Thursday, August 14, 2008

Birding for George: Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird, Lark Sparrow, Black Terns; Baird's Sandpiper continues

I picked up my binoculars with a heavy heart this evening and headed to the Meadows, where I found that George had left me a few birds to find.

One of the first birds I saw upon walking out the east path was a hummingbird that zipped by in front of me. Naturally expecting Ruby-throated, I snapped up the binoculars to find instead a bird that featured extensive rufous coloration toward its rear- a tell-tale sign of a hummingbird belonging to the genus Selasphorus, making it either a Rufous or an Allen's! It didn't pause and kept on flying toward Cape May City. Rare hummingbirds are usually anticipated later in the season, between Halloween and Christmas, but Selasphorus-types have shown up in Cape May several times in the past during late-summer... so keep an eye on your hummer feeders.

There were as many as 4 Black Terns feeding in the Meadows itself this evening: one juvenile and two or three adult birds. Shorebird numbers weren't impressive but Steve Rodan, who later joined me here, reports that there continued to be a fine selection of 'pipers in the 2nd Plover Pond at the State Park, including the continuing Baird's Sandpiper.

Steve and me came across a nice gentleman who informed us that the Lark Sparrow was still present near the dunes at the end of the west path, and after a few minutes of waiting the beauty appeared for us as well, feeding in the grass next to the path with a cowbird.

Otherwise, there were at least 9 Lesser Black-backed Gulls visible from the dune-top at the end of the west path, a Northern Bobwhite calling near the start of the east path, and at least half a dozen Wood Ducks that flew around several times.

However, all of those great birds aside, the only real reason for getting out this evening was to remember one of the people who was instrumental in encouraging and teaching me, and countless others, to love the natural world and to learn about all its wonders. And while I found myself holding back tears several times, it was re-assuring to know that so many people had benefited from George's kindness, knowledge and passion that he shared with anyone, at anytime, and anywhere.
Perhaps Jackie Robinson said it best: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." If that's true, then George's life was more important than we could ever hope to imagine.

Thank you, George.

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