November New Jersey with TAS: Day ThreeBy
There’s no such thing as too much Cape May, and we deserved a second shot after our first, dank but still birdy visit on Tuesday. Thursday was bright, cool, and — at least once we were off the exposed beach at the ferry terminal — pleasantly calm, and birding in the hackberry tangles of Higbee Beach was slow-paced but periodically productive. Purple Finches fed at eye level, American Robins and Cedar Waxwings crowded the treetops, and skulky Brown Thrashers and Gray Catbirds emerged, cautious, from the thick to let us admire their easternness.
We took the appearance of a hungry Sharp-shinned Hawk, and the attendant disappearance of every last passerine, as a sign, and moved on to the day’s first real target bird. It seems inappropriate to say that our steps were “dogged” by a Sanderling as we crossed the white sand out to the remains of St. Peter’s jetty, but none of us could remember having one of even that famously confiding species follow us so long and so close, nearly stepping on our toes as it hunted the shallow footprints we left.
There were more Sanderlings out on the rocks, with them a few Ruddy Turnstones –and four or five Purple Sandpipers, the goal of our little trudge. They were the first I’d seen this fall (less a measure of the species’ abundance than of the frequency of my trips to the shore this year) and the first ever for a couple of us. Our day was off to a good start.
We spent a few minutes scanning the waterfowl at the Lighthouse Pond, enjoying in good light the same birds we’d struggled to pick out in the murk a copule of days before, then headed up the coast to Nummy Island, where the only (!) Greater Yellowlegs of the week added itself to the day’s wader list.
By the time we got to Stone Harbor, the shadows were lengthening and the water starting to shimmer purple. Our final target shorebird, in the gangly, goofy form of four American Oystercatchers, first out on the rocks, then coming out for a little supper on the beach.
We followed suit.