The weekly report from the world’s birdwatching capital… by Seymore Thanu
This is it. The big weekend. The second-most popular festive gathering of the year. No, not Halloween. The annual New Jersey Audubon Cape May Birding Weekend. Everybody who is anybody will be there and every self-respecting bird fit to migrate will be there, too.
You did know that Cape May is the most celebrated migratory junction in North America, right? A place where hundreds of millions of birds pass every autumn. Good. Glad we got that straightened out.
And you also know that New Jersey Audubon is the state’s oldest conservation organization, right? Since 1897, the organization has been bringing New Jersey residents to a better and closer understanding of the natural world around them. Nobody has done it longer. Nobody does it better. If you travel around the country and talk to people in the environmental trade, you’ll learn that New Jersey Audubon is regarded as a leader in the field.
So what does all this mean to you?
It means that you should head on down to the Grand Hotel in Cape May on Friday or Saturday, October 29 and 30. Walk up to the NJ Audubon Info Desk. Say: “Hi, I’d like to become a member of NJ Audubon and get in on the Cape May Autumn Weekend.
You can do this Friday and Saturday from 8am-4pm. You can sign up for just one day of your choice or for the whole three-day affair. You don’t have to sign up at all. You can just go birding on your own if you like. Birds are free.
But by not becoming a weekend participant, you are going to miss out on all the information that NJ Audubon can bring to bear. Workshops, programs, field trips led by people who really do know how to tell one sparrow from another. People who can tell you what bird seed to buy to attract cardinals and discourage blackbirds. People who will talk you out of buying a zoom binocular instead of one costing half as much that works twice as well.
They’re experts! They make their living getting people just like you up close and personal with the natural world. You don’t do this by bluffing your way through questions. You don’t get people hooked on nature unless you give them an eyeful of WOW. Search the world over. There is no place that offers more WOW to more people than Cape May, NJ.
There’s another reason to stop by the Grand. I’ve said it once. The reason is membership. Membership in New Jersey Audubon is at a reduced price for new members signing up for Autumn Weekend – just $30. Good for members’ rates on field trips that go to every corner of the state. Good for foreign travel opportunities to destinations you’ve always dreamed about. Good for discounts on books, optics, gifts, CDs. And, for you Cape May residents, there are three (count ‘em) – THREE New Jersey Audubon Centers in your county. Not as many there are Wawas – but more than there are Wawas south of the canal!
There you have it. The second-biggest celebration of the year. The Cape May Autumn Weekend. What’s the biggest event of the year? The World Series of Birding, of course.
We hold that here, too.
If you are in Cape May while you are reading this, you will probably be seeing lots of binocular-wearing individuals around Cape May this weekend. It’s NJ Audubon’s 64th Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend. You need to register to be part of any of the fabulous walks or lectures that are offered over the course of the weekend. You can easily do that by stopping by the Grand Hotel on Friday or Saturday when the CMBO will have a (wo)manned desk to sign you up. If you want an idea of what’s happening, visit the website at www.BirdCapeMay.org and click on the Autumn Weekend icon. Or you could just stop by the Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO) – 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 – even things you didn’t know you needed yet. We are always eager to help new (or soon-to-be) birders! Check out the schedule of daily walks, pick up a free birding map and checklist and while you are there, don’t forget the newest books (including Pete Dunne’s newest Bayshore Summer – and Birds of Cape May – a beautiful array of photos just released by Kevin Karlson). Speaking of books – if you own (or buy) any of Pete Dunne, Michael O’Brien, Kevin Karlson, Bill Thompson III, or the Stokes Field Guides, you can stop by the Grand Hotel on Saturday evening from 5-6pm, meet the authors, and get your books signed.
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. Author of several books on and about nature (available at CMBO) he has written for virtually every birding publication and for The New York Times.