Skimming Cape May Autumn Weekend

On the last day of the Cape May Autumn Weekend, a group of bird bloggers came to the birdJam booth and said they were going to go look at skimmers just down the street. I asked if I could come and they welcomed me along. What could be so great about skimmers some of you may be asking?

A black skimmer is a wonder to behold when you see them head up...oh wait, that is probably not the best angle to view a skimmer, you can't see what makes them so spectacular, so how about this:

Is that just a dynamite bill? That's not a mistake, that's the way their bill is supposed to look, extra long on the bottom and they fly over the water and dip the lower mandible down in the water and when something touches it--usually a fish, it snaps shut to get a firm grip on the prey.

Here's an up close shot of that cool looking bill.

There were a couple of large flocks of skimmers on the beach and Jay from birdJam showed Susan Gets Native how to approach birds by crawling--you're not much of a threat to birds if you're on all fours.

When we scanned the flocks of skimmers, we could see other species mixed in. Above is a sampling of skimmers, gulls and terns.

My gull id is a tad shaky, but I'm calling these small masked birds, Forster's tern.

We also found some laughing gulls mixed in with the skimmers. Considering that the birds were out of breeding plumage, I was feeling that being able to id these birds is somewhat of a triumph of the human spirit.

Eventually, the skimmers went airborne, but when they took off, we found another gull that was towards the back of the flock:

With process of elimination, I think this is a royal tern. The bill looks too heavy to be an elegant tern (but I'm open to suggestions). Doesn't look to bad from this angle, even though it's not in breeding plumage. You can see some royalty there.

But then the bird looks at you head on and it suddenly resembles a member of the Stooge family.

Away from the flock was a huge great black-backed gull being followed by a tiny sanderling. I love looking at size and species comparisons on the beach and was delighted to see such fun birds right down the street from the convention center for the Autumn Weekend.

It was great to meet some of the bloggers in person. In this photo we have Born Again Birdwatcher, Beginning To Bird, Somewhere in NJ, SGN, and me. Heading out for some end of festival birding was a great way to bring it to a close.