I was in Cape May, NJ this past weekend for the Cape May Bird Observatory annual Autumn Birding Weekend. That is, I was there until mandatory evacuation orders were put in place for Sunday morning as Hurricane Sandy approached.
Please send your thoughts and prayers to all the people whose lives have been devastated by this storm! So many people have lost their homes. Most of the Jersey shore has been destroyed, and there is also significant damage in New York City and the Connecticut coast. Entire towns are cut off from rescue and assistance, the water is contaminated, they are without power and heat.
If you are able, please donate to the Red Cross and other organizations working so hard to provide shelter, food, and medical care to these displaced folks.
I spent Saturday morning with my friends having a delightful “Birders Brunch” as the feeders outside their homes were constantly full of little birds trying to pack in as much fuel as the winds were picking up. Goldfinches, White-Throated Sparrows, Pine Grosbeaks, an Indigo Bunting, and so many more birds scrambled to load up their food reserves before the storm.
That afternoon we went to the Hawk watch at Cape May Point, but didn’t end up staying very long as the wind-whipped sand was stinging our faces and getting in our eyes. We stopped at Triangle Point Park and were surprised to see over 100 Monarch Butterflies clinging to the remaining flowers, also trying to get enough fuel to survive the storm.
I was very surprised to see so many Monarchs still here. It’s very late in the season for them. They should have been well on their way to their winter home in Mexico by now.
At the birding festival dinner that night, I was talking with Mark Garland, a Cape May resident naturalist about my concern that these Monarchs were still here, and wondering how they would survive the coming storm.
Sadly, Mark says that in all probability many of these Monarchs will not survive. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that some of them will find a safe place to shelter and will actually make it to Mexico to spend the winter!
The speakers at the dinner were Clay Sutton, David Sibley, and Pete Dunne, who talked about their newest book, Hawks in Flight. This book is a welcome update to the first edition, published in 1989. After a wonderful photographic history of the 25 years of work these amazing birders with a passion for raptors have done to promote raptor conservation and identification by Clay Sutton, they opened up to questions from the audience.
I asked them what we could do as individuals to promote raptor conservation. David Sibley responded with two important points:
- Stop using pesticides!
- Work to preserve habitat
Since many raptors are making their way south along the Atlantic flyway right now, we don’t yet know what impact Hurricane Sandy will have on their survival. What we do know is that some of these magnificent birds will not have survived. What we hope is that many of them did!
How did your wildlife garden fare during the hurricane?
Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.
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