Wednesday, January 2, 2008

How many steps does it take to get to 100?

For you weisenheimers out there; no, the answer is not 100! Mainly because I am not asking about the actual number of steps it takes to get anywhere in particular. The reason I pose the question is in reference to the number of steps it takes to see 100 species on Cape Island (anything south of the Cape May canal) on the first day of the year........... The answer is approximately 22,500 steps or about 15 miles. This of course does not include the 35+ miles driven from location to location and sometimes back.

I came up with this idea to try a big day a month on Cape Island, after remembering an article I read in an American Birding Association publication. The article was either published in Birding or Winging It and discussed one persons goal to see one hundred species in their CBC section/circle each month of the year. I believe they titled the article the 1200 Club. So at some point in the past year the idea came to mind but I decided to make things a good bit harder. Since I figured that 100 species in Cape May County was not a huge stretch and my WSB team birds the Cape Island division, that I would try for 100 species in a day, per month, looking south of the Cape May canal only.

Additionally, the idea was fueled by a New Year's day birding event I used to take part in back home in Florida. I first started attending this New Year's mini-big day in 2000 or maybe 2001. The goal was to see as many species as possible along the causeway to and throughout Mullet Key (Ft. DeSoto) from 12:00 midnight to 12:00 p.m. So, you only get twelve hours to bird which is really about seven hours since owls are few and far between at Ft. DeSoto. Back a few years ago, not having my typical birding partner handy I decided to attempt the event alone and was very happy with the 99 species I tallied (note: it would have been 100 but I forgot to check off Mute swan.) This year though, birding partner was completely in tow and the total we achieved could not have been done without her.

"It can't be done" I told myself many times over the last few weeks. Looking at the species possibilities for January and February, the first two months would be critical for making this a 2008 (calendar year) event. But then the point is to get out and have one day a month that is all day birding. While the goal is to try and see 100 species in a day per month, the world will not come crashing down if it does not happen. After all, Cape Island is a very small place. Much smaller than a CBC circle, so the actuality of getting to 100 in the bird lean months of January and February is a lot to expect.

So, was I sweating bullets when the Weather Channel was calling for 40+ gusts and rain showers on Jan. 1? YES! But as luck would have it, the day turned out beautiful and quite bird filled.

Now you must be asking yourself what was the final tally already. Well, we actually failed in our
attempt to get to 100 species, by about 7 species. While I am somewhat dismayed at the lack of reaching a hundred, I am thankful for the day we had. Had the weather have been as blustery and cold as today, well, we may have had a hard time getting to 75-80. On the bright side, my disappointment is lessened by the fact that given the time I could still try again at some point in the rest of January, which is not likely. Or, we make this an '08-'09 event. "What the heck", I said to myself, "you make up the rules to the game" we always have Jan. '09, that is if we get 100 for the next 11 months! I should point out the best part, we were outside all day and walked about 15 miles, great heath benefits and gets you ready for the return to work!

We had some BIG holes in our list as you may note. For some reason Dark-eyed juncos did not exist yesterday along with Brown-headed cowbirds. Why these two eluded us who knows. But in all my planning, I would not have guessed that we'd be chasing down to relatively easy to find species. Other big hole awards goes to Snow bunting, not that they are easy but I know they are around. Rusty blackbird, Field sparrow, Winter wren, White-breasted nuthatch, Barred owl, Black-crowned night heron, Great Cormorant and Common loon are other huge misses. As you can see the reliance on actually attaining 100 in a day in January, lies with the more common stuff. We did miss the Ash-throated and Least flycatchers, which by reading Don's post seems to have been hit or miss yesterday. It also seems that in looking at Don's post from yesterday, we missed a n umber of other birds, Red-shouldered hawk at Cape Island Preserve, Northern goshawk, and Bald eagle would have all be welcome additions to our list. Would that all these birds had appeared to our eyes!

Though, we did have a nice mix of surprise birds. The top surprise bird would have to have been the House wren in the second tower field at Higbee. Or, maybe the Common yellowthroat at the Beanery. The female Common goldeneye at TNC's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (CMMBR) would be a contender as well. The Lesser black-backed gull on the beach between TNC's CMMBR and the Cape May Point State Park was a nice find. And, even though we missed the two other flycatchers, two Eastern phoebes was a nice consolation prize. Two Baltimore oriole was a treat, especially since one was seen at the back of the state park in a tree with 22 Eastern meadowlarks. As I think now, I'd have to throw the 50 or so Tree swallows in the mix for the days best. We also did have a flock of about 15 Red crossbills fly over at the state park, at least I know now that people are not playing tricks on me.

So, all in all the day went well. I couldn't have arranged much better weather. Now, when to attempt the next round..........?

Location: Cape Island
Observation date: 1/1/08
Number of species: 93

Snow Goose 46
Brant X
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan X
Gadwall X
American Wigeon X
American Black Duck X
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler 4
Northern Pintail X
Green-winged Teal X
Canvasback 1
Ring-necked Duck X
Lesser Scaup X
Common Eider 5
Surf Scoter X
Black Scoter X
Long-tailed Duck X
Bufflehead X
Common Goldeneye 1
Hooded Merganser X
Red-breasted Merganser X
Ruddy Duck X
Red-throated Loon 4
Northern Gannet X
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 1
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Northern Harrier 7
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 1
American Coot X
Black-bellied Plover 1
Greater Yellowlegs 7
Sanderling 1
Purple Sandpiper X
Dunlin X
American Woodcock 1
Bonaparte's Gull X
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Eastern Screech-Owl 1
Great Horned Owl 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker X
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow 50
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
Carolina Wren X
House Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 4
Eastern Bluebird 4
Hermit Thrush X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Northern Mockingbird X
Brown Thrasher 2
European Starling X
American Pipit X
Cedar Waxwing X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Common Yellowthroat 1
Eastern Towhee X
Savannah Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Swamp Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Eastern Meadowlark 22
Common Grackle X
Baltimore Oriole 2
Purple Finch X
House Finch X
Red Crossbill 15
American Goldfinch X
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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