Friday.......One rainy day. But, I have been looking at the latest Ebird reports and I hear that there are two unique birds down in Cape May....one being a Snow Bunting (my nemesis for the past few years and a lifer) as well as a Swanson's Warbler, which would be a Jersey lifer for me but hasn't hit the nemesis category. So, rain or not, I go. I have my rain pants, jacket, a green rain poncho I bought in Ecuador for $1.50.... I can handle it.
I am in no rush since it is raining and I figure if I leave my house at 8am, the weathermen tell me that the rain should subside by 10am. I have absolutely no faith in the weathermen down here in Jersey but figure that sometime this morning, there might be a break in the clouds. I hit Higbee Beach around 9:30 and it is pouring, but, I have my $1.50 poncho. From the Twitter reports, the Swanson's Warbler has been heard and perhaps sighted in Field 1. Now, which one is field 1? I see the parking lot, the porta-potty, another parking lot, a few fields but, none are marked as Field 1. Why not have the fields marked? Or perhaps a small map on the side of the porta-potty ID'ing the fields? ..... ?? Anyhow, off I go to the right of the porta-potty. Field 1 maybe or field X4 or Area 51 or ? I see nor hear no Swanson's but I hear and see a ton of Indigo buntings. I mean dozens of these birds and in some spots one lone branch will have 5-6 bright blue male buntings. Awesome, simply awesome to see those numbers. It makes a birder feel like they hit the jack pot with all of the blue. But wait, there is more......in the same low grasslands there appears the color yellow, up and down...here and there. Kerching......Bobolinks. Perhaps 10-12 of them fluttering around in the field and back and forth between tree branches. Right off the bat I see bright blue and yellow, so the day is good.
One thing I notice about the Bobolinks is their uncanny resemblance to a Frank Sinatra movie which was just on a few months ago. The image below shows the way Frank and his buds wear their sailor hats, all cool...pushed back and just laying on the backside of their heads. Those guys look so cool and I wonder how come the hat doesn't fall off with all that dancing Gene Kelly? ... Now, look at the Bobolinks and notice their yellow caps. See their uncanny resemblance in their fashion style? The yellow is also pushed back and just laying on the back side of their heads but that yellow color ain't going nowhere. But very Hollywoodish I must say....
But....no Swainsons and a ton of rain. I decide that I will get in my car and drive down to Cape May State Park and find the Snow Bunting, my nemesis. I have been after that bird for 3 years now and maybe? this is the day? Onwards, and as I enter the parking lot, I see no cars. I am hoping that the rain hasn't chased away the little guy for this would be a lifer for me.
Driving the outskirts of the parking lot real slow-like, like a low-rider in southern California, I glide past the west end and up to the south end. About half-way I notice a nice white little bird, just pecking away at the grass in-between pebbles. Yes....the Snow Bunting has eluded me no more cowboy, no more.... Kerchung!...Chalk up a lifer. I stop and roll down the window allowing the rain to speckle my face and arm. But no worry....let me just soak this one in a bit. One bird 'pecks' alone and I must say, he is looking smarter than Frank Sinatra does in his Class A white Navy dress uniform. This forlorn little guy continues to nervously peck away at seeds in the grass for the entire 15-20 minutes I idly pass. If I could read his mind he was pecking away nervously, peck, peck...peck.... all the time taking a sneak peak out of the corner of each eye looking for his buddies. "Hey, ......where did you guys all go? I know it took me a while to dress in my 'whites' but, come on guys, quit playing games with me, where are you? " Peck, peck....more pecking. I begin to feel sorry for him. I think he was perhaps 'last in his class' academically and is now paying the price for not listening to the 'all call' of, time to take flight. But what can I do? Nothing.....so I put my low-rider 'feel' in gear and glide on out. I notice as I leave, another low-rider car 'glides in ' and takes my place as smooth as silk. This might go on all day as the lone Snow Bunting keeps on pecking, keeps on looking as birders stalked in low-riders quietly come to him. (Image below depicts a Snow Bunting and a version of a low-rider. I do not have that car and would never have that car).
So....one 'lifer' out the way and now, back to Higbee. First, I stop off at the Nature Observatory to warm up and dry. Lucky I did for around the feeders there are a dozen migrating Red-breasted Grosbeaks meandering around. A nice sight!... About that time the rain vanishes and sun appears. Wow...a great omen. I head out the door and notice a small group of birders led by a guide just up the street. So, heck...why not join. The sun has brought out bugs and with bugs, come birds. A nicely decorated Black and White Warbler (our creeper), a Yellow Warbler, a Golden Crowned Kinglet, Common Yellowthroats, Goldfinches, Black Throated Blue Warbler, a Northern Parula, Blue Gray Gnatcatchers.....ooooooo...a catch. All of those found within a few minutes just out front of the Nature Observatory and the lake. Those times, that many species of birds in such a few minutes reminds me of the tropics and yet, here I am in Jersey! Easy pickens.....love it!
Can the same good luck hold true if I high-tail it back to Higbee? ...Off I go. I pull up and scat from my car and into another field. Is this field 1? Or x or 5 or what? Label the fields guys. If you are Twittering out the field numbers, remember....not everyone is from Cape May. Which field is which? Field 1...where is it?
I go up and down the fields....listening for the Swainson's..... but no luck on this guy. He appears to have hunkered down and even with the swash of sun now hitting, this guy still is quiet...still unseen. I do notice Eastern Kingbirds though. In fact if I look out of my eyes like I would if slicing a pie, just in that degree of radius I count 15 Eastern Kingbirds sitting a top tall grass. 15...! and that is in just that 'slice of pie' view...These guys are all over the place. Everywhere I turn are Eastern Kingbirds. A flock of them must have fallen from the sky prior to the deluge of rain and now with the sun, they are all out eating. ....nice, real nice.
So....lots of birds today and even though a rainy day I know I finally hit my nemesis bird, the Snow Bunting.....saw a ton of Indigo Buntings, an equal number of Eastern Kingbirds.....Grossbeaks and other Warblers. All in all...a nice rainy day.