The Light House at Cape May Point, New Jersey
Friday, March 30, 2012
Today a blog called, CAPE MAY BLOG, Your Daily Cape May Fix, ran a story about me and my 10 recent posts after my visit to Cape May, New Jersey. So, check it out. You will learn a great deal about Cape May, and find out that there is a lot more to see there than birds. Of course, it's beyond me why anyone would want to see anything other than birds!
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Carolina Chickadee in New Jersey
Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis and Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus, are two very closely related and similar-looking birds. I find it very difficult to differentiate the two species visually. They can be separated by song, but I have to admit that I am not very good at that, either. The best way to identify them sort of feels like cheating, though. That way is to go by geography. As I sometimes say, "If the chickadee is in South Dakota, it's a Black-capped Chickadee. If it's in Arkansas, it's a Carolina Chickadee." So, when I was in Cape May, I just consulted the field guides. They told me that a chickadee in Cape May would be a Carolina Chickadee. Take a look at the two birds pictured here and see if you can tell them apart.
Black-capped Chickadee in South Dakota
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Carolina Wren at Cape May
Carolina Wren is a bird we do not get to see in South Dakota. So, I am always happy to travel to a part of the country that is home to these energetic little birds. In Cape May I saw several Carolina Wrens and got a few good photos. Though I was there in early March, I found one of the wrens carrying nesting material. Spring is here!
Carolina Wren with nesting material
Carolina Wrens are champion songsters. Here is a short video of a singing Carolina Wren.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The Brant, Branta bernicla, is a common winter visitor on the Atlantic coast. It is a close relative of the Canada Goose, Branta canadensis. Brants breed in far northern Canada and Alaska. They are quite noisy, and the group I saw at Cape May constantly made loud cronk calls while swimming in the harbor.
A group of Brants swimming in Cape May Harbor
Monday, March 26, 2012
Ruddy Turnstone Trio
One of the birds I hoped to find at Cape May was the Ruddy Turnstone. I found four of these cute little shorebirds walking around on these algae covered rocks at Cape May Point. These birds are named for their ruddy coloration in breeding plumage, and for their habit of tipping over rocks and shells in search of food.
Ruddy Turnstone Quartet
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Northern Gannets off Cape May Point
Northern Gannets are currently migrating back to their breeding grounds on the rocky coast of eastern Canada. While I was at Cape May earlier this month, I saw many small groups of these seabirds flying just offshore, heading up the coast.
Northern Gannet, Morus bassanus
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Red-throated Loon off a rock jetty at Cape May Point
My 2 days at Cape May happened to coincide with the Red-throated Loon migration that peaks in mid-March. For a landlubber who had seen only one Red-throated Loon in his entire life, the sight of hundreds and hundreds of these birds bobbing in the surf was quite a thrill. Most of them were quite far off, but every once in a while one would come in close to shore and provide a fantastic view.
|Red-throated Loon up close|
Thursday, March 22, 2012
The dunes along the beach front at Cape May Point
The sand dunes along the beach are one of the most important features of the Cape May area. The dunes are also one of the most vigorously protected areas. Hefty fines are imposed on anyone who trespasses onto the dunes anywhere other than designated walkways. Sand dunes are important to birds and wildlife as well as humans. Dunes growing with native vegetation protect the land from storms and from wind and water erosion.
Path along the edge of the dunes, Cape May Light House in the distance
In addition to keeping people off the dunes, governments and private organizations have encouraged the planting of trees, shrubs and grasses that are native to the area. The above photograph shows the edge of a dune that has been planted with native vegetation on the property of the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge owned by The Nature Conservancy.
City of Cape May posts these signs on the dunes
Monday, March 19, 2012
|Black Vulture soaring over Cape May, New Jersey|
One of the birds I dearly wanted to see at Cape May was the Black Vulture. The first day I spotted a single Black Vulture soaring in a bright blue sky. The second day I found two Black Vultures just standing in someone's front yard. I thought they might be really ugly lawn ornaments until I saw them start to walk away.
|Black Vulture in a Cape May front yard|
Sunday, March 18, 2012
|Typical Cape May jetty with Cape May Point Light House in distance|
Jetties are a common sight at Cape May. Along the beach front, you are always within a short walk of a jetty or two. The other common sight at Cape May is the Cape May Point Light House that can be seen from nearly any vantage point along the shore.
The middle of March is a little early to see many shorebirds at Cape May. I did manage to find a few, however, including this cute little Sanderling. One thing I learned about Sanderling identification is that they do not have hind claws like other sandpipers. You can see in the above photo that the back of the foot is smooth, with no projecting toe. Sanderlings are well known for their running, or "chased by waves" behavior on the seashore. I shot this video that gives an idea of how they act on the beach.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
|The beach and light house at Cape May Point, New Jersey|
I just returned home after six days on the east coast. The highlight of the trip was the two days I got to spend looking for birds at Cape May, New Jersey. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cape May, it is one of the premier birding destinations in North America. Famous ornithologists like John James Audubon, Alexander Wilson, Roger Tory Peterson, and David Allen Sibley all spent a great deal of time at Cape May. I only had two days, but I made the most of it, and found some tremendous birds. Over the next week or so you can go along with me as as we explore the birds and scenery of Cape May.
|Herring Gulls and Ruddy Turnstones on a jetty at Cape May|
Friday, March 16, 2012
Fort Randall Dam, South Dakota
This Mourning Dove looks like it is sitting on top of a mountain peak. However, it is just perched on a small rock in southern South Dakota. Sometimes rock stars have a way of making themselves appear more impressive than they really are.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Kansas City, Missouri
I suppose nowadays a rock star doesn't really need to be a great singer. I have heard "music" from rock stars that can't sing a lick. However, the Song Sparrow is a bird with a terrific singing voice. Yes, this is a Bird Rock Star that can really sing!
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Sergeant Bluff, Iowa
This photo shows a Snow Bunting in a rather unusual location. Snow Buntings are usually found on barren, snow-covered fields. This one is standing on a chunk of broken concrete near a water treatment lagoon. This is a real concrete example of a bird rock star.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Oahe Dam, South Dakota
Rock Wrens are very aptly named. They are hardly ever found away from rocks. Rock Wrens live most of their lives in and around piles of rocks. These little birds have certainly earned the title of Bird Rock Stars.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
|A quintet of Double-crested Cormorants|
Big Bend Dam, South Dakota
One brisk November morning I caught this group of five Double-crested Cormorants standing on some rocks in the Missouri River below Big Bend Dam. I think they look like a men's singing group ready to burst into song. Shh! They're about to start. "A one, and a two, and a..."
Saturday, March 10, 2012
|Wood Ducks on the rocks|
Capitol Lake, Pierre, South Dakota
Wood Ducks are some of my favorite subjects to photograph on rocks. I like the way the startling colors and patterns of the male Wood Ducks contrast with the stark barrenness of the rocks.
Friday, March 9, 2012
|Snowy Egret on the rocks|
Lake Andes, South Dakota
I love taking pictures of birds on rocks. So, for the next week or so I am going to share some of my favorite photos of birds on rocks. We will call them Bird Rock Stars. First up is this wonderful Snowy Egret I caught doing a little dance on the rocks at Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge a few years ago. Don't you just love the golden dancing slippers?
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
March 6, 2012
The Snowy Owls are still around. I saw my eleventh Snowy Owl of the season tonight a few miles south of Pierre. Even though it made me late for dinner, I could not resist stopping to take a few pictures. It is still hard to believe how common these owls are this winter. I am going to enjoy them while I can. They won't stay here forever.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Official 1,000th Post Bird
"May the Lord, the God of your ancestors,
increase you a thousand times
and bless you as He has promised!"
At the bottom of the screen in front of me is a little red button that says, "Publish Post." As soon as I click on that button, I will have published my 1,000th blog post on Ask the Birds and They Will Tell You. I have been thinking about this day for a long time, and wondering what I would write. I have heard it said that if you do something 30 times it becomes a habit.What does it become if you do something 1,000 times? Well, writing on this blog for over three years has become a blessing! I looked up the word, thousand, in the Bible, and discovered that thousand appears 249 times in the New International Version. My favorite is Deuteronomy 1:11. That is my prayer for all my readers this morning: "May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as He has promised." His promises are wonderful. Dig into His Word, and He will show you.
God's blessings to all of you!
Saturday, March 3, 2012
|Short-eared Owl looking right|
|Short-eared Owl looking left|
Whenever I take pictures of owls I try to get the bird to look straight at the camera. I used to think owl pictures were no good if the owl was looking to the side. Today, though, I came across these two photos and decided maybe they weren't so bad after all. Owls have to stare at something. They might as well be staring at each other!
Friday, March 2, 2012
|Rough-legged Hawk, Buteo lagopus|
In the late afternoons I can generally rely on seeing two birds on the roadside along Highway 53 in central South Dakota. I will see plenty of Rough-legged Hawks and Short-eared Owls. They hunt the same areas-- open grasslands-- but the hawks work the day shift while the owls handle the night shift. When I see them just before dark, I like to imagine that the Rough-legged Hawks are heading home while the owls are just showing up for work. Isn't it nice they can share hunting territories like that?
|Short-eared owl, Asio flammeus|