A Fall for Rare Birds?

For birders in world famous Cape May, the appearance of rare birds is taken somewhat for granted. But in the early fall of 2002, it was one surprise after another.

An Eared Grebe discovered in the inlet south of Stone Harbor, September 18, was the latest in a string of discoveries. Not commonly found east of the Mississippi, the small, diving bird is rated "very rare" by the Records of New Jersey Birds Committee - rare enough that birders from North Jersey and adjacent states showed up to hoping to get a glimpse.

Even rarer was a Pacific Golden Plover spotted on a Cumberland County sod farm this month. Only once before has this Alaskan breeder been recorded east of the Rockies. Hundreds turned out to see the bird intent on taking a scenic route to the species wintering grounds in the South Pacific.

Earlier in the month, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, usually found in Central America, made several appearances near Higbee Beach.

Simultaneously a Swallow-tailed Kite, a southern hawk that is to flight what a symphony is to sound, was seen over Higbee Beach by a fortunate few.

At Stone Harbor Point a rare Curlew Sandpiper entertained birders in late July and August, and in mid September, fifteen Sandwich Terns loafing on the beach at Cape May Point constituted a new state maxima; and from Massachusetts come reports that an incursion of Boreal Chickadees is underway. This burley, brown-capped species has never been recorded in Cape May. Yet.

What was going on in Bird-dom?

"I haven't a clue," said the usually insightful Pete Dunne, Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory.

But birders were thanking their lucky stars because the season was off to an exciting start.



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curlew sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper on Stone Harbor Point
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