The weekly report from the world’s birdwatching capital… by Seymore Thanu
If you were in Cape May at the end of last month, you probably noticed that there was a bird or two in town over Halloween weekend. If you didn’t, then I hope your recovery is progressing nicely or that your death was quick and painless, because it is certain that you were in bed, at death’s door, and in a coma. Or maybe just out of town.
There were so many birds in Cape May that airline traffic was diverted east. Those analyzing the radar images over Cape May concluded that the mother of all thunderstorms was hammering the coast.
Suffice it to say that many millions of birds piled up in Cape May. Many thousands died, too, killed by cars, window crashes, and utility lines.
But this column isn’t about bird strikes. It’s about food; more exactly the lack of it. Because more than one observer noted that over the course of the three-day migratory fallout tree branches were stripped of berries; in many cases, stripped completely.
It raises a big question. What are wintering species going to do for food?
Good question and not one that I have an easy answer for. Many will probably not winter here. Birds like the Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, and Yellow-Rumped Warbler may be hard to spot. I’m willing to bet that these berry-eating specialists will be here in reduced numbers because berries are in very short supply. White-throated Sparrows, Goldfinches, Pine Siskins and Purple Finches may be found in reduced numbers too, unless…
Happily, there is an unless. These are precisely the species that are drawn to back yard bird-feeding stations. They are seed-eating birds. If you put out seed, they’ll bless you with their presence.
And it just so happens that New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory is selling top-grade, Jersey-grown bird seed. Not only do you keep birds happy, you help reduce the carbon footprint.
Most, if not all, the bird seed you’ll buy in say, the supermarket, is shipped here from the Midwest. New Jersey Audubon’s SAVE bird seed comes from New Jersey farms where it’s cleaned and bagged on site.
The concept of locally-grown bird seed is the brain child of New Jersey Audubon’s Conservation Department. Working with New Jersey farmers in an effort to promote grasslands, they came up with the S.A.V.E. idea. A win-win scenario – a win for birds, farmers and New Jersey residents who enjoy open space. S.A.V.E. stands for Support Agricultural Viability and the Environment. S.A.V.E. rolls off the tongue a whole lot easier and has a lot of other meanings as well: help SAVE the birds, help SAVE the farmers, help SAVE open space.
You enjoy open space, right? Okay, so one of the beneficiaries is you. Doesn’t it make sense to support the initiative by buying your seed at the CMBO’s Center for Research and Education in Goshen?
Of course it does. Or you can pre-order seed at the Nature Center of Cape May and pick it up December 4. What can be easier than that? The birds will love you. The farmers will love you. New Jersey Audubon will love you. I’ll bet you’ve never, ever gotten so much love from a bag of bird seed in your life.
Of course, now that you have bird seed, you’ll want a feeder to dispense it. Here New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory in Cape May Point can help you out. Their store has a great selection of feeders for all the seed-eating species of birds I mentioned and many more.
There you have it. You can stop worrying about all those hungry birds. All you have to do is figure out how much seed to buy. A lot easier than planning Thanksgiving dinner.
If you want to know more about the S.A.V.E. program, just visit our website www.NJAudubon.org and click on the S.A.V.E. icon. If you want to pick up some bird seed, the CMBO’s Center for Research & Education is located at 600 Route 47 North (about 25 minutes north of Cape May) in the town of Goshen. The center is open 9:30am–4:30pm every Tuesday through Saturday. For feeders or field guides to help you identify all those birds at your feeders, visit the CMBO’s Northwood Center at 701 East Lake Drive in Cape May Point. The center is open 9:30am–4:30pm every day through November. Ask any of our staff, they are always glad to help with anything you need. 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). And if you can’t make it in person, you can always visit our website www.BirdCapeMay.org, but you can’t buy bird seed or bird feeders without coming into the store.
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.