passing the beach in front of us when Gary gets a text message. He reads it out loud. "There is a probable Zone-tailed Hawk that just passed over the hawk watch platform. We believe that it is now over the beanery". I can't believe my ears. A ZONE-TAILED HAWK? 
            Well thoughts start running through my mind like, should I suggest we head to the beanery to try to relocate the hawk? Then I think, Chances are not very got since the bird is on the move. It this point I just figured we wouldn't see the bird and so I just kept quiet. Then I looked up in the air and in the distance I saw what I thought was a Turkey Vulture approaching and said Out loud, "Here comes the hawk", not really believing it could be the actual bird. So I just put the scope on the bird and what is the first thing I see, a black tail with a broad white stripe. I yelled out that this is the Zone-tailed Hawk just as Dave was thinking the same thing.  Dave was quick to react and get his camera and he was able to get some record shots of the bird as it soared directly over us. As you can see in the photos the white tail band, the silver primaries and secondaries, and the translucence outer primaries confirming the identification. 
              We watched the bird sail out over the bay and out of sight, headed for Delaware. So I assume we were the last persons to see the bird in New Jersey. My understanding is that the bird was then spotted at the Cape Henlopen hawk watch 22 minutes later, as the crew there were put on alert by text messages from everyone in Jersey.
               What a thrill it was for all of us to be able to participate in the sighting of the first record for the state of New Jersey of a bird that is normally found only in Arizona, Texas and points farther south in Central America. This bird appears on the heels of another great bird found by Nick Pulcinella at Cape May a few weeks ago. The Whiskered Tern, only the third record for North America was discovered by Nick at the hawk watch in Cape May (see blog post below). 
Adult Zone-Tailed Hawk - broad white tail band and silver lined wings
           Thanks to my fellow birders for such an enjoyable weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! Your timing could not have been better with the small window of opportunity for seeing this bird. Congrats. Very jealous :-)


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