This was my first year of formal birding on Global Big Day, and I’m pleased to report that I logged 45 species at five locations and added four birds to my life list.
I started the day at my favorite spot, the Mercer Meadows Pole Farm near home. I counted 28 species on a gray morning memorable more for what I didn’t see than what I did. My Merlin Sound app heard a few warblers I never did see, so I did not include them in my count.
The most exciting, and ultimately disappointing, part of the walk was having Merlin key in on a black-billed cuckoo, followed shortly by my taking a photo nearby of what I was pretty sure was the one. Even fellow birder Andy figured it was a cuckoo when he looked at the fuzzy image on my camera back. Alas, upon further review on the home computer, my cuckoo was actually a brown-headed cowbird stretching out for a morsel off a treetop.
But the day would bring rewards.
After some observations at home, I drove two hours to the southern tip of New Jersey at Cape May. On Global Big Day each year, Cape May is the epicenter of East Coast bird migration. This has not been a strong May for migration in the Garden State, and the day on the cape dawned heavily with fog and rain. The rain cleared when I arrived at mid-afternoon but the fog had barely lifted.
The trip to Cape May was principally for work, as I would connect there with a group of Princeton University students taking part in the World Series of Birding, sponsored by the New Jersey Audubon Society. The students were in and out of our shoreline rendezvous in about 15 minutes, and I’ll write more about that later.
Few birds were at the rendezvous point, but I was able to log sanderlings (banner photo) and least terns as lifers. Afterward, I stopped at Lake Lily, where a pair of mute swans were close to the edge on their nest, caring for an adorable cygnet.
As I was heading out of town, I pulled over late in the afternoon at the Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows preserve. I only walked a third of a mile into the preserve before turning around to head home, and I added short-billed dowitchers and Forster’s terns to my life list.
I only scratched the sand, so to speak, in Cape May County, and I aim to return someday soon.