This weekend is the annual Fall Weekend birding event hosted by the New Jersey Audubon Society’s Cape May Bird Observatory, and as usual I helped lead a few field trips, two on Friday morning, two this morning (with Ellen). Friday I was at the Rea Farm, known as “The Beanery” because it used to be a Lima Bean farm. Now the development rights are owned and preserved by the state, and CMBO buys the rights to access for birdwatching year-round. The farm fields we walked on cover a good range of habitats, and the morning walk Friday was pretty good. Very cold starting out, near freezing, but no wind, so it didn’t feel that bad. Good variety of birds for the time of year, and a few late migrants like Black-throated Green Warbler, as well as difficult to see birds for here like Eastern Meadowlark, and a large group of cooperative Eastern Bluebirds, always a treat. A few raptors, some flyover water birds like Common Loon, tons of Yellow-Rumped Warblers, who winter here in large numbers. The second walk was less productive, but did include more raptor species we hadn’t seen earlier.
Saturday it rained, for the second year in a row, but it wasn’t bad, just occasional showers, no heavy downpours. When Ellen and I arrived at the Cape May Point State Park, the site of our walks, there was actually a faint rainbow over the lighthouse, first time I’ve seen that. I had chosen not to bring the camera because of the rain, so I missed that shot. Our early walk led by Mark Garland, among others, was good considering the weather. Overlooking the ocean from the high dune crossing we found lots of Northern Gannets, Black and Surf Scoters (sea ducks), and two Parasitic Jaegers, though at a great distance away. Down at Bunker Pond there were Northern Pintail and Ruddy Ducks, lots of Tree Swallows, and other water birds. We also had a few raptors flying overhead, including a Merlin and a close Peregrine Falcon. The second walk began much the same, then moved into the trail to Lighthouse Pond where we added more duck species and a close flyover by a Cooper’s Hawk.
A good event for us, and the sky is now clearing, so the rest of today and tomorrow should be great for birding. Alas, I’ll be working, but at least I got out for two half-days. If you ever decide to sample the birding experience of Cape May, either this Fall Weekend or the Spring Weekend events are a great way to do it.