A Record-setting First Day of the Season at Sandy Point

I definitely had second thoughts when the alarm went off at 4:45 this morning.  I hate pre-5am alarms.  But August flights at Sandy Point Beach, Cousin’s Island, Yarmouth can be so much fun.  I just wish dawn didn’t come so darn early right now.

But as of 9:30 last night, the NEXRAD radar was absolutely on fire!  Light northwest winds and clear skies really put birds on the move.  Here are the 10pm, 1am, and 4 am radar and velocity images for example.  For a detailed explanation of how to read and interpret these images, see Chapter 5 of my book, How to be a Better Birder.
10pm radar,8-23-13

10pm velocity, 8-23-13

4am velocity, 8-24-13

4am radar,8-24-13

1am velocity, 8-24-13

1am radar,8-24-13

This was really an exceptional flight for this early in the season. But back to that alarm clock…I woke up, and saw that the winds had become northerly overnight.  The lack of a westerly component usually diminishes the Morning Flight here.  However, with that high of a density on the radar, even as late as 4:00am, I figured I would give it a go, despite serious contemplation of rolling over and waiting until the next cold front (and waiting for a few more minutes of darkness).  Let’s just say I was glad I motivated.  Come sunrise, a little northwesterly to westerly breeze at the surface developed, and encouraged more birds to cross at the point.  The winds were very light, so a lot of birds were high; the trees and shrubbery were fairly quiet this morning.  Therefore, with so many high birds, and some big groups just too far to the north of the bridge, my “unidentified” tally was higher than I would have liked.

Regardless, it was still great.  In fact, it was record-setting.  A new August high count, and a new high count for 6 species.  Plus a Patch Bird!  Here’s the morning’s scorecard (*= new record high count):

408 American Redstarts*
379 Unidentified
67 Yellow Warblers
59 Northern Parulas
59 Magnolia Warblers*
50 Cedar Waxwings
33 Black-and-white Warblers*
28 Black-throated Green Warblers
25 Yellow-rumped Warblers (all in active molt)
8 Bay-breasted Warblers*
8 Blackburnian Warblers*
7 “Traill’s” Flycatchers*
7 Canada Warblers*
6 Chestnut-sided Warblers
5 Unidentified empids
4 American Robins
3 Chipping Sparrows
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
2 Olive-sided Flycatchers
2 Least Flycatchers
2 Black-throat Blue Warblers
2 Bobolinks
2 American Goldfinches
2 Purple Finches
1 SOLITARY SANDPIPER (my 174th species here!)
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Pine Warbler
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Dark-eyed Junco (record early)
1 DICKCISSEL (first of fall; my 3rd August record here)

Total= 1177* (new August record)

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