Back Bay Birding Boat Trip

Our afternoon session on the second day at the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival, was a pontoon boat trip around Cape May’s back bay (Cape May Harbor and tidal wetlands along the Intracoastal Waterway). I saw more birds than I could photograph…but the boat was steady enough for photography as well. Can you identify the birds in this picture?

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They are easy enough: American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover (2 of them), and a Laughing Gull. I didn’t identify the one facing the water.

There were lots of Laughing Gulls and they were close enough for portraits.

There were a few Brant (geese) that hadn’t left yet. From far away they look a little like a Canada Goose but smaller; taking a closer look…the markings are quite different.

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I took a picture of the Great and Snowy Egrets to provide a comparison of the two birds in the same photo: size, bill color, etc.

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There was an island where there were a lot of nesting Laughing Gulls and Forster’s Terns.

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The terns (different stages of development) were feeding on the mud flat.

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A Least Tern seemed to enjoy the bobbing of a barrel.

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By far the ‘star’ of the nesting birds were the Osprey.  They seemed to be nesting on everything sticking out of the water that could hold a nest!

The Peregrine Falcons were also using a man-made structure for their nesting site: a bridge. The bird was protecting her young as our boat went underneath the bridge. The female was with the chicks. The male was having lunch on the next bridge support over.

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Being on a boat provides a different perspective….and we would not have seen the falcon any other way. Even though many of the birds seemed to be watching our progress…they were not disturbed by the boat as they are by large groups of people moving about on land.

Two Mile Beach Oystercatchers

Our first afternoon field trip of  Cape May Spring (birding) Festival was at Two Mile Beach. The part of the beach that is part of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge is closed from mid-April to mid-October; the leader for the trip (a US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist) took us on the dune trail to the part of the beach that is owned by the US Coast Guard. That part of the beach has nesting birds too! The first one we saw was an American Oystercatcher on a nest. These birds are hard to miss. They are large…with a bright red bill and red rimmed yellow eye. The nest is on the ground…with very little material involved. The grasses provided a minimal curtain.

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Both the male and female take turns at the nest. We say second bird moving on the sand – meandering toward the nest. We stayed well back and watched. Note that the bird has been banded.

Eventually the bird decided we were too close and we retreated out of the range of my zoom lens to give the birds the confidence to make the nest duty swap.