Sunday, September 8, 2013

Birds of a Feather Do Flock Together

One of the many things not on my bucket list got checked off this weekend. I will quickly add the item to my list and immediately cross it off – accomplished!

Friends visiting for the weekend wanted to drive to Cape May (NJ) to see the hawks and other birds of prey migrating this time of year. The area is a major gathering place for migratory birds, precursors of today’s human snowbirds.

We arrived at Cape May Point State Park in time to join a two-hour bird hunting  watching walk.
Our group of bird watchers.
Birds migrating along the East Coast find Cape May a great stopping off point. The geography of fresh water ponds, wetlands, salt marshes, beaches, and grasslands offers a satisfying temporary retreat. The birds gather their strength for long journeys. Brant geese, for example, fly non-stop to nest in the Arctic – about a 1,700 mile flight.
There are a few long-term feathered residents, but do not tell the politicians – before you know it they will invent some creative way to tax them.

Our volunteer guide, Chuck Slugg, a retired teacher and avid birdwatcher for the past ten years, provided binoculars to the amateur, first-time birders (me and hub). Experienced birders in the group would spot a bird in the distance and cry out, “Egret,” “ibis,” “black duck,” “blue heron at nine o’clock”. I tried to get a close look with my binoculars at the named animals, not always successfully. The birds refused to stop and pose for pictures, and were often out of sight before my binoculars found them.
Chuck Slugg, our guide.
Serious bird watchers.
By the way, readers, please do not let on to your politicians that there are thousands of undocumented, illegal migrants showing up at our shores regularly. Some are from Canada, others from Mexico and countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America. I do not want to be responsible for their eventually being banned from entering our country.

Lots of dragonflies sped by and unnamed insects nipped at my legs. It was annoying, but the creatures did not bite.
Can you see the dragonfly hiding in the greenery?
Mallard ducks and hybrids were among the most commonly observed animals. Chuck informed us that mallards are randy (his term). These sexually uninhibited ducks mate not only with their own species, but also closely related species such as the black duck. Males are also fickle, hanging around only until the female lays her eggs. Then they split.
Chuck and two assistant volunteers set up tripods with high-powered scopes focused on a particular bird or two or three. Moms and Dads and youngsters swam, dove for food, and preened (bird-talk for straightening and cleaning their feathers). Most of these birds hang around for a few days gathering strength for their flight south across the Delaware Bay.
A tree frog blending in to his home tree.  Not a bird, but sharing their habitat.
We saw lots of birds, but no raptors - birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, or vultures. We will have to return another time.

Following our adventure we drove to a favorite restaurant for dinner.

No one ordered duck.


  1. I am a rank amateur at bird watching, but they are fun to watch at our feeder in the back yard.

  2. It sounds like it was a lot of fun and a good learning experience. Bird watchers are a special breed. :-)

  3. I am just beginning to venture beyond my own yard for bird watching. Your adventure sounds like fun.