This afternoon Ellen and I walked the trails at nearby Belleplain State Forest looking for fall colors. It’s about a week past the best of it, but we still found enough to enjoy, and the weather was pleasant for November. Continue reading
A forest path;
the sun in the trees,
the leaves in the breeze,
whistlin’ a song.
With the weather cold
your breath turns to steam,
there’s ice in the stream,
the leaves whirl around
with a whispery sound.
The woods are a misty brown and gray,
it’s getting colder along the way,
silence grows as the forest waits for the snow.
The path winds down
through a thicket of firs,
we’re covered in burrs,
the pines are still green,
the first we have seen.
We stop at last
at the cliff on the hill,
the forest is still,
and spread out below
are the places we know.
Now the snow begins and the woods grow colder,
we must turn back ere the evening’s older,
the darkness grows, but the light remains in the snow.
We wander on, and the clifftop is still,
and so is the hill….
Todd Klein, early 1970s
This past weekend was New Jersey Audubon’s fall birding festival in Cape May, and I helped out on a few walks, though with other leaders who are better birders than I, so I didn’t have much to add. It was wonderful to be out early on Friday and Sunday, though, with nice weather and lots of birds around. The lighthouse never looked more dramatic than on Friday morning at sunrise!
In fact, I didn’t take many pictures, as I was busy enjoying the birds with my binoculars most of the time, but here’s a shot from the Hawk Watch platform at the opposite edge of the Cape May Point State Park parking lot from the lighthouse, where watchers and official counters were enjoying hawks, eagles, ducks, geese, and some small birds as well.
Sunday’s walk a half dozen miles up the Delaware Bay shore at Cox Hall Creek Wildlife Management Area was equally fun, and we enjoyed lots more birds there, like Bald Eagles, Eastern Bluebirds, and many others.
This fall has been busy for me, with visits to Baltimore and New York for comics conventions, two trips to north Jersey to visit family, and lots of work. I haven’t had much time for birding, but today my schedule cleared, the weather was ideal, and I had a nice morning walk at Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area near Cape May. The fields and woods were full of fall colors, and the early sun made it glow.
There were lots of birds to see, not as many species as you might find in September, but large numbers of Northern Flickers (above) and Blue Jays, and small numbers of about thirty other species, some migrating, some full-time residents, some arriving to stay for the winter. It hasn’t been a great fall for migrating songbirds because the weather has not cooperated very often to bring them to the coast, but last night’s cold front did the trick.
You might think from these photos that I had the place to myself, but there were probably 100 birders around the five fields and many trails, some in groups lead by New Jersey Audubon staff and volunteers, some on their own. Everyone had a great time this morning, I didn’t hear a single complaint.
After my walk I had a second breakfast, then reported to the Cape May Bird Observatory for my weekly volunteer time. My task this year has been keeping the used book shelves stocked and catalogued. In line with the center’s focus, the books are all bird or nature related, donated by members. While there, I enjoyed seeing some of the captive Monarch butterflies emerging from their chrysalis’s in one of three terrariums they have set up for them. CMBO helps run a Monarch tagging and tracking program, and if the taggers find any Monarch caterpillars on their rounds, they bring them in (with milkweed leaves to feed on) and keep them on display for visitors. When the caterpillars go into chrysalis, they usually try to climb to a high point, which in this case is the screen on the top of the terrarium, so that’s where they end up. After they emerge and are ready to fly, a process that can take a few hours, they’re tagged and released. It’s hard to imagine these tiny creatures flying all the way to their wintering grounds in Mexico, but several Monarchs tagged in Cape May have been recovered there.
In case you’re wondering what a Monarch tag looks like, it’s a small round sticker that doesn’t bother the butterfly at all. Here’s one just tagged by Lindsey Brendel. If you should ever find a dead Monarch with a tag, the tag has info that tells you how to report it. It’s a cool project that’s been going on for many years. You can read more on their BLOG.
I saw this bird today flying around over Bunker Pond in the Cape May Point State Park. It’s a Whiskered Tern, a species native to Europe, Asia and Africa, but it shouldn’t be here. It’s the third one ever seen in North America. All three sightings are from Cape May, New Jersey, the previous two were 1993 and 1998.
Fall migration is on now, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to go birding yet. Today I was helping out at the Cape May Bird Observatory when word came of this rarity. The entire staff headed right for the door to go see it. I offered to hold the fort, and when the first staffer came back satisfied, I took the short drive to see it myself. The bird was easy to spot, a tern with mottled gray plumage, but my looks weren’t this good, CMBO staffer Mike Crewe is an ace photographer. Ten minutes of birding so far this fall, one new bird for my life list. (And the first in several years.) Pretty cool! Now I remember why we moved here…