Forsythe....in the 70's and guess what I saw...Above water Tepees...Thousands of them it would seem. Along the first leg of wildlife drive and prior to the tower I was asconced with this site. At first since it was mid-tide, I thought they were just reeds of grass poking up in the water. But after I grabbed my bins, ....that was what I saw. It was like someone had taken a thousand ducks and turned them upside down in unison and there were tepees everywhere. I really had to look to find a Pintail that was actually upright out of the water. Fascinating site.
Now....along with these were Green Winged, Black Ducks, Mallards but also Canada Goose. Since I was escaping the dearth of my computer for the day, I was in no hurry to make it home. So I got out of the car and attempted to scan for Cackling Goose.... I was totally aware that Canada Goose have a few sub-species such as the Cackling brand and the Aleutian for I have seen those back west. I didn't quite pick up on any during this fine day though.
But pouring over my Sibley in the car, I was quite surprised to find out that there are additional sub-species of this fine goose. "Lesser", "Richardson's" and "Duskey" to name the other three I had no idea existed. In hindsight I am sure I have seen the Richardson's since they hail from the plain states, and most likely the Lesser since they too intermingle in those same states. But, since I have never actually compared the Common Canada Goose to the Richardson's or Lesser in my many visits to the states of the Plains, I can't count em..... And I am also pretty sure I have laid eyes on the Duskey sub-species as they appear to like the tip of Washington State which has been my residence in the past. Goes to show you...purchase a Sibley and you shall learn!
So even when the bird pickings might seem a bit on the dry side, hey...now I have Canada Goose sub-species to scan for next time I am back west. Those other 'brands' don't appear to be all that common on the east coast and even if they are here, good luck in distinguishing them!
To tag on to the Goose story.....the Canada Goose appear to prefer the waters prior to the Tower on the first leg of the drive or, after the dogleg as you make you way on the return side. In contrast, Brant like it more on the loop between the first leg and into the middle stretch. I wonder why? Why are the various geese not intermingling?
According to Cornell Labs, Brant prefers the coastal waters while Canada Goose prefer fresh water. So while the water near the tower is brackish, perhaps not enough for Brant, and more Brackish where the Brant prefer to toddle around in. Must be it......
The more you go out and see, and observe, the more questions you come up with. Google and you shall find answers to your questions. The Cornell Lab is an excellent source for images as well as song, and habitat information.
Well....welcome to a Widelux...which was a panoramic Camera created in the 1960's and made in Japan. It allows for a wide angle view, which I used on the above shot, and shot with film. The two areas marked in the sky are the kettle of vultures and one eagle on the left hand side, and the Black Swan on the right hand side. You can't read the text, as only the line is visible to roughly where the birds are located. Just for fun....
This was shot using Kodak Tri-x 400 film, ....I developed the film, scanned it to make it a digital image, and adjusted for exposure just a bit. The funny thing about a Widelux Camera is that there is no visible 'lens'. But there is one but it is hidden as the camera rotates like a tank turret and captures a 120 degree view. My goal is to capture our own teams of 'birders' as they participate in various functions or Big Sits etc..from the platforms at Forsythe. Stay tuned as those approach.
Sunday....beautiful day...in the mid 60's, no wind....lawn mowed, I am not sure I wanted to watch the Eagles attempt to 'play' football, so....it was a fine day for Hawk Watch in Cape May. (View the video...I apologize for you having to turn your entire face in 'owl like' fashion to view, but I can't seem to find the rotate button on this website).
Down I went....and there I stopped. I couldn't even get in the parking lot for there were so many cars. The park employees blocked the parking lot off, so all incoming cars had to steer to the left and 'out'....but I managed to squeeze in near by. People...people..... no birds yet, just people. Now, why all of these people? They are not all birders. Sure, the Hawk Watch Platform, as evident by the twisted video, is crowded but not to the degree that the entire parking lot is full. To whom do all of those cars belong to? You mean to tell me that people are so desperate to get out of Philadelphia on a weekend and when they do escape, they come to a parking lot? What? .... I need to take a survey the next time I am down there just to figure that question out.
So, returning to the topic of birding ...I took a quick run at the restroom....then a slow walk to the Hawk Watch Platform. Now, all of us have our designated places to sit in just about anyplace we go. For instance when I attended church, I sat on the right side, about 10 pews in....to the movies, I sit about 5 down in the middle. Well, at the platform here I prefer to sit on the tallest tiered platform, near the Hawk Counters. I find that the people surrounding me fit under two categories up in this section of the platform. They are either newbies and have never seen their first Red Tailed Hawk or, they are Cape May experts who get along real well with the Counters. They form this tight 'club', a bit on the 'condescending side' as they 'call out' in fashion the birds to all of those who seek. Who can spot the bird first? But the real reason for my preferred seating is that these seats have this upper railing to them which allows me to actually sit on the 'back of the seat', lean back....which helps to scan the skies looking for hawks. I find I don't get nearly the neck strain since that back upper railing really adds comfort when leaning back.
Other areas of the platform have equal number of experts I am sure....and plenty of large cameras. One guy was photo'ing a Sharpie and aimed this camouflaged tree trunk upwards to the sky. Being 'camouflaged' didn't exactly pull the bird in closer, but it looked great.
Now....if you ever want to appreciate the Peregrine Falcon, ...wow...come here. For some reason the ability to 'sit' ....and scan the wide expanse, one has more of an appreciation for just how fast this bird is. One of those little guys flew perpendicular to where I was sitting and with naked eyes, I stared in awe. They just 'move'........and because of that, are easily distinguishable from all comers.
A Eurasion WIdgeon was nestled amongst the flock of normal widgeons, attempting to be somewhat inconspicuous. He was not successful. A couple sitting next to me had the opportunity to have the widgeon pointed out to them by a member of the club....a first for them. Bravo....the guy was really helpful to them and that is what we need. New birders learn to enjoy from us.
A Coopers dove in from out of the dunes and chased a tree swallow. Real close, real nice.....
There was this odd man sitting next to me....appeared to be from China. He never looked up at the birds, oh, just once I suppose. He asked me if the birds in the 'kettle' in the sky were all the same. Nah, I said....eagles and hawks intermix with the vultures all the time. That response seemed to satisfy him as he went back to his iPhone. Someone important must have distracted him for a few hours. Not sure.....
But a great little comparison between the Red-Shouldered Hawk and the Red-Tailed Hawk took note in the midst of one of those vulture Kettles. A great experience to actually compare and contrast these two often confused species.
The guy in the corner was video-taping all bird sightings. He had this odd little contraption all 'wrapped-up' in some type of plastic cover. He did manage to capture some solid video of Coopers as they flew fairly close to the platform. Bravo to him.
The Black Swan...only one of them from what I could see, just had the neck craned within, and would come out and stretch it, between 15 min segments, giving us all a view. Go there and see this bird, if you haven't already. Of course you can always go to Australia where they are abundant, but today....I didn't have time for that long flight.
Bald Eagles were abundant. At times I could see 3-4 in view. Most of the time they hovered in the distance over in the far trees, never really nearing the platform.
Now...my question is and has always been to these 'counters'...how do you know how many birds you 'actually see' as opposed to how many times the 'same' bird flies by? For instance, the counter said that the Coopers were finally turning the corner and outnumbering the Sharpies....latest count was 188-181 for the day. Okay, fine. That could be. But it could also be 10-9 or 100- 3 or whatever. The point being, how many times did he count the same hawk in that 188-181 latest number count? I guess I couldn't be a 'counter' as I would continually be reflecting upon my counts and if I saw that same bird prior. My counts would be way off from previous years and Cape May would fire me for 'lower numbers'.
But today was a great day for birding...so I hope you had your share of being outside with nature. We need to take advantage of the sun, the 60 something degrees, no wind. etc etc.....
I had Wednesday 'free' from the usual work, so decided to meander on to Forsythe, one of my favorite spots and certainly one within striking distance on a short time schedule.
But the 'do not disturb sign' was hanging on the door knob as I drove the drive. Terms....each nailed to a post, one by one by one... were apparently unphased by my passing....lone gulls spotted the drive throughout, with not a bother to even enlighten me with their skills of dropping shells in front of my car...... Sparrows skirted out on either side of my car and hid in the bushes, drawing cover being ambushed by my bins. Even humans doting 600 lens's and camera + tripod failed to spot unique occurrences. So it was this day.
A lady swung by and asked if I had seen any Godwits,....a rumor from some Cape May individual who had chased her up this way. She should have stayed in Cape May.
The bright spot.....a nice spotted juvenile American Golden Plover, ..... A Northern Harrier prowling the reeds....a Bald Eagle sitting on a post 'way over there...way over there ...'
But truly the bright spot of the day was just the day. No gnats, no flies, no mosquitoes, a bit of clouds strung to the sky, providing just enough cover and an 'almost' tropical wind blew. In fact, it felt like I was in Hawaii as I got out of the car and just seeped in deep breath. A tropical day in New Jersey, and there are those out there who still are not akin to global warming. Where were they on this Oct 7th day?
Days come, they go..... I can recall as a younger man, still primed with youth...that I would just awaken each day and plod thru it, somewhat nonchalantly and unaware of what truly 'makes a day.' Now, years later I know what 'truly makes a day." Yes, it might have been great to see a thousand birds swooning around amongst the tidal flats, but to me, just experiencing that warm tropical wind here in New Jersey, being amidst sparsity of movement...allowed me to relinquish and hang up the 'do not disturb' sign too.
Been a busy birding migration and 'blogging' is far from my mind as I can be 'out there man'...out there..... For instance, prior to Hurricane Joaquin, I ventured out to the Avalon Sea Watch to do some birding. But, I couldn't find the Avalon Sea Watch, for they moved...yeah....
But....I found it ...and now they have a nice little 'outhouse' of a building which at least offers a bit of reprieve from Mother's wind and rain and storm and cold.
Real nice digs......well....digs. Yeah, real nice...hmmmmm....
But due to the Hurricane and as evident by the above shot taken by the Cape May folks (copyright? not sure...but thought I would be safe), they moved the outhouse inward and moved the Avalon Sea Watch back to the old watching grounds at 7th Avenue, until further notice.
Now for future reference, when they do decide that it is once more safe to bird from their new location and in the new 'outhouse'....here is a shot showing where that site is, just so you don't become lost like I was and end up birding the old spot and no one was around. Perhaps I should have read the small sign-). Again, image is CMBO's property.