Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day Trip to Cape May: A Photoessay

As I have mentioned before, one advantage I have over Paul is that I live on the east coast of the U.S. and frequently visit family in southern New Jersey. Last weekend I took a day trip there.

It was only a day trip, and I got started late (kids ruin everything), so I only had a couple hours at most to go birding. Cape May, however, is a good spot to see lots of things.

The fog was thick that day, and would only get worse near the water.  Once I crossed the Admiral Barry bridge into New Jersey, the fog lifted over the mix of spread out suburbs and small farms.  This was where I spotted wild turkeys (not the first time I've seen them there, but the first time this year) and a couple other birds.

Eventually I got to Cape May, which is a cute little town with lots of charm and a good place to visit.  Summertime is a different story, as it turns into a hideously overpopulated tourist area where you cannot find parking.
Cape May is full of Victorian architecture and little shops; a really nice place. The birds do not hang out in town as much.

It actually takes a while to drive through town to get to the wild areas, and if you don't know where you are going you will never find it. Cape May points is sort of hidden, but easy enough to find if you have a map or a smartphone.

Cape May Point! It has this nice old light house which is closed in the wintertime. There are a couple other wild areas around that are good for bird watching, but I only had time to visit the point.

There is a nice deck overlooking a lake where touristy birders like myself can go.

"Oooh, swans!" That was my first thought.  My second thought was "wait, around here?" So I got excited for a second thinking maybe they were tundra swans. Nope, mute swans.  Now Paul and I had previously talked about if mute swans counted and we decided if they were free living, of course they would.  Good, another bird on my list for the year.

Looking off the deck I could see lots and lots of ducks and other things. I saw green on the heads and was almost disheartened to think I came here just to see mallards.  Now, I DID see mallards there (which went on my list!), but there weren't many of them.  The green headed ones were northern shovelers.

Lots of coots too and other water birds.  Now, I can identify coots without my book (still looked it up) and great blue herons are a piece of cake, but there were other ducks on the pond that weren't so easy.

The gadwall wasn't as hard to identify as I would have imagined, and the American wigeons were everywhere. I swear there was a American wigeon x Eurasian wigeon hybrid there because it looked like the American wigeon, but with an orange 'stripe' on their head instead of green. I didn't see any Eurasian ones around and maybe the color was just strange from my angle? I am not confident enough in my birding to say that it definitely WAS a hybrid, but I think it might have been.

It is important to note here that not only did I get five species of duck that day (I saw a hooded merganser while on the road), but the northern shoveler, American wigeon, and gadwall are all new identifications to me.  Not just new for the year, but new on my life list.

Another one new to my life list was a peregrine falcon that flew over. No, I did not get a picture of it. Much like the other ducks, I have probably peregrine falcons sometime before in my life (and not just as my Oldest Son's toys that I play with without him knowing), but I've never gone out of my way to identify them. Now is different.

Not just this trip, but my location in general has me easily in the duck lead with Paul. He only sees mallards and goldeneyes up there it seems.

The beach is nearby, but is pretty abandoned by man and bird in the wintertime.

At least I can get some gulls, right?  Just like every other time this year, I only saw ring-billed gulls.

The fog was insane and only partially got captures in pictures.  There was no way I could make out any bird from a distance on the beach.

Interestingly, hurricane Sandy did minimal damage to Cape May.  Sure, they probably have some work to do, but the dunes stayed in good shape.  This was mainly due to it being a little south of the eye and not having the hurricane forcing the water onto the beach.

There is also a really nice boardwalk through the woods.  Sadly, I only saw common forest birds that are already on my list. It was here I ran across the birders who told me about the crested caracara and made fun of my binoculars.  The funny part was that I didn't make fun of the way they didn't know how to correctly pronounce 'caracara'. Non-biologists!

After an unfruitful exploration of the woods, I went to see if I could see the caracara.  I went where people were supposed to be looking for it, but I must have not had the exact directions right because I didn't see any birders there.  No big deal, as it was getting late and starting to get dark.  I can come back another time, or, failing that, just go to Florida to see them.  Now to find an excuse (and money) to do so.


  1. Hi Damon,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Cape May to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you soon!

  2. Hmmmm....I will email a reply, but just posting this out in the public because I worry that this is some sort of spambot or something. You are more than welcome to link to my post, please do! You may NOT however use my photos or writings.

    I'll send you an email.