Monarchists Win Carbon Footprint Award

 

    On Saturday, May 11, 2013, the Monarchist team competed in the World Series of Birding, searching for birds in this friendly competition and competing in two different categories: Cape Island (birding just south of the Cape May Canal), and Carbon Footprint (using no motor vehicle for transport).  Our goal was to raise funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project.  Here’s the story of our day.  If you can’t stand the suspense, the results are at the bottom of this page.

Birders of the Monarchist team, l to r: LuAnn Daniels, Mark Garland,

Michael O’Brien, Louise Zemaitis, and Meg Walker Hedeen.

    Our “day” began at midnight, though our midnight attempt for Screech-Owl was unsuccessful.  After a while we decided to head into town to listen for nocturnal migrants overhead -- for whatever reason, they seem to call more over the lights of Cape May.  But the wind was blowing from the south and the surf was noisy!  We needed to find a windbreak, and we found the spot, above, with a building to our south and a dumpster to our east.  But there were noisy cars going by now and then, so the next windbreak we found was amidst West Cape May’s storage units (right).  The chap behind Michael and Meg in the photo at right is writer Jacob Baynham (see sidebar at right, below).  After a couple hours with just a few birds calling, we decided to head out for other owls.  First we found a Screech-Owl and then we planned to cycle down to Higbee Beach and the territory of a Barred Owl pair.  But one look at the weather radar (thank goodness for smart phones) told us to head back to cover.  We didn’t start soon enough, however, and we got caught in an intense thunderstorm at about 2:30 am.  We peddled like crazy through the downpour until we found shelter at Michael & Louise’s house.

Above left: Cape May Point Lighthouse, 4 am. Above: Meg and Michael listen for birds at the “Dumpster Birding Location,” 1 am. Below: Michael, Meg, and writer Jacob Baynham at the “Storage Unit Birding Location,” 1:30 am.

Monarchists Host the Press

    When our team met just before midnight to begin our birding, three visitors joined us.  A writer and two photographers working on a piece for Coastal Living magazine were going to spend time with several World Series of Birding teams during the day of competition, and they decided to begin with us.

    Writer Jacob Baynham (at right) and photographers Rosanna Menza and Michael Turek proved to be intrepid companions.  They rented bicycles so they could peddle along with us, and they stayed with us from midnight until after dawn.  They got to experience our exciting dumpster and storage unit birding locations, and they got caught in the 2:30 am downpour with us.  Throughout it all they worked unobtrusively, staying very quiet as we listened intently for birds, and seeming to delight in the quirky aspect of the event.  They joined us again in the afternoon -- without any planned rendezvous location they tracked us down -- and spent several more hours with us.  Michael Turek snapped the photo of our team at the top from the “Cove Pool” overlook, off the end of Mt. Vernon Ave., at about 6:30 pm, and Mark & Louise both took shots of our new friends, above, from the same location.  We found all three to be delightful companions who worked efficiently and professionally.  I’m confident that the Coastal Living piece will turn out great!  We just have to wait until next winter before it will be published.

    We wrapped up the nocturnal birding near the Cape May Point Lighthouse and then headed to the South Cape May Meadows for dawn, and for our first meal.  Our wonderful support team of Ron Rollet, Kashi Davis, and Paige Cunningham made sure we were never hungry or thirsty all day, and they rendezvoused with us periodically to provide logistical and psychological support.  Our next stop was Cape May Point, where we scanned the ocean and beach for coastal birds and we rode slowly through the residential areas listening for songbirds.  Our morning at the Point provided us with a good list of sightings, including Parasitic Jaeger and Western Grebe, but also three unwelcome showers -- we kept getting caught by downpours.  We took shelter at LuAnn’s house at about 9 am for “first lunch,” and then took cover under the picnic pavilions at Cape May Point State Park.  The rain stopped again late in the morning, and this time the radar looked clear for a ways ... maybe the rain was finished!  We walked the trails at Cape May Point State Park and found lots of birds, including many uncommon species.  Meg found most of the good ones; this was her day to shine!

Above: Michael checks the weather radar on his iPhone.

Below: Ginger cream scones, five-chocolate scones, and cafe au lait were served to the team at about 5 am.

    We were buoyed by our success, and encouraged by the arrival of some sunshine!  We headed to our midday destination, one of the high points of Cape Island at the edge of Les & Diane Rea’s farm.  Here we scanned the skies for raptor and searched the fields for songbirds.  We also ate again; it was past 1:00, and this was our designated spot for “second lunch.”  This prepared us for the ride to Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, our most distant destination of the day.  A few stops along the way delivered with more good birds, with Meg finding the nearly impossible-to-see Belted Kingfisher high in a tree.  Two cars passed us at low speed along New England Rd., and we noticed photographer Michael Turek, head and camera sticking up through the sunroof, firing away.  Our journalism team was back! 


    At Higbee we first visited the Delaware Bay waterfront, where we found a bunch of Purple Sandpipers.  Next Louise spotted a Brown Pelican out over the Bay.  We added a few more birds on a walk around the Higbee fields and woods, but Eastern Towhees remained silent and hidden.  At least we were staying dry!

Above, l to r: LuAnn & Michael checking the coast; Red-headed Woodpecker; Louise, Meg, & LuAnn at Cape May Point State Park. Below, l to r: Eurasian Collared-Dove; cycling through Cape May Point; Gray Catbird.

    The spectacular light quickly morphed into ominous dark clouds.  Just as we began to consider a ride to shelter, the skies opened up.  Another soaking.  We started to ride towards the shelter at the west end of the Cape May Promenade, but the rain was super-intense and the nearest shelter we found was in the lee of the Jetty Motel (left).  When the storm passed we continued to the shelter to regroup; this proved to be a good plan, as a few minutes later yet another storm passed by.  Finally we experienced a storm from under a roof!  Better yet, a rainbow appeared right after the storm.  And best of all, Louise found Black Terns feeding offshore, and Michael found a Northern Gannet cruising past.

    It was time for the longest ride of the day, as we headed from Higbee to the southeastern corner of Cape May City.  We came to a sudden halt, however, when Meg called out, “Wild Turkey!”  Sure enough, one lone Turkey was wandering across a field to our south.  These birds are still rather scarce on Cape Island, and they’re best seen in the early morning, so this was a fortunate find, indeed!  Next we headed for the boardwalk that leads from the end of Mt. Vernon Ave. to the beach, going past the freshwater marshes of Cove Pool.  Here we found the support team again, this time with cool beverages and tasty treats, including Kashi’s now-famous lemon bars!  Fortified, we headed up the boardwalk with a few key birds in mind.  We found Tricolored Heron and Lesser Black-backed Gull, but Sanderling continued to elude us.  The light was spectacular so we posed for various pictures, including the team and the shot of our journalist friends, both featured above.

Above, l to r: Second lunch at the Rea Farm; Michael birding the forest edge; Purple Sandpipers at Higbee Beach. Below: Wild Turkey; Ominous clouds above the team.

Lemon bars! Yum!

Ominous afternoon clouds delivered yet another downpour.

Results

    Monarchists found 140 species of birds on World Series day.  If you look at the official total, however, it will be 139, due to a clerical error -- we forgot to write “Eurasian Collared-Dove” onto the list, and this species is so newly established in Cape May that it’s not on the list and must be listed as a write-in.  We feel certain that our sponsors don’t want to penalize us for this silly mistake!  Our total earned us the “Carbon Footprint Award,” the highest total for any team traveling without the use of a motorized vehicle.  Our friends with the Zen Zugenruhe team beat us out for the “Cape Island Cup” with 146 species.  We only tallied 5 species of butterflies, not a surprise for a day with so much rain and so little sun.


    To fulfill a pledge, or to make a contribution even if you didn’t make an advance pledge, send a check made out to “New Jersey Audubon Society” with “Monarch Project #024” written in the memo area, and send to Monarchists c/o Mark Garland, PO Box 154, Cape May Point, NJ  08212.  We are happy for contributions of any amount.  Funds raised by the Monarchists are 100% used to support the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project.  If you pledged a certain amount per species of bird and/or butterfly, multiply that amount by 140 for birds and by 5 for butterflies.


    Thanks to all who supported us with contributions, tasty treats, or simply with cheers from the sidelines!

    We checked the weather radar and it looked like the last of the rain had passed.  It was a bit past 7:30; we had time to try one more spot.  Should we go back to the Meadows, where a number of new birds were possible, but none was certain?  Or should we go for the Towhee, which was a virtual certainty down near Sunset Beach?  Even though Sunset Beach was further away, we decided to head there.  Daylight was starting to fade, so we felt a sense of urgency as we peddled west along Sunset Beach.  The road was very wet, and some huge puddles blocked the shoulder, where we rode our bikes.  Upon seeing one huge puddle Mark decided to bypass it by heading into the travel lane of the road.  But he didn’t notice the lip between the shoulder and the main road, and down he went.  The team was startled, but fortunately the injuries were limited to scrapes and bruises.  Mark dropped out at this point, but the others continued far enough to add Towhee to the list, and then all decided it was time to quit as darkness settled onto Cape May Point.

Above and below: Michael signs autographs for members of one of the youth teams from Maryland mentored by Jim Wilson.  These teams also raised funds for the Monarch Monitoring Project.  Thanks to these great kids!

For Mark’s regular web site click here.

Over $5,500 has been raised to support the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, thanks to these generous supporters of the Monarchist team:

Chris & Lee Hajduk

Dave & Meg Hedeen

Katherine Hedeen

Ann Hobbs & David Livengood

Sam Hough

Art & Anna Marie Joblin

Linda Keister

Jane Kurtz

Susan Laudeman

James & Deborah Lenchner

Bev Linn

Michael McCabe & Evelyn Lovitz

Mary McCarthy

Mildred Morgan

Gary Mozel

Paul O’Brien

Bonnie & Dave Offerdahl

John & Katharine Patterson

Patricia Rourke

Ronald Bennett

Ann & Roger Bird

John Bjerke

Ethel Cebra

Mike & Maryanne Cola

Community Foundation of NJ

Glen & Chris Davis

Mark England

Mark & Sue Eveland

Dick Ferraro & Barbara WInter

Neal Fitzpatrick

Bob Garland

Matt Garvey

Dave Genesky

Barbara Gilmore

Tom & Judy Gire

Gotogo Electric

Pete Grannis & Dianna Wentink

Bill & Edie Schuhl

Jack Schultz & Helen Kavanagh

Stuart Scott

Michael Seraphin

Mike & Marti Seraphin

Joe & Nancy Silvio

Chuck & Mary Jane Slugg

Clay & Pat Sutton

Frank Vanlandingham

Dick Walton & Patsy Eickelberg

Ben Werner & Michelle Uhl

John Whitaker & Wendy Fredericks

Bill Wilkinson

Jim & Kathleen Wilson

David Wizer

Jeff Wneck & Ana Arguelles

Ann Zemaitis

William Zemaitis

The Monarchists with the Carbon Footprint Award at the World Series of Birding Awards Brunch.