Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cape May Birding Weekend

Every year Horseshoe Crabs come to the shores of the Deleware Bay to lay their eggs and every year Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Gulls and other birds come to eat them. The strategy of the crab is to lay as many as possible and hope that some survive. The strategy of the Red Knots it to eat as many as possible so they can continue their long long migration to their breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska. And my strategy was to see as much as possible and experience the wonder of this phenomena. I think we were all successful. Let me explain.

My friend Trillium and I arrived at Cape May on a Friday evening and began looking at birds right away as we strolled down the beach and explored the nearby sights. The next day we were scheduled for two bird walks. I saw my first Chat while on the first walk!  The birding was really good but I didn't get many photos...you really need a much more powerful camera that my little point and shoot.

The afternoon was spent with Pete Dunn who is a world class birder. He took us out toward the beach were we saw a couple of good sites. The first was Mute Swans and you are probably thinking oh how pretty. Well, one was very aggressive as you can see here.

Can you see the wake in front of him as he heads towards the other swans.

This guy was intense.

Finally the lunge

and the flee.

We saw a mother Piping Plover and her baby chicks in a fenced off area. The babies were like little balls of dandelions on two tall legs.  They were too far away to get a photo but I have great memories.

By far the highlight of the trip was going to the bay side where the horse shoe crabs had laid their eggs. They come in at night to lay their eggs so we were seeing the previous nights work. The birds were there by the thousands. At first it just looked like gray sand and then I realized that those were the Red Knots in mass.

The Red Knots are the small dots in the background of the photo above. They kept flying in as the evening drew to a close.

Lots of Laughing Gulls were also feeding with the Red Knots.

One our way back to the hotel we saw where banding was going on so we stopped the car and got out to take a looks. Lots of people were helping and some were just watching like we were.

This one is being banded and then handed off for blood samples and then eventually let go by the two young girls helping.

Passing the responsibility and stewardship from one generation to the next.

About this time someone came up and asked for volunteers and our hands shot up almost before they could explain what we were volunteering for. We didn't care...we just wanted to help. So we were taken over to another spot where this gentlemen explained to us how to band Ruddy Turnstones.

First you hold them like this...firm but not too tight.

Next someone will place a metal band on them and another person will place this larger band that can be read with binoculars. Next the wing length was measured...that was my job.

Trillium measured the head

and the bill.

and someone else weighed them and another person recorded the data.

Here is a view of a Turnstone for the camera.

I was a happy camper as I measured the wing...

 and was even proud of the bird poop left on my pants after we banded 30+ Ruddy Turnstones.

It was one of those experiences that I will never forget. The combination of feeling the heart beats of these birds and the opportunity to make a contribution was awesome!

Be sure to visit Watery Wednesday for more insteresting photos and stories.


eileeninmd said...

Squirrel, how cool and what a wonderful experience. I've never been to a bird banding before. I love Cape May, it is a great place for birding. I enjoyed your photos.

eileeninmd said...

Squirrel, how cool and what a wonderful experience. I've never been to a bird banding before. I love Cape May, it is a great place for birding. I enjoyed your photos.

J Bar said...

Great shots.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Greyscale Territory said...

This must have been an incredible experience! Marvellous sights of the birds in action and learning banding!

squirrel said...

Eileen we were truly in the right place at the right time. You should go next year, with all the experts around you are bound to see really cool stuff. Seeing the Piping Plover babies was also pretty cool.

cat said...

Fantastic and very interesting series of photos.

Jan n Jer said...

Wow what a great adventure...one for the memory bank. Great shots too!

Elizabeth Victoria Eggleton said...

I really like the photo of you with your ear to ear grin. It is so obvious the passion you have for nature. I'm just all over the place and still trying to learn how to do this blog "thing." I think I need to take a class or better yet, you come down and visit me as a private tutor! Love you, Elizabeth