I was back at the Pole Farm this morning as I often am on weekend mornings, but this time I wasn’t going solo. I was a last-minute substitute for a friend on a Washington Crossing Audubon Society guided walk, and what a treat it was.
About 20 birders assembled at the Cold Soil Road parking lot at 8 a.m., and leaders Jim and Fairfax took us on a leisurely meander through the park. In three hours, we counted a whopping 31 species, by far the highest total I’ve ever logged in a visit to the Pole Farm. The count may have been higher, as a few of us split off from the main group toward the end to get back to our cars a little earlier.
The guides were great at spotting birds and tipping us to those we might see on subsequent visits (calling all owls and snipes!). One of the highlights today was an osprey soaring overhead with a number of turkey vultures. That’s something I would never have noticed on my own, and I might also have overlooked (or, more literally, underlooked) the three great blue herons that flew overhead.
The weather was a bit odd, with copious cloud cover, limited sunshine and an occasional sprinkle of rain. I didn’t shoot a lot of photos, but that’s OK — there was plenty of chatter on the trails to keep us engaged.
One of the best things about the walk was the camaraderie and the crowd-sourcing: 20 pairs of eyeballs scanning from foreground to horizon in all directions make for better birding. That worked not only for spotting the birds initially, but helping each other locate them once someone in the group had called out “meadowlark!” or “harrier!”
I joined the Audubon Society last year and just renewed, and now I’m on mailing lists to alert me to upcoming guided tours. I look forward to the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that….
Note: My eBird count for the visit shows 30 species, but it doesn’t formally acknowledge the chickadee we logged as Carolina/Black-capped, as our slice of New Jersey is in a crossover zone between the two varieties.