We slept late, so both parking lots at Higbee Beach were nearly full by the time we arrived at 7:30. An ebullient crowd was gathered at the beginning of the trail that led from the parking lot to the beach. The air bristled with urgency. Nobody wanted to miss any part of the spectacle. Sixteen different warblers were busy feeding in the catkins, and godknowshowmany contented birders were calling them out to each other. They were everywhere. They were in the canopy. They were right over our heads. They were in the low brush. Parulas. Redstarts. Bay-breasteds. Black-and-whites. Yellows. Magnolias. Common Yellowthroats. Black-throated green. Prairies. Yellow rumps in abundance.
We didn’t move for close to an hour. When things finally quieted down we headed for the first field. On the way I asked Holly what else it would take to make a perfect day. “Hmmmm. the day is already perfect, but an Indigo bunting would be nice.” The words barely left her mouth when one started singing. Then another and another. Perhaps a dozen Indigo buntings singing in the same field. “What else can I do for you?” “A Rose-breasted Grosbeak would be very nice.” Twenty five steps later we found two males in the same tree. And so it went. The birding was as good as it gets. We felt like we were being paid back for the previous week of solid rain. It was our spring weekend in Cape May which just happens to be the birder’s version of Ground Zero during spring migration. It is our annual renewal ritual – the one that reminds us of how much we still love being together and that there are more important things than politics or the financial crisis. A weekend of light hearts, good fellowship, contented tiredness, and good food.
As we made our rounds of Cape May county, from Higbee to the Beanery, to Cape May Meadows, and to Reed and Cook’s beaches, we were struck by the huge numbers of people doing the same thing. They converged on Cape May from all points of the compass. We met a large group from England. Another group from San Diego. Steve Kress led a group from Ithaca. They came from Ohio. North Carolina. Seattle. New Zealand.
The weekend had the feeling of a powwow – a gathering of the tribe. To celebrate life, beauty and being with others of our kind. A weekend to share stories, to smile, to help each other find and identify birds.
May 12, 2009