Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cape May 3/23--Black-capped Chickadee, Eurasian Tree Sparrow

There are two introduced species of sparrows (genus: passer) in North America: the ubiquitous House Sparrow (a.k.a English Sparrow) and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (German Sparrow) which has a much more restricted range, sticking closely to the St. Louis area in which it was introduced in 1870. It has lately been extending its range a little farther north in the mid-west, but the easternmost sighting (until today) was in Ontario.

So when Shari saw the Jerseybird post that a Eurasian Tree Sparrow was being seen at a feeder in Cape May and Joan said that it would be a life bird for her (we've seen them in France), we sped (20 mph) through the rest of the Wildlife Drive at Brig and headed on down to Cape May Point.

The post said the bird was on Harvard Avenue, but when we passed Lincoln Avenue, which is around the block from Harvard, and saw a crowd of birders we stopped there. Last sighting there was 90 minutes previous. So we waited and while we were waiting, as it so often happens that there is a name for the occurrence (The Patagonia Picnic Table Effect), we saw another rarity at the feeder. I knew I would see a Black-capped Chickadee sometime this year--I just didn't expect it to be in Cape May about 100 miles south of their southernmost range in the state. But there it was, hockey stick pattern of white on the wings, flying from the feeder into the evergreen right above us, giving us excellent looks, but not good angles for photos.

After a few minutes I told Shari that I was going to walk around the corner to Harvard to see if the bird had reappeared there; if it had I would call her. If they saw the bird on Lincoln, obviously, call me. A few minutes after I got to the crowd around one feeder a birder called out several houses down the block, "Here it is!" We all ran down and quickly got on the bird. I had it in my binoculars just long enough to say "lookatthatsonofabitch," then called Shari. No answer. So, even though I am an old man who does not like to run and who even when young was not a fast runner, I ran around the block and signaled Shari & Joan (and everyone else) that the bird was not where they were.

We three got back to the spot and soon had the bird in our sights. Joan was thrilled. It had been quite a while for her to get a lifer. And it is actually a very pretty bird. I've always maintained that if you just look at a House Sparrow and forget about its invasive qualities, it is a beautiful bird. This bird, with its odd "ear" dot which makes it look like it has an extra set of eyes, its rufous cap, and its white collar, is a stunning bird.
Photos: Shari Zirlin
With House Sparrows for comparison

After watching the bird for a while, no bells rang, the sky did not have "Congratulations" written across it and the world remained pretty much the same and we moved on to Lighthouse Pond (where Joan got a sub-species lifer of Eurasian Green-winged Teal) and Sunset Beach before ending the day just as the clean slate sky opened up with rain.
Our lists:
Cape May Pt College Streets
Comments:    Harvard and Lincoln feeders.
12 species
Rock Pigeon  3
Mourning Dove  2
Carolina Chickadee  2
Black-capped Chickadee  1   
European Starling  10
Chipping Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  10
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Common Grackle  10
House Sparrow  50
Eurasian Tree Sparrow  1  

Lighthouse Pond
16 species (+1 other taxa)
Mute Swan  2    Nest on eastern part of pond
Gadwall  100
American Wigeon  25
Mallard  3
Northern Shoveler  10
Green-winged Teal  20
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)  1    Eastern section of pond. 
Ring-necked Duck  1    Eastern pond of pond
Lesser Scaup  2    Western part of pond
Bufflehead  3    Eastern part of pond
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  1
American Coot  1
Mourning Dove  1    Heard
Fish Crow  3
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
Common Grackle  3

Sunset Beach/Concrete Ship
6 species
White-winged Scoter  1
Black Scoter  10
Red-throated Loon  4
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Bonaparte's Gull  4
Fish Crow  5

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