Posted by: DarkEyedJunc0 | October 10, 2011

Cape May Big Sit weekend

This was a my favorite kind of weekend… a CAPE MAY kind of weekend! 🙂

This weekend brought travels to Cape May for the Big Sit. (My first ever, RF’s first at Cape May.) It truly was an amazing experience. We went down on Saturday, and stopped at Brig on the way, and met up with a great friend, ES (who was one of the original people who got me into birding.) The loop around Brig was okay, our “bird of the trip” was an American Golden Plover and efforts to find the YHBB were not successful. But as always, going to Brig, is like unwrapping Christmas presents as a kid… lots to choose from, and you never know what you are going to get. 😉

Next, it was south-bound on the GSP to where the world begins for me, Exit 0- Cape May, NJ!

Our first birding stop came late afternoon at the Cape at Higbee Beach. There, we had a few surprises. Some very distant calling Barred Owls and moderate looks at lifer #308 – Gray-cheeked Thrush.  From there, we visited the State Park for a preview of the next day’s Big Sit. Waterfowl was the flavor of the day, along with an amazing sunset.

We retired to our room to prepare for events to come- The Big Sit, which was an amazing experience of a lifetime.

We arrived at about 6:30AM in time for a beautiful sunrise, and joined an already enthusiastic group of Cape May creme of the crop birders at the platform.

How much birding talent can you fit on a platform?

Ironically, it took some time to get the “common birds” like Fish Crow, Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee, etc. There was no shortage of “hawkage” (Sharpies, Coops, Merlin, Peregrine, a Harrier and a Bald Eagle built up excitement each time they appeared.) I even lifed a flyby Cackling Goose (#309) from the sit, which was a treat. And reports came of a continuing Eurasian Wigeon in the other pond, which we took turns checking out.

Majestic Bald Eagle flies right over our heads

This series of photos captured a hungry Merlin who caught “breakfast” a la Meadowlark right in front of our eyes.
Warning: these photos may be upsetting to some.

We remained on the platform until about 8:45 PM (for a total of 14 hours and 15 minutes.) Just before we left, we had calling Oystercatchers from the beach and very distant calling Great Horned Owls. What a way to end the day!

All-in-all, the team effort racked up 117 species (which is considered low-ish by Cape May standards (imagine that!)) And did I mention it was an amazing experience? 😉

And for some Monday morning birding, we took it easy, and stayed around the lighthouse-area for the most part. We birded around CMBO, “the Magic Tree” (where we saw a Cape May warbler (afterall, you can’t go to Cape May and not see a Cape May)) and the Hawk Watch.  We also headed to “The Beanery” where Swamp and Song sparrows and Yellow Rumps were the flavor of the day. (We also got amazing looks at an Orange-crowned warbler.)

Finally, we headed back to the Hawkwatch to say our “goodbyes” and the highlight was Cape May’s first Golden Eagle (lifebird #310) who gave good scope looks when it turned.

The hawk-watching season is off to a great start… here are the totals from Sep 1 – Oct 9:

It is always worth a visit to the Hawkwatch – be sure to stop in if you are in the “neighborhood.”
Cape May I will miss you … but I’ll be back in a few weeks, for sure!

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