Yesterday, Friday, through tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 26-28 are the days of the New Jersey Audubon Society’s annual fall weekend event, The Bird Show. I usually help lead a few field trips or programs, but this year was assigned only two: one Friday afternoon, and one Saturday afternoon. I was glad about this when the days arrived, as we’ve had torrential rains here since Thursday, and Friday it rained hard most of the day. My Friday program began with an inside lecture on digiscoping by an expert and representative of the Swarovski optics company, Mr. Taylor.
Digiscoping is taking photos with a digital camera through a spotting telescope, the kind used by birders, and the talk focused on tools and techniques for this. It was all very interesting, though I learned that my particular digital camera, an Olympus C-730, is not useable for digiscoping, as its built-in 10-power optical zoom doesn’t play well with scopes. So, if I want to digiscope, I’d need a new camera, and no doubt a new scope as well, as mine is 20 years old.
After the indoor lecture, we went out to the covered picnic pavilion of the Cape May Point State Park, just off the parking lot shown above, and everyone got to play with the equipment out of the rain. Meanwhile, other groups were trudging out into the torrents to look for birds. I got home dry that night.
Saturday, my program was a similar arrangement, on Intermediate Birding. When I arrived for the indoor lecture, it was still raining off and on, but starting to look like it would be ending soon. Vince Elia spoke at length to a group of about 25 participants on topics like optics, birding tools, bird anatomy, identification by size, shape, habits and habitat, and time of year, all good things to know when you’re hoping to increase your birding skills.
Then we went out on the trail by Bunker Pond to try identification skills under still cloudy skies, but with breaks of sun in the distance. Good looks were had by all of the half dozen duck species in the pond, as well as egrets, herons, coots, and some Pectoral Sandpipers.
Before long the skies were clearing, and the sun came out. The front had finally passed, the wind shifted to northwest, the best for migrants, and in no time, raptors were in the air above us, mainly Sharp-Shinned Hawks and Ospreys, but a few Merlins as well. More birds were identified, Vince kept up a steady reportage of identification tips and hints, and everyone had a fine time.
Over on the Hawk-watch Platform, which had been deserted except for the official counters yesterday and earlier today, suddenly a crowd gathered to see the late day raptor flight. Both the birds and the birders were equally enthusiastic about the change in the weather.
I didn’t get any good bird pictures while with the group, as I was too busy talking and watching, but afterward, up on the platform, I got one reasonable picture of a White-Crowned Sparrow, one I don’t get to see very often, feeding just next to the platform.
The White-Throated Sparrow is the common one here from late fall to early spring, this one is uncommon, and I think more attractive.
Tomorrow, Sunday, should be a terrific birding day in Cape May, but I have other things to do, unfortunately, so I won’t get down there. Hopefully it will make up for the soggy rainout of the first day and a half, and send the hundreds of visiting participants home happy.