[And number 300 is. . . not this Eurasian Wigeon at Cape May Point State Park, even if I thought it was. . . all photos in this post are from Saturday, September 28 in the Cape May, area, click to enlarge.]
The number 300 has a certain significance to NJ birders who play the listing game, or even who just try to bird a lot and keep track of what they see. I'm in the latter camp, with eBird doing the job of keeping track of annual list totals for me and everyone else who eBirds. 300 is the unofficial NJ par for a year of birding, a milestone to try for. Although the NJ state list stands at 468, and something like 350-375 or more species occur in any given year, 300 for a birder who isn't going nuts is a fine total.
After a couple years of less birding than I'd like, and less birds, this year I set out with the vague objective of doing what I've been calling a not-big-year big year. I wasn't going to go crazy and chase down every rarity, but I was going to bird as much as reasonably possible, mainly with the idea of "keeping the knife sharp." If you don't bird a lot, your skills start slipping, and I knew mine were, and I decided to do something about it. A big list and big skill are not the same thing, so mainly I've been trying to find birds on my own, and study them like I'm seeing them for the first time. And hearing them, too - I've particularly felt that cutting-edge of birding, flight calls, slipping from memory banks occupied by things non-bird.
If I had a number goal, it was/is 300 species in NJ, and it happens I'm sitting at 299. And I'll be damned if I remember it, shamefully, but apparently I saw a Eurasian Wigeon back in April and eBirded it, so the drake EUWI that appeared in Cape May Point this week was not, in fact, number 300. This morning I probed Higbee Beach for a Lincoln's Sparrow, listening hard for a Swamp Sparrow-like buzz of a flight call when there aren't many Swamp Sparrows around yet, listening hard for the sharp chip. Nope. So I'm still at 299. . . 300 will come, I presume, eventually. In the meantime, keep on birding, and photographing, going for the "lighthouse shot" on raptors and others at Cape May Point, taking time with a confiding Carolina Wren, and otherwise sharpening the knife. The number 300 will not make the knife sharper, but the birds will.
[Lighthouse shot: Cooper's Hawk. Rounded.]
[Lighthouse shot: Merlin. Sharp.]
[Closer view of a Merlin.]
[Thrashers were among the more evident birds at Higbee Beach WMA this morning.]
[Point blank Carolina Wren. Try getting a view like this on purpose, and you'll likely be frustrated, but this one came as a gift.]