South Cape May Meadows – Part 1

After dinner on the first full day of the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival, we headed over to South Cape May Meadows, 200 acres near Cape May Point that is owned by The Nature Conservancy. There are two Purple Martin houses near the entrance; I photographed the birds and the ‘green roof’ of the nearby shed while we waited for our group to accumulate.

There were active Black Skimmers on the wetlands. It will take some practice (and more magnification) to truly capture the action. The Canada goose provides a good comparison for size in this sequence.

I caught a portrait of a skimmer that was momentarily still a little later

2019 05 IMG_8042.jpg

And a shimmer showing off its wings as the light was fading.

Tomorrow’s post will continue the sights from our late-in-the-day visit to South Cape May Meadows.

Heislerville Wildlife Management Area

Our next field trip of the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival was at the Heislerville Wildlife Management Area a the end of Matt’s Landing Road. There are ponds on each side of the road as it gets close to Haase’s Marina. There were shorebirds on the mudflats – like these that (I think) are all Semipalmated Sandpipers. It was a challenge to get birds in small enough groups where the individual birds could be distinguished.

2019 05 IMG_7552.jpg

Some are easier to identify than others like this Semipalmated Plover.

2019 05 IMG_7562.jpg

On an island in one the ponds: a Double-crested Cormorant rookery! It is one of the few in the mid-Atlantic region. Most of the cormorants migrate further north for the summer and to breed.

There were the usual Red-wing Blackbirds and Crows around too. We heard both Fish Crows and American Crows…not sure which one this was.

Heislerville was the first place I began to realize the numbers of birds that migrate through Cape May in the spring and fall….I couldn’t resist a picture of birds in flight…with a lot still on the mud flat!

2019 05 IMG_7658.jpg

There was a group of Black Skimmers on another island almost out of camera range with a Forster’s tern on a log in front.

2019 05 IMG_7774.jpg

Overall – the area was rich in bird sightings - and a good contrast to the state forest earlier in the morning.

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

We visited Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge last weekend…an afternoon and the next morning. The afternoon was very wet so the picture of the visitor center sigh with plants growing through it was taken the next morning in the sunshine.

2019 04 IMG_7015.jpg

The growth around the visitor center was very green…dogwoods were in bloom and pine pollen was everywhere.

The growth around the visitor center was very green…dogwoods were in bloom and pine pollen was everywhere.

On the first day we drove down the main road toward the beach. It was raining and we didn’t try to take any pictures. The wildlife loop is only open to cars after 3 PM and there was a lull in the rain about that time. We started around. I noticed thistles in bloom (attractive to bees),

Heard lots of red-winged blackbirds and managed to photograph one eventually,

2019 04 IMG_6588.jpg

And photographed a glossy ibis almost out of camera range.

2019 04 IMG_6681.jpg

Near the end of the wildlife loop there were a few of the Chincoteague ponies munching on the wet grass….about that time is started raining again and we headed to our hotel for the night.

The next morning was very breezy and almost cold. Our trip to one of the islands in the Chesapeake Bay was cancelled – winds made it unsafe for small boats. So – we bundled up and headed to the beach at Chincoteague. It is a narrower stretch of sand than when we first saw it more than 35 years ago and when we flew kites here with our daughter about 20 years ago. The gulls were not flying. Only the laughing gulls were at the beach and they were on the ground near the parking lot rather than at the water’s edge.

It was a little disappointing to see only people and roiling water at the beach.

As we started back, we saw a few herring gulls in shallow water protected by the dunes.

2019 04 IMG_6846.jpg

The group of birds a little ways from the herring gull was the high point of the morning at Chincoteague: royal terns and black skimmers (and laughing gulls)!

I’ll post later about the egrets and a heron we saw at Chincoteague. Even with the rain and doing most of our photography using the car as a blind, my husband and I both enjoyed the spring birding opportunities at Chincoteague.

Another Florida Beach

After lunch at Dixie Crossroads, we headed over to a beach close to Titusville: Cherie Down Park in Cape Canaveral. It was a breezy cloudy day….a little cold. There were people fishing from the beach. At first it didn’t seem like there were very many birds. In some ways that made it easier to photograph the ones that were there.

The Sanderling at the water’s edge was the first bird I noticed.

The Ruddy Turnstone kept moving about. I’m not sure whether I photographed the same bird twice or it was two birds.

A Ring-billed Gull surveyed the beach from a pile of sand in the beach replenishment project area.

2019 01 IMG_3938.jpg

Further away a Lesser Black-Backed Gull and Herring Gull were doing the same.

2019 01 IMG_4116.jpg

A Pigeon posed with fluffed feathers…protection against the cold wind.

Lots of Brown Pelicans flew by.

2019 01 IMG_4050.jpg

I managed to catch a sequence of a group as it went by. The ones with white heads are the mature birds…the brown heads are juveniles.

A Willet walked along the water’s edge.

Just before we left a group of Black Skimmer’s flew by…a good high point for the last of the field trip.

2019 01 IMG_4132.jpg

South Padre Island and Bay Cruise – Part 2

Our second stop was the South Padre Island Convention Center. There are boardwalks on one side of the building for birds (and other wildlife) viewing. My best pictures there were: black-necked stilt,

2017 11 IMG_5959.jpg
2017 11 IMG_5963.jpg

An alligator that was still at first but then headed toward the shore…stalking

A Common Gallinule that was making its way close to the shore (fortunately it wandered further upslope…no drama),

We walked to an area where there was a small area of planted vegetation. The small birds there were too hard to photography in the vegetation, but there were quite a few monarchs roosting…a little rest before continuing their migration.

We continued around the convention center buildings. There was a Little Blue Heron on an abutment,

2017 11 IMG_6015.jpg

A pelican almost too far out in the water (I didn’t notice the grebe until I looked at the image on the larger screen of my computer),

2017 11 IMG_6016.jpg

A Great Egret (not the black legs and feet),

2017 11 IMG_6019.jpg

At the front of the convention center, I took some pictures of the facades. These must hold up to coastal storms.

There were mud flats on the other side of the convention center….mostly drying since the tide was out. There were White Pelicans,

2017 11 IMG_6029.jpg
2017 11 IMG_6030.jpg

Black Skimmers (in the foreground), and

2017 11 IMG_6046.jpg

A strutting Tricolor Heron.

2017 11 IMG_6052.jpg

As we walked back to the bus, there were some White Ibis walking across the parking lot with us. The underside of the bill was different than I expected!

Closer to the bus were some laughing gulls in the parking lot. One seemed to yawn….a good ‘last’ picture for this segment of the field trip.