Friday, July 15, 2016

Cape May 7/15--I Came, I Looked, I Failed. Twice

Black Scoter, Cape May
Permit me to grouse (bird pun intended). I went to Cape May, that birding mecca, this morning. A mecca during spring and fall migration. Maybe even in winter. But in summer, it is just a summer resort, its beaches crowded with NJ avoirdupois gleaming with sun block, leaving little room for interesting birds.

But I was in search of a specific species, far from the beach. For at least 2 weeks, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, in numbers ranging from 1 to 14, have been reported on a small, private pond in what I guess is North Cape May. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are a favorite of mine. Not beauties, like Wood Ducks, but goofy looking birds that amuse upon sight. So, last night, seeing that they were still being reported, I determined to make the 87 mile drive down there.

My hope was that I'd drive up to the pond, see at least one duck, then do some real birding, most likely at the Cape May Meadows and the State Park. Hope is a thing without feathers. I had to detour through the main part of Cape May because Rt 109 was blocked for road work, but my GPS got me there without any problem. I pulled up to the pond and saw lots of ducks and geese, along with Laughing Gulls and some crows. All the ducks were Mallards. I looked at every Mallard, sitting on the edge of the pond or resting beneath a willow tree. No whistling ducks.

They had also been seen at the Cape May Meadows, so that was my next stop. I figured, if nothing, else, I'd find a goodly number of shorebirds, one of which I could use for Bird A Day. There wasn't that much at the meadows, every shorebird there I'd already used, and of course, not a whistling duck to be seen.

The most interesting bird I saw, above, was an an out-of-season Black Scoter, but it doesn't even rate as a rarity as a few of these ducks, like Common Loons, seem to not make the northerly flight each year.

I went over to the State Park. The hawk-watch pond was great if you like Mute Swans--there were around 70 of them and not much else. I don't like Mute Swans. Lighthouse Pond had some Mallards.
The plover ponds were empty except for some geese. Toward the back of the 2nd pond I saw two oystercatchers with a chick. The trails through the woods were closed for construction, not that I felt like walking through them, knowing that they'd likely be unproductive.

After lunch I drove back to Shunpike Road for a 2nd look at the pond, hoping that the ducks would have flown in from wherever they were hiding. They hadn't. It didn't help my spirits that I got a text alert that two were in Salem County.

I gave up, but still needed something for Bird A Day. I gave Shell Bay Avenue a try and found various gulls. I drove to the Wetlands Institute, hoping that the marshes would contain some shorebirds, but again, everything in there I'd already used. The best I could do was a Snowy Egret. I guess I have to use it eventually, but I was hoping for a less common bird to justify all the driving. So unless something unusual flies over the house this afternoon, that's the bird I'm stuck with.

Should you hear a high-pitched whine tonight, that would be me, reading that the whistling ducks have returned to the pond for the evening.

My pathetic day list:
Species                     Location
Canada Goose   Cape May Meadows
Mute Swan   Cape May Meadows
American Black Duck   Cape May Point SP
Mallard   Cape May Meadows
Black Scoter   Cape May Meadows
Great Egret   Cape May Point SP
Snowy Egret   Wetlands Institute
Glossy Ibis   Cape May Meadows
Osprey   Cape May Meadows
Clapper Rail   Wetlands Institute
American Oystercatcher   Cape May Meadows
Killdeer   Cape May Meadows
Spotted Sandpiper   Cape May Meadows
Greater Yellowlegs   Cape May Meadows
Willet   Wetlands Institute
Lesser Yellowlegs   Cape May Meadows
Least Sandpiper   Cape May Meadows
Short-billed Dowitcher   Cape May Meadows
Laughing Gull   Cape May Meadows
Herring Gull   Cape May Meadows
Great Black-backed Gull   Cape May Point SP
Common Tern   Cape May Meadows
Forster's Tern   Cape May Meadows
Mourning Dove   Cape May Meadows
Fish Crow   Wetlands Institute
Purple Martin   Cape May Meadows
Tree Swallow   Cape May Point SP
Barn Swallow   Cape May Meadows
Carolina Chickadee   Cape May Point SP
Carolina Wren   Cape May Meadows
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Cape May Point SP
American Robin   Wetlands Institute
Northern Mockingbird   Cape May Meadows
Common Yellowthroat   Cape May Meadows
Song Sparrow   Cape May Meadows
Northern Cardinal   Cape May Point SP
Red-winged Blackbird   Cape May Meadows
Common Grackle   Cape May Point SP

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