Thursday, December 2, 2010

December Birding in South Jersey

Birders don't give up when the weather gets cold. Migrations continue through the end of the year (though not in as great a number as autumn).

A post by Paul Kerlinger about birding this month at Cape May reports gannets and other fish-eating birds at the Jersey Cape.

With the summer and early autumn migrants (warblers, shorebirds, hawks etc.) gone to the tropics like some other New Jerseyeans, now we can view some late season migrating waterbirds

The list includes Northern Gannets, scoters (mostly Black and Surf, with small numbers of White-winged), Red-throated Loons, diving ducks like Long-tailed, alcids (mostly Razorbills), jaegers (mostly Parasitic, with the occasional Pomarine), and kittiwakes.

If you do spot any hawks, it will probably be the red-tailed hawks or fewer red-shouldered hawk, Northern Goshawks, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, and Northern Harriers. Don't be shocked if you spot a Golden or Bald eagle.
Snowy Owl on NJ beach
Moving towards the Delaware Bayshore marshes might allow you on a late afternoon to spot some of my favorites - the owls. Short-eared Owls can be seen and heard "barking" as they hunt rodents, as they swoop low over the marsh grasses. There are also Snowy owls, Great Horned, Long-eared and other owls in the area.

If you're new to birding, you can sign up for one of the Cape May Bird Observatory owl field trips. Author Patricia Sutton (How to Spot an Owl) leads trips for the Observatory. You can purchase books and scopes at the Cape May Bird Observatory shop or at one of the other birding stores in the area.

And in January, you can spot thousands of Snow Geese in the salt marshes of Forsythe (formerly Brigantine) National Wildlife Refuge (near Absecon in Atlantic County). A staggering half-million Snow Geese will be in South Jersey during the winter.

Birds And Birding at Cape May


The Cape's back bays, creeks, marshes and the Cape May Bird Observatory at 7th Street in Avalon are places to try this month.

Behind the Coast Guard Base (along Ocean Drive in Wildwood Crest) is a good place for waterfowl like diving buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers. You will often spot the more- diurnal-in-winter Black-crowned Night-herons and Great Blue Herons hunting for crabs and fish.

Delaware Bayshore spots like Jake’s Landing and Dennis Creek are good for spotting Short-eared Owls (and Northern Harriers) doing some marsh hunting for voles and mice. 

How to Spot Hawks and Eagles

And if you just want to walk the Cape and do some casual observing, try Cape May Walking Tours: Short, Fun, No-stress Tours for All Ages and Abilities

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