Friday, May 23, 2014


A great park to end our last day of birding in the states.
We woke up rested and enjoyed a quick, complimentary breakfast before heading out to do a morning of birding before heading back to Toronto.

Jim found the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge while searching for places to bird outside of Buffalo on the internet. This place, located in Basom, NY, is awesome. With a variety of habitats, it plays host to many bird species, and we would definitely return again.   

And it was here that a little yellow bird with a black hood would finally make an appearance for us all. A lifer for me, and neither Rob or Jim had seen the male, and he had been on the top of Rob's wish list for this trip.  It was the perfect ending to a great vacation.

Playing peek-a-boo with a Hooded Warbler. We had great views, but no great pics.
Pic from, so you could see what we saw.
I was walking ahead of the others and a gorgeous Hooded Warbler flew out and landed right in front of me. I literally gasped when I saw him. There was more then one in the area and we all had great looks.  
Lots of Common Yellow-throats around the marshy area.
A good variety of warblers can be seen here.
We also had fantastic views of a pair of Scarlet Tanagers. 
Jim and Rob spotted a pair of House Wrens nesting in this cavity.
You never know who you're going to meet on the road!
Jim was outta the van and getting his pic taken with Grimace before I was even in the restaurant!
It was a fantastic week.

Lifers Day 6;
Hooded Warbler

Thursday, May 22, 2014


 We left Cape May around 7am Friday morning, and the weather suited my mood, rainy. I was sad to be leaving. We had such a great time, it was hard to leave, and I do miss those Laughing Gulls.

We knew we were going to be spending Friday night on the road, somewhere outside of Buffalo, so we could get one more good morning of US birding in, before heading home.

It was a good travel day, because of the rainy weather, and we expected to be at our destination late afternoon, unforntuatley we got caught in a huge traffic jam in Philadelphia that was part morning rush and part accident, that added about 3hrs to our travel time.

We arrived at a hotel around 7pm outside of Buffalo. We were all tired and just looking forward to a hot shower and turning in. We had had a late lunch/early dinner at Cracker Barrel, so food was not needed.

Now, I am going to give you an abbreviated tale of the next part of the evening, mainly because I don't want to relive it, but I do hope it will educate a few.

I have been doing bed bug checks when traveling for years, and that night was the first time I had ever found evidence of them. Found live bugs actually. It kinda shocked me. I was so tired, as we all were, but after finding them in Jim and Lynda's room too, we were outta there. We both got refunds and Rob even took a bug to the front desk because the only girl working there said she didn't know what they looked like.

We went to another hotel, and hat's off to Betsy who was working the front desk, because she actually let us go up and inspect the rooms before signing in. She was also very forth coming with information about their preventative maintenance routine regarding bed bugs when I asked. I actually wish more hotels were like this, it's makes for a better nights rest.

After searching our rooms, we all felt assured and checked-in for a much needed good nights rest.

If you don't search your hotel room when checking-in, I suggest you start. You do not want to take these critters home with you; the cost of getting rid of them and the loss of sleep.

Here are a couple helpful websites;

How to search a room and the bed bug registry, check reports before booking.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Finally got our toes wet in the Atlantic Ocean!
After a great outing on Wednesday, we were all gung-ho about getting out Thursday morning. Unfortunately, not knowing the area, and not realizing just how huge Belleplain State Forest is, we spent more time in the van then looking at birds. Definitely a place to return too, either on a guided tour or with better maps, the park is massive, and if you don't know the "hot spots" you can waste a lot of time.

After leaving the Belleplain area we went to the Cape May Bird Observatory. Jim wanted to meet author and speaker, Pete Dunne. He was there at the time and nice enough to autograph one of his latest books, which Jim purchased there.

Our spirits lifted a little after this stop, we made our way to Cook's Beach, where the shorebirds we got to see saved the day! The beach was covered with a variety of them. We had our best looks at Red Knots and a Ruddy Turnstone. On the drive down to the beach we were all gasping at a first for all of us, a Seaside Sparrow, and there where many in the marshy area. While watching the Seaside Sparrow, Glossy Ibis's flew up out of the marsh and gave us fantastic views. It was awesome!

We got back in time to take a lovely stroll along the beach and finally get our feet wet in the Atlantic Ocean before dinner.

An Eastern Bluebird in one of the parking areas of Belleplain.
Jim was pretty thrilled to meet Pete Dunne.
A Seaside Sparrow, a lifer for all of us.
A lifer for both Rob and I, Glossy Ibis.
Rob's first visit to the Atlantic Ocean, but it won't be his last. 
This Nova Scotia girl was feeling right at home here.
  Our last day in Cape May may of got off to a rocky start, but it ended just fine.

Lifers Day Four;
Glossy Ibis
Seaside Sparrow
Red Knot
Ruddy Turnstone

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


This Yellow-breasted Chat caused the big "bird nerd" moment of the trip.
Day three of our trip was a busy day; lots of birding at Higbee Beach and the Cape May Point State Park. Followed by a whirlwind visit to the touristy area of the Washington Street Mall to check out some of the shops. Dinner was at the Blue Pig Tavern, a restaurant recommended to Rob by one of his Twitter followers. An after dinner walk back at The Nature Conservancy's Park was enjoyable before calling it day.

We saw a flock of Indigo Buntings at Higbee Beach.
Both male and female (pictured) Prairie Warblers were seen.
We saw three Yellow-billed Cuckoos.
I followed the song of the Carolina Wren at the Cape May Point State Park until I found it.
We loaded up on the best peanut butter ever at this shop on Washington Street.
I have to mention the fine folks of the Cape May Peanut Butter Company. Jim LOVES peanut butter, and was very excited about visiting this shop when he learned about it. We were going to make time to visit them before leaving even if it meant rearranging some plans. They were closed when we were roaming around the Washington Street Mall. But, we did notice a couple people wearing their Tee's while we were roaming around. When we found the shop they happened to be outside of it loading a car with supplies. Me, being the over friendly Maritimer, started talking to them, and they were kind enough to open their shop just for us!!! They offered samples and great conversation. They even offered to take a pic of us all in front of the shop. The all natural peanut butter they make in a variety of flavours is delicious, and we all left with lots of goodies. If you are ever in the area, go here!

Another great meal, this time at the Blue Pig Tavern.

And now, the big "bird nerd" moment of the trip. We do seem to have one every big trip with Jim and Lynda. I am going to re-tell part of this story as it was told to me, as I did not witness it all.

We were leaving Higbee Beach, and had drove up this other little side road. Jim decided to pull over at a look out tower. All of us were hot and tired after a great morning of birding and decided to stay in the van, except for Jim, who got out to climb the tower to have a look. He left his camera in the van.

He gets to the top and is looking around, next thing, he's jumping up and down, yes, jumping up and down, and pointing down to the front of the van. ( I am so disappointed I missed this part) Then Rob says, "Oh my fucking god, it's a Yellow-breasted Chat!!" It had landed on a short pole directly in front of the van. Both Rob and Lynda could see it at this point.

I see the brightest flash of yellow I have ever seen fly by the van windows, and we all scramble out. The chat landed in a tree across the road and gave us all fantastic looks and Rob was able to get a few pics. It was a moment that will be talked about for years to come.

Thanks for the memories!
Lifers Day Three;
Prairie  Warbler
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-breasted Chat
Least Tern
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren

Monday, May 19, 2014


Three of the many Bottlenose Dolphins we saw on our tour.
On our first full day in Cape May we woke up to the sounds of Laughing Gulls and summer like temperatures. 

Our day started at "Uncle Bill's Pancake House" for breakfast, where Jim was adventurous and tried the Reese's Peanut Buttercup pancakes. After breakfast we went on a 2 hour Dolphin tour, where we saw approximately 30 Bottlenose Dolphins, many of them young, as we were told it was a "nursery pod". We also saw many shorebirds from the boat.

After the tour, we lunched at "Lucky Bones", which I would highly recommend, and then toured the coast looking at more shorebirds and even a few warblers.

The day ended with a fantastic meal at "The Lobster House" which was recommended to me.

Remember to click on the pics to enlarge them for a better look.

Two thumbs up from Jim!
I enjoyed watching, and especially listening to the Laughing Gulls before our tour.
Time for the tour! (too early in the season for Whales)
Our Boat.
Views like this were common on the tour. (photo from tour website)
Brants, a lifer for all of us.
A couple of Oystercatchers.
A couple more Brants.
Laughing Gulls along the shore.
Our hotel from the boat! Our rooms are the first 2 on the left above the glass dome.
Huge Victorian style homes are everywhere in Cape May.
The Cape May Lighthouse, 199 steps to the top! (no, we didn't climb it, next time)
Laughing Gulls flew right beside us most of the tour.

Now off to do some coastal birding.

A Black-throated Green Warbler was one of a few species of warbler we saw along the coast in the afternoon.
More Oystercatchers at this stop.
Jim and Lynda making use of their scope, which I am learning comes in very handy!
This Green Heron found an interesting spot to spend the afternoon, in an apple tree.
Dinner time!

I started with "Cape May Salts", the perfect blend of sweet and salty.
A seafood feast for me! Rob had chicken.
Chocolate Mousse was the perfect dessert choice.
Amber took great care of us.
This lobster was caught off of George's Bank on July 3rd, 1985 and weighed in at 37.25lbs!

It was a great first full day in Cape May!

Lifers Day Two;
Boat-tailed Grackles

Sunday, May 18, 2014


American Oystercatcher on the nest.
Monday morning had us on the road for Cape May, NJ. We went with our good friends, Jim and Lynda, and it was the first time to the area for all of us. It's a well known birding area and a beautiful beach town.  

It was an almost 12 hour drive including lunch and rest stops. It seemed we drove "right into summer" to quote Lynda, because when we arrived it was a balmy 82 degrees and the lilacs and trees were in full bloom.

We checked into our hotel, The Grand Hotel, located right on the beach, and before even checking out our rooms we went birding!

Rob spent a lot of the drive like this!
Lunch time! I hadn't been here in over a decade, loved it!
First stop after checking into our hotel.
Our first birding stop, and it was awesome!
They keep a large section of the beach roped off to protect the nesting shore birds. This is where we saw the American Oystercatcher on the nest, and also where I fell in love with Laughing Gulls.

Rob's first Snowy Egret, yellow feet!
It didn't take Rob long to get into photographer mode.
Rob's first Little Blue Heron.
Signs like this were all along the roped off areas.
Rob and Jim kept a very respectable distance from the Oystercatcher nest.
After the long drive it felt great to get out and do some birding! We saw many great birds at this area but for blogging purposes, I'm only going to mention my lifers each day.

Lifers Day One;
Laughing Gull
American Oystercatcher