Cape May Trip – Part 1

Back in August, word quickly spread that a Brown Booby was found in Jarvis Sound in Cape May. I wanted to go see it so badly, but was too busy with other things to find time to drive down there. By some miracle the bird continued throughout September and was still being seen every day so far in October. Everyone I knew had gone to see the bird and I was pretty much convinced that I was the only serious birder on the east coast that hadn’t seen this rare bird. This species would be a lifer for me since I have never been to extreme southern Florida. I did manage to miss one in California that had stuck around at a boat launch all day, but I didn’t have any internet at the time, so was completely unaware of the bird’s presence. Even though I was less than a mile away from the bird.

Last week I knew I could afford to leave State College and drive down to New Jersey for a weekend of intense birding and, of course, pick up the booby. Me and two of my friends started making our plans and left late Thursday night. We arrived near the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR  around 2:00am and promptly went to bed. The next morning we got up early and drove the 8 mile tour loop around the refuge. One of the first birds of the day was an American Bittern that was foraging along the side of the road.

American Bittern (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The three of us took our time birding around the refuge and ended up finding close to 60 species. We didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, but it was great being back near the ocean and birding in the marsh habitat. I added quite a few species to my year list like ‘Atlantic’ Brant, Boat-tailed Grackle, and Laughing Gull.

Next, we drove over to Brigantine Island to wait for high tide because we wanted to see the large shorebird flock that gathers at the southern tip of the island. In the meantime, we randomly birded the beaches and jetties. We managed to find a very large group of roosting American Oystercatchers and Black Skimmers as well as some small, assorted groups of shorebirds along a jetty at the southern tip of the island that included Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, and Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Semipalmated Sandpiper (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Black Skimmer - juvenile (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

After getting some lunch, we still have a while till high tide, we randomly decided to drive down 14st Street in Brigantine and check out what was on the beach there as well as whatever might be flying offshore. Northern Gannets were fishing out over the ocean and there were many migrant flocks of Double-crested Cormorants passing by. The highlight here though, was that there were two Peregrine Falcons perched up on a nearby hotel building, trying to get out of the strong wind. The two birds, an adult and a juvenile, offered us fantastic views through our scope.

Peregrine Falcons taking cover from the wind - adult at the bottom, juvenile at the top (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Stay tuned for my next post about what we found in the large shorebird flock at high tide!