Sunday, September 13, 2015

There's a whole lot of learning going on

I got to spend this morning on the Hawkwatch platform, enjoying a decent flight of accipiters and falcons. It has been a bit of a rough start to the counting season, having had only one decent cold front come through (until last night/tonight that is). As I sat there witnessing the seasonal interpretive naturalist pick out distant raptors and correctly identify them, a huge grin crossed my face, and at the risk of sounding patronizing, I was so proud. Coming into this job, their knowledge of birds and identification spanned from one extreme to the other. Yet, here they are, less than two weeks into the job, calling out birds like seasoned hawk watchers! It reminded me of my first couple weeks on the platform last year. To think of everything I have learned and experienced in my year in Cape May is staggering. There is an overwhelming amount of knowledge in this town, held in the minds and spirits of those who call this place home, as well as those who can’t help but visit year after year.

CMBO Program Director, Mike Crewe, and our 2015 Seasonal Interpretive Naturalists, Tara, Jacob, & Erin, receiving an in-depth lesson on raptor identification from Migration Count Coordinator, Tom Reed. Training sessions such as these allow interns to make the most of their time here in Cape May. Though Erin seems to already be feeling the effects of information overload after only one day! [Photo by Margeaux Maerz.]

When many of us think of fall, we think of cooler days, fresh apples, and back-to-school, but Cape May is an incredible place to come and learn no matter the season. Throughout the year, Cape May Bird Observatory offers guided walks and workshops on topics including trees, dragonflies and butterflies, and of course, birds. We have interpretive naturalists stationed at our three seasonal migration counts (Morning Flight, Hawkwatch, and Seawatch) to help orient you to the area and the wildlife that can be found here. There are also a whole host of locals and annual visitors who not only have a lot worth sharing, but love talking to others about the things they know. Some of them really love it, like good luck getting them to stop talking! All kidding aside though, we are incredibly fortunate to have a community full of people who are just as passionate about teaching as they are about the birds and plants they study.

A CMBO field trip to Barnegat Light to view winter specialties like Harlequin Ducks and Common Eiders. CMBO has trips and walks throughout the year that highlight the diversity of birds this state has to offer. [Photo by Megan Crewe.]

CMBO Program Director, Mike Crewe, explains the differences in plumage between adult and juvenile shorebirds. Details like that are only some of the things participants in Mike's half-day Shorebirds workshop learned. A variety of half-day, full-day, and even multi-day workshops are offered year-round through CMBO's School of Birding. [Photo by Hugh Simmons.} 

NJ Audubon and Cape May Bird Observatory have a long history of environmental education in this state, from the schools that visit our centers to the outreach and festivals we organize. Established two years ago and supported by NJ Audubon, New Jersey Young Birders Club works to bring kids and teens interested in birds and the environment together. They organize birding field trips around the state and even have their own World Series of Birding Team. Other centers, including NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May offer camps and specialty trips focused on birding in and around Cape May. Sometimes getting people involved in conservation is as easy as showing them what’s worth saving. Bringing kids into the fold at an early age has the potential to create lifelong environmental stewards and enthusiasts.
New Jersey Youth Birding Club members out on a walk at Cape May Point State Park with Tom Reed as part of a specialty workshop on Terns. Kids 17 and under are able to join and participate in birding field trips, workshops, and even competitions, all funded by NJ Audubon and their partners. [Photo by Sam Wilson.]

Campers from NJ Audubon's Nature Center of Cape May are joined by NJ Fish and Wildlife's Lindsey Brendel and NJ Audubon's Margeaux Maerz as they get a closer look at nesting Least Terns. Getting up-close and personal with one of NJ's endangered, beach-nesting birds gets kids excited about this species and its conservation. [Photo by Amanda Doyle.]

So make your way down the coast to see what all the fuss is about. From the ocean to the Delaware Bay, Cape May has it and everything in between. Take a stroll on one of our daily walks, participate in a workshop led by an expert, or even go for the full experience during our Fall Migration Festival October 23-25. You never know what you might learn!

For more information, check out the links below.

New Jersey Young Birders Club:

CMBO Fall Migration Festival:

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