Saturday, March 9, 2013

Like Being in Montana

I looked up from photographing my first Piping Plover of the year to find Will Kerling also watching the bird. We were at Stone Harbor Point, the only two people in sight on beautifully clear but somewhat chilly morning, and we chatted awhile about birds, butterflies (always a topic with Will), and the place. Will said, "I think you can appreciate this. This is one of the few places down here that remind me of the wilds of Montana." Will lived in Montana for 35 years, and I'm sure longs for expanses of people-less plains and mountains.
I do get the comparison - when you're on Stone Harbor Point, you are in the middle of a large, functioning ecosystem of beach and estuary, and the buildings seem far away, and the roads cannot be heard. Piping Plovers and Oystercatchers can be, and of course there are the waves breaking.

 [Piping Plover at Stone Harbor Point.]

[This American Bittern popped up from the marsh at the back side of Stone Harbor Point. The contrasting dark flight feathers on the upperwing help separate the bird from the night-herons.]

[Western Sandpiper, center, with Dunlin. A bit smaller, a bit grayer, skinnier legs.]

As I drove home from Stone Harbor, I reflected that even after the trip to Trinidad, Cape May feels like a very birdy place, and now we're on the cusp of spring, and things only improve from here. Soon I'll see my first Osprey of spring (it is possible it wintered in Trinidad, I guess), and the first Laughing Gull, and maybe tomorrow an early waterthrush or Pine Warbler will sing in Belleplain. The seasons go around again.

[It was an amazingly high tide at dawn today, with Grassy Sound (seen here from the bridge to North Wildwood) showing no grass tops at all, just looking like a big, wide bay. We're near the new moon, when the moon and the sun's gravity pull in concert and tides run high.]

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