Cape May, New Jersey Birding Elderhostel

May 13-18, 2007

Page One: Photos taken before Elderhostel

Page Two: Photos from one day during the Elderhostel

We stayed in Little Egg Harbor, NJ at the home of  Ken's brother Dan and his wife Mary for five days prior to the Elderhostel. We visited Barnegat Inlet as well as other nearby natural areas, including the Forsythe NWR. These were Ken's first pictures with his new camera, a Canon Digital Rebel with 300 mm zoom lens, quite a change from digiscoping!

At Barnegat Inlet, there were several groups of school children hiking the beach. We noticed a pair of American Oystercatchers that were obviously in distress and performing distraction displays. Assuming they had a nest nearby, we walked towards them. Using "reverse behavior" (i.e., going in just the opposite direction of where the birds tried to lead him away from the nest), Ken quickly found a single egg in a depression in the sand. It was totally unprotected, and he had to divert another group of schoolchildren to keep them from stepping on it. This nest obviously has little chance for success. Note the distinctive plumage, eyes and its bill, which is compressed laterally to permit the bird to insert it into a partially opened bivalve shell, sever the muscle and devour the contents.

(Click on thumbnails for full-screen images)

Barnegat LightOystercatcher EggAmerican OystercatcherOystercatcher Head Close-up
Oystercatcher PairOystercatcherOystercatcher Bill, frontal view

At Little Egg Harbor, we got to appreciate the grace of the common Herring and Laughing Gulls, as well as Barn Swallows and Common Terns. 

Leaming's Run Garden provided a photo opportunity for American Robins in beautiful surroundings. 

We heard many other species such as Ovenbirds and Wood Thrushes but had trouble finding them.

Herring GullsLaughing Gull PairLaughing Gull HeadLaughing Gull Head DetailBarn SwallowLeaming's Run GardenAmerican RobinCommon Tern

The Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge was loaded with shorebirds, giving us a chance to sharpen our identification skills. Flocks of Short-billed Dowitchers rapidly probed the muddy bottom "sewing machine style," while Dunlins in their colorful spring plumage probed more erratically. 

They were joined by Glossy Ibis, Ruddy Turnstones, and the Killdeer-like little Semipalmated Plover (which shows only one chest ring as opposed to the two of its larger cousin).  Snowy Egrets, Brant, Eastern Bluebirds-- and poison Ivy-- were plentiful. 

Dowitchers FeedingDunlinDunlin
Duynlin Close-upGlossy IbisRuddy TurnstonesSemipalmated PloverSnowy EgretRed-winged BlackbirdBrantEastern BluebirdPoison Ivy

We had the opportunity to closely observe one of the three "peeps" (the Semipalmated, Western and Least Sandpipers), small sandpipers that are most common and easily confused. This bird teneded to stay away from the shorline, foraging in the mud and grass. Its back was warm brown and its legs were yellowish, all indicators that it was a Least Sandpiper. 

In the event that there was any doubt about its leg color, the bird did an imitation of the Ziegfeld Follies, thrusting its leg out for all to see! 

Least Sandpiper HabitatLeast SandpiperLeast Sandpiper Back ColorLeast Sandpiper BreastLeast SandpiperLeg Color

From Mary and Dan's back porch, we watched fighter pilots buzzing overhead. An ominous portent of the wildfires that were to occur two days later,  this photo shows an (apparent) flare descending over the Pine Barrens. 

The fire was alleged to have been caused by the release of a flare by National Guard fighter pilots making training bombing runs, several miles to the north of this location.

Smoke trail from flare

Continue to Page 2- Pictures from Elderhostel