Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Beanery 11/15--Cave Swallow

The sun was just rising when Mike picked me up this morning and we were off to Cape May to search for some rarities. Our first stop was as the ferry terminal where we hoped to make up for our miss on Friday by finding one of the Franklin's Gulls that had been reported lingering there after the big push. No luck there. An alert came through that an Ash-throated Flycatcher was at the old magnesite plant site, so we crossed the canal over to Cape Island proper and scooted over there, only to find that the bird was gone, heading in the direction of the Beanery--maybe. But in order to get on to the property, which the owners kindly let Audubon members bird, we needed current permit stickers, so it was off to CMBO store near Lily Lake. We were there a few minutes before the store opened, so we birded Lily Lake, picking up Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaups. We picked up our stickers, affixed them to the rain guards of our binoculars and got back in the car for the 5 minute drive

The Beanery is an old farm, portions of which are still in operation, though the main crop for which is was named--lima beans--are no longer grown. It has lots of opens space ringed by woods with some ponds scattered around and even a section with some ancient railroad tracks still extant. Looking through the alerts, Mike saw that even without the flycatcher, there were a couple of rarities to be sought there.

We weren't sure where on the big expanse to look, but a local birder directed us and soon we were with 10 or so other birders, a few of whom we knew. The first cool bird we found was an Orange-crowned Warbler, one of the last warblers to migrate and one that always seems to be a rarity. A Baltimore Oriole flew in and there were Rusty Blackbirds, as well as Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, Cooper's, and Sharp-shinned Hawks, along with both vulture species.

Actually, the one species I really wanted while we were down at Cape May was a swallow. A Franklin's Gull would be nice, but I had plenty out west. Same with the OC Warbler. We walked around with Barb, a local birder, who knew the place far better than we did, and after a while we saw two birds fly over our heads--one was a swallow, the other, very yellow underneath, was the Western Kingbird everyone was looking for.

Western Kingbird
It landed in a tree across the field and we got decent looks at it both through binoculars and through other birder's scopes but we wanted to really look at this one so we stalked it for a while and, as you can see, I got decent documentary photos of this western cousin of our Eastern Kingbird (all of which are long gone and probably very happy in South America right now). While I had Western Kingbird this year out west, I'd never seen one in NJ. (It was especially galling to miss this species about a month ago when there was one on Great Bay Blvd in my home county but I was too feckless to seek it out.) So while I was admiring this one, Barb called out to me "Cave!" I came running about the length of a football field to see a small flock of Cave Swallows overhead, in very good light. That was a year bird. And a state lifer. So in the space of the 5 minutes I got two state lifers. When you've been birding NJ as extensively as I have, that's almost unheard of and I doubt it could have happened any other place in the state other than Cape May. 

Well, we could have packed up and gone home then, but we, of course, didn't. We checked out the state park and got a Eurasian Wigeon on Lighthouse Pond. A rarity anywhere else in the state. In Cape May a "by the way" kind of bird.  We checked a couple of other spots, hoping for the elusive Franklin's but that bird just doesn't seem to be for us this year. 

Before heading home we made a loop of Brig, filling in our checklist until it reached 80 species for the day. The last bird of the day was a calling Great Horned Owl as we drove the upland portion of the Wildlife Drive in the dark. 

Our list for the Beanery is a good sampling of the day:
34 species
Gadwall  7
Black Vulture  6
Turkey Vulture  9
Northern Harrier  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  3
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon   5
Mourning Dove  8
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1     Heard
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Western Kingbird  1    
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  10
Cave Swallow  9
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Eastern Bluebird  5
American Robin  50
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  2
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Palm Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Swamp Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Rusty Blackbird  10
Baltimore Oriole  1
Purple Finch  2
American Goldfinch  5

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