From Black Capes to May Capes

Greetings everyone! If you have read any of the previous posts as of late you are already aware that these are busy times here at Intrigued. It is officially one week before our annual Haunted Trail of Tears event. 7 little itty bitty short days left and there is a mountain of work still to be done. The good news is I got the trails cleared and cleaned up so those just need to be mowed and trimmed and we can start staging all the props…. well, those that are built – we are still trying to squeak in a few new scares. Thankfully Ron was able to come down last weekend and again this upcoming weekend to help me work through some sticking points. Based on how this goes every year, sleep will be in short supply right up to the party. On top of all this I still need to get some runs in with the 50 miler just a few weeks after the party. As a result, I am going to let the blogs go dark for a bit. Figured I would leave you with one of the beautiful tins from this year to hold you over.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

You might have noticed, but I have been gradually amping up the color in the posts over the last couple of months. Today’s posts keeps that theme going with a stunning New World Warbler – the Cape May. Specifically, the adult male. The females and immatures are more muted, substituting the chestnut cheek with a grey toned one and the dark crown is significantly lighter with a more olive hue.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to see a lot more shots of our brightly colored Warbler.

They are also known for their aggressive striping on their breasts. Again, more muted in the non-adults, but very distinct in the field. I did not realize this until I saw it on Cornell’s website, but the “tigrina” in their scientific name (Setophaga tigrina) is actually in recognition of their tiger like stripes. Not versed in Latin, so no help on the first part ha!

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Just to close out the field markings, the Cap May also has a somewhat wide white patch/bar on their wings which compliments the white at the back of the breast and on into the undertail. All of this distinct coloring pops on the male thanks to a deep rich yellow wash. The Cape May is now easily in my top 10 most beautiful birds I have had the pleasure of seeing and tinning to date.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Add in the rich red colors of the Bottlebrush flowers and you have yourself a color explosion. Kind of gave it away with the reference to the flower, but this gorgeous Warbler comes to you from our trip in April down to the Alabama Gulf Shores. I’ve stated it once, I’ve stated it twice and assuredly will state it for all the Warbler posts still coming your way – Dauphin Island is one incredible birding hotspot.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

It sure helped that our timing could not have been more perfect for our trip down there this year. There is a huge birding festival/convention at Dauphin around the second week of April. I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with the “birder horde” as I call it that descend on the birding hotspots as the migrations kick into full gear. Birding for me is usually more of a peaceful, calming activity that allows me to decompress, let the pressing issues fade away for a bit and up to last November provided a relief from the daily stress of and enterprise I.T. architect life in a fortune 50 company. The thought of sharing that with hundreds and hundreds of people came with a high level of cringing.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

To help alleviate the additional bustle, we purposely planned our visit to be the third week in April – the week after the big events. We were hoping there would be some stragglers or late arrivals we could enjoy. If nothing else, we would get a good feel for the area and maybe refine our timing for a future visit. The additional great news is Ron was able to fly down there and meet up with us once we arrived. Note, I always call Ron the social birder – being the more talkative of the family (at least with strangers), he would probably have been in heaven during the previous weeks.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

In a complete surprise for us, our bad luck with weather on our trips turned out to be a huge benefit. Seems like all of our southern trips, as of late, has either brought unusually cold weather or a deluge of rain down with us. Case in point, we were in Texas earlier in the year and left less than week before they got slammed with their ice storm. As we were heading down to Alabama, we chased a rain front the entire way that finally let up the day after we arrived on the island. It didn’t occur to us until we showed up at the first birding location what kind of impact that would have on the migration.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

The bad weather had delayed the heavy migration and caused what they refer to as a “fallout” due to birds being exhausted by the strenuous trip across the Gulf and landing in the first vegetation they spotted. We were even told they were simply laying on the ground the day we got there. We wrongly assumed the rain would keep the birding opportunities down and didn’t head out until the sun came out the next day.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

After a good previous day of birding, Ron and I decided to catch a small park just down from our campground. Did find a nice Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (link here). That is when we noticed a small group of people a few blocks down all aiming big cameras at a mature tangle of Bottlebrushes. Ron recommended we head down there and see what they were tinning. There we met two really nice guys (brother-in-laws if I remember correctly) and another lady they had met at the place they were staying – which ended up being the same place Ron was booked at. They graciously pointed out this Cape May and the Orchard Oriole a few posts back (link here). Okay, I owe Ron a huge one for suggesting we head down there. We ended up meeting those guys a couple of times throughout the week – they were absolutely hilarious.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

There you have it, one of many +1s we were able to get tinned during the short week we were down there. I left in a lot more shots since I’d be gone for awhile and I still made it to the end before getting to the interesting tidbits. The Cape May is mainly a migratory only visitor here in the States preferring the “spruce-fir” forests in Canada. Their breeding season does drop down a bit into the upper New England region. The Cape May is named for its first documented spotting in Cape May, New Jersey. Cornell mentioned it hadn’t been seen there for around 100 years after that first spotting so its name is a bit odd – at least for those early post discovery years. They love them some spruce budworms which is their draw to the Canadian region, but they will fill up on insects and nectar using their specialized down turned bills as they make their way there. Lastly, I was sad to see they have a conservation status of “watch” due to their 2.5% per year decline from 1966 to 2015.

With that, will get back to the trail work. Take care everyone and I’ll catch you again in a week or so. Apologies in advance to all my blogger friends. – I’ll try my best to get caught up with all your great posts when I return as well.

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