Monday 8 July 2019

One Day Cape May

Cape May Lighthouse

This was just a brief stopover on the way from the main event of the Upper Texas Coast as I'd always wanted to know just what was special about Cape May that drew birders in huge numbers every autumn. Now I know! The place is small, relatively easily walkable - i.e. you could easily spent the whole day at South Meadows and the Lighthouse if you were so inclined, the potential seems to be enormous. 

Purple Martin

Lighthouse was where we started, parking underneath a Purple Martin nest tower. Looking at eBird the previous evening the sightings from Coral Avenue had looked the best, but what I didn't realise was that this was because a vizmig station was set up here on one of the wooden platforms and manned by a team of elite birders that didn't miss a trick, but equally a lot of what they were seeing were dots in their scopes. EBird is a great resource, but a bit of local knowledge is even better! I spoke to one of them who suggested it was not going to be a great day. What?! Nonsense, of course it was going to be a great day, I was birding in America and any day that happens is automatically a wonderful day!

American Oystercatcher

I lost Mick while I was having this conversation, and did not find him again for a couple of hours. During that time I photographed a pair of American Oystercatchers by Battery 223, and all sorts of other things along the trails that led to South Cape May Meadows alongside the Bunker Pond. Tree Swallows flitted around, along with Purple Martins and Barn Swallows. The Ponds were ruled by Mute Swans and Canada Geese, but a nesting Killdeer on the side proved easy, as well as Mockingbird and Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. I walked several miles, mostly just birding happily, but occasionally the camera got a bit of action, never much though. This is my favourite type of bird photography, what I would describe as "roving". No hide, no hours sat still, find a bird and see if you can make it work, and if you can't move on.

Tree Swallow

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher


Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

I found Mick back at the Lighthouse car park taking photographs of American Robins, and so we swapped for a while, he to walk the paths and me to get down low. Once bored of this we had a change of scene up at Sunset Beach - mainly tourism-related, followed by some birding at the Meadows. Here we walked a couple of loops, photographing Black Duck and adding American Wigeon and Gadwall to the list, as well as Bonaparte's Gull and Fish Crow.

American Robin

Black Duck

By now lunchtime and with a flight at six, we needed a new plan and a new place to explore. The next-best place seemed to be Higbee Beach, as short drive away. Here we spent a pleasant hour or so wandering around the woodland, adding Prairie Warbler and Belted Kingfisher

Prairie Warbler

We had one last go at South Cape May Meadows which had been the most birdy, and on a sandy track near the beach caught up with Field Sparrow that eBird had said was present here. We also took a dead end but not without excellent view of Carolina Chickadee, and then it was time to head back to Philly for the overnight flight back to London and work.

Field Sparrow

Carolina Chickadee

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