Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Cold Front Weekend In Cape May

[The signature bird of the weekend: Northern Flicker. I tried like hek to get a picture of the signature sound of the weekend, that being a flicker squealing as a Sharp-shinned Hawk tries to rip its tailfeathers out, but this was the best I could do. . .]

On Saturday I joked to Michael as I reached the end of the line of people at the top of the Higbee Beach dike, "Standing room only,eh?" Which is a a bit of a joke anyway, since you don't sit at the dike. Michael looked down the line of people drawn to this famous place (and often disappointed, I hasten to add - we had a bunch of warblers including a "great" look at a flyby Connecticut, but it ain't a simple thing up there and most people are happier in the fields). Then he said, "Well, it is a cold front Saturday in October."

And it was, and Sunday morning Tony Leukering aptly texted, "If you're not out, get out, as there are birds everywhere: NOFL, warblers, sparrows, raptors" . . .two good days to be alive and be a birder.

eBird tells me I saw 131 species this weekend, pretty great stuff. But what was really special was the way, with patience and stealth, it was possible to get close to some of these migrants. . . which leads me to propose, tongue in cheek and based on some of the "violations" seen this weekend, "The Rules of Higbee Beach," where I spent Saturday and Sunday mornings. Take this tongue in cheek, and put the word "please" in front of each:

1. Slow the hek down. Ooze along the trail, please.
2. Shut the hek up.
3. Lose the bright or white clothing, especially hats.
4. You will never catch up with a bird by running after it.
5. You will never get closer to a bird by moving towards it.
6. If 20 people stand there waiting for the Connecticut to pop up, it won't. And it was probably a Common Yellowthroat anyway.
7. If you swing your camera or bins, the bird will flush. Slowly, please.
8. If someone is standing dead still aiming their camera or binoculars at the bushes, there's probably a reason. Ask them, with a whisper - and go around them, if you must.

Okay, enough of the semi-diatribe. Here's why my pal Vince Elia takes the last week of September and the first week of October off every year. The cuckoo, vireo, Parula, and yellowthroat were at Higbee; the rest are from a Chinese elm near Lily Lake.

[Learn from the Yellow-billed Cuckoo - be still, cock your head slowly, look around for your quarry. Be still some more. And some more.]

[Northern Parulas were everywhere, overhead, in the trees, at the elm sap wells in Cape May Point gleaning minute insects. Tsiping in the night. . .it's been a great year for them.]

[Red-eyed Vireos congregated at ripe Porcelain Berry clusters, though this one was in a cherry.]

[Not everything skulking in the ragweed with some yellow, some green, and an eyering is a Connecticut. Witness this Common Yellowthroat. . .]

[Dueling warblers - Blackpoll left, Black-throated Blue right. Search the Chinese Elms of Cape May Point for the next 2-3 weeks. . .]

[And, finally, Cape May's namesake warbler, left, with an acrobatic Blackpoll. Megan Crewe told me her Field Guide's group's first bird was a Cape May Warbler, way to go!]


  1. Great portraits, Don. Hope I can make it to CM sometime this fall.

  2. Don, I echo your concern about the new film "The Big Year" ~ thought you would enjoy this interview w/leading actors...they seem sincere and respectful...I hope!