We stopped at Cape May at the southern tip of New
Jersey only because we had missed our tide to go up the Delaware River (to take
the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal into the Chesapeake). It turned out to be a
gem, stuck on the end of the Jersey coast (a seemingly endless run of over a
hundred miles of grotty amusement arcades, and casinos run by the dreadful
Donald Trump, reminiscent of Blackpool). But the Cape (named after himself
by the Dutch explorer Mey, and later anglicised) has been protected from modern
development. No high rises, lots of beautiful Victorian seaside villas and
amazing wildlife. A very pleasant place indeed.
The Cape is tiny by US standards, two miles by
three, but this being America the locals have organised themselves into three
separate municipalities, each with an elected Mayor. Here are a couple of the
Victorian houses (strange that the Americans should use the term, she not being
But Cape May is world famous in some circles, we
have discovered, due to its position on the Atlantic Flyway - the principal
migratory route for birds in North America. The Cape sits at the entrance to
Delaware Bay which is about ten miles wide here, so lots of birds stop for a
rest going north or south. And I mean lots; and lots. Here are a few of the masses of American twitchers on a purpose built
viewing platform - no hide because the birds don't seem to mind, and much of the
action takes place overhead. Being twitchers there is of course a large
noticeboard with bird counts and records. Even as a cynic it really is
impressive - just as an example the current DAILY record for ospreys was set on
3 October 1989 when 1023 (yes, 1023, not a typo!) were seen.
Some birds just land on the beach - unlike the UK
they seem entirely unfazed by the humans present just a few metres away. The
larger birds with the black backs in this
lot are Black Skimmers Rynchops niger, closely related to
terns, which fly low over the sea with their lower bill in the
water to catch small fish on the surface. A joy to watch in action.
There were two types of terns on the beach -
the two bigger ones with the crests are Royal Terns Sterna maxima, and
the smaller ones with the eye patches might be Forster's Tern Sterna
forsteri, or they might not be - there is a bewildering variety of terns
all of which to my untutored eye look extremely similar. In any event, they just
sit happily on the beach amongst the day trippers. Perhaps it's because pets are
banned on the beach, so no dogs to chase them.
And the sky was full of turkey vultures xxx,
circling just like in the old cowboy films but unfortunately too far away to
photograph. All in all it really is a great place for birds.