After wandering around the streets of Cape May Point for awhile but not being able to turn up the White-winged Dove, we decided to head over to the state park to see what was around. It was incredible to see the park covered in snow. Equally amazing was how active the birds were in the snow-covered, freezing landscape. Along the trails we encountered Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Robins, two Wilson’s Snipe flew over, and American Woodcocks flushed from along the path. The elevated path created a strip of barren ground, so lots of sparrows and other birds would flush from under us while we walked around. One of the most surprising finds of the day flushed from under us – a very cold Virginia Rail which plopped down into the snow alongside the path, letting me snap a quick photo before it buried down out of view.
We split up and wandered through the brushy habitat in the back of the state park, searching for warblers and other passerines. Chipping Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow were new for us for the day, and even more woodcocks flushed from around us. At one point I was about to walk through some rows of pines, and ahead of me a large raptor with mottled tan and brown uppersides and a long, gray-banded tail flushed and flew away from me, weaving between the rows of pines. I couldn’t believe my luck – the immature Northern Goshawk! I figured we had no chance of finding the goshawk, which has been seen off-and-on around the point for about a week. I was happy to hear that Josh had also seen the goshawk a few minutes before I did, and probably had flushed it over to where I ultimately saw it! One of my favorite birds and a new Cape May County species for me!
Out on the beach, the wind was atrocious. We scanned around for Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which are usually easy to get there, but it aside from some mergansers offshore there weren’t any birds around. Mark and Josh went back to take shelter in the car, but I trudged on hoping to find an American Tree Sparrow or Horned Lark, both of which would be county birds for me. The dunes had Dark-eyed Juncos and some other sparrows, but I didn’t have any luck with my two targets. Another birder was walking down the beach towards me, so I walked to over to see what they had been seeing. As I got closer, I could see that it was Michael O’Brian and coincidentally an Orange-crowned Warbler was foraging in the dunes as we exchanged sightings!
We ended up with 48 species around the state park, and then went back over to the point to search for the White-winged Dove some more. Check out this link to see how we did!