Rarity Roundup Results

This years rarity roundup, with the ominous start date of 11-11-11, sure looked good on paper! NW winds on Friday turning WSW on Saturday just felt like a conveyor belt for wayward western strays. The reality, though, was a little bit different.

Thanks to everyone who participated, which included a number of fantastic and dedicated Cumberland and Salem Co. birders, plus the combined efforts of the seasonal staff at CMBO/NJAS doing their respective migration counts (Seawatch and Hawkwatch) and the die-hard locals down here on either side of the Cape May Canal. Thanks also to Bob Fogg for his continued management of the KEEKEEKERR text service which works wonderfully to alert us to any interesting birds within chasing distance. That service allows us to bird off-the-beaten-path always knowing we’ll get the word if something great is found elsewhere.

Here’s a tally of the ‘best birds’ from the weekend.


The best bird, by far, was a CALIFORNIA GULL identified by our resident seawatcher in Avalon, Tom Reed. The bird was reported around 11:00am flying between the sea wall and the bridge.

Soon thereafter Tom spotted an adult LITTLE GULL with a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls.

Those staking out the Hawkwatch platform were treated to several good birds (eBird) including an adult male EURASIAN WIGEON (there have been two young birds, male and female, present lately- so this would represent the third for the season), 2 EURASIAN COLLARD DOVES (these have been present since August and will probably begin breeding at Cape May Point), a late BARN SWALLOW, TUNDRA SWAN (also 14 TUSW from Avalon) and a CACKLING GOOSE.

Also at Cape May Point were a WHITE-WINGED DOVE, and a SELASPHOROUS HUMMINGBIRD (Rufous/Allen’s) coming to a local feeder.

While not a rarity, the 25+ AMERICAN PIPITS feeding on the ground in the planted rye field at Higbees (field 1) were noteworthy in their number and moreso in the fact that they were stationary rather than simply a fleeting overhead glimpse. Try as we might, none of us could turn them into any other species of Anthus. American Pipits were also found in good numbers in Cumberland County including 20 at Shep Davis Rd. in Cedarville. ‘Lots’ of HORNED LARKS were also present at Baypoint Rd. in Cedarville.

Notably early birds included 3 male COMMON MERGANSERS in flight over Great Egg from Jeffers Landing.

Late stragglers included 2 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS (1ad/1juv) in the West impoundment at Corbin City WMA, with Dunlin and 1 Least Sandpiper and A BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER in the first field at Higbees.

Out of habit observations included an IPSWITCH SAVANNAH SPARROW on Jeffers Landing Rd., on the road edge surrounded by salt marsh west of the Garden State Parkway.


The Cape May National Golf Course provided some nice lingering migrants (eBird) including 2 BALTIMORE ORIOLES, a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, a single INDIGO BUNTING that gave serious pause until identified with photographs,  and 2 BELTED KINGFISHERS. A WILSON’S WARBLER (eBird) was also found flitting about in West Cape May.

3 more BALTIMORE ORIOLES were located at Cape May Point, and a final one was found at The Beanery.

Both ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, while not rarities, did provide nice consolation to those covering the Cox Hall Creek Wildlife Management Area. Also, two DICKCISSELS were detected as flyovers from the Magnesite Plant on Cape May Point.

Like I said, not a plethora of rarities but more important is the snapshot of birds that only a concerted effort can accomplish. While I haven’t done any thorough research into rarities elsewhere across the US, I do know that the Midwest IS having a very busy rarity season this year. Spotted Towhee, Inca Dove, Vermillion Flycatcher, Varied Thrush, Summer Tanager, Western Tanager, Broad-billed Hummingbird, just to name a few. The secret is probably in the weather, and the data can only be obtained with more frequent observations. On that note, I want to again thank everyone who participated in the 2011 Rarity Roundup. Please eBird your daily lists so that the data can and will be used to better understand the mysteries of vagrancy, population dynamics, and many other wonders of the bird world.


Good Birding,



More eBird checklists (check back for updates):

Cox Hall Creek WMA (west) on 11/12; DLP ; Fort Apache Park 11/12; DLP ; Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary (11/12) #1   #2   #3 ; DLP ; Abandoned Lot adjacent to the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary (11/12); DLP ; Champlain Lake, Villas (11/12); DLP ; David Douglass Park (11/12) DLP ; Higbee’s Beach WMA to the Concrete Ship, Cape May Point (11/11); DLP



Parked at the window

I decided to take the morning “off” today, and move the LazyBoy (recliner, not me… although the name may apply to both) over to the window where I could watch the bird feeders in comfort. Given all the hoopla over winter finches in the Northeast, and the number of Pine Siskin sightings in New Jersey, smattering of Evening Grosbeak reports over PA and NJ, as well as the apparent irruption of Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings into upstate New York, I figured it might be a good idea to spend some time watching the birds in the backyard. So far nothing out of the ordinary, although the feeders are quite busy. Here’s the rundown so far:

American Goldfinch: 20 at any one time, decimating the nyjer seed as fast as I can fill it
Dark-eyed Junco: 5 at a time, both sexes and various ages
House Finch: 3, two males and one female
Tufted Titmouse
Chickadee Sp.
Northern Cardinal
Blue Jay
White-throated Sparrow (or Santa Claus Sparrow, ala Michelle Davis’s grandmother)

Not seen today, but seen over the last week:
Purple Finch: 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch: 2

Anyway… I’ve got a big cup of coffee and plenty of daylight to go…

Good Birding


Singing Youngster

This hatch-year White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) was caught singing his little head off during my recent sparrow fest out here in Somerset, NJ. I digi-video’d him with my Coolpix 4500 digital camera, and Leica Televid APO spotting scope. You can see some more photos of sparrow-fest on my flickr site, or click on the images below.
Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

Migration outlook for Saturday and Sunday

This weekend the forecast is calling for strong winds out of the Northwest and West at all altitudes. Therefore, I don’t expect anything to be moving tonight (Saturday) or tomorrow night (Sunday) unless something changes. I’ll update the forecast if anything changes. In the meantime, it’s been really cool to have both Fox Sparrow AND Winter Wren still singing on the property. Today there was a pair of Wood Ducks on the Spooky Brook, which runs through the Hutcheson Memorial Forest behind our house. On the Van Cleef ponds there was a pair of Common Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks and about a dozen Green-winged Teal.

Good Birding

Waiting for the Neotrops…

You gotta love Louisiana. From the LABirds listserve:
This morning as I stepped out onto the back porch I immediately heard the familiar call of the Prothonotary Warbler. I retrieved my binoculars from within and a few moments later I spotted it exploring the spare tire on my wife’s car under our car port. This was a FOS Prothonotary for our property. As a matter of fact it is the first return of all of the summer residents here. It was later seen on our Humming Bird Feeder and even later on a potted plant on the back porch.