Cape A-MAYzing Reader Rendezvous!
Thirty intrepid birders gathered in the beautiful Victorian seaside resort town of Cape May, New Jersey on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 26. We were there to spend a long weekend sampling the feathered autumnal delights of one of the world’s most-famous migration hotspots.
And we were not disappointed.
Our local guide was world-class naturalist and birder Mark Garland. Not only does Mark know all the best birding sites of Cape May he knows all the best birders, too. Thus, over the following four days, while we were being blown away by the sheer spectacle of songbird and raptor migration, we were also meeting and engaging with the famous birders, talented naturalists, and skilled field researchers who make Cape May their home. Each day the sky was peppered with clouds of tree swallows, ragged clusters of blue jays, and swooping northern flickers, while the beaches held multiple species of gulls, terns, and shorebirds. Offshore, black scoters, ospreys, and an unusual number of parasitic jaegers thrilled us. Merlins, peregrines, and accipiters raced overhead while the warm mid-day thermals carried vultures, buteos, and eagles aloft. A boat trip to the salt marshes north of Cape May yielded two dozen hard-to-find species, including whimbrel, both night-herons, American oystercatchers, and close looks at two bald eagle pairs.
No one went hungry on this Rendezvous; event planner Emily Jones put together a series of culinary experiences that left us more than sated. Ben Lizdas, the LeBron James of Birding Optics, not only lent us his guiding expertise, he also matched a number of attendees with their perfect binocular or spotting scope courtesy of Redstart Birding.
It was a record-setting weekend for the Cape May Point Hawk Watch, with season-high numbers of black and turkey vultures, northern harrier, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, and red-shouldered hawk recorded on Saturday, September 29.
At the final dinner, after a few raffle prizes were handed out and the final list was tallied, Bill Thompson, III, serenaded us with a few bird-themed songs, joined on stage by his mom Elsa, and former Rendezvous planner Wendy Clark.
All of us agreed that it was the most wonderful weekend of birding we’d ever experienced.