And give it up.
Now most birders will find this disclosure unfathomable. “How,” they will want to know, “could anybody turn their back on a life-long treasure hunt, that makes your back yard a vessel of possibility, turns the world into your playground, and offers countless hours of excitement and discovery?” for only a fraction of the cost of golf, wind surfing, ice climbing, scuba diving, and just about any other outdoor activity you can think of this side of sleeping in a hammock.
This is particularly unfathomable to a Cape May birder. In Cape May, you can’t turn your nose and not have it pointed at some exquisite, feathered jewel.
Peregrine Falcons… Bald Eagles…Northern Harriers… Osprey – all daily fare at Cape May Point State Park.
Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Blue-winged Teal, Sora – as common as seagulls at the South Cape May meadows in September.
American Redstarts, Black-and-white Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos – all over Higbee Beach.
So let’s just confront the matter head on. Why would somebody confronted with so much possibility give up a hobby that promises to keep them enthralled for the rest of their lives?
The answer is because before they could get to the enthrallment, their aspirations got bushwhacked by frustration. They contract BBD – Birder Dampening Disorder.
Tests have proven that people who start birding and give it up do so because they are hobbled by three things.
1. Binoculars that stink.
2. A field guide that stinks.
3. A fundamental lack of knowledge concerning birds and how to find them.
Which amounts to one thing – their bird-finding and identifying skills stink.
Any one of these shortfalls can short circuit an incipient birder. Taken together, they are deadly.
Happily there are things beginning birders can do to avoid Birder Dampening Disorder. All three start with a visit to the Cape May Bird Observatory in Cape May Point.
In this hallowed chamber of birding savvy and bird lore, you will find the finest selection of optics in the state. Binoculars to fit any budget. Binoculars that really, really work for bird watching; those that focus close, fast, have a generous field of view, are bright, sharp, rugged, waterproof… all the stuff bird watchers demand from their instruments.
They also have field guides that will help you. Guides that show ALL the birds you are likely to see and present them in a way that replicates what you will see in the field.
Best of all, the folks down at the CMBO offer help. That’s HELP as in assistance. They have daily walks and programs and workshops and field trips led by local experts that specialize in finding birds and then making sure you find them, too.
Most times they will have binoculars they can loan you and there are always a plentitude of spotting scopes on hand for in-your-face looks at some unbelievable birds.
Have you ever seen your reflection in the eye of a stalking Snowy Egret? Well, why not go on a CMBO bird walk and see birds in a new light.
It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s cheap (only $10 for those of you who might not yet be a member of the Cape May Bird Observatory, for a two-hour, easy walk). Best of all, you’ll avoid BDD and take your first steps on a lifelong treasure hunt. If you’d rather just sleep in a hammock, that’s fine, too. Just leaves more in-your-face scope time for the rest of the people on the walk.
The Cape May Bird Observatory (the CMBO), is THE place for anything to do with nature. Located at 701 East Lake Drive overlooking lovely Lake Lily in Cape May Point, the center is open 9:30am-4:30pm every day. Ask any of our staff – they are always glad to help with anything you need. Check out the newest books (including Pete Dunne’s newest Bayshore Summer), bird feeders, and some great new and fun merchandise – including our exclusive CMBO logo jewelry, clothing, and totes. Take a look at the sightings log or our website to check what’s being seen, pick up a bargain from the vintage books section, look at some of the wonderful Charley Harper merchandise, or just browse. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be in the area, visit us online www.BirdCapeMay.org – where birding Cape May is only a click away.
Seymore Thanu is none other than New Jersey’s own Pete Dunne, Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory and Chief Communications Officer for New Jersey Audubon. He has written for virtually every birding publication and for The New York Times.