Friday, October 30, 2015

Cape May Fall Festival 2015

Well another CMBO Fall Festival is in the books and now that we have had time to breathe, sleep, and fully recover from all the excitement, I suppose it’s time to reflect. Overall it was a fun weekend, jam packed with friendly faces and birds. So. Many. Birds. A lot of those birds may have been Yellow-rumped Warblers but what a perfect opportunity it was to learn their soft check call notes as they flit from tree to tree.

The weekend started with an amazing kickoff party thanks to our friends at the Rusty Nail and Opticron. Bluegrass band, The Woedoggies, really got the party going, with guest appearance from Migration Count Coordinator Tom Reed and Interpretive Naturalist Jacob Drucker. There was food, drink, laughs, and dancing, lots of dancing. I can’t think of a better way to welcome the participants to Cape May, it was just the event to start the weekend off on the right foot!

The Woedoggies performing at the Rusty Nail for CMBO's Cape May Fall Festival Kickoff Party. From left to right: guest vocalist Tom Reed, Rudy Dauth, Wylie Shipman, Peter Riley, and guest flutist Jacob Drucker. Not pictured, the 12+ dancers that were killing it on the dance floor! [Photo by Lee Hajduk.]

The awesome crowd at the Rusty Nail enjoying the live music. What a great way to start the festival weekend! [Photo by Lee Hajduk.]

The birding festivities started bright and early Friday morning, with walks at Higbee Beach, Rea Farm, The Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows, Cox Hall Creek, and Cape May Point State Park. The rest of the weekend continued in similar fashion, with an incredible variety of walks, boat trips, mini-bus tours, workshops, and lectures—there was no shortage of activities to keep volunteers and participants busy! In the evenings, we were treated to keynote speakers Kevin Karlson, NJ Auduon’s own Dale Rosselet, and the Urban Birder, David Lindo.

A total of 188 species were seen or heard between Friday and Sunday, with highlights smattered throughout. Overall, 17 species of warblers were found, including Prairie, Black-throated Green, and Canada (see, it wasn’t just Butter-butts). The Avalon Seawatch had an amazing flight of Northern Gannets Sunday, with over 4,000 tallied all day and awesome fly-bys throughout the weekend including Pacific Loon, Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed Duck, and Horned Grebes. Dozens of Parasitic Jaegers continued their show of chasing gulls and terns in the rips just offshore. American Bitterns, Virginia Rails, and a Sora were spotted at the Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows and a late Gull-billed Tern was loafing on the beach down near Cape May Point State Park.

An early morning Hairy Woodpecker flies over at the Rea Farm, one of a number of woodpecker species that was seen throughout the weekend. [Photo by Sam Wilson.]

A Golden-crowned Kinglet landed to rest on the camera strap of a walk participant after it flew off the ocean in Stone Harbor. The exhausted little bird hung out for nearly a minute before flying to land on another woman's shoulder. It was a memorable moment and a great opportunity to get photos of a usually hyperactive bird! [Photo by Sam WIlson.]

A Parasitic Jaeger chases a Forster's Tern off shore in Cape May. There was a strong showing of Parasitic Jaegers as they harassed gulls and terns feeding in the rips. [Photo by Michael Lanzone.]

A late Gull-billed Tern was spotted on the beach between the South Cape May Meadows and Cape May Point State Park during a mini-bus trip with Megan Crewe. As you can see from the photo, the bird had a droopy right wing though it seemed to fly just fine. [Photo by Margeaux Maerz.]

Festival participants weren’t the only ones with binoculars in hand last weekend. The New Jersey Young Birder’s Club held their Cape May Fall Festival Youth Birding Day on Saturday. They spotted a total of 78 species, including Orange-crowned Warbler, Eastern Meadowlarks, and a female Redhead. More information about New Jersey Young Birder’s Club and their Saturday outing can be found here:

New Jersey Youth Birder's Club with leaders Sam Wilson (on left) and Brian Quindlen (on right). It's always great to get binoculars into the hands of young people. They are a fantastic group of birders!  

Orange-crowned Warbler spotted by the NJ Young Birder's Club on the boardwalk at Cape May Point State Park. [Photo by Sam Wilson.]

The group of young birders didn't even get to leave the parking lot at the Cape May Point State Park before two Eastern Meadowlarks flew in and landed on the grassy area. [Photo by Sam Wilson.]

The festivities at Convention Hall provided a perfect break from the elements (even though they were fantastic overall). Vendors provided a variety of information on optics and wildlife tours, while artists showed off their beautiful paintings, photographs, and crafts. NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May provided games and activities for children that included, among other things, a build-your-own-binoculars craft. There really was something for everyone!

The birds and vendors were great, but the best part of the weekend for me was getting to meet such a wonderful array of people. From near and far, visitors traveled to share in the excitement and love of birding that can be found in the Cape May community. Whether it was studying the various ducks on Bunker Pond or watching the numerous, juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawks zip around Higbee Beach, people were eager to learn and experience the spectacle of fall migration in Cape May. Getting people excited about birds and their conservation is why we at CMBO get out of bed every morning. So on behalf of all of us at CMBO and NJ Audubon, thank you to our participants and volunteers, you are what made the weekend a success! We hope to see you all again next year, but until then, keep birding and help us spread the love we all have for our feathered friends!

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