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Cape May Hawkwatch Update – October 8th

Another exciting week at the Cape May Hawkwatch. Every hawkwatcher in the northeast region was salivating at the forecast for Friday October 4th. It was the perfect set up for a massive flight of raptors. Multiple days of slow migration, causing lots of birds to be held up to our north, and a cold front clearing the Cape May area late Thursday night, causing the winds to shift to NW a few hours before dawn. It was the perfect recipe for a big flight and it did not disappoint. A new season high was set for 7 raptor species! Upon arriving at the platform 30 min before sunrise, Ospreys were already up and migrating across Delaware Bay. I knew it was going to be a big day. Within the first few moments after sunrise, the sky was filled with American Kestrels and Sharp-shinned Hawks. By mid morning Merlins joined the party and continued to dart past the platform for all to enjoy. It was nonstop action until a few minutes before sunset. The final tally was 946 American Kestrels, 741 Sharp-shinned Hawks & 402 Merlins. Northern Harriers also put in a strong showing with 33. Cooper’s Hawks were tallied in strong numbers too, with 204 seen. The grand total was a whopping 2,730 raptors counted.

An Osprey grabs a meal on the go. This time an Atlantic Menhaden.

Despite the huge numbers, the highlight of the day was without a doubt a second year, intermediate plumaged Swainson’s Hawk that appeared over the platform at 4:55 pm! This same Swainson’s Hawk remained in the area and was seen again on Saturday morning from 8:30-9:15 allowing for phenomenal looks.

A rare visitor from the Western half of the United States, this Swainson’s Hawk was a real treat for every birder on the hawkwatch platform.

East meets west. A Broad-winged Hawk crosses paths with the Swainson’s Hawk.

The rest of the week was plagued by southerly winds, putting a halt to the majority of raptor migration. However, there were plenty of other sights to be seen especially the massive swarm of Tree Swallows flying over Bunker Pond and the nearby dunes. An estimated 11,000 were observed from the platform on Sunday October 6th. Amazingly a leucistic Tree Swallow was picked out in the huge flock, and made for a fun game of attempting to re-find it as the swallows swirled around the point.

This flock of 11,000 Tree Swallows was mesmerizing to watch as they flew right overhead.

Partially leucistic Tree Swallow stood out like a sore thumb among the the flock of Tree Swallows.

Some rare birds were also seen including a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on 10/4 (seen by one person), a Western Kingbird on 10/6 , and a Gull-billed Tern on 10/4. The Eurasian Wigeon continues to be seen daily on Bunker pond.

American Kestrel dive bombs an unsuspecting dragonfly.

New Jersey Audubon