To my crew
To the cahoots
To the ones who have been there
To the ones who will be there
To dropping everything
To saying anything
To no judgments
To no doubts
To been too long
To nothing's changed
To everything is different
To having history
To having your back
To moving on
To never too far
To growing up
To settling down
To my second family
Happy new year to all my birding friends. You truly are my second family and are never far from my thoughts and my heart.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
This year Cape May had the largest autumn migration fall-out in over 10 years. Driving to early morning field trips, I had to drive 10 miles an hour to avoid running over the dozens of birds on every paved surface - even the middle of the street. I had to stop the car at one intersection to pick up an exhausted sparrow who didn't move when my car approached and put him on the side of the road where he would be safer. The sky and trees were dripping with birds. Thousands of robins, yellow-rumps and sparrows, tree swallows (along with a lifer cave swallow), finches and kinglets flew through the night and landed in Cape May to rest and feed before continuing migration. Dozens of raptors wheeled through the sky at any given moment.
The weekend provided two life birds for me (cave swallow and lesser black backed gull) and almost 100 species total. But it was the sheer numbers that were breathtaking. I have only been birding for six years, but this was a spectacle unlike anything I had seen and had only read about. I felt blessed to be able to witness it.
My picture taking ability is limited to large birds perched close, so all the bird pictures I have are of mute swans. The most exciting birds I saw were the raptors - dozens of sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper's hawks perched on telephone wires and calling to each other, then flying down to the ground only yards away where I could get good looks at their patrician profiles. An osprey, immature and mature bald eagles, both turkey and black vultures, dozens of harriers (where I learned to identify the juveniles by their gorgeous buffy rufous bellies), red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons (!!!), broad wing hawks and dozens of kestrels were highlights of the weekend. There is no place like Cape May for raptor watching.
(click to enlarge and view the spectacle of hundreds of birds in flight)
Sunday, November 7, 2010
The Flock (part of it, anyway) at the Autumn Festival. From left to right, me, Susan, Laura and Delia
But mostly, the weekend was about the people - my birding peeps. Birding experts and heroes (Pete Dunne, Bill Thompson III, Louise Zemaitis, Jeff Gordon, etc), founding members of the Blogger Flock (who embraced me as one of their own at this very Festival three years ago) and newly-found bird friends and all-around wonderful people.
After arriving Thursday evening from business in Harrisburg, I hit the early morning Friday field trip at The Beanery. My first friend sighting was Jeff Gordon, newly appointed president of the American Birding Association and his lovely first lady, Liz Gordon. Then other friends arrived: Laura, Susan, Delia and Delia's partner AB.
Lots of hugs, giggles and catching up, interspersed with some birding, ensued. Throughout the next three days, we traveled Cape May marveling at the birds and enjoying each other's company.
Top left: Jeff and Liz Gordon leading a field trip at The Beanery
Top right: Delia getting ready to enjoy whipped cream with a side of blueberry pancakes at Uncle Bill's
A recent study by a psychologist at Stanford University concluded that one of the best things a man can do for his health is to be married while one of the best things a woman can do for her health is nurture relationships with other women. The myriad ways we connect with our women friends, offering unconditional support in tough times, love and laughter in good times and sometimes just an easy quiet being is undoubtably good for our souls. Being able to share our feelings in a non-threatening atmosphere boosts levels of serotonin, helping combat depression and foster well-being.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Wooded (and chilly) path through the Preserve
Saturday, June 19, 2010
At one point, we got out to set up the scope to look at......a great egret. Yup. That's how desperate we were. As a matter of fact, Uncle Jim told me to make sure I put this picture on the blog telling everyone that we are setting up a scope to look at AN EGRET! But slowly and surely, we added a species here and a species there. Pretty soon we had an decent list. When we made it to the Outer Banks, we made sure to see the three lighthouses - each with a distinctive paint pattern and light flash pattern.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I drove to North Carolina and Uncle Jim and I birded Lake Mattamuskeet, Pea Island and the Outer Banks (to be covered in another blog post) on the way to Cape Hatteras where at daybreak on Saturday, we boarded the Stormy Petrel II, owned and operated by Brian Patteson and his wonderful staff.
We left dock at 6:00am to head to the gulf stream (a two hour and twenty minute top-speed ride). Lots of fun, if a bit damp. The only time I got queasy was when I went into the bathroom. The enclosed space and the rocking motion made for a bad time, but once out in the fresh air where I could see the horizon, I was just fine. I even managed to eat lunch without getting sick.
Once we got out to the gulf stream, we saw dozens of Wilson's storm-petrels (they soon became the trash bird of the trip - they stayed with us the entire time we were on the gulf stream). They danced and fluttered on the ocean partaking of the menhaden oil that the Stormy Petrel II staff spread on the water to attract more birds. Wilson's storm-petrels dip their feet into the water as they feed, "paddling" to either hover over the food source or perhaps stir up more food. It gives an impression of seabird butterflies. Beautiful and magical. White-rumped storm-petrels soon joined in. I could not tell the difference between the two - the field guides say that the white-rumps have a divided rump patch, but with the speed of the birds and the rocking motion of the boat, all I could see was a brown bird with a white rump.
Suddenly, there was a big ruckus at the front of the boat. A group of six false killer whales was spotted. They gave us great looks as they swam close to and under the boat, almost playing with us. Dolphins, sunfish and flying fish rounded out the ocean wildlife for the day. Then, sooty and manx shearwaters flew in. Awesome - two more lifers for a total of 8 pelagic species for the day.
After a seafood dinner and a good night's sleep, we left for Ocraoke Island and the Cedar Island ferry, making our way back home. Thanks to Uncle Jim and the crew of the Stormy Petrel II for a fabulous time.