Snow Day Rarities at Cape May Pt

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After a successful walk around Cape May Pt SP, where we saw a Northern Goshawk and Orange-crowned Warbler among many other cool (literally) birds, we took another pass by Lily Lake hoping to find one of the Eurasian Wigeon that roam the point. A large flock of geese and other ducks had gathered at the west end so we parked and got the scope out. The first thing I saw when I put my eye up to the scope was the orange bill and white border of a Greater White-fronted Goose! A totally unexpected county lifer and a decent self-found rarity for the region! Josh and Mark got on the scope and ended up finding a total of 7 mixed in with the Canadas! Other nice birds on the lake were 5 Redhead, 8 Bonaparte’s Gulls, and 8 other waterfowl species but no Eurasian Wigeon.

Three of 7 Greater White-fronted Geese that we found on Lily Lake. They were apparently pretty tired from flying through the storm the night before and mostly had their heads tucked and slept. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Three of 7 Greater White-fronted Geese that we found on Lily Lake. They were apparently pretty tired from flying through the storm the night before and mostly had their heads tucked and slept. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Re-energized after finding the rare geese, we headed back to Cape May Point to wander around and search for the White-winged Dove in the cold and snow. We had gotten a tip that it sometimes roosts in the pines in the dunes across from the house on Harvard that it sometimes comes to for food. The three of us scoured the area around the feeder house, and carefully scanned the pines in the dunes but couldn’t find the dove. Finally, while I was climbing around through the dunes I heard Josh yell from back on the road saying the dove had just flown in! I ran down around and sure enough, the chunky White-winged Dove was perched a tree above the feeders and then dropped down to join the Mourning Doves and other birds feeding on the ground. It often got into little scuffles with the Mourning Doves, where one of the two would peck at the other and then the White-winged would throw its weight around and raise its wing in aggression.

White-winged Dove at Cape May Point (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

White-winged Dove at Cape May Point (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

White-winged Dove showing a Mourning Dove who's the boss (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

White-winged Dove showing a Mourning Dove who’s the boss (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

As if finally finding the dove wasn’t good enough, as we were watching it Chris Vogel drove up and walked out onto the dunes…a few minutes later he walked back down towards us and said he had just re-found the Painted Bunting foraging on the dunes with some sparrows. The bunting had been missing for a few days, so it was great to hear that it was still around. We ran up to try to find it, but it had disappeared. I wandered back and forth for a while and finally spotted a little flash of green shoot past me. The bunting was actively foraging, climbing up on dead grasses and picking at the seeds. It was hard to pin down, but I finally army-crawled through the snow and got fairly close for some nice photos.

Immature male Painted Bunting at Cape May Point (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Immature male Painted Bunting at Cape May Point (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

While we watched the bunting, a small flock of geese passed over and mixed in with them were two of the 7 Greater White-fronted Geese we had just found. The flock passed low over us and then continued out over Delaware Bay. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking for the mysterious Black-headed Gull along the bayshore and then drove up to Jakes Landing at sunset to look for Short-eared Owls. We were lucky to see 3 owls including one that flew in really close and also heard a Clapper Rail and a Marsh Wren. A Great Horned Owl also flew in and landed on an Osprey platform nearby! It was a great end to a fantastic day of snow birding around Cape May County, and I can’t wait to get back down there!

Greater White-fronted Geese flying over and heading out onto Delaware Bay (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Greater White-fronted Geese flying over and heading out onto Delaware Bay (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Short-eared Owl at Jakes Landing (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Short-eared Owl at Jakes Landing (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)