Cape May Trip – Part 2

This post is part of a series of posts about my recent birding trip to Cape May, which began at this link.

As the tide began to rise, we knew it was time to head over to the southern point of Brigantine Island to see the shorebird flock that we heard had been roosting there recently. We arrived around 2:40pm and the birds were already there waiting for us. I began scanning through the flock looking for the species we had come for; Hudsonian Godwit. The scene reminded me of birding I have done in southern California. 64 Marbled Godwit and 267 ‘Western’ Willet made up the bulk of the flock plus 2 ‘Eastern’ Willet, 6 Short-billed Dowitchers, 2 Long-billed Dowitchers, 2 American Oystercatchers, and quite a few Black Skimmers. I quickly locked on to our target bird, a stunningly beautiful juvenile Hudsonian Godwit. The three of us got a few quick looks at it and then the entire flock flushed. The manner in which they flushed could only mean one thing; a Peregrine must be close. My friend, Ian Gardner, instantly spotted the falcon as it closed in on the flock of shorebirds. The Peregrine was a large juvenile; it chased the flock around the nearby bay, zigg-zagging around and occasionally getting uncomfortably close to the back ends of some of the dowitchers and willets. Unfortunately for the falcon, something was locked in on him; an adult Peregrine. The second Peregrine shot over from its perch under a nearby bridge and repeatedly slammed into the juvenile, quickly putting the juvenile back in it’s place. This juvenile had chosen the wrong shorebird flock to harass; this section of the marsh clearly belonged to the more experienced adult bird.

The juvenile Peregrine Falcon hot on the heals of 'Western' Willet and Marbled Godwit. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The juvenile Peregrine hot on the heals of the 'Western' Willet and Marbled Godwit. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

With the two Peregrines busy fighting each other, the shorebirds were able to safely re-land on the sand only about 10 meters away from the three of us. Some of the shorebirds slept, some foraged, and others stood on alert but none of them seemed concerned with the three of us there, watching and studying them at incredibly close range. The juvenile Peregrine, despite the beating it would get from the adult every time, would still flush the shorebird flock every few minutes and attempt to make a kill. This offered some excellent views of the Peregrine in action as well as a chance to study these large shorebirds in flight.

Hudsonian Godwit - juvenile (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Hudsonian Godwit (juvenile) in flight among 'Western' Willet (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Marbled Godwit - noticeably larger and considerably more common along the East Coast than the Hudsonian Godwit. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

'Western' Willet (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Black Skimmer - adult (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The shorebird flock in flight. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Photographing the shorebird flock. (Photo by Ian Gardner)

A juvenile Snow Goose that flew in, circled the shorebird flock once, and then continued southward. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)


Check back soon for the next post about my trip to Cape May!