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Monday, November 01, 2010

Cape May Historic Bird Flight

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We just got back from Cape May, NJ, where we did a book signing for our all new, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, and witnessed their epic bird migration flight of songbirds this past weekend. A perfect storm of birds, due to favorable weather conditions, landed tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of birds all over Cape May, NJ just on their biggest fall birding event, the Cape May Bird Observatory, Autumn Weekend/The Bird Show. Wow!

Hermit Thrushes were everywhere!

There were birds everywhere. Lawns were carpeted with Yellow-rumped Warblers, every bush had scores of sparrows, Hermit Thrushes popped out of shrubs, trees and littered the parking lots. One had to be careful while driving not to hit the multitude of birds flying across the roads and the sides of the roads had dead birds, the unfortunate ones who didn't make it. Birders we talked to at the Sat. night banquet described the last 2 days as "the best birding of my life!"

We have never seen so many Swamp Sparrows, in one place, in our lives!

Hermit Thrushes were drinking out of the puddles in the parking lots, you had to be careful not to run them over.

The photo ops were outrageous. This shows the beautiful rufous tail of the Hermit Thrush a great ID clue.

There were many other kinds of sparrows too, such as this Field Sparrow.

Song Sparrows were so numerous, you almost had to watch where you stepped.

Swamp Sparrows could be seen from every angle. Here's one from the birding site, Higbee Beach WMA, where the sparrow action was hot.

A Henslow's Sparrow had been seen in the meadows at Higbee, and the field trip leaders tried to find it for everyone. Some folks saw it on Sat. but it eluded many of us on Sun.


Higbee is planted for bird habitat, so there are large expanses of sorghum (also know as milo, the kind you get in bird seed) to feed the migrant birds.

There is a tall platform at Higbee where birders can see the Morning Flight. Thousands of robins and Yellow-rumped Warblers passed there on Sat.

View from this tower includes a look out to the bay, where these scoters were flying by.

Below the many hawks Cape May is famous for, such as this Sharp-shinned Hawk, hunted for songbirds.

The Hermit Thrushes had to find food, competing with the thousands of other Hermit Thrushes, as well as dive for cover when the Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks came by.

Cape May is famous for it's lighthouse,

which you can see from the hawk watching platform, where official counters tally the season's species and numbers of raptors. My photos on this blog were all taken with my Canon 1D Mark IV camera and a 300 mm IS lens, plus 1.4 teleconverter.

From up on the hawk watching platform, you could look for hawks, look out over the water at ducks and geese,

or look down in the grass below were there were hundreds of sparrows. I got this photo of a beautiful and uncommon Lincoln's Sparrow in a bush right next to the hawk watch platform!


Cape May, NJ, one of the great birding meccas in the United States, had one of the most epic bird migrations in it's history. We feel so lucky we were there.

8 comments:

Birding is Fun! said...

and I just had to be in Idaho during this crazy event!

BirdGalAlcatraz said...

Wow! What I wouldn't give to have been there! Wonderful description and photos!

kellysalasin said...

growing up around cape may, i never understood all the hoopola around birds... now that i live in vermont, i get it... glad to be reconnected to the shore, thank you!

Bird Feeders said...

Lincoln's sparrows are one of my favorite sparrows! Great photo! However, we won't see anymore of them until next summer, and only a few at that (SLC, UT).

ian said...

Thanks for the informative post and for actually replying to your readers’ comments. That’s something I don’t see very many blog owners doing and that makes me frustrated. Keep up the good work and I’ll continue coming back here to learn more....

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Oh my gosh - sounds like it was AMAZING! Birds so plentiful you could step on them? What an event! Jealousy is setting in.

PI Naturally said...

WoW! What a great experience! Thanks for sharing. Cape May is definitely on my "To go" list!

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Ian,
Thanks for your comment.