An Autumn in Cape May

18 05 2011

I spent the fall 2010 as an interpretive naturalist for the Cape May Bird Observatory, working mainly at the morning flight and hawk watch platforms. Everyday in Cape May was filled with exciting surprises and energetic visitors, but my last week of work, in the end of October, elevated my standard for action packed birding! We had been experiencing bad migration weather for the last week or so until Thursday, Oct 28th when the winds shifted, a cold front came in and the flood gates opened! The nocturnal songbirds that night were amazing. That night, and into the wee hours of the morning, folks flocked to the condemned convention center downtown to watch and listen to the 300+ birds a minute flying by the light of the street lamps! It was like watching a meteor shower. They were dropping into store front windows and lamps by the hundreds: sparrows, robins, flickers! During our night out, a phoebe momentarily landed on my co-worker’s head before realizing it wasn’t a stationary object!

Northern Flicker

The next day was even crazier. Morning flight counted around 150,000 birds in 4 hours (70,000+ robins, 63,000 yellow-rumped warblers) and it probably didn’t take into account all the other birds all over the point that were not participating in the “re-directed morning flight”. The banders caught a golden eagle and released in on the hawk watch platform.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Saturday was just as impressive with thousands of sparrows, phoebes, and normally reclusive hermit thrushes littering the roads. My favorite moment of the day was watching hundreds of American Woodcocks flying out the trees pre-dawn! More golden eagle sightings and a Henslow’s sparrow, which is the first record of that bird in Cape May in 22 years!

Hermit Thrush

Sunday paled in comparison to Friday and Saturday’s flight but it was still a great day and my last day of work! It was a whirlwind two months, but some of the greatest birding experiences of my life and I am glad I had the chance to share this place with a lot of good people this season.

-Ashley Green

(Photos (c) Bill Lynch)

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