Friday, May 12, 2006

World Series of Birding: Thursday

Time for some East Coast birding! After the plane landed in Philadelphia at 7 a.m., I drove to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to satisfy some curiosity. Some of WildBird’s photographers rave about Jamaica Bay’s shorebirds, so I wanted to see the site myself.

Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, the refuge includes more than 9,100 acres within New York City limits. My short visit included just the loop trail around West Pond, where I first heard, then saw, a Gray Catbird… quite the dapper-looking songster who didn’t run out of steam for quite a while.

The trail provided a look at the almost-complete visitor center on Cross Bay Boulevard. No doubt that’ll prove to be a useful and well-used facility. (Click on an image to see a larger version.)

A family of Canada Geese nibbled and dozed next to the gravel trail. My binocular allowed a close-up shot of a gosling, and one adult hissed only twice when I ver-r-r-r-y slowly walked past their spot to continue on the trail.

Then I saw the bird that captivated my attention for most of the walk: Tree Swallow. I’ve never seen that many swallows in one place—perching, preening, swooping in the air, gliding over the pond surface before a quick dip. They looked fabulous, too, with their crisp white feathers below and blue-black-purple-green iridescent feathers above.

Granted, the trail offered other cool birds—including Glossy Ibis, Yellow Warbler, Eastern Towhee—that I don’t regularly see. The bright warbler provided an especially welcome contrast to the gray, windy weather.

The West Pond trail includes more than its namesake. Gardens sit off the trail, as does Blind Pond (shown). I’m looking forward to a return visit very soon.

The drive from Jamaica Bay to Cape May went smoothly. Can I just say, as a Californian, that this toll stuff is irritating? Dishing out 35 cents, 70 cents, $2 and even $9 to drive on the turnpike/parkway/expressway was a nuisance. Thank goodness we have freeways at home (c:

At the Cape May Bird Observatory's research and education center in Cape May Court House, I joined the evening's Swap Meet, where teams competing in the World Series of Birding gather to eat, drink and share details and birds' locations. Pete Dunne speedily led the discussion down the checklist, and then everyone mingled for a while. I really enjoy the chance to visit with folks whom I see only once or twice a year, like the fellows on Zen Zugunruhe (WB's team).

Mother Nature threw a temper tantrum much later. The strong winds had made the flags fly perpendicular to the poles for a few hours, but about 11:30, the thunder, lighting and rain briefly raised the noise level. It appears that Mother Nature got it out of her system and that Saturday’s weather forecast looks much less dreary for the WSB teams. I’m crossin’ my fingers!

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