Hard to believe that we are already 3 weeks into the 2021 season at the Cape May Hawkwatch sponsored by Swarovski Optik. The headliner during the first 3 weeks were, no doubt, Ospreys. All but one day during this period saw double digit Ospreys and 6 of those days were over triple digits. The max day was a whopping 332 on September 18th (more on this day later). We are smack dab in the middle of peak Osprey migration so it is no surprise to see such huge numbers. Ospreys are strong fliers who require little wind and can even tolerate a headwind to cross Delaware Bay, so the unfortunate warm and light wind days that often curtail migration for most species in September, are actually suitable conditions for Osprey. No matter what the weather is in Cape May there is always some migration occurring.
Aside from the steady stream of Osprey migration throughout this period, the standout day was undoubtedly September 18th. As I’m sure most readers know, the ideal wind direction for raptor migration is NW winds, which are almost always associated with a cold front that drops the temperature and humidity like a rock. Oddly enough, on September 18th, the winds were out of the NW, but it felt more like summer because the temperatures reached 81°F. Despite the summer-like feel, 1,243 migrating birds of prey were tallied from the hawkwatch platform! At the time, a new season high was set for every species of raptor! The most numerous raptor counted that day was the smallest of our 3 falcons, the American Kestrel, topping out at 655 individuals. Other notable sightings from the day was the first obvious push of accipiters (Sharp-shinned Hawks & Cooper’s Hawk) along with a few decent sized kettles of Broad-winged Hawks. Check out hawkcount.org for exact raptor numbers recorded each day this season.
As always, many cool species of birds were seen from the hawkwatch platform aside from all the wonderful birds of prey. The highlight this week was, without a doubt, a female Ruff on September 23rd, the first seen in Cape May County since 2017. Another amazing sighting was a Wood Stork seen soaring distantly to the north over Pond Creek marsh on September 20th. A Clay-colored Sparrow was also seen in the shrubs next to the platform on the 20th. A Connecticut Warbler buzzed over the platform on September 11th.
– Jesse Amesbury