Cook’s Beach Birds

The highest density of birds we saw at one place during the  Cape May Spring (birding) Festival was at Cook’s Beach. They are drawn to the beach by the horseshoe crab eggs – rich food to fatten them up before they continue north on their migration.  I took lots of pictures and was challenged to select the ones I would include in this post. I took a sequence when something startled the birds and they took off – swirled around and landed again. The beach seemed very full even when there were a lot of birds in the air.

In some places the gulls seemed to dominate and there were a lot of horseshoe crabs still around. The Laughing Gulls (black head) and larger Herring Gulls are easy to distinguish.

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Sometimes it was a large group of just Laughing Gulls.

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I got my best picture of a cormorant of the festival at the beach. The birds were on the pilings – not the beach – and seemed to be observing the ruckus on the beach. The out-of- focus birds in the foreground are Ruddy Turnstones. The gull is probably a second year Herring Gull.

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This picture includes Forster’s Terns (the black and white birds) and Ruddy Turnstones on the pilings – preening. The Ruddy Turnstones look rounded…probably are already fattening up.

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There is a back of Ruddy Turnstone on the beach in this picture….and the bird facing the camera is a Red Knot. Both birds are a little larger than the other shorebirds.

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The crowd of birds in the picture below are all Red Knots.  The birds with reddish color are in breeding plumage. The others are non-breeding. Note that two seem to be making eye contact.

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I liked this lineup of Herring Gulls, with the mature bird in front and sitting…the immatures standing behind.

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How many birds can you recognize in the picture below:

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The easy ones are laughing gull, red knot, and ruddy turnstone. There are some smaller shorebirds in the mix as well.

I couldn’t resist one botanical picture as we headed back to the car – a rose growing where vegetation meets the beach.

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Cook’s Beach Horseshoe Crabs

We went to Cook’s Beach twice during the  Cape May Spring (birding) Festival.  It’s a Delaware Bay beach and there were lots of horseshoe crabs both times. They were there to mate and lay eggs. There were groups of males gathered around females all along the beach.

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Sometimes the groups are tossed around as a group in the surf.

The creatures are so odd looking with their tank-like shell and spikey tail….and the leggy creature under the shell.

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Sometimes they are legs-up in the sand and use their tails to turn themselves over!

The crabs sometimes get high up on the beach behind rocks…tangled with other crabs. Hopefully they will find their way out and back to the sea or over to the beach to find mates.

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They are awkward on land and at the edge of the sea.

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But more maneuverable than I expected. I took a series of pictures that shows a horseshoe crab making tracks heading back to sea.

In general – the older the crabs, the more barnacles. Evidently the barnacles are not just on the top of the shell either.

Some of the crabs were dug into the sand until the next high tide…and some had been tagged.

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Tomorrow I’ll post about the birds we saw at Cook’s Beach…enjoying a feast of horseshoe crab eggs before continuing their migration.