Monday, October 18, 2010

Cape May for two days, then home

Sunday, Oct 17, 2010 - I made a brief stop at the Hawk-watch by the lighthouse when I got into town and fished for some news. Eurasian Wigeon on one of the ponds was the best, and then got a hoagie at the Wawa on the way north to Belleplain State Forest, where I arrived well after dark, Tried setting up in the same area on the woodland edge that I'd used before in hopes of owls. No luck. In the morning another Wawa stop for coffee, and then over to the morning flight area, where I decided on the top of the dike instead of the tower. That was really good, there are some amazing, often Brit, birders up there, and we were getting close to the big fall weekend so it was an excellent time to be there. Started adding tics pretty quickly, learning some flight calls. Some flying birds I got decent looks at, some I found later in the brush-rows at Higbee up the hill, a few actually landed and posed briefly.

I made all the scenes, hawk-watch for awhile, walking Higbee, working the woods at the lighthouse and scoping the ponds (got the wigeon), drove up to the sea-watch in Avalon and got some seabirds, but not all the likely suspects, came back to the TNC meadow at dusk to watch for owls coming out of the trees in the setting sun. Ended up parking in the lot at Higbee and walking the brush lanes in the dark playing a Screech-owl tape. On a raised platform that got me nearly mowed down by a Great Horned Owl looking for dinner, came within ten feet as it rounded a tree making a stealth approach. Slept good there too, and no forty miles of driving or $20 fee like the park required. I ended up adding eight-teen NJ tics. Great day interrupted by a brief episode of terror when I couldn't find my wallet. It had slid off the computer and hid by the door I never open.

Monday, Oct 18 - Another morning flight on the dike, with the great spotter picking up an incoming shrike, they fly in deep long bouncing swoops, like a really exaggerated woodpecker. It flew by us and disappeared over the end above the ferry channel, but then reappeared an sat beautifully perched fairly close across the dirt road at the bottom of the dike. That allowed determining that it was Northern Shrike, a really good bird for the state. I knew it was about time to start back home, but made another stop at the sea-watch, good thing too. I had missed Red-throated Loon the day before, but it was almost the first bird as I got the scope set up. It was one of the ID trick that Lauren had showed me in New Hampshire. Hang out with just the one official spotter who was there, we saw gazillions of birds some flocks so big and far they looked like great bands of smoke on the horizon. I had some really interesting conversation with that guy, but again didn't get a name which I regret. And just as I was about to leave the missing Surf Scoter made a flyby. More or less perfect ending.

Then it was time for the long boogie home, not quite as far as the trip out since I'd been making progress west and south as I traveled down the coast. In a couple of hours I was on the Pennsy Turnpike, and cleared New Stanton around ten and found the first truck-stop to crash.

Tuesday, Oct 19 - It had been raining since I got off the turnpike, and all night, and into the dawn, fog and rain and a fishbowl dawn. Managed to drive out of it beyond Columbus, but in Indiana I realized I was fried from high speed and boring driving, so opted to check out a place called Goose Pond which was supposed to be one of the few decent shorebird places in the state. Not that it was shorebird time, but it was an interesting place, mined land and so lots of small narrow ponds scattered over the landscape. I even managed a couple of tics for Indiana while just sitting and reading and un-rattling, or walking around just letting the tension of the last few windy cold days of pressure fade.

Wednesday, Oct 19 - after breakfast crossed into Illinois and headed fro Cape Girardeau. I still wasn't entirely together, missed a turn and crossed a river back into Indiana, then when I got back managed to miss the school zone warning and found myself talking to a young cop. Another $100 ticket, depressing since the trip was a low budget squeeze from the get-go. He comes back after awhile with his clip-board and says he's giving me a warning since I was clearly rattled, lost, a stranger, and he liked my "I brake for Tailgaters" bumper stickers. May he and his progeny be blessed. In Cape Giradeau I got a way overdue oil change and then headed south and west into Arkansas on US 412. It's the longest road across the widest part of the state, two lane mostly, little towns, hills, curvy, and really tiring. Got home around sundown, all's well. I had added 83 tics total, not as good as I'd hoped, but it had done the job of testing the Roo and finishing Rhode Island's hundred.


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