The beautiful fall weekend was in late October and the Cape May Fall Birding Festival hosted by the Cape May Bird Observatory (fondly know as CMBO) and The New Jersey Audubon Society was taking place in Cape May New Jersey. Hundreds of birders and nature enthusiasts of all stripes migrated to Cape May Island to partake in a wealth of bird related activities.
Early morning birders hit the morning flight at the Higbee Dike or combed the many trails at Higbee Beach State Park or Rea Farms to witness migrants dropping out of the dawn sky and dodging hawks to seek shelter in the fields and woods.
There was so much to do and see in a weekend.
Others gathered on the lower morning flight platform at Higbee Beach State Park
Many birders hit the paths through the meadows and the woods as the migration spectacle unfolded. In a small clearing, along a path near the upper Higbee Beach parking lot, 6 species of sparrows were seen in one small opening in less than 10 minutes.
It was like sparrow whack-a-mole, one species would pop up and disappear, to be replaced by another one or two, with no two of the same species in sight at the same time. There were warblers, vireos, grosbeaks, and thrushes and more surprises to find too.
Information on the Cape May Fall Festival was available on line, in the New Jersey Travel Booth on the Garden State and at the registration table in the Grand Hotel.
A Boat-tailed Grackle displays for the visitors passing by on there way to Cape May.
Hawk watchers were drawn to the platform at Cape May Point state park.
Expert guides lead groups and help with bird ID pointers and where to look for them.
Later in the day the Cape May Lighthouse Hawk watch platform produced a steady stream of raptors and other assorted birds throughout the days. Many birders stopped at the platform at least once during there visit and if you were patient, you could meet every birder in Cape May sometime during the weekend.
Optic experts were on hand to give field demo’s and show how to use a scope with a DSLR.
If you dallied long enough on the platform you might run into tour operators and genuine birding celebrities.
And a legend.
Hawk banding demo under the pavilion next to the Cape May Point Hawk watch. Makes you wonder why anyone has a problem telling the large Cooper Hawk from the smaller Sharp-Shinned.
There were organized activities for most birding areas at various times during the day, and many took advantage of them. Independent parties also were encouraged to visit various areas and detailed maps and guides were provided by CMBO/NJAudubon and at the Convention Center.
Butterfly watchers would visit meadows and parks to seek the many species, all would notice the numerous monarchs and dragonflies also on migration.
And famous authors became bird guides once they were in the field.
The number of organized bird adventures being offered throughout the weekend sometimes attracted a crowd of participants. One could walk the Meadows with Pete Dunn or do the Beanery or simply gaze out into Delaware Bay or the Atlantic for terns and all manner of migrating water birds by the thousands.
Some would scan the ocean and bay rips to glimpse a jaeger among the terns and gulls. Southbound streams of migrant ducks, cormorants, terns and gannets were noted over the Atlantic by diligent sea watchers. One could go on a sea watching boat trip or take a tour through the marshes on a shallow water vessel guided by expert leaders.
The beauty of Cape May is that one could hit key areas, known to insiders as the Platform, Lilly Pond, Bunker Pond, The Meadows, Hidden Valley Ranch, Higbee Beach area, Rea Farms, Avalon Sea Watch, Poverty Beach, Sunset Beach and other beaches, each with a different cast of avian characters and do them well all in a single long weekend.
Sapsucker Right over the entrance door to the CMBO building near Lily Lake.
A walk along the quiet streets of West Cape May might turn up a migrant or fifty especially if you run across a “magic tree”. You might even see a migrant Monarch or a Dragonfly.
The Cape May Convention Center, re-opened after an extensive rebuild, had numerous birding related exhibitors showing off their wares and promoting their causes. Optics, Travel and Tour Operators, and Conservation organizations, with others filled the hall and attracted a steady stream of visitors who jammed the isles looking at exhibits and talking to people at the displays and networking.
You could meet tour operators and dream of far off places.
You could try out optics and get practical advice from seasoned field ornithologists.
There seemed to be something for everyone, the hawk presentation was a big draw for young birders.
At Convention Hall, there were bird and nature related crafts for sale, a silent action art work in a beautiful light and airy space adjacent to the exhibit hall.
A recognition of outstanding services.
New Jersey Audubon and CMBO out did it’s self for this three day festival; the evening programs of book signing & sales, networking & cocktails, and the Keynotes alone were worth the price of admissions. The overall organization was excellent, and the camaraderie was infectious.
There was so much to do and see in a weekend starting off with The Woedoggies, performed at the Rusty Nail for CMBO’s Cape May Fall Birding Festival Kickoff Party, in Cape May, NJ.
Books were for sale and one could meet the authors and get their books signed.
Meet famous authors.
Get more books.
More famous authors
There were plenty of non-bird things to do in Cape May too. It would be impossible to ignore the beautiful beaches, Cape May Point lighthouse, stroll the boardwalk, bycle rides and the famous victorian architecture, after all Cape May Island is the oldest seashore resort in the country; and there multiple eateries with good food at all price points.
The Cape May Fall Festival was truly a memorable happening. It was not just the birds, it was the gathering of a large, diverse group of people sharing their interest in all things bird and nature, in a very nice place, at the perfect time of year. Do yourself a favor and and don’t miss the next Cape May Fall Festival. The birding and scenery wasn’t bad either.
NEWS Reel Clip INTERVIEW click below on a new feature called SCOOPS™ 2015 Cape May Fall Festival trade show at Convention Hall.
What in world are you hanging around for? Get off your branch and fly right down and click on this link here Cape May Fall Festival! and sign up for this years 2016 that marks the 40th Anniversary of the Cape May Bird Observatory, the Cape May Hawk watch, and the 70th Anniversary of the New Jersey Audubon Annual Fall Meeting – a three day event from October 21st to the 23rd 2016.
Check out the eatery’s in Cape May NJ ~ Click here on BirdFoodForPeople™
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