Hi birders, its Tim. Once again, I'll be sharing with you my wonderful experiences at Camp Avocet. Check out my first three posts if you haven't already.
Day 4 of camp was our long looked forward to trip to Cape May. Because we were to take the ferry from Lewes to Cape May, we had a late start for birding since the departure time for the ferry was 8:45.
Even if we had a late start, the ferry was nice and cool, compared to the rest of the week, and we saw many flocks of feeding Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Brown Pelicans, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and some of the group saw a Black Tern and a Sandwich Tern (both would have been lifers), neither of which I saw. I was starting to get worried that I wouldn't see a Black Tern again at camp, but I knew there would be more Sandwiches at Chincoteague tomorrow. Like Gull-billed Terns, Sandwich Terns are rarities in Delaware even though in surrounding states they are regular.
Once we arrived at Cape May, We headed straight to Higbee Beach, a great songbird migration spot during fall, but sadly, it wasn't even near the peak of songbird migration. We split up into two groups, but neither of the groups were too successful. We managed to pick up American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, and Black-and-White Warbler, but otherwise it was unpleasantly hot and quiet bird wise.
After Higbee, we headed to Cape May Point for lunch where we met Richard Crossley. We birded around after lunch, and all I could think about was how hot it was. We did find some Black Skimmers and a horde of Mute Swans though.
We then headed to the Observatory Giftshop, where Crossley gave us a talk about how to become an experienced birder (in his awesome British accent) and we bought birding books and guides. Little did we know that a Great Shearwater had washed up on a beach a couple months ago, and that we were going to be able to study it. Steve Howell taught us about feather groups, why shearwaters have tube noses, and much more while handling the handsome bird. Because the shearwater was frozen, Steve asked if we could microwave it so that it would be easier to move it's wings. I think we might have been the first people on earth to nuke a tubenose.
After studying the shearwater, we headed to The Meadows for some last minute birding at Cape May. This turned out to be the most productive of the places at Cape May, as there was a continuing American Wigeon there (very rare at this time of year). We also found a pair of Gadwall, two Pectoral Sandpipers, a load of Glossy Ibis, and a Great Egret eating an eel.
As we were scanning the pools, I decided to look on the other side of the dike and look for shorebirds there. Two small terns were heading down the channel, and I checked them to see if they were both Leasts. The one in front had oddly dark wings, but it was the same size as a Least. Then I got a glimpse of the black patch on the back of the head. I yelled; "BLACK TERN," and everyone got on it in the long prior of time that it fed and perched with the other terns on the mudflats. It was a juvenile bird, with very long, dark wings, but with a very short tail and small proportions. That Black Tern was by far the coolest bird I saw at Camp Avocet, even though it wasn't an adult.
On the ferry ride back we got looks at another Black Tern (this time I saw it), a Surf Scoter, and some of the group witnessed 6 Whimbrels fly over the boat in a flock.
After settling into our rooms at the Virden Center, Raymond (one of our instructors) saw an eastern Screech-Owl fly into one of the large trees in front of the dorms, and several people got to see it. I heard it only, along with another responding from the cedars grove.
So that was Day 4 of Camp Avocet, I'll also be blogging days 5 and 6. Goodbye until the next post!