Photos © Todd Klein.
I made two brief visits to the Cape May Point State Park today, before and after my volunteer time at the Cape May Bird Observatory, looking for rare birds, and I scored one out of two. The first visit was in search of an American Bittern, which is not really all that rare, but is very hard to see. One has been hanging around the ponds in the State Park this week and feeding out in the open, an unusual thing and great for birders who want to see it, but I struck out with that bird. A little after noon I was back to look for a reported American Avocet in Bunker Pond, next to the Hawk Watch Platform, which is right off the main parking lot at the park. This time I had no trouble, it was in plain sight feeding with other birds: gulls, ducks and smaller shorebirds.
American Avocets are rare in New Jersey, though a few are usually seen each year. The main population is centered in the western US, but some do winter on the southeast coast, and a few of those reach New Jersey by getting a little off-track. It’s a very large shore bird with an unusual upcurved bill. I also took a little video, though the camera shake is rather annoying.
Always a great bird to see, and years go by when I don’t see any.
There were lots of more common birds like this Great Egret and dozens of Laughing Gulls which will soon be migrating further south.
And ducks like these Northern Shovelers are gathering too, they’ve come from further north and will winter here.
On the Hawk Watch Platform, counters and birders were gathering, but it wasn’t a good day for raptor migration.
This Osprey, fishing in the pond, was as close as I got to one, they probably saw some.
Here’s something we don’t see often in coastal New Jersey any more: Cattails. They’ve largely been pushed out by the more aggressive Phragmites, but in some areas the Phragmites have been removed as much as possible and Cattails reintroduced. The one on the left is going to seed.
As I headed back to the parking lot, this Mockingbird was keeping an eye on me, or more likely his food plants, they like berries.
And it’s hard to resist the always photogenic Cape May Lighthouse. If you have a chance to visit the very southern tip of New Jersey, you’ll find plenty of cool things to see here.