Lifers indicated in bold
A failed search for Blue Grosbeak at EPCAL yielded very little in terms of new birds, with the exception of Grasshopper Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark for Suffolk County.
90 species of shorebirds have been recorded in North America. While I don't need to get them all for my big year, I do need to get a substantial percentage of that number in order to get to 500. One species I made getting for this year a priority was a Ruff. Fortunately, a male in breeding plumage had been reported at the puddle in Field 7 of Heckscher State Park the day before and was still around. Upon arriving at the puddle, my mother and I saw several birders there photographing the Ruff, which could easily be distinguished from the nearby Short-billed Dowitcher and both yellowlegs. We stayed at the spot for 15 minutes photographing it before leaving
The next day, I went to Nickerson Beach again to look for rare terns, the only one of which I got was Gull-billed
My birding for the rest of the week consisted of a shorebird count, backyard checklists to keep my eBird streak alive, a Great Egret seen on the way to a condolence call for a family member and a Red-shouldered Hawk right outside their house as we were leaving. Otherwise, no real notable birds
We didn't bird until we got to Cape May county, not the island itself; where we stopped at Tarkiln Pond to look for Kentucky Warbler with no success. Later, when we got to the hotel we were staying at, I spotted a Parasitic Jaeger flying over the beach
Part of my birding plans at Cape May was to meet up with Jerald Reb, a young birder whom I was friends with online and was working as a morning flight counter at Coral Ave. He texted me saying that he and Daniel Irons, another young birder, had a Brown-headed Nuthatch and a Eurasian Collared-Dove on his flight count. We raced over there and while Jerald and Daniel were still there, the nuthatch unfortunately was not. The most interesting thing I saw at this spot was not a bird, but a shark caught by several fishermen on the beach. Around 9:00, Jerald and Daniel left to bird Cape May, and we went towards the Meadows.
On the way to the Meadows, we stopped on Coral Ave to listen for the continuing Swainson's Warbler, which we heard within a few minutes of arriving there. At the meadows, there was very few species of interest, the only new one I got was Orchard Oriole
Next we birded around the main pond at Cape May Point State Park, which, similar to the Meadows, was void of migrants other than a few Forster's Terns and a Field Sparrow. The one new bird I was able to get from this spot was a Blue Grosbeak.
The next spot we went to was Cook's Beach, farther up the coast, for Seaside Sparrows, which I saw quickly upon arrival. Even if I didn't need the sparrow, I had planned to go to this spot anyway for the number of Red Knots that stop on Delaware Bay coasts on migration. The rufa subspecies of Red Knot I had seen is facing declines as climate change destroys stopover sites due to rising sea levels and alters the egg-laying cycle of Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs, which also declined when fishermen harvested their eggs as bait. In addition to the hordes of knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, dowitchers, peeps, and Laughing Gulls, I managed to pick a lone White-rumped Sandpiper in the flock
The last spot of the day was the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. Like many of the other spots I visited, it was unfortunately void of any new birds
Later that night, we went to Jake's Landing to try for Black Rails, also known in my opinion as "the bird that shall not be seen" because of their elusiveness. This was not a bird I could just chance upon, I had to stay in one area and play a recording to have a remote chance of seeing one. After waiting a half hour with no success, we gave up and went to Woodbine Airport for Chuck-will's-widows, a much more cooperative target before finally calling it a night.
That afternoon, after a fruitless search at the Meadows and magnesite plant for any new birds, we went on a whale watch boat in Delaware Bay, which turned out to be less worth it than I anticipated, since the only birds of interest was a flock of six Brown Pelicans which tripped the filter on eBird and the other two birds that would've been new were both misidentified.
Later that afternoon I went back to the spot where the Black-necked Stilt was seen and also to look for Yellow-breasted Chat, this time actually making it past the construction gate. It took me a while to find my way into the marsh where the stilt was (Jerald said he could see me from where he was birding), but by the time I got in, Daniel had found an additional two stilts. On my way out, I finally heard the song fragments of a Yellow-breasted Chat.
On the way back from Cape May, we stopped at the Mississippi Kite nest in Waretown, but there were no birds there. (except a Fish Crow, not very exciting)
To be continued...
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