This is the fifth part of a series of posts about my recent birding trip to Cape May, which began with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
The number one reason we really, really wanted to go to Cape May was to see the now-famous Brown Booby that has been living in Jarvis Sound since August. We knew it was possible to get scope-looks of the booby from shore, but since this was going to be a lifer for me, I really wanted closer and more satisfying looks. The best way to get better looks is to take the ‘Osprey‘ boat tour which is a guided wildlife tour through Jarvis Sound that can drive you right up to the booby. The three of us got tickets for the 1:30pm tour. After checking a few spots for shorebirds, the boat captain took us to one of the booby’s favorite hang-outs; an old dock where it loafs with Double-crested Cormorants. As we approached the old dock, we could make out the obvious shape and color of the booby among the cormorants. The bird let us drive up to within 30 meters as it stretched its wings and bickered with the cormorants. After a few minutes, the booby took off, flew past the boat and then went to a more open portion of the sound and began to hunt for fish. It was great to be able to see this beautiful bird at such close range as well as watch its unique style of fishing.
After watching the booby for quite a while, the boat captain took us to a few more locations around the sound, where we were able to see various birds including Tricolored Herons, Brant, Nelson’s Sparrows, and a Saltmarsh Sparrow. After the boat tour, we drove over to Stone Harbor point, where we hoped to find some Piping Plovers and other shorebirds. We found a large flock of shorebirds roosting, but they were pretty far away. With the spotting scope, we were able to get tolerable looks at the birds, which were mainly Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlin. There were also a few dowitchers mixed in as well as a few Red Knots. It was getting late and pretty dark out, so we walked back along the beach to our car. The edge of the water was filled with shorebirds running around in the moist sand as the waves rose higher and higher up. Most were Sanderlings but there were also American Oystercatchers and a few Western Sandpipers. One of the oystercatchers was particularly interesting because it had yellow legs bands on each leg plus a silver leg band (photo below). Just as we were getting near our car, I spotted a Piping Plover foraging with the Sanderlings, then Ian spotted two more! We were pretty sure we were going to miss this species, so it was a great surprise to get them at the last second.