[CT Birds] Bluff Point

Chris Elphick elphick at sbcglobal.net
Fri Sep 10 20:48:17 EDT 2010

--- On Fri, 9/10/10, Robert Maleski <maleski at msn.com> wrote:

Would you kindly comment as to why no bay breasted, blackburnian, or cape may warblers are being reported at bluff point?

Hi Bob,

I think it is simply a combination of these species being relatively rare, combined with the difficulty of identifying most birds during morning flight.  

Bay-breasted and Cape May are unpredictable at any time in CT, and blackburnian, though more common and not hard to find during the nesting season, is less common than most of the species we have been seeing.  That said, on a good day at Bluff, one can expect blackburnian, bay-breasted is certainly not out of the ordinary, and Cape May not impossible.  

The identification factor also matters.  Most birds at Bluff give you 2-3 seconds to make an ID ... from below ... with the bird in flight ... and generally with it backlit and the light reflecting off the bird's underparts making them look entirely yellow no matter what the real colour.  

So, even with 1000 birds, you may only get to identify 150 or so with confidence (like this morning).  This means that even when the rarer species are in the mix, it's easy to miss them.  And some of the species you mentioned are not easy to pick out even if you see them well.  I'd only feel confident calling a really well marked bay-breasted in flight, and of course in the fall most of them are not well marked because most individuals are young birds and not brightly coloured adult males.  Almost all of the bay-breasteds I've seen at Bluff, were in the woods after the main flight was over allowing time to study them properly and be sure of the ID.  I'd imagine Cape May would be even harder (Dave Provencher is maybe the only person in CT to have seen enough Cape May's during morning flight to have a good sense of how their ID compares with other species, I certainly don't.)

As for how Bluff compares with the powerline cut for these species, I cannot say as I've never been to the Rte 44 site.  But at this time of year it's often completely new birds every day, so I think either site is probably as good as the other.  But, the birds you mention are not ones that I'd consider reliably "chase-able" in CT during mgiration.  Cape May and bay-breasted, especially, are in my experience birds that you see by putting in the time, rather than by putting in the miles.  And, in my view, one doesn't go to Bluff for specific species but for the sheer spectacle of migration in action - for me, perhaps the best that CT has to offer in terms of birding spectacles that cannot easily be found elsewhere.

For what it is worth, the air looks to be alive with birds right now ... unfortunately, I can't get out tomorrow.  Hope you see something good wherever you end up.

Chris Elphick

Storrs, CT

elphick at sbcglobal.net

More information about the CTBirds mailing list