Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Cape May - Skimmers and Light


Cape May is a hot spot for bird watching during fall migration. The way the state tapers off to the cape/point of New Jersey acts like a funnel where birds follow the land south and end up there, running out of coast/land and then momentarily stuck to think it over.

According to the local bird watchers who are in the know, approximately 80% of the birds that pass through the cape are immature/juvenile birds. The main reason being it is easier to migrate south 100% over land, avoiding the Delaware Bay and the water crossing. Adults know enough to take the easier inland route, while the first year birds don't. These young ones can cross but they have to stop and think about it, and then muster up the courage to make the trip over the open water.

In 2009 I made a couple trips to Cape May and this year I did 6 or 7 trips (multiple days each trip). The migrating hawks and falcons, and little birds / song birds (passerines) are most people's favorites. And they are mine too, except for the black skimmers, they are so fun to watch, and offer such great chances.


Last year I shot the skimmers a lot at sunrise and sunset and this year I did the same. Trying to get the flock and some nice light together is what makes them extra special. The skimmers might sit on the beach most of the day doing next to nothing, but around sunrise and sunset they are full of action.

Rise and Shine

As the fall season passes most of the early skimmers to leave are mature ones. By November the flock of black skimmers in Cape May is mainly juvenile birds.

Skimmer Sunrise

Birds of Prey
This year I finally got to experience what the big big push of birds is like - seeing hawks and falcons on the frequency of seconds, not minutes or hours. Seriously. All this year it was just a couple of the days I was there, and one especially, when the action was just crazy.

The best days I had were a day or two after a storm passed through, with the backside of the weather creating winds out of the ~west which groups up the migrating birds along the coast. Perfect.

Sharpie w/ bulging cropKestrel w/ Dragonfly

Next year I am going to visit lots again, and I will try to focus more on the migrating birds of pray. It is (too) easy to split time between them and the skimmers. Most of my visits this year were in October, and next year I am going to go a bit more earlier.

--50-- / Jon


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