Birding Outside Loudoun County – What???
Yes, I know – crazy! We have awesome birds and great places to explore right here in Loudoun! But on occassion we do venture outside of the County to do some birding (shhhh….don’t tell Laura McGranahan, our programs chair….she might get mad)
Anyway, over the course of October, through back channels of course, I found out that we had quite a few Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy members up at Cape May,NJ taking in the absolutely amazing bird (and butterfly) migration that happens there each fall. I was one of those who ventured out for a weekend (and I know of at least 10 others….).
So, we had the month covered, but the most amazing weekend was the weekend that Joanne Bradbury experienced (Oct 29-31). In fact, the weekend she was there is said to be the birding extravaganza of the millenium!!! (man, how I wish I’d gone that weekend!)
When she got back, she sent this fantastic email from her adventure. I encourage you to click on the link to the Cape May Bird Observatory website that she has listed in her email – it gives some amazing accounts of what happened that weekend (scroll down to the bottom and click on Oct 2010). I also encourage you to visit Cape May – especially for the fall migration but other times of the year are great too.
And….the tie back to Loudoun……. the warblers, hawks and others that bunch up at Cape May and make that 14 mile flight across the Bay often come though here as they migrate to points south. So, if you see Laura, tell her we were just up there making sure migration was on track for Loudoun’s fall birding 😉
Here’s Joanne’s story and some photos she took:
Hello fellow birders,
I’m not a blogger, so I’m going to provide a link to someone from the Cape May Bird Observatory who recalls this weekend in photos http://cmboviewfromthecape.blogspot.com/.
Here’s my story if you’d like to hear it…
Thinking it would be good to take a nice long weekend after my husband and I have had many long workdays, business trips and various stressful events lately, we headed up to Cape May this past Thursday, for some R&R and to catch the “tail end” (no pun intended) of the hawk migration. I just had to get up there after my first hawk watch there last year!
Well!!! I didn’t realize what I was in for!!! Talk about thousands of birds! OMG! Friday was THE DAY for songbird migration! I’m told it was unprecedented as far as numbers of birds passing through goes – no one there had seen anything like it since 1999!!
Thursday was mild, in the 70’s (we sunned in bathing suits on the beach) and Friday the cold front and Northeast winds blew so strong that when I arrived at the viewing platform at 6:30 a.m. I was glad to be wrapped up in several layers of fleece, wool coat, hat, & gloves. I heard the weather forecast and was anticipating a good day so at 5:30 am I couldn’t lie in bed any longer! I kissed my husband goodbye, leaving him under the warm covers thinking I was totally nuts and headed out into the night. The wind was howling and it was freezing and it was then that I realized I am totally bonkers.
The stars shone brightly in the night sky as I drove slowly down the unpaved road to Higbee Beach, flushing a number of woodcocks along the way. I parked and noticed a large number of (Robins? Blackbirds?) silhouettes flying past against the light sky as the dawn began to break. A rep from the Cape May Bird Observatory arrived, along with a dude who was a “counter” that day (ha!) who shone his headlights on what turned out to be a myriad or cornucopia of literally hundreds of hermit thrushes and sparrows: song, white throated, juncos, swamp, and even a grasshopper! That was just the beginning! By the time daylight arrived, the number of birds flying past (and hanging around) were in the hundreds and hours later, the thousands.
It looked as though someone was holding a gigantic humongous blower and blowing all these birds out from behind the trees! It was insane! Flocks of Robins, Red winged Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow Rumped Warblers, flying past in the hundreds, and a couple flocks of Rusty Blackbirds resting in a tree in front of us for all to get a good look! I had never seen so many Warblers, especially yellow rumps, Hermit thrushes, Phoebes, Juncos and other sparrows in one place in my entire life! Warblers I had never seen before, along with some other life birds made it all the more exciting!
After 4 hours (I couldn’t tear myself away!) I picked up my hubby and we headed to the hawk watch platform where Sharpies flew past almost every few minutes! I won’t bore you with all the details, but for another 4 hours we viewed lots of red tailed, red shouldered, coopers, and sharp-shinned hawks, Northern harriers, Bald Eagles, Kestrels, a Peregrine Falcon, a Merlin, lots of shore birds and ducks, including a few Surf Scoters and Eurasian Widgeons! People flocked in (pun intended) from miles around – I saw license plates from VT, ME, NH, PA, NY, MI, OH, and FL with tags such as “Jaeger” “13 Birds” and others.
Yes, I spent 8 hours viewing birds on Friday. Yes, I’ve totally lost it. My husband is now convinced I’m a crazy birding lunatic nutcase. (Make that “loon”atic…I think he’s right). J Friday was a gift from nature that I will never forget. Saturday and Sunday were good too, but one gets very spoiled after having so much fun on a record bird migration day like that!
Thanks for listening and if you’d like to check out the link above, do so, because everyone that was there could not believe their eyes. I couldn’t stop laughing! All the birds flying past was just cracking me up so I had to say out loud, “Sorry…I’ve just never seen anything like this.” Then some guy puts his hand up and says to the crowd, “Uh…has anyone else ever seen anything like this?” and everyone just starts cracking up! It was really funny and something I was so fortunate to have experienced.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, after over 8 hours of all the standing around and walking to and fro on “marathon migration Friday,” I was tired, my feet were hurting, I was chilled to the bone, hungry, and just plain birded-out while on my way back to the car, when a couple of guys with binoculars, scopes, cameras with major zoom lenses, and tripods literally RAN past, exclaiming, “Common Ground Dove!” I thought to myself…how special can a bird with a name like “Common Ground Dove” possibly be?
Many others with similar equipment followed behind him as though he was the new Messiah. I figured I may as well go check it out. They were all running so quickly, like worker bees bringing food back to the hive. I could barely keep up, my tired legs protesting, unable to go any faster, when I heard him inform others along the way, “it’s across the pond, on the dirt track!” They dropped what they were doing and followed. I thought I was nutty but all this fanfare seemed totally bonkers.
My head obviously in a dizzy fog from the day’s activities, I (foolishly) decided I wasn’t about to run another hundred yards with a bunch of other nutters to chase after some silly bird that would probably fly away once we got there! So at that point, I figured I’d just turn around and head back to the car, while others continued swarming past me in my direction, running to get a glimpse of some silly dove.
Who knew? I didn’t have any of my fellow LWC birders to take me under their wing! It was only later that I learned the Common Ground Dove is such a rare sighting, that only 3 have ever been spotted in Cape May!
Doh!! (That’s me hitting myself on the forehead, Homer Simpson style). I guess there’s always next year…
Joanne (I’d better stick to mountain biking) Bradbury