It's time for the final countdown to the 30th World Series of Birding - and what an interesting year it's going to be!! I love the gradual build up that takes place in the run-up to this event; old friends from years past start to drift into town, ready to start scouting for their teams, the stores get even busier than usual as excited birders stop by to pick up bird maps, snacks and catch up on the latest bird gossip.
But you can bet that this year there will be an extra topic of discussion - the East Coast weather! It's fair to say that the weather has been a little unkind to us so far this season, with temperatures well below what we would like to see at this time of year and some decidedly chilly nights - seems like our heating-oil guy is the only one with a smile on his face at the moment! With winds predominantly from the East of late, there's certainly been a shortage of migrants passing our way - but that doesn't mean that Cape May doesn't have birds - Cape May always has birds!
Under rather dreary gray skies, I spent the last couple of days checking a lot of hidden corners around the county ready for Cape May Bird Observatory's Century Run Team. Our team confines itself to Cape May County so we spend time beforehand checking all those hidden corners in the county where that one extra bird species may be lurking. I mention dreary gray skies for a reason, because it is easy to feel down about the weather and yet, the birds are out there. What amazed me today was the sheer exuberance of bird activity at Jakes Landing and it's something that I've noticed before with wetland birds. Many wetland birds seem to have a habit of being active at night and this is at least partly because their life is controlled more by the tides than the hours of daylight. Perhaps because these birds are regularly happy in the dark, they seem to be equally happy in dreary weather and this was the case today. Clapper Rails were amazingly vocal pretty much everywhere that I went today and I chanced across several trotting across roads and showing themselves. At Jakes Landing they were joined by active and vocal parties of Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs and Willets, while Seaside Sparrows were weezing out their short songs in all directions. A male Northern Harrier breezed by and restless parties of Glossy Ibises and Brant were passing overhead. Similarly, it is often the case that woodland birds remain active for longer through the day when the weather is dull. When the weather is hot and sunny, woodland songsters soon go quiet, but last Sunday, warblers were easy to locate around Belleplain State Forest and we enjoyed some memorable moments with them - especially the wonderfully spiffy male American Redstart that sang and performed in a roadside maple.
So, World Series looms - there may not be too many migrants in town right now, but all the local birds are here and in fine song and in any case, there's another three days to go yet - who knows what might happen!!
If you are not able to take part in the World Series but would like to help, we value each and every pledge that we get. How about giving us a call a pledging a donation to the CMBO Century Run Team, or you could donate to Pete Dunne's Zeiss team if you prefer. Give us a call and help us on our way!