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Riding the buses » Memorable moments, United States, Wildlife » How not to go birding in Cape May, New Jersey

How not to go birding in Cape May, New Jersey

Beautiful Cape May

Beautiful Cape May

A good friend of mine is a birder and one of the go-to places on her bird watching list has been Cape May on the coast of New Jersey in the United States. So when she suggested we go there last May I was all for it.

I’m not a birder but I knew a little about Cape May such as it is one of the oldest resort towns in the country and filled with gorgeous Victorian homes. We would be staying in one of them and right on the beach so what’s not to love about that? I even bought binoculars and a fancy camera in the hopes that my friend’s birding expertise would rub off.

We made a fatal mistake right at the outset though: We didn’t hire a guide. There’s a saying in the birding world that if you don’t hire a guide you won’t know where to look.

Birding along the boardwalk

Birding along the boardwalk

But we were told that trails would lead us to the birds, no need for a guide. So that’s how we started, walking along a boardwalk that circled a pond. It’s just that there were all these other people who were told the same thing and we must have scared the birds away because we didn’t run into any (although we did come upon a big snake).

So we decided to get off the beaten path and onto one that was not well marked and ended up getting totally lost and spending all our time trying to find our way out of there and no time looking for birds.

Trails that tested us

Trails that tested us

We kept trying though, even taking a trail with a sign warning about ticks and poison ivy. The poison ivy plants were huge so we stayed on the path but that didn’t stop the ticks from finding us. One of them even buried itself in my friend’s skin. This is not fun.

A tick is the size of a pinhead or sesame seed and can have 6 or 8 legs, be colored tan, red, brown or black and after sucking blood from an animal or human, it will grow to the size of a small pea and is then called “engorged” (filled with blood).

It was totally gross because there were other ticks running over our clothes, trying to find their way in!

So we gave up birding-by-foot. We did take a ferry along the coast through the salt marsh but the boat was so packed that it was hard to see the birds. We finally resorted to birding-by-car: See a bird; stop the car; try to take a photo. Not the best.

Some of the birds we saw

Some of the birds we saw

Even though the birds stayed away, it was a wonderful trip. There certainly were lots of laughs. And we walked and shopped and ate some great meals and made plans to return. Next time we’ll do it right!

By Charlotte Fanjoy

Photo credits Darby Bayly

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