Sunday....beautiful day...in the mid 60's, no wind....lawn mowed, I am not sure I wanted to watch the Eagles attempt to 'play' football, so....it was a fine day for Hawk Watch in Cape May. (View the video...I apologize for you having to turn your entire face in 'owl like' fashion to view, but I can't seem to find the rotate button on this website).
Down I went....and there I stopped. I couldn't even get in the parking lot for there were so many cars. The park employees blocked the parking lot off, so all incoming cars had to steer to the left and 'out'....but I managed to squeeze in near by. People...people..... no birds yet, just people. Now, why all of these people? They are not all birders. Sure, the Hawk Watch Platform, as evident by the twisted video, is crowded but not to the degree that the entire parking lot is full. To whom do all of those cars belong to? You mean to tell me that people are so desperate to get out of Philadelphia on a weekend and when they do escape, they come to a parking lot? What? .... I need to take a survey the next time I am down there just to figure that question out.
So, returning to the topic of birding ...I took a quick run at the restroom....then a slow walk to the Hawk Watch Platform. Now, all of us have our designated places to sit in just about anyplace we go. For instance when I attended church, I sat on the right side, about 10 pews in....to the movies, I sit about 5 down in the middle. Well, at the platform here I prefer to sit on the tallest tiered platform, near the Hawk Counters. I find that the people surrounding me fit under two categories up in this section of the platform. They are either newbies and have never seen their first Red Tailed Hawk or, they are Cape May experts who get along real well with the Counters. They form this tight 'club', a bit on the 'condescending side' as they 'call out' in fashion the birds to all of those who seek. Who can spot the bird first? But the real reason for my preferred seating is that these seats have this upper railing to them which allows me to actually sit on the 'back of the seat', lean back....which helps to scan the skies looking for hawks. I find I don't get nearly the neck strain since that back upper railing really adds comfort when leaning back.
Other areas of the platform have equal number of experts I am sure....and plenty of large cameras. One guy was photo'ing a Sharpie and aimed this camouflaged tree trunk upwards to the sky. Being 'camouflaged' didn't exactly pull the bird in closer, but it looked great.
Now....if you ever want to appreciate the Peregrine Falcon, ...wow...come here. For some reason the ability to 'sit' ....and scan the wide expanse, one has more of an appreciation for just how fast this bird is. One of those little guys flew perpendicular to where I was sitting and with naked eyes, I stared in awe. They just 'move'........and because of that, are easily distinguishable from all comers.
A Eurasion WIdgeon was nestled amongst the flock of normal widgeons, attempting to be somewhat inconspicuous. He was not successful. A couple sitting next to me had the opportunity to have the widgeon pointed out to them by a member of the club....a first for them. Bravo....the guy was really helpful to them and that is what we need. New birders learn to enjoy from us.
A Coopers dove in from out of the dunes and chased a tree swallow. Real close, real nice.....
There was this odd man sitting next to me....appeared to be from China. He never looked up at the birds, oh, just once I suppose. He asked me if the birds in the 'kettle' in the sky were all the same. Nah, I said....eagles and hawks intermix with the vultures all the time. That response seemed to satisfy him as he went back to his iPhone. Someone important must have distracted him for a few hours. Not sure.....
But a great little comparison between the Red-Shouldered Hawk and the Red-Tailed Hawk took note in the midst of one of those vulture Kettles. A great experience to actually compare and contrast these two often confused species.
The guy in the corner was video-taping all bird sightings. He had this odd little contraption all 'wrapped-up' in some type of plastic cover. He did manage to capture some solid video of Coopers as they flew fairly close to the platform. Bravo to him.
The Black Swan...only one of them from what I could see, just had the neck craned within, and would come out and stretch it, between 15 min segments, giving us all a view. Go there and see this bird, if you haven't already. Of course you can always go to Australia where they are abundant, but today....I didn't have time for that long flight.
Bald Eagles were abundant. At times I could see 3-4 in view. Most of the time they hovered in the distance over in the far trees, never really nearing the platform.
Now...my question is and has always been to these 'counters'...how do you know how many birds you 'actually see' as opposed to how many times the 'same' bird flies by? For instance, the counter said that the Coopers were finally turning the corner and outnumbering the Sharpies....latest count was 188-181 for the day. Okay, fine. That could be. But it could also be 10-9 or 100- 3 or whatever. The point being, how many times did he count the same hawk in that 188-181 latest number count? I guess I couldn't be a 'counter' as I would continually be reflecting upon my counts and if I saw that same bird prior. My counts would be way off from previous years and Cape May would fire me for 'lower numbers'.
But today was a great day for birding...so I hope you had your share of being outside with nature. We need to take advantage of the sun, the 60 something degrees, no wind. etc etc.....