Monday, September 14, 2009

Cape Cod to Cape May

September 9, Wednesday

Back to Cape Cod, drive to Provincetown. While I was waiting for the Whale watch, I walked the jetty from the very northern parking lot that crosses the bight to the outer beaches. It was really windy, and that was in a "protected" place. I played around with the new camera to try digiscoping. It'll take some practice, zoom has to be partly out to escape vignette-ing, the scope needs to have the focus adjusted to get the camera image in focus too. All this adjusting time has to not allow the bird out of the field of view. Like I said, some practice needed.

I went to the Whale Watch early enough for ticket etc, and heard rumors that the water was really rough, trips might be called off, but ours was on for the time being. I'd taken a Dramamine the night before, and another that morning, and another was offered when we boarded. I thought I'd be Okay, but I should have taken the third. The outbound trip was OK, had asked the naturalist to point out a Greater Shearwater if one showed, which he did, getting me another lifer. There weren't a lot of them, and none got close enough for really good looks. Still... There were whales, Humpbacks, mostly distant, but one came close enough that I got a pic of the flukes out of the water.

Once we cleared the north end of the Cape, the two days of strong east winds had their way with us. Big swell, big waves, the eighty foot boat was bouncing like a dory, and my stomach was in serious distress. Enough that I was finally sick, which gave some relief. Didn't really get in much observing, mostly lost in my guts, that weird turned inward vision while waiting to get far enough back to port to get some protection in the lea of the Cape. Anyway, paid mu money, got my lifer. There was a chance for Manx Shearwater too, but no luck. That was enough of that, headed back to Rhode Island, geeked again after checking out a small Audubon Sanctuary, then stayed at Buck Hill WMA.

September 10, Thursday

Couldn't call up any owls so headed on out of RI into Connecticut. Kinda poked around checking out places I'd marked in the GPS database, some were new, some places I'd been before. I had stopped at Hammonasset State Park once but had been turned back by the parking fee on a summer weekend, even though all I wanted to do was go to the Nature Center. This time it wasn't a problem, an off-season weekday. The Nature Center was good, but I had better luck along the shore. One piece was a guy with a scope looking at a White-winged Scoter. Then he told me where to find a King Eider, and I did. But my main goal was the Milford Point Audubon Center. This has been a consistent winner, and this time after finding good shorebirds I was standing on the marsh overlook platform when a woman started showing me pictures of a Northern Wheatear. From an hour ago ten miles away. Guess you could say I jumped. Found the place and with some work by several folks we finally found the bird hanging on a huge dirt-pile from some construction. Then it flew down and posed for half an hour on the cyclone fence. Yep, got some pix, but not expensive camera quality. Fourth lifer for the trip, very much a lucky gift.

Not much later rain started, with lots of wind, and the places that looked like okay camping didn't pan out. Ended up driving on across CT, then NY fifty miles north of the city, and crashed in a rest area on a ridge overlooking Port Jarvis right sat the Northwest corner of New Jersey. I ended up adding 20 tics in CT, made it over 30%.

September 11, Friday

Had to re-calibrate my driving time estimator when I entered New Jersey. By western standards, Cape May was three hours max. By NJ reality more like five, with rain and wind and traffic and tortuous roads. The Turnpike when I got to it was fast enough, but then it was south Jersey two lanes into Cape May. Went straight for the Hawk Watch which is bird gossip central, and was soon off to the Airport where the rain had shined up the great plots of short grass, now invaded by grass-pipers. Best were Buff-breasted Sandpipers, but also Black-bellied Plovers, Willets and others. There had been a report of a possible Ruff, but several folks looking never found it. Back to the Hawk Watch for whatever showed up. Also poked into the Beanery for a Sandhill Crane, and Higbee for brush pounding. As dusk approached, I ended up driving back north about 25 miles and stayed at Belleplaine State Park, which is also supposed to be good birding, but it was dark and I couldn't call up an owl.

September 12, Saturday

I was up at 3:30 and at the Hawk Watch while still almost dark. Birded around the Lighthouse Woods and along the backside of the beach dunes where there's a string of little pools with brushy edges. Bayberry bushes it turns out, should have plucked some seasoning. When the Watch opened and the spotters and counters had arrived, we had decent action for the early morning shuffle from roosts to browse. I left about ten and went over to the Beanery to find the Sandhill Crane that had been hanging there. Then Higbee to scare up passerines with the owl tape. Met Nancy, stalking with a camera, and got her some good pics with the tape. Tried the airport again, it was dead. The rainwater pools had soaked in, and there was word that the airport folks had driven off what birds remained. I birded the TNC meadow on the Point, then HW again

One of the fascinating things, actually folks, at the HW was a group of Finnish birders. One spoke English well, the others so-so. My Finnish sucks. They had an arrangement with their binocs on a short pole so they could support them with their hands at their waste. The explanation was that in Finland there are not so many birds and they are often way off. The pole allowed long time scanning with heavy high magnification binocs. These folks were amazing , able to ID raptors that I could only see as spots. So I hung around there, walked the woods trails again with a small pick-up group of very good birders, they were kind to me, and we found neat passerines. By the end of the day I'd added 19 tics, and made 41% for NJ.

September 13, Sunday

Came back down to the Cape to do the morning flight. Arrived well before sunrise. Though most of the south-bound migrants pile up on the Cape overnight, at dawn many fly back north looking for habitat to browse. The Morning Flight tower is right in the middle of a patch of brushy woods neat Higbee, and at least twenty people were there to hope for goodies. I got to know Jessica Donahue, the self labeled bird-nerd, who's a docent at the HW, employed by CMBO (Cape May Bird Observatory). She let me befriend her on Facebook, and has been an entertaining addition with her stories of venomous critters on the Texas military base where she got a job with endangered species.

I finally had to take up the burden of family, drove over to Media, PA and hooked up with my brother Mike, who I found at his job at the Catholic church rectory. But it was cheese-steak hoagie time, and that's always good. We went together for cheap Chinese, and I was able to leach a little wifi to get email at his apartment.


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