On May 12th, Angie and I went to Cape May, New Jersey with our good friends Jim and Lynda from the Etobicoke "Wild Birds Unlimited" store. It was a 6 day adventure that I will try to retell and perhaps interest others to maybe visit the area one day themselves.
For starts, let me say I was quite excited about this trip. I've not gone anywhere outside of Ontario in many years. I will also admit my nervousness of leaving home for 6 days. In the last decade I've become more of a homebody, enjoying the house, the yard and not wanting to leave Meadow, the Budgies, and our Frogs and Newt for very long. Then add Pierre and the rest out back. Home is where the heart is! But I knew everyone was in good care with my parents, so away we went...
It's barely been 2 weeks since we got home and Cape May is turning into a blur, like park names and where exactly we saw certain birds. But I will do my best to entertain you on this adventure we had even if I am missing location points.
The first day was mostly travel. We left by 4am and arriving to our destination by 4pm. We made a few rest stops along the way and I had my first Cracker Barrel lunch ever, or maybe just in a very long time. The decor of the restaurant sure seemed familiar but I couldn't recall if I had ever been in one before. All I can say is "great food, great service and I give high recommendations". Who knows where the hell the restaurant was, just somewhere along the way around lunch time.
After a good hearty lunch, and we had Jim (the driver) loaded up on coffee, I spent a lot of the remaining drive like this...
Notice my lack of a shave? Vacation scruff! Screw the razor! I was so happy to be on holidays again, giving Angie and I a couple weeks together with no work. Heck, I almost thought about going commando the whole week too. Haha!
Anyhoo, getting us down to our destination of Cape May and the hotel being the Grand Hotel, I got my first lifer of the trip right there in the parking lot. Laughing Gull! Angie and I both fell in love with these common birds of the area, who are comparable to the Ring-bills we have here in Toronto. And for some, these are pest birds, and have not so nice slang terms for them. But hey, any bird that flies around laughing all the time is awesome in my books! Laughter is the best medicine. Yes, I know they really aren't laughing, but it sure sounds like it, and they entertained us throughout our trip. We always broke out in at least a smile, if not a giggle with them.
After checking in, we hit a couple local birding spots. First was the Cape May Bird Observatory where we got some info on good birding spots to go. Jim observed a Chickadee near the feeders. We all didn't give much thought to a bird we see often back home. It wasn't until after we left that we realized it was a Carolina Chickadee, as Black-capped Chickadees aren't seen in Cape May. Homer Simpson says "DOH!" and so did we.
After we left the observatory, we hit another spot, a big marsh area, with a nice stretch of beach called The Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge.
For me, I picked up another 3 lifers in this amazing spot. Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron and a nesting American Oystercatcher. There was so much other action here with Common Yellow-throated Warblers, Great Egrets, Terns, Green Heron, Song Sparrows and so much else. I'm not very good with all them little shorebirds like Dunlins, Dowitchers, Sandpipers but there was a wide variety of them around too.
Seeing all these birds, I was working the camera of course. But with every new bird I see, I prefer to spend some time observing them with my own eyes and not through a lens first. I hope to absorb the bird in my brain, the moment and enjoy it before I consider trying for a photograph and worrying if I got a good shot or not. But that's just my preference when it comes to going out and seeing birds.
Me finally snapping some pics of the Oystercatcher who is a good distance away. Notice the rope and posts? A little barrier to try and give the nesting bird it's space from people, so it can nest in peace. Unfortunately we saw a few sets of foot prints that went under the line and much closer to the nest site, from those obviously more interested in better photos than respecting the bird(s), and ignoring the couple signs asking people to not enter the area.
Lifers for this first day.
Snowy Egret with what looks like a small snake. All I could think of when I saw this bird was Angie's bit on how to identify them... "black legs, yellow feet!" She saw these in Florida the other fall.
Little Blue Heron. Yes, he is quite little... well compared to our common Great Blues up here.
After this outing, it was getting late in the day, and we were hungry again. Cape May is a small town. It reminds me a lot of Wasaga Beach. And since it's off season, there's not a lot going on in town which also meant at this time of day, eating out options were few. Us being tired from the long drive down here, decided on a seemingly jumping little spot near the hotel called Carney's. It seemed like a decent place to get pub fare. Now being down here, fish seemed to be the thing to get, and I could not resist ordering the coconut shrimp. Unfortunately it sucked! I'm no food critic. I am happy with even the most plain stuff, like how my breakfasts all week are pretty consistent, cut up banana in my Raisin Bran or Shreddies, maybe color it up with some berries and I will have this 5 days a week and I'm okay with it. So ya, doesn't take a lot to impress me. I wasn't expecting anything extraordinary. To sum it up... reminded me of the Captain Highliner bake crap you can buy in your local grocery store. You know, that Blue Water stuff you can get 20 pieces for $4. And it wasn't even coconut! Greasy crappy overpriced and disappointing. Blechy! So if you happen to be in Cape May, I suggest skipping Carney's on Beach Avenue. Perhaps loading up on the beer at the bar first would improve the meal?
I was happy to be in our temporary home after this, just having a good wash and a good night's sleep. The bed in the Grand Hotel was beyond awesome! Big comfy and lots of pillows! Angie is never keen on us getting a king sized bed because she says I disappear in it, being out of reach somewhere on the other side. Haha!
The next day we awoke to balmy summer like temperatures. It was in the low 80's already. Lynda summed it up best on our drive into town the first day... "it's like we just drove into summer". Our plans were breakfast, a Dolphin boat tour, and then birding. Yep, a great day ahead!
I took notice to the radio on our way to Uncle Bill's Pancake House up the road from the hotel. It was 6:45am and Jim found this station, 103.7, they were doing the "heavy metal wake-up" and it was Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell"! Damn, I'm awake now! And as we had our breakfast in the pancake house, I tuned into more great music like Joan Jett's "I Love Rock n Roll" and even Vixen's "Edge of a Broken Heart" was great to hear again. I reflected on Jan's passing last fall with hearing this song. Oh those hair metal days!
Uncle Bill's Pancake House is freakin' awesome! Good food, inexpensive, and the service was A+. Remember, I'm not a food critic but I'm telling ya, it was a good hearty meal. The servers were polite and kept the coffee cups full.
From there, off we went to the dock area for the Dolphin tour. We had an hour or so to kill, so we made the best of the birds and being outside while we waited. The Noseeums were pretty bad in this extreme heat all of us were experiencing, first high heat day for any of us since last summer. "What's a noseeum?" you ask. Little biting midges. Little pains in the ass or wherever they decided to chomp on you! It didn't matter if you were in the sun or the shade, they were on you. I didn't notice them at first but when I did... grrrrrrr! I kept myself busy and tried to ignore them all. I got myself another lifer in the parking area with a Fish Crow. I enjoyed seeing a number of Osprey in the area, Barn Swallows zipping past my head, and wondered about the numerous Vultures high above, all appeared to be Turkey Vultures and I was hoping to spot a Black Vulture in the mix which would be another lifer. The regulars sightings of Laughing Gulls still entertained me.
Finally on the boat, the winds picked up, the noseeums were gone, and it even cooled off quite a bit out over the water. We saw more Oystercatchers along the pier and took notice to a couple dozen Brants. Another lifer! And not long after we were well out on the water that we started seeing Dolphins. I'd never seen a wild Dolphin before. Apparently it was a nursery pod filled with mom Dolphins and many young ones. The estimate number was just over 30. It was great to watch them and a real challenge to try and get a picture because once you spot them coming up out of the water, they were back under by the time I got a focus. Oh well, it made it all fun regardless. I'd try for photos for a bit, then just watch them at other times.
Wow, almost got one's face!
This is pretty cool! Imagine seeing these from one's window throughout the year? Wow!
I just realized there's 5 here. Look at that tiny fin on the bottom left! A baby!
I happened to pick up a few more lifers on the boat tour. I finally saw Black Vultures! Two of them were soaring over us at one point. And then Jim and I observed a different kind of Hawk. We watched it for some time and it wasn't until much later that I learned it was a Red-shouldered Hawk. I hate having a life bird and not really knowing what I am looking at. I do hope to see another one some day and get a good long view of it.
Some of the views from the boat...
More American Oystercatchers
Laughing Gulls following the boat
A couple Turkey Vultures on shore, the one duked it out with the Greater Black-backed Gull
Real close up views of another Turkey Vulture. I only wished the Black Vultures would have come down like this.
Me being artsy with a black and white moment.
The Grand Hotel. The big blue tower to the right is an old look out tower from World War 2. The hotel was built around it.
Imagine living in one of these places? Holy!
After the boat tour was done, it was lunch. Ya, can't help but notice on this big vacation outing that food was a pretty important part of the trip. We decided to try a place near the docks called Lucky Bones. Summing it up here in one word "superfreakingawesome". A nice casual relaxed place, great food, not expensive, excellent coffee and we had one of the nicest servers we've ever come across (wish I could remember her name). But ya, if you are down in the area, it's highly recommended by me. We even hit it again for another lunch in our stay down there. I couldn't help but notice they rocked out good tunes too, Def Leppard "Photograph" and Quiet Riot "Cum On Feel the Noize"
Then it was off to do more birding in the area, kinda coastal spots if I recall. We saw more Oystercatchers, Egrets in wet fields almost everywhere and an ever growing list which I will provide at some point.
Some of the afternoon sightings...
Black-throated Green Warbler
A Green Heron I spotted in a small apple tree. He was going after the tent caterpillars in a nest!
Jim and I took notice to this light morph Red-tailed Hawk. I was calling it "blonde" because it sure looked like one to me. :)
He put on quite a good show for us!
Jim and Lynda making great use of their recently purchased scope. It helped us out too for some of the shorebirds!
And after an afternoon of birding, we went back to the hotel, cleaned ourselves up a bit and went out for a nice dinner at The Lobster House. I was skeptical at first as Lobster and other fishy things aren't my top choice, even if really hungry, but I found a good selection of land items and definitely satisfied my hunger. Another place worth hitting for a meal.
Through our afternoon travels, I noticed more Pantera on that kick ass radio station. Gee I hope there are more hard rock and metal head birders out there than what is lead to believe. LoL!
It's obvious I cannot do our 6 day trip in one blog so I will return for the remaining days in the next week or so. I hope you enjoyed this blog enough to come back for more.