Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cape May 3/9--ROSS'S GOOSE, Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)

Photos: Shari Zirlin
This makes up for what I didn't see on Friday. I got my lifer ROSS'S GOOSE today in a field off Seagrove Avenue in Cape May. (It was not a lifer for Shari.)

The traditional way of finding a Ross's Goose is to scan a large flock of Snow Geese, looking for the one goose that is smaller, with a stubby bill and no "grin patch" on the side of the beak. Sometimes, I hear, you actually find one and can get a decent look at it before it is swallowed up into the flock, which shuffles around in the distance or flies off altogether. So I was incredibly fortunate that this bird, which originally was found last week, sticking out like a snowball in a coal pile in a flock of Canada Geese on Lily Lake, was all alone in field of stubble. I had seen on eBird that the bird had been relocated yesterday and on our way down I queried on Jerseybirds if the bird was still around. I quickly got an affirmative answer and was relatively confident we'd find the bird. We pulled up to the address and before I even got out of the car I saw a little white goose standing in the dry brown field. I saw a photographer in full camo sneaking up on the goose; I was afraid he was going to scare it away, so I quickly set up our scope and got great "field guide" looks at it. The photographer went down on his belly and started shooting. The goose might have been a little nervous due to his proximity because it started walking to the left; or the goose could have just been walking to the left. Shari approached and took a few photos. A few more people showed up, we showed them where the bird was and left after a half hour, very happy.

There are always interesting birds around Cape May county. The question is which ones to try for. The Smith's Longspur, which we tried for in February, has been rediscovered in Stone Harbor, but it is a long walk through sand to look for a nondescript brown bird. It didn't seem worth the effort.

Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)
Closer to where we were, about 3 minutes away, was the state park, and I'd heard that there was a rare duck there, so we decided to try to find that bird. We found it, but it won't appear on my life list because this bird is the Eurasian sub-species of our Green-winged Teal. Sub-species can be interesting. Sub-species can be rare. But sub-species don't "count."

And how can we tell this is the sub-species, you ask? Look at the photo below. Our Green-winged Teal have vertical white stripes on their flanks. The Eurasian type has a horizontal stripe. There are other subtle differences, but the stripe is what you look for.

Green-winged Teal                                      (Click on photo to enlarge)             Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)
Also on Lighthouse Pond I was surprised to find a Red-necked Grebe. This has been an invasion year for this species of grebe. Usually they're very rare in the east, but because of the severe winter in the Mid-west, where the Great Lakes are all but frozen over, they've been forced east to our relatively open waters. They're turning up all over the place--ponds, lakes, bays, inlets, the ocean--this is the 2nd one we've seen this weekend.

We looked around for a couple of other rarities, like the Painted Bunting and the Eurasian Collared-Dove with no luck. We've seen those birds in Cape May, so there was no real disappointment in not finding them. For the day we had 41 species.
Species                    Location
ROSS'S GOOSE     Sea Grove Ave.
Brant     Wetlands Institute
Canada Goose     Hawkwatch Platform
Mute Swan     Hawkwatch Platform
Gadwall     Lighthouse Pond--East
American Wigeon     Hawkwatch Platform
American Black Duck     Wetlands Institute
Mallard     Hawkwatch Platform
Northern Shoveler     Lighthouse Pond--East
Green-winged Teal     Hawkwatch Platform
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)  Lighthouse Pond--East
Lesser Scaup     Hawkwatch Platform
White-winged Scoter     Sunset Beach
Black Scoter     Sunset Beach
Bufflehead     Hawkwatch Platform
Red-breasted Merganser     Hawkwatch Platform
Red-throated Loon     Sunset Beach
Horned Grebe     Lily Lake
Red-necked Grebe     Lighthouse Pond--East
Double-crested Cormorant     Lily Lake
Great Blue Heron     Hawkwatch Platform
Turkey Vulture     Cape Island
Cooper's Hawk     Cape Island
Ring-billed Gull     Sunset Beach
Herring Gull     Wetlands Institute
Mourning Dove     Cape Island
Blue Jay     Sea Grove Ave.
American Crow     Sea Grove Ave.
Fish Crow     Cape Island
Carolina Chickadee     Cape Island
Carolina Wren     Sea Grove Ave.
American Robin     Sea Grove Ave.
Northern Mockingbird     Sea Grove Ave.
European Starling     Cape Island
Chipping Sparrow     Cape Island
Song Sparrow     Wetlands Institute
White-throated Sparrow     Cape Island
Northern Cardinal     Sea Grove Ave.
Red-winged Blackbird     Cape Island
Common Grackle     Sea Grove Ave.
House Finch     Cape Island
House Sparrow     Cape Island

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