Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Jersey Shore Wrap-Up

No, it's not your favorite reality show, though birders can be quite obsessive and go a little crazy at times, just like Snookie, and the story is quite different, though, as with any story worth telling there were highs and lows, good times and times not so good.  But never, ever, were those times bad.

Before I continue, I would like to thank our hosts, Edna, her boyfriend Michael and Edna's son, Ray for showing me and Sue around.  They are all wonderful people and very good birders.

On Sunday, our final fulday in Cape May, we took a nice back bay boat ride where we saw a lot of great birds to fill out our New Jersey state list, which ended at 108 for the 4 days.  The trip, aboard the Osprey pontoon boat, was led by a naturalist who pointed out some great birds, including a Whimbrel or two,(could have been the same bird), Tri-colored Heron, Willet, Boat-tailed Grackles, a Peregrin Falcon on a water tower and a Red-tailed Hawk on an antenna guy wire, which was a really cool sight.

Afterward I dropped Sue off for an afternoon of shopping and I drove back to Brig to get that pesky Seaside Sparrow and perhaps the Snow Goose and Wilson's Phalarope.  No dice on the Snow Goose, but I have it on good authority that there will be more than enough later in October if/when I return for the Cape May Autumn Birding Festival.  There is also the Rice and Rails trip to Louisiana that looks good as well, at the same time.

Back to Brig.  While on the viewing platform searching in vain for the goose, I met a nice lady doing a painting and two fellow birders, to whom I could point out the Peregrin Falcon on a platform several hundred yards in the distance.  It was one of those that told me that this place is awash in Snow Goose in the winter.  The lady doing the painting started telling me how much she enjoyed the movie, The Big Year, and asked if people really did that kind of thing.  She was surprised that it was based on real people and I enjoyed telling her a little about how it inspired me to take on a similar adventure.

After I bid them farewell I headed off to the Northeast corner for another crack at the Seaside Sparrow.  I can't make any kind of squeaky noise so I just used my iBird app to call it out.  And it within a few minutes two sparrows popped out and flew a around a bit, but kept landing behind bushes so I couldn't get a good look at them.  I took a break and photographed some other birds in the area that were much more accessible.  Another sparrow flew into the area, and just as I was looking at it, a car pulled up and a woman with binoculars looked out the window and asked, "Are you doing birds or butterflies?"  I responed birds, and, without skipping a beat said," I know what you're looking for, and it just hopped into that bush."  How nice,   Just to make sure, I said, "The Seaside Sparrow?"  She agreed.  Unfortunately it didn't come out again into an open area so I could photograph and confirm bird number 498 for the year.  After she left, I hung around hoping to get a photo, but the only bird to come out for any length of time was a Savannah Sparrow.  I'm not yet that good a birder that I could have identified it on my own.

So, had the pelagic gotten off the other day, I'd have been over 500 already, but that was the only real disappointment on the trip, other than missing the Seaside and not being unable to find that Elegant Tern up in Sandy Hook on our way home.  Admittedly we only had about 2 hours to look, as we still had 10 hours of driving ahead of us and even then, didn't make it home until 1am.  However the stop in Sandy Hook was worth it just for the view of New York City.

There are two more east coast pelagics I can go on and I am heading to the west coast next Tuesday, birding San Francisco, both on land and by boat, and taking a side trip back to Tucson and Patagonia, and perhaps a drive up to Yosemite for some special Sierra birds.  If all goes well, when I return from the west coast I will need fewer than 80 birds to crack 600 by the end of the year.

I am also hoping in the next 6 days at home there are two good sightings so I can hit 500 right here in Ontario.  If someone can track down that Kelp Gull again I'd head out there tomorrow morning!

So here I sit at 497 and hoping for more.  As the Count of Monte Cristo once said, "Wait and Hope."

And tomorrow, there be photos...

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