Ring-billed Gulls in Atlantic City
Six years ago we bought a bird feeder to put in our backyard for our new kittens to watch out the window. As it turns out the feeder was good for me too, I fell in love with our backyard birds and honed my photography skills at the same time. Now, six years later my husband and I have both fallen in love with birding and go to places like the Cape May Bird Observatory and the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge to see more and different birds. I’ve always loved the ocean and the beach but I never knew I loved the great outdoors and nature until we bought that bird feeder for our kittens. The ocean always brought me great peace and now the great outdoors brings me great joy.
One of the Blue Jays that frequent our backyard, most likely because they love the peanuts we put out
I’m healthier and happier (we both are) for having fallen in love with birds and my strictly indoor cats are entertained. It’s really a win-win situation.
Herring Gull at Holgate Beach
Because I’ve fallen in love with birds and birding I subscribed to the Jersey Birders e-mail list and a few Facebook groups. Lately I’ve noticed a few people writing about how many birds they’ve seen and identified this year so I decided to sit down and tally up how many different birds I’ve spotted and identified so far this year.
Great Blue Heron at "the brig"
So far this year I’ve seen and identified 35 different species of birds; 16 of those were first sightings for us, 15 of which took place just this summer and fall; two more (laughing gulls and herring gulls) we’d seen many times before but had only ever identified as “Sea Gulls.” Of the 35 different species of birds I’ve been fortunate enough to see this year I’ve been even more fortunate to photograph 32 of the 35, having only missed the wild turkeys, the Downy Woodpecker, and the Red-tailed Hawk that I was too afraid to photograph lest it eat the squirrel in my back yard. I know, I know, that’s nature and the circle of life but I’d have still felt terrible if the poor squirrel got eaten.
Mute Swan at the Cape May Bird Observatory, as beautiful as these birds are they are actually an invasive species
I’ve set a goal to see and photograph two more species of birds before 2014 ends, a Bald Eagle and the wild turkeys that I kept missing when they were down the road. When the turkeys stopped showing up down the road I was sure I would not have another opportunity to see more turkeys but then one of the birders on the Jersey Birders list, Howard, shared one of his beautiful photo studies
of his trips to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and lo and behold there they were, turkeys along Jenn’s Trail. Each week his studies showed the turkeys on Jenn’s Trail so now I have hope to finally get a shot of wild turkeys.
Bald Eagles have been spotted at Forsythe, which is colloquially known at “the brig,” and I hope to spot one there as well but we’ve been tossing around the idea of driving down to Maryland to visit the Connowingo Dam, where Bald Eagles have also been known to frequent.
Clapper Rail at "the brig"
To wrap up, in 2014 we expanded our birding horizons to include “the brig” but have only had one visit to Cape May this year and I’ve all but totally stopped watching, journaling, or photographing our backyard birds. So I’m setting a goal for 2015 to get back to capturing our beautiful backyard birds and to taking walks in the neighborhood to see and photograph more local songbirds in addition to expanding our birding horizons to see more new birds as well. It’s November 18th so I’d like to hope that by November 18th of 2015 we will have seen and identified 70 different species of birds, but I’ll be happy with even one or two more. And if I’m being really greedy or ambitious or pipe dreaming I wouldn’t mind seeing a Snowy Owl or two this winter. Happy birding!
Birds I’ve Seen and Identified So Far This Year
A female Northern Cardinal in our backyard during one of the many snowstorms we had last winter
1. Northern Cardinals (male and female)
2. Blue Jays
3. Dark-eyed Juncos
5. Red-tailed Hawks*
6. Carolina Chickadees
7. Double-crested cormorants**
8. Herring Gulls (juvenile and adult)***
9. Laughing Gulls***
10. Robins (at least 2 nests on our property this year)
1 of at least 2 robins' nests we had in our trees this year
11. Canada Geese
12. Glossy Ibises**
13. Great Egrets
14. Snowy Egrets
15. Red-winged blackbirds
16. Mute Swans
18. Clapper Rail**
19. Great Blue Herons
20. Black Skimmers**
21. Black-crowned Night-Heron**
22. Forster’s Terns**
23. Short-billed Dowitchers**
25. Lesser Yellowlegs**
26. Juvenile Pintail**
27. Northern Harrier**
28. Ross’s Goose**
29. Yellow-rumped Warbler**
30. Wild Turkeys*
31. Great Black-backed Gull**
32. Downy Woodpeckers*
33. Brown-headed Cowbirds (male and female)
A female Brown-headed Cowbird hanging out in our backyard
35. Ring-billed Gulls**
* Not photographed
** First sighting
*** Newly identified