Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Some Cape May birds

Took a whirlwind trip around quaint Cape May, New Jersey last Saturday, and saw lots of interesting flora and fauna. It wouldn't be possible to visit and NOT see interesting things. As usual, many megs of photos were taken, but I wanted to share a few classic birds of the beach. Spent a fair bit of time botanizing - there is some very cool halophytic (salt-adapted) flora there, and I got some nice shots of some of it. More on that later, perhaps.

Speaking of plants, it was somewhat depressing to see how badly non-native species have taken over some of the habitats in Cape May. Weeds like Porcelain-berry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, and Japanese Knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum, cover vast swaths of great migratory bird habitat. Anyone who doubts the ecological damage that these vegetative pests can do need only pay a visit to a place like Cape May.Beachfront Cape May with the famed lighthouse off in the yonder. This area is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, and is one of the best remaining oceanside habitats.
Royal Terns abound on the beach. Here, a squawking juvenile begs for food. Like Caspian Terns, the young of this species follow the adults around long after being fledged, demanding handouts from the long-suffering adults.It was nice to see these diminutive little Fish Crows, and hear their odd laughing snorts. American Crows were also about; the size difference between the two is conspicuous. Fish Crows are coastal in distribution, ranging up the Mississippi Valley. They should eventually be turn up along the Ohio River in Ohio. This one had a cheese puff or something probably equally unhealthy. Crows are not noted for discerning palates.

Plenty of Black Skimmers were around. The Nature Conservancy protects large areas of beach, to improve nesting success of this species along with Piping Plovers and Least Terns.

Black Skimmers are wild-looking birds. They even attract the attention of non-birders. While photographing them, I was approached by some people who wondered what they were. They kind of look like little street toughs, wearing hoodies pulled down low over their eyes. Their bill is a marvel of evolution. Skimmers skim: they fly along the water's surface, dipping the lower mandible in as they course along, thus snatching up tasty aquatic morsels.

Hope to share more on The Cape later.


Kathi said...


I am visiting Cape May for the autumn bird festival in Oct. It will be my first trip there, and I am totally psyched to see birds like these. Black Skimmers are my Number One target birds. I am also hoping for some sparrow species; what are the odds of Seaside or Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows?

I can't wait!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I love to see Black Skimmers. One of my favorite birds. They crack me up when they lay flat out on the beach. It just seems like an impossible, improbable position for a bird.



Great birds and stuff from Cape May, but...GET HOME! You're gonna miss the Woods Storks!!! :)

Jim McCormac said...

Hi Kathi,

And sorry for the terribly slow reply. I am the world's worst blogger when it comes to following up on comments and contributing to them. Just slap me silly and call me willy. Anyway, I would think you would have a good shot at those sparrows. Best bet would be to ask someone like Kevin Karlson or birders at the Cape May Bird Observatory where the best oddds of finding them are. You'll love the place, and all of the Merlins and other cool birds!


Eastern Cottontail courtship dance

This jumbo Eastern Cottontail hangs out in my yard, along with another. I like rabbits, and they're welcome here. Even when they nip off...