Cape May & NYC 2012

Cape May & NYC

Working On A Dream

1st - 13th June 2012

Species Total For Trip 92

View Cape May & New York City. in a larger map
This holiday is a little strange in being a sort of pilgrimage, cathartic, selfish, exciting, humbling and hopefully full of birds trip. Whilst I was ill in 2009-10 I became fixated with traveling to New York and in particular Central Park. I have no connection to New York or indeed with America but as I went through treatment and had time to read and enjoy music I began to feel a strange sense of finalisation and new beginnings as songs from Elbow "One day Like This" and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind". Before long I was intrigued about standing in an oasis amongst a concrete jungle and watching one of the wonders of the world. Central Park is that Oasis and Migration the wonder of the world. It also seemed to hold out a feeling of moving on and a sense of there being a future, something I was keen for Mandy and myself to realise. Then things led me further that way as Mandy and I attended a lecture by Pete Dunn (Author, Birder, Naturalist and founder of World Series of Birding) who made Cape May a place we should see and before long we were setting on visiting. 
We were at first put off at the high cost of the holiday in total as it seemed Cape May was clearly a sought after place to stay for the Native population. We emailed a few places that rented various types of accommodation but we always fancied a more home rental affair. We checked on a few places through companies with little success but then found private owners. We exchanged a few emails but some seemed to be a little naughty on prices until we found what seems like a made for us place, Dragonfly Cottage. In the accommodation section further down I will place more details of contact for accommodations. We have booked the reservation for the cottage on the 15th November having to arrange a Bankers Draft in US Dollars and send this to the owners to confirm the booking, leaving us to pay the balance on arrival in cash. Now to book the rest

United Airlines Manchester to Newark return £620pp

New York Accommodation
Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Weehawken Hotel 3 nights £500
Hampton Inn Newark 1 night £60
Cape May Accommodation 
Dragonfly Cottage 2nd-9th June 2012 $560 (£355)

Travel Insurance (inc pre-existing medical condition £123 )
Transfer to and from Manchester airport with Althams service (£50)
Car Hire for 9 days using Holiday Autos. It is an intermediate size car with full insurance and includes full tank of fuel £374

Booked 8th December 2011
General Observations Of The Trip
FLIGHT: Never having flown with this kind of airline before and having read some terrible reviews of the recent merge between Continental and United to make United Airlines I was not looking forward to spending 7 hrs on the plane. It started as most holidays do with a small delay. UA have an app that allows you to check the status of your flight times and also where the plane you are about to board is as regarding where it is coming from and where about in the sky it was accurate as it told us that the plane was delayed by some 30 minutes coming from America. We had taken to opportunity to stay in one of the lounges and it was the Styal lounge in terminal 2, terminal is a good word that is how it felt. The room was pretty packed in with chairs and tables, walls, chairs and tables were splashed with food etc. The food on offer was a joke, the only way to recoup the money you pay, would be to make a fool of yourself with all the alcohol on offer. We decided that we would be better off paying for a good cup of coffee and some decent food, instead of weak dish water and a cheap croissant the next time we travel.
Outbound Details
Plane Type Boeing 757-200 with 3+3 seating  Flight Number UA21
Brochure Flight Time Wed 1st June Man-Newark 09:25 - 12.15
Actual Flight Time Wed 1st June Man-Newark 10:04 - 12:10 (7hr 6mins)
Inbound Details
Plane Type Boeing 757-200 with 3+3 seating  Flight Number UA020
Brochure Flight Time Tues 12th June Newark-Man 19:35 - 07:40 +1 day
Actual Flight Time Tues 12th June Newark-Man 19:56 - 07:24 +1 day (6h 28mins)
Anyhow back to the flight, on your ticket is a number which is called out for your group to board. It worked well and stopped the mad dash and ensuing queues. The staff looked very professional in their uniforms with no real emotion either way. It was soon clear this was different to package holiday flights while they went about their business of serving and making sure you understood they were in charge for your safety. A fatal mistake a few hours into the flight was made by one person, who got up as the meals were being served. The steward just remarked "we will be a while coming through with the trolley" and turned him back....tail between legs he returned to his seat. There was no room for "have a great holiday Sir" but I actually enjoyed the way they did things, you had to relent to them as they were working. The seating was pretty much OK with plenty of leg room and I particularly liked both the intelligent head rests, power points and the on board touch sensitive screens on each seat back. Lot's to keep you entertained which helped with the boredom.
The return journey was even more strict, one chap again made the wrong decision to visit the restroom while the trolley was on it's way. "Return to your seat sir" was all that was said. The man was adamant and the stewardess just became more adamant that he should return to his seat because  he had gotten up after the Captain lit the seat belt signs.....oh it was like being in school, and these days you would have to pay for a woman to talk to you that way! I liked the no-nonsense approach in truth, it made for a less intrusive flight experience for all on the plane. Tactics were used though on the return flight, they watered, fed us, then turned down the lights and turned up the cabin it was hot..... you could only sleep. This tactic no doubt, is to give staff a break but the heat makes me feel unwell and is unwelcome.
Baggage allowance was great as 23kg checked baggage is allowed and you can even take two checked cases of that weight each! The hand baggage was also great as whilst there were size restrictions on hand luggage there was no weight limit so all my optics could rest easy. Mandy also liked the fact that she could take all her optics in her hand luggage and they also allowed for a handbag as well.
ACCOMMODATION:  Hampton Inn Newark: Webpage HERE (1 night) This was just a base for the night before we set off so it really did not matter to much. In truth the hotel was rather good with the added bonus of free breakfast and free Wifi in your room which was very helpful. Check in was painless and the room was very big with AC, TV, microwave and fridge. We headed out to a restaurant that we thought looked OK about a mile away and I asked the lady at reception about getting there and she said don't walk the shuttle bus will drop you off. I asked how to get back and she gave us a card and said just ring and we will pick you what service! It became more clear that Americans do not walk distance as pavements were non existent. A great meal was had (one of the best of the trip) at the Portuguese place called Valencia Restaurant, 665 Monroe Avenue Elizabeth and on asking the driver about walking he mentioned it was not a good idea as the area is very dangerous. Mind you this was the same guy that when he asked us where we were from to which we replied the UK he asked if that was in Europe somewhere!?! Bed was large and comfy and the breakfast had fruit, waffles and all manner of crap that I took advantage of! Checking out was quick and easy as we headed toward the highway!
Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel: Webpage HERE (3nights) This hotel is actually across the Hudson river in New Jersey and I choose this for several reasons regarding logistics, quality of hotel and most of all the stunning view afforded when you book a city view room. I shall post a picture of the view as staying in New York cannot give you this perspective. The hotel was very nice and whenever we needed any help it was always given. The bonus also was that a ferry runs outside the hotel, as the hotel is right on the river side, which takes you into New York at 39th Street. Tickets were purchased from the hotel with return trip for two costing $18. The trip across took about 6 minutes and they ran every 15-20mins. On the other side when exiting the ferry free NY waterway buses would take you to any number of streets for free as the cost of the ferry ticket also paid for this. In truth this system is not for holiday makers but commuters. The only downside was that the ferries stopped at about 22:00 at night so we had to get taxis back to the hotel at night as we did not return until 02:00 in the mornings.
The taxis from the Lincoln tunnel to the hotel were hard work as many did not know where the hotel was and wanted a small fortune even though the journey only takes 15 minutes. I refused cabs asking $65 dollars and settled on an average of $40 which I still felt was way over the top. The drivers were not off this planet, most did not endear themselves they were rather useless in finding places,general attitudes and cleanliness. One I refused as soon as he spoke he was, shall we say, more than a little off-putting when we could not even understand what he was saying!
Cape May Dragonfly Cottage: Webpage HERE (7 nights) This was where most of our holiday would be spent so we were wondering how well we would manage in this private rented place that is an annex to the main house. We were initially put off the other private rentals due to the high prices quoted for a seven night stay in Cape May, with most asking between $1100-$1300 then I came across Dragonfly Cottage, it seemed ideal for us as it was close to some great birding areas. The cottage has Wifi, a private entrance so we did not feel like we were intruding on the owner (Stephanie) and on arrival we could not have been more pleased.  Stephanie keeps chickens which was nice and the grounds of the house were quaint with a real homely feel. The garden recently acquired a pond with future promise, and plenty of trees and shrubs soon had us racking up some lifers. I will post a video to give a feel of the place as I can recommend it as a good base for birding. The room is small but adequate and the bed was comfy. A/C and heating are both available when needed and a fan over the bed was most welcome on occasion. A little short on storage room for our extended break as I think most stays are taken by Americans for 2-3 days. No washing or drying facilities as such, but it caused little in the way of problems we pack a travel washing line which helped with the need for clothing freshening.
A video and a few pictures to show the garden and room.

We loved staying here as we were left to our own devices with any questions being answered as and when. There are enough eateries of all sorts in the area to keep you from starvation including takeaways, fine dining and cafe style diners. The cottage is well within walking distance of a good birding place named Rea Farm "The Beanery" and other good places like Cape May State Park Hawkwatch platform. A place called The Nature Concervancy (The Meadows) and the State Park are a 10min drive. The Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO) visitor centre is 5 minutes away and nearby Lily Lake also close by.
CURRENCY: We took some Dollars with us at an exchange rate of $1.53. We also used a Global Caxton travel card for security but you MUST have a credit card as unfortunately this seems to be the only way for some of the most important aspects of the holiday, namely Hotels, Car Hire etc and just about everybody wants a credit card as security. The Travel card was good as we used the many ATM's to withdraw money although you do have to watch some, they can charge $3-$5 per cash withdrawal which is annoying.
FOOD & DRINK: This was a massive disappointment, I thought the food would be varied and tasty, unfortunately we never really had a special meal throughout the trip and the best meals were only good. The Black Duck at Cape May was the best food we sampled, it was restaurant week and a medium sized 3 course meal with two soft drinks and two coffees a bill (inc obligatory tip) was $110, just too much when you consider that it is an unlicensed establishment so no alcohol was even consumed. Cape May was a surprise, I expected a better seafood selection to be found quite easily but it was pretty boring stuff in the main. Lot's of American's kept telling you to try this and try that, how good this is truth it was bland, boring and something about many of the ingredients said things were processed so much before cooking, that they lacked any flavour whatsoever. It really was a disappointment I felt, and in the end I gave up trying food that was supposed to be amazing. We had a few instances of effort a little place called Bella Vida in Cape May was honestly trying with inventive menus as on occasion the taste buds responded. It saddens me to say that the food had me thinking back to my scouting days, where I would have emergency rations whilst climbing or orienteering. They often were mush that whilst tasted "grey" kept you alive! You get the picture. The meal prices in both Cape May & New York were all very high in my opinion, and there is more work than Gordon Ramsey could ever fix.
A few links to places we ate at. Please click the Restaurant name for a new window to open.
Black Duck : (Cape May) Good food well presented, we would have eaten here again but the kitchens close at 21:00 so they turned us away on our second visit.
Bella Vida Cafe: (Cape May) A good everyday meal choice and some rather different food available. Liked the service, food and the ethics behind the business but a lick of paint and wash down of the dining area walls and woodwork wouldn't go amiss. Best coffee we found in the whole trip, being able to taste coffee was quite novel, and they refilled.
Lucky Bones: (Cape May) Now this we did enjoy, the food was average but it had a good feel (lucky?) about it. It has a cheers style bar in one room and a restaurant in another which had a real American Eatery atmoshpere. Service was good and it was reasonably priced and to have an alcoholic drink with your meal was bliss as that is a rare thing in Cape May, they also do free refills of soft drinks here too.
The Lobster House: (Cape May) We never had chance to eat here as the overriding feeling was it could have been a expensive disappointment so we skipped it despite it having a huge presence on the coast and headed to Lucky Bones (above)
Depot Cafe: (Cape May) Very popular local stop off point, we called in on one occasion, the sandwich was good but the coffee was terrible, it was nothing short of dishwater. On the second occasion we visited we were halted at the door to be told "sorry no food as a new cooker was being fit". "We have coffee though" thanks....
The ability to find a restaurant that was open on a certain night and not having work done etc was a very strange thread running right through our week long stay in Cape May. We waited forever for a local bakery to open as we were told how good it was and it only opened on Sat-Sun 8-2. Another backwater grill opened at some strange times which led us to not being able to sample the food as we forgot what the "small window of open" was.
We had a few take away meals from various places but these were quite disappointing for us both and to boot for take away food it was expensive.
Valencia Restaurant: 665 Monroe Avenue Elizabeth, (Newark). This place was our first meal out and we liked it quite a bit. Our meals arrived, we were pleased with our choices and the atmosphere felt very real in this very community based place. Reasonably priced too.
Cafe Lalo: (New York) This place had atmosphere in great slices...and the desserts are something else! It was probably the most electrifying cafe I have ever visited and it lived up to expectations. It's big claim to fame is the movie where "you've got mail" Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet. That aside it was just a great place although parties of more than two have to queue. We got a seat straight away and we tucked into a brunch menu at 21:00. I loved the place although at first Mandy was a little unsure as the place was loud. I was pleased to finish off the evening with my favourite whiskey laphroig despite it $13 price tag....and Mandy joined me! I soaked it up and it was another place I was glad I visited. sadly we never made it back there but maybe another day in the future, 
New York food was also in general average, as we were not able to find half reasonable food easily. I am sure if you search out a great place it could be different, but we never ate at the same place twice, and not one was anything above average. Cheese with that? It felt like it was never about the chicken but more about what you put on it, or with it that made the dish. I feel a little harsh, as usually I can find something good to say about the food, but this was a place I never really managed to be excited by.
CAR HIRE: This was with Alamo through Holiday Autos with full insurance. I was aware that the Alamo car hire was off site from the airport but having finally managed to find the Airtrain which is free around the airport it was also very easy. At P3 station we found a courtesy bus waiting to take us to the Alamo Rental. I had read about being charged extra on top of the extras etc etc but in truth it went great with only being asked if we would like to go bigger at a 50% discount...our car was a Chrysler 200 intermediate so it was more than big enough so a polite refusal had us outside and ready to brave the streets. The car was very near to brand new and as I was happy to find the car had a full tank of fuel as we had requested. The boot held two large cases as well as our hand luggage, we would be stopping off at a few places so it was handy to have everything out of view. The automatic transmission was great and the car was a treat to ride in. I have to be careful here as Mandy did the driving and she did it very well although I wondered on occasion, would we have come back on separate planes had we had not taken our satnav.
CULTUREWe found most people we dealt with extremely helpful and only taxi drivers in New York caused any real consternation. We had read about tipping but it often felt like we were tipping when we did not need to and then we often felt we may have come across rude if we had not. We knew about restaurants and the absolute need to tip in those but outside of this I am not so sure. Taxi drivers we sometimes tipped, but often not, as I began to feel hardened in some cases. The tipping added significantly to the budget and, by the end we were more happy giving a tip when we felt it deserves, rather than tipping no matter what. It added to the food bill at least 15-20% way too much by our standards. Other people gave access to things and info and, if I felt they had given good service I tipped, but to slip $2 over here and there still felt unnatural.
We did have cause to wonder what we had let ourselves in for, a driver asked where we were from we answered the UK, only for him to say "Is that in Europe?" We got on fine with most in the service industry, only the car hire side of things had us thinking for a few moments we were back in the UK. Cape May people are very laid back and accommodating, however I would not like to rile them I think they could be hard when required. They listened keenly and were happy to give info and help whenever we asked. 
New York was different, no, not bad different, just different. The taxi drivers are from every other country but America and it seemed they often sounded and looked tired of the job even life itself. I had a few run ins with them as prices were often inflated grossly and the taxi fair on the way from the airport to New York changed having not given the exact address. A convoluted excuse had me agreeing to the new fare but I did cause him to sweat when I asked the doorman to intervene. He had overcharged although he turned into a confused blithering wreck. Again when we came to getting back across the Lincoln tunnel in the early hours the fee was out of step with anything else. A 10min ride was $85 before we eventually found a cab to go for $40. It was surreal as most drivers had terrible sat nav systems and did not no a major hotel just 10mins away. On 2 out of 3 occasions we were asked whilst on the way how to get there....we were 3500 miles away from home and your asking me?
That aside we loved the life and pace of New York....but only as a spectator. the constant buzz and fast paced walking was like no other place and it was hilarious to watch people slipping off their high heels and putting on a pair of trainers as though waiting for a starters gun to pop while they stood for the "walk" signs to illuminate. The loved their dogs and often it was the only thing that stopped them in their tracks as people took them downtown out of their high rise to get some exercise, and the women in particular could not stop themselves making a fuss of dogs, most of which were hand bag size and very strange. Note to single men in New York.....get yourself a dog!
The staff in Deli's around the place were generally poor and most, but not all, would rather ignore you than seek to serve you.They seemed disinterested, or perhaps distracted and I wondered about their mindset, as we sat in one and the man at the till began counting his takings whilst people waited?
The tour guides on the tour buses were genuinely outstanding. We met some great real life New Yorkers, and they came across very well and clearly loved their city. Their love was tangible and one lady in particular was so enthused it was rude not to listen. They were fun, eager, knowledgeable but again if you crossed them they let you know alright as one young foreign couple were asked to go to the back of the bus as their talking was upsetting others and the guide...good on ya girl!
BIRD WATCHINGThe bird watching was very leisurely in comparison to most of our trips. I felt I wanted to soak up the place and strangely it did not feel overly that we were actually on holiday. That feeling only kicked it when we made it New York for obvious reasons. Both Mandy and myself enjoyed every single trip out with the CMBO leaders and I would recommend anybody make full use of them as they have good experience and we loved the way they talked birds all the time, always giving helpful tit bits. Chuck Slugg....what a name, was one of the leaders and boy did he give us an authentic, insightful and on occasion funny style of leading. Others also added to our enjoyment considering we don't normally go on group led trips. The trips were mostly close by as various places like "The Meadows", "State Park", "Rea Farm" or further afield at "Bellaplain" along with many others. We were well aware of missing the migration in so many people greeted us with "well you missed the migration". We knew that thanks but things conspired to not have the ideal timings.....but who could say no I don't think I will bother then?
We particularly loved The Meadows and Rea Farm. The Meadows is a really quality place with so much habitat in such a small area. On occasion is was hard to imagine that all the meadows habitats were in that same trip!
Rea Farm is another great place as it is a working farm but you can only gain access by being a member of CMBO or NJAS. You also have to visit the CMBO Observatory for a sticker telling of your status to allow access to the farm. It was easy walking distance from the cottage so trips there were great and each time was different.
Cape May State Park hosts a great birding experience with again open water, woodland, seawatching, freshwater and a massive construction known as the Hawkwatch platform that gives a superb vantage point to watch any migrating birds of prey. We were told that in the fall the platform is full....and it is a huge platform so I would imagine a great buzz being there in amongst all that counting BOP.
The CMBO is shown on the map above and it offers a good place to ask questions of the staff and indulge in a few momentos of the trip. It also includes a great second hand book section along with optics, clothing and feeders. They have a few feeding areas dotted around the observatory and we were grateful to the staff in pointing us in the right direction for a garden that had plenty of birds including Ruby Throated Hummingbird.
BUGS Did not really get bothered by many bugs but I failed to realise ticks were a very real issue and sure enough I found one on two occasions after being out birding around grass. There are several tick species and the risk of Lymes disease (amongst others) is a reality so I would advise caution and a thorough check of oneself after being out and about. Mandy escaped with no little critters even though she was often in the long grass.....recording dragonflies! Flies rarely bothered us but listening to others it was obvious that some of the flies can be problematic particularly on some of the boat trips at this time of year. I think they were called green head flies and those are not pleasant by any stretch. Mozzies were well attended most places but rarely caused more than a lump and itch. Ants also were very common and sometimes they could be annoying as they infiltrated the sleeping area much to Mandy's displeasure.
I would take more suitable bug sprays if I was to go again and I would recommend others take them if you choose to visit as I could see it being a problem at certain times and areas.
WEATHERDaytime temps were between 00ºC - 00ºC Nigh time temps were between 00ºC - 00ºC.

1st June Friday
Newark Hotel & Airport 13:00-15:00 (6 species)   (40.690791, -74.190874)
Rock Dove  Mourning Dove   American Crow   American Robin   European Starling   House Sparrow
On landing at about 12:10 we were soon through security after a rather lifeless response through security. The queuing was quite long but it moved through soon enough. Pickup of luggage was great as our cases were out straight away so we headed to find the correct signage to find our hire car pickup point. The signage whilst present was very vague and it felt a little bit like a treasure hunt. We sort of stumbled our way to the airtrain and that was very good in all areas as this was well thought out and very quick and regular. We exited our station and went down the stairs where everything seemed like it was clicking pretty much into place, as the shuttle bus to take us to the Alamo car hire centre was ready and waiting. The Alamo centre is just over the highway and can almost be touched but the distance you have to travel by vehicle to get to it is about 15mins...which is a boring section of the trip indeed. The car hire went great with a large car being perfect as all the cases fit into the boot and the auto box was faultless. Mandy with great nervousness was driving (what a girl!) but she soon found her feet/wheels. I had chosen a hotel with close proximity to the airport for easiness and it worked out great as the drive only took 5mins (excluding a small detour as we got used to road turnings). The Hampton Inn (more info above in the accommodation section) was exactly what we wanted and in truth we were surprised how well catered for the hotel was. Free Wifi was a bonus which allowed me to search for local things as well as keep my birding places on google maps in use. I picked out a Portugese place to eat and I fancied a walk out as it would be about 1/2 mile away and I felt I needed a freshen up and a stretch. We were away that the area was an area that was not entirely safe so we inquired at the reception on our best way to get there. The lady kindly offered us use of the shuttle bus on a return basis as it was best that we should not walk as she explained about the highways closeness etc etc. This early good service and the Americans non walking was to become the mainstay of the holiday and indeed the why walk when you can drive mentality seemed quite unnatural.
The meal was great (see above in the food section) and indeed turned out to be one of the more memorable meals out during the holiday. After a lovely meal we asked the receptionist at the restaurant to ring the hotel for the return transport which was done without any problems. I was confused as the driver asked where we were from and on replying the UK he asked if that was in Europe? I replied England? He just shrugged and said oh yeah! I am still not sure what I can take from that experience. A comfy bed for the night and a good sleep ready for the trip down to Cape May was had followed by the hotel breakfast has us ready....and a touch nervous about the driving.
2nd June Saturday
Asbury Park, NJ 13:00-14:30 (13 species)  (40.223140, -73.998653) 
Canada Goose   Turkey Vulture   Red-tailed Hawk   Laughing Gull   Herring Gull (American)   Mourning Dove   Chimney Swift
American Robin   European Starling   Song Sparrow   Common Grackle   House Finch   House Sparrow
We set off from Newark at 09:30 and although nervous about the driving, Mandy soon slipped into it as watching cars weave in and out of traffic became the norm. The Journey should take about 2 and a half hours if you travel down the Garden State highway toll road,
but we opted for the non toll highway which probably added about 3/4hr to the journey but it was pleasant and quiet. We were soon wondering about directions as a serious accident had occurred shutting the highway causing huge queues and had us being diverted. Tom Tom again proved great as a re-route was found and we headed onto a non toll route. The highways were mostly 3 and 4 lanes and reasonably quiet, but it was sad to see a lot of road kill including Coyotes. We did start getting a more familiar sight as many Turkey Vultures and the odd Red Tailed Hawk took advantage of the road kills. The Vultures were common sights all along the journey with less sightings of the Black Vulture.  Our short trip down the East coast would not have been complete if we had not called in at this seaside/music resort. Our liking of Bruce Springsteen had us looking at Asbury Park and in particular a very early music venue the stone pony. It was also an early opportunity to take in a few birds on the sea front, we were both quite impressed with the area,  a recent overhaul of a superb building and new boardwalk had been recently completed, which set us up with a good feeling for the rest of our time in New Jersey. I had picked out a few places that looked OK in the area which had me searching for a song that was being sung here and there. It was our first contact with a Song Sparrow. House Finch was next up and encountered in a small park in the area with the Canada Goose numerous on the nearby sunset lake.
Dragonfly Cottage, Cape May 17:00-20:00   (38.949635, -74.936516)
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Great Crested Flycatcher   Carolina Chickadee Tufted Titmouse
Northern Cardinal   Red-winged Blackbird   Common Grackle
We finally arrived at the cottage at about 16:30 two hours behind schedule with the owner waiting to check us in. The area on initial outlook was very quaint and strangely had a familiar feel about it.....I don't know if this was the weather, the lush green vegetation and trees or something else but that feeling never really altered. We were again nervous about the accommodation but as we were given a tour from hard working Stephanie we soon felt very pleased with our choice, it had a good homely feel and looked perfect for a bit of lazy birding with the well stocked and mature garden. As you can see in the video above it is simple, but just what we were looking for. We had our first test with us eventually settling on a lovely Great Crested Flycatcher which found a home in the trees of the garden. I was excited about seeing some of the common birds of America and the Northern Cardinal and Tufted Titmouse all fulfilled expectations as they slowly all made their mark in the garden. We decided on a takeaway this evening and tried an American style Stromboli, sadly it was tasteless fodder. We picked up a few supplies from a 7-11 store and only when Mandy removed the two Ts in butter and replaced them with two D''s did we get the product we asked for! It was a strange, as although it was the basic language it was almost like having to obtain an accent to get the required response...I knew those episodes of the Mentalist would be beneficial for something! We fell asleep straight away although overnight thunderstorms woke us for a short time.
3rd June Sunday
Dragonfly Cottage, Cape May 08:00-10:00   (38.949635, -74.936516)
Mourning Dove   Red-bellied Woodpecker   American Robin   Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle   Brown-headed Cowbird
A nice start to the day had us soaking up more of the garden birds  it seemed such a shame to ignore them. The Red Bellied Woodpecker was quite a constant visitor,and early on I suspected a nest locally if not in the garden somewhere. We decided on a wander down to the much read about Hawkwatch Platform at the state park so we headed off in bright sunshine.
State Park/Hawkwatch Platform, Cape May 11:00-15:00 (20 species)   (38.934917, -74.959210)
   Mute Swan   Great Egret   Snowy Egret   Glossy Ibis   Turkey Vulture   Osprey   Laughing Gull   Least Tern Forster's Tern Mallard  Chimney Swift   Purple Martin   Barn Swallow   Northern Mockingbird   European Starling 1
Song Sparrow   Northern Cardinal   Red-winged Blackbird   House Sparrow  
Canada Goose
We headed straight over to the platform, strange birds sang and swallow like birds darted above us to where we could see what was obviously the nesting home of the Purple Martin. Having no experience of them and, in truth not doing enough homework, I was surprised at the size of them, they were quite large also they are not Martins but Swallows. We moved over to the Martin platforms they were quite happy to carry on their routines, people stood underneath to marvel, although one native was heard saying they were pleased the Martins were high up off the ground as they hated birds! Having made our way onto the huge construction known as the hawkwatch platform, we were instantly understanding of the scale of any birding done whilst the fall migration was in full swing. We could only find a few birds of prey, but it also gives a good vantage point over a largish pool where Mandy called a Glossy Ibis. A Northern Mocking bird showed it's displeasure while we descended the platform, it was nesting in a very exposed small bushy tree next to the walkway entrance. I did not bother them as it seemed quite upset, also we were quite taken with the Red Winged Blackbird, and were confused about why the wing patches had so many colours. We spent quite a bit of time here, because the park also has a visitor centre with many local exhibits and fossils. The staff were very helpful and liked to impart their knowledge. Lot's of bones and stuffed mammals and birds were on show as well as turtles of various species. Plastic bags were top of the hate list as several were in that room due to those pesky murderous tools. We found ourselves slipping into more tourist than naturalist, there was a great deal to see other than the normal avian fare. We went with this flow throughout, and for once we gained a bit more local knowledge and really enjoyed seeing things that Cape May had to offer the naturalist
 Dragonfly Cottage, Cape May 16:00-17:00 (12 species)   (38.949635, -74.936516)
Mallard   Turkey Vulture   Laughing Gull   Red-bellied Woodpecker   Great Crested Flycatcher   Blue Jay
American Crow   Tufted Titmouse   American Robin   Northern Cardinal   Common Grackle   House Sparrow
Back to the house, we were watching as the chickens began clucking and running for cover....and no wonder, it was strange watching Turkey Vultures circling over the chicken garden. Something felt all wrong with these domesticated animals being hunted by this huge predator,it became comical to me as I just could not imagine the scene if these two were to meet. Out for a nice evening meal whilst we pondered what to do the following day. I found some good black & tan beer and a nice red at the local liquor store close by, and soon we made our way home. Back at the house we were stumped, when we could hear something calling and soon we narrowed it down to the frogs in the pool at the bottom of the garden. We were also wondering what was roosting in a low tree as every night we would disturb i,t although I could not make out if it was a Owl I more suspected a Red Cardinal.
4th June Monday
The Meadows, Cape May 07:15-09:30 (50 species)   (38.935430, -74.943300)

Canada Goose   Mute Swan   Gadwall   Great Egret   Snowy Egret   Green Heron   Black-crowned Night-Heron   Glossy Ibis
Turkey Vulture   Osprey   Semipalmated Plover   Piping Plover   American Oystercatcher   Spotted Sandpiper   Greater Yellowlegs
Willet (Eastern)   Semipalmated Sandpiper   Least Sandpiper   White-rumped Sandpiper   Laughing Gull   Herring Gull (American)
Great Black-backed Gull   Least Tern   Caspian Tern 2 Mating  Common Tern   Forster's Tern   Royal Tern   Black Skimmer   Rock Dove
Mourning Dove   Chimney Swift   Eastern Kingbird   Blue Jay   Fish Crow   Purple Martin   Tree Swallow   Barn Swallow   Grey Catbird
European Starling   Common Yellowthroat   Song Sparrow   Northern Cardinal   Blue Grosbeak   Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird   Common Grackle   Brown-headed Cowbird   Orchard Oriole   American Goldfinch   House Sparrow
Our first trip out on a CMBO meeting. It was well attended and although we where disappointed to find Pete Dunne was not on the " Pete Dunne" birding walk we were soon asking who Pete was as the other naturalists were making their own name. Chuck Slugg was my kind of guy although the other 2 or 3 leaders also were really good to listen to. That was the thing for me....I listened a lot more than I would normally as I felt I could pick up so good info, and in truth I did. It is true you cannot replicate experience with anything else and Chuck was over 70! It was Chuck who flicked out a photo of a Black Skimmer that showed a head on view of this cracking and surprisingly elegant bird. Others may or may not know but the bill head on is something else. I will post a picture of what I mean shortly.
Birds were called out that we were already familiar with so I concentrated on listening for other things and sure enough the call of a Piping Plover had me quickly scampering to get my scope onit. It came into focus and all you can say is awwwhhh.........then the young one came into focus.....double aawwhhh..think cotton buds on tooth picks! The young of the well described American Oystercatcher, again think bird wearing a tuxedo smoking a carrot. Sadly they were always up against it ask the resident ghost crabs were smacking their lips....goodness knows how any of these seashore birds ever make it to breeding age.
Least Terns and Forsters' Tern were numerous along with the less common Common Tern and a very early Royal Tern passed through with a pair of welcome Caspian Tern landed a couple of 100m in front of us and decided to show us there amorous side....well they were at the seaside. Mandy and i both agreed the Least Terns were very tidy birds indeed.
The Willet was well attended as it flitted from post top to post top and the very attractive Eastern Kingbird making good use of the insects. Tree Swallow was making use of a nestbox along the trail and it seemed that breeding had reached the feeding young stage. First view of a Orchard Oriole which over the trip had us confused due to it's varying age plumage.
Osprey Cruise, Cape May 10:00-13:00 (23 species)   (38.949993, -74.910850)

Mallard  Double-crested Cormorant   Great Egret   Snowy Egret   Black-crowned Night-Heron   Black Vulture   Turkey Vulture
Osprey   Grey Plover   Willet (Eastern)   Ruddy Turnstone   Semipalmated Sandpiper   Short-billed Dowitcher   Laughing Gull
Herring Gull (American)   Great Black-backed Gull   Least Tern   Common Tern   Forster's Tern 1  Black Skimmer
Barn Swallow   Seaside Sparrow   Boat-tailed Grackle
After the great morning at the meadows we carried it on with a CMBO sponsored trip onboard the Osprey boat which was ably captained by Bob. There were about 15 people on the trip and it was lead by a young naturalist that again had plenty of knowledge. The trip was about two hours and I will give a map of where the boat actually sailed around as I had a gps tracker. The special was several Boat Tailed Grackle as it was a more robust version of the more land based bird with a distinctive "tail". Close up views of many nesting Ospreys were lovely but interest soon moved as a few Semi-palmated Sandpiper lines the shore. The bird I seem to encounter on every holiday, and is still nice, is the Black Crowned Night Heron. The Seaside Sparrow was another lifer that gave rather quick and poor views and a Short Billed Dowitcher was almost as quick to avert it's identification. The boat trip seemed to be over all to quickly but it was a good way to see a few extras and it seemed reasonable money at $25 per head. We booked in advance and it all tied in very well. No problem as some quality bins were available to loan at no cost. 
Bird Observatory, Cape May 14:30-16:00 (8 species)   (38.940533, -74.961450)

Mute Swan   Mallard   Mourning Dove   American Robin   Grey Catbird
Northern Cardinal   Common Grackle   House Sparrow
We thought we would call in at the observatory to say hi two a couple of people we had chatted to at the bird fair. We were lucky as they were both in although could not remember us fully i could remember them. We had a good chat and some info was picked as well as our pass to walk around Rea Farm. The observatory has feeders, clothing,optics and a great second hand as well as new book section. We were told of a nesting Eurasian Collared Dove and a private garden that has many feeders in so we thought we would head that way to pick up at least a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I walked the area several times to Mandy's boredom. No luck but we did get to see our very first sighting of the Cedar waxwing which was superficially the same as our Bohemian Waxwing although flight silhouette was totally different. It also seemed comical watching Waxwings in warm sunshine instead of in zero temps and snow capped trees. The private house was great as plenty of feeders were out although I did expect to see American Goldfinch but to no avail.
Garden Site Near Observatory, Cape May 16:30-17:00 (10 species)   (38.935495, -74.963066)

Turkey Vulture   Forster's Tern   Mourning Dove   House Wren   American Robin
Grey Catbird   Cedar Waxwing   Northern Cardinal   House Finch  Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Having mentioned in the last section we headed down this way to find the Collared Dove and maybe see Hummingbird and I was interested to see what a garden in the States would be like when it chooses to help out the wildlife with feeders, water, homes and plants like ourselves in the UK. I was very surprised as it was stocked with some good plants, plenty of feeders although quite a few were empty. Mandy was dubious about looking into somebodies garden but we were assured it was fine and before long the owner, Bob, I think came out to say hi and that around the back was where the Hummingbird preferred to feed so I wandered around there and within a few minutes my first ever Hummingbird was seen. The Male and Female turned up but sadly they always choose to feed out of the feeder with there backs to me! We said thanks to the owner and searched in vain for the Doves but only Mourning Doves were seen. We tried a few times to locate the bird but sadly we did not connect.
5th June Tuesday
Rea Farm, Beanery, Cape May 08:30-13:00 (22 species)  (38.946407, -74.939630)

Wood Duck   Black-crowned Night-Heron   Black Vulture   Turkey Vulture   Red-tailed Hawk   Laughing Gull
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Great Crested Flycatcher   Eastern Kingbird   Purple Martin   Carolina Wren
American Robin   Northern Mockingbird   European Starling   Prothonotary Warbler   Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak   Indigo Bunting   Red-winged Blackbird   Brown-headed Cowbird   Orchard Oriole  American Goldfinch
Our first visit here after picking up out passes. It was ideal as it was a short walk down the lane into open farmland with hedges, woodland, a small lake and some old fashioned farming techniques. Mandy was in her element as many Butterfly, Damselfly and Dragonfly were present so plenty of time was given over to those. It was great to see so many wildflowers in the area and everything seemed oldy worldy. I was stumped by a bird that was nesting near a farm building alongside a large pool, lake. I could see the nest but the bird was obviously very wary so did not hang around. I managed a poor shot of him but I was stumped. It was only later that I found it to be a first summer Male Orchard Oriole. The colour of the bird was not what I was expecting. More homework for me needed! Mandy....she is a better birder than me really.....shouted to me about a I wanted to see in the area was flitting around low down in some bushes near the lakes edge. It was an absolutely stunning sulphur yellow Prothonotary Warbler...why are these so hard to see they are like a mini sun! The other surprise was our first and possibly last sighting of the American Goldfinch. In truth I never really got a satisfactory view of these Goldfinches. I was expecting to see loads and them to be as confiding as our European counterparts...I was wrong again. I found a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers prospecting a nesting hole in a tree but it was in a well wooded area so the digiscoped shots were poor as I struggled to get sufficient light to freeze the birds movements. We headed back from the Farm with both of us quite enthused about the place. Sadly I would have liked to have gone on one of the CMBO trips to this farm but they were held on a Saturday and these were our arrival and departure days. 
On returning to the house I had my fist every experience of a foreign beast wishing to become a little to familiar with the red stuff. I was sat when I felt something move under my trousers. I grabbed it and it felt hard, sounds a bit carry on. I rolled up my trouser leg and before It could register that it was a tick I had already flicked it off onto the floor! It then registered that it was a tick so I set about trying to find the bugger. Mandy tutted when I explained why I was spraying the carpet with bug killer and running my shoe along the floor. We never found it and more gladly it never found us!
Osprey Cruise, Cape May 18:00-20:30 (33 species)   (38.949993, -74.910850)
Click HERE for the Osprey Cruise Website
Canada Goose   American Black Duck   Mallard   Great Northern Diver   Double-crested Cormorant   Great Egret  Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Black Vulture   Turkey Vulture   Osprey   Clapper Rail
Grey Plover   Willet (Eastern)   Ruddy Turnstone   Laughing Gull  Herring Gull (American)  Least Tern  Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer   Rock Dove   Mourning Dove   Chimney Swift   American Crow   Fish Crow   Barn Swallow   European Starling
Northern Cardinal   Red-winged Blackbird   Common Grackle  Boat-tailed Grackle  House Sparrow
This was a rescheduled trip as captain Bob contacted us to ask if we could swap days from the Wednesday. It turned out it may have been a great stroke of luck as the sightings show it was a totally different trip to our last morning foray on the Monday. Firstly they had had record high tides, secondly Bob had just finished a survey of the area the day before and thirdly there were only two other people on board. It was a lovely evening and before long we understood what a record high tide would fully mean for the birds that nested in this habitat, total destruction on a huge scale. All the nests that we could see only one day earlier were now under water. It was quite horrific as the Gulls picked there way through thousands of dead young Terns, Gulls, Oystercatchers etc. Lot's of displaced were noticed as bird clearly tried to locate nests that were no longer there. Dead chicks and young birds were floating along with the drifting grasses. It was hard to imagine this scenario that must happen all over the world whilst we are totally mostly unaware of. Captain Bob was very enthusiastic about the life he led on these and other trips throughout the area and whilst his bird knowledge had gaps I felt with his increasing love of wildlife he would be a great asset to the area particularly to birders. The trip should have been 2 hours but in truth he did not want to go back to land and it seemed he was fighting the fact that he had to at some point as on every new bit of shore something new enthralled us. 
The elusive Clapper Rail that was unseen on the first trip was now becoming a distraction as so many wanted to have a look at an Englishman. This was most probably due to the flood and so we felt awkward about our "lucky" sightings. We were also treated to our first and only sighting to a slightly drab bird in the shape of the American Black Duck. A pair moved off as we rounded a shoreline which was another tick. Bob, having spent time in this area doing a bird survey was hopeful to see a few more birds and before long I spotted a bird on the far side. It turned out to be another first and last of the trip and whilst it was distant it was clearly a family party of Yellow Crowned Night Heron which eclipsed the Black Crowned Night Heron we had seen. Reluctantly as the light started to fade we headed back but not before I spotted a diving bird at distance. we got closer and it was an uncommon, at this time of year, Common Loon, or as we call em Great Northern Diver. The only shame was that it was not of breading intent so the full extent of it's beauty was not seen. We had to be happy at that lot we thought as we passed the ever watchful nesting platforms of the Ospreys and shortly we landed back on dry land. What a lovely trip......I even gave a little tip as it was that good. The sunset alone was stunning and captain Bob was a pleasure to do business  with. 

View GPS Maps in a larger map
6th June Wednesday
State Park, Cape May 07:30-10:30 (36 species)  (38.934917, -74.959210)

Black Scoter   Double-crested Cormorant   Great Blue Heron   Great Egret   Snowy Egret   Glossy Ibis   White-faced Ibis
Black Vulture   Turkey Vulture   Osprey   Killdeer   American Oystercatcher   White-rumped Sandpiper  Laughing Gull
Herring Gull (American)   Great Black-backed Gull   Least Tern   Forster's Tern   Mourning Dove   Chimney Swift   Eastern Kingbird
Northern Rough-winged Swallow   Purple Martin  Barn Swallow   Carolina Wren   House Wren   American Robin   Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler   Yellow-throated Warbler   Yellow-breasted Chat 3 (Song Only) Northern Cardinal   Indigo Bunting 2
Red-winged Blackbird   Common Grackle   Brown-headed Cowbird
Another trip out with the CMBO was again worthwhile. The early start was great and before long we were adding to our tally quite nicely. A Northern Rough-winged Swallow flew up the beach which was a first and before long it was becoming apparent that the birds we saw came in wave like formations with quiet spells in between. The group had a few keen birders that were interested in adding to their lists and it was funny to see others doing as we were in the quieter moments, looking at insects and plants.
Yellow Breasted Chat was proving a hardship as whilst up to three were in song it was proving hard to get anything other than a fleeting view as it dipped into cover. Cedar Waxwings put in a show but it was eclipsed as a group of Glossy Ibis flew over led by a White Faced Ibis. The Ibis group sadly carried on down the coast but they were picked up again for a few days around the area. White-rumped Sandpiper was next on the list as a small group alighted on a pool edge further up the area We were doing good so far and it reinforced the quality of this area.
After the group finished we headed back to spot the Yellow-breasted Chat but to no avail despite several glimpses as it dropped into cover. We moved off toward a large body of water and were lucky enough to see our first and last Great Blue Heron before that to zipped away into cover. We were left with the feeling that this place with the Hawkwatch Platform, would be quite a sight in the Autumn as hundreds of birders all gathered to watch out for the hoped for migration of thousands of birds including many raptor species. The Autumn is a time of year we would most likely experience if we were to return as the pull of mass migration, weather still holding good and the much talked about lovely tones the place takes on at that time. 
Lake Lilly, Cape May 12:00-14:00 (10 species)   (38.938965, -74.963360)

Laughing Gull   Forster's Tern   Chimney Swift   Ruby-throated Hummingbird   House Wren
American Robin   Grey Catbird   Cedar Waxwing   House Finch   House Sparrow
It seemed bad manners not to look in on the close by garden with feeders, lake Lilly and the Observatory on our way back to the cottage and as we stood there in the garden I realised how much I like the Grey catbird and the bat like Chimney Swift. The Catbird reminded me of a large male Blackcap and whilst I understand it's naming it did nothing for this much understated bird. The Chimney Swift was a real corker of a bird and it's clicking call accompanied on most of our days out. 
Lake Lilly was actually a desert like place sadly and on several visits it hardly caused excitement with only the locally maligned Mute Swans really showing. The feeders around the observatory had the usual Doves and Cardinals and it was nice to see how the wildlife garden stateside differed from ours. Mind you whilst I think the diversity we can offer in our gardens could never compete with the Ruby-throated Hummingbird no matter how many sticky substances we put out!
Dragonfly Cottage, Cape May 14:00-17:00 (11 species) (38.949635, -74.936516)

Black Vulture   Turkey Vulture   Laughing Gull   Chimney Swift   Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker   Blue Jay  Carolina Chickadee   Tufted Titmouse   Northern Cardinal  Savannah Sparrow
We headed back to the cottage and I took time to wander around the garden where I caught up a resident Savannah Sparrow, family party of Red-bellied Woodpecker and the hard to see Carolina Chickadee. I tried to get a few pictures of anything that would allow with the biggest show off being the very common Rabbit. I had to laugh when the Chickens ran for cover as a couple of Black Vulture circled the area. I often observed the Vultures warming up on a chimney of a neighbour which was slightly surreal as it limbered up in the sun.
7th June Thursday
The Meadows, Cape May 10:30-15:00 (43 species)  (38.935430, -74.943300)

Canada Goose   Mute Swan   Gadwall   Mallard   Double-crested Cormorant   Great Egret   Snowy Egret   Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Glossy Ibis   Black Vulture   Turkey Vulture   Osprey   Bald Eagle   Red-tailed Hawk   Clapper Rail
Killdeer   American Oystercatcher   Willet (Eastern)   White-rumped Sandpiper   Laughing Gull   Herring Gull (American)
Least Tern   Caspian Tern  (Mating watched)  Common Tern   Forster's Tern   Black Skimmer   Mourning Dove   Chimney Swift
Eastern Kingbird   American Crow   Purple Martin   Tree Swallow   Barn Swallow   Grey Catbird   Northern Mockingbird
European Starling   Common Yellowthroat   Northern Cardinal   Red-winged Blackbird   Common Grackle   Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
Again a trip to the meadows but this time by ourselves. It was by far the most species rich area we had visited and even without a groups eyes all looking out for birds we managed 43 species. It went from good to great as we walked down the path I could see a Bird Of Prey in the distance but quite low coming in off the sea and heading inland. It was sizable and before long it was clear it was something I had hoped to see but increasingly aware that it was unlikely. The Osprey above it was hassling the bird and looked small in comparison...then the big white head shone in the sunlight. It was my first view of a very iconic Bald Eagle. The Eagle had clearly used it's size to take fish off the Osprey as it was well miffed! I tried to capture Mandy's attention as she had wandered off in front. I have never mastered being able to shout quietly so I tried semaphore. Eventually Mandy looked skyward but the Butterflies were of more interest to her.
As we headed down to a small area of water we were amazed to see a very shy bird out in the open having a bath. It was a Clapper Rail as brazen as the rising sun. It only moved off when a very testosterone fueled Red-winged Blackbird was not to happy to share that particular bathing area so took to it like a madman. It was such a strange encounter that it was only toward the end of the encounter did I think of a picture as I felt it may have flown if we had moved to much as it was literally 20 feet away. There was some conjecture when I mentioned this to some birders later on as to this being a Clapper, rather it being a Virginia as they were convined the freshwater habitat was not for the Clapper. Very similar but on further reading I am happy they use both fresh and saltwater habitat and for my records it is a Clapper due to it's colouration, or lack of.
The Tree Swallow was still nesting in a man made box and a very obliging Killdeer added to the enjoyment of this wonderful habitat. 
One of the real pleasing birds of this trip was the very graceful Black Skimmer. I was besotted with it's bill. I have only really given Skimmers a cursory look at in guides before but I was bowled over with the head on view of the superlatively designed bird. I have only really noticed the side view which gives a heavy feel to the bill but head on it's something to make you raise your eyebrows. I will put a picture here to highlight this for those who have not seen the bill before. Stunning bird. I spent hours photographing these and it was only rain drops that had me leaving them alone.
Top place to bird and I could live in this spot without doubt, even with the ticks!
8th June Friday
Rea Farm, Beanery, Cape May 08:15-10:15 (28 species)   (38.946407, -74.939630)

Wood Duck   Black Vulture  Turkey Vulture   Osprey   Laughing Gull   Rock Dove   Mourning Dove   Chimney Swift   American Crow
Purple Martin   Tree Swallow   Barn Swallow   Carolina Chickadee   Carolina Wren   American Robin   Grey Catbird   Northern Mockingbird   European Starling   Northern Cardinal   Blue Grosbeak   Indigo Bunting   Red-winged Blackbird  Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird   Orchard Oriole  House Finch   American Goldfinch   House Sparrow
Our final trip around this working farm was relatively action free although a low flying Osprey was a welcome fly by. The splendid Blue Grosbeak again showed well here but no sign of the prospecting Great Crested Flycatcher. It was a different experience this time around despite seeing more species this than last visit. I had a mystery bird of Prey that we disturbed as we walked through a wooded area but it soon disappeared out of view. Wood Duck again was seen at the pool although it was very shy and hid at every opportunity. Nice indeed to see this bird at home instead of captive or feral. We headed back with a flat sort of feeling as it may well have started to dawn that we were soon to leave Cape May.
Back at the cottage we decided to check ourselves for ticks and low and behold I pulled out my trousers from under my socks and another blood sucker was in hiding. It took some killing and only a pair of tweezers managed the task. I have to say I was not keen on the tick side of things.
The Meadows, Cape May 18:30-21:30 (34 species)   (38.935430, -74.943300)

Canada Goose   Mute Swan   Gadwall   Mallard   Brown Pelican   Great Egret   Snowy Egret   Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
Black Vulture   Turkey Vulture   Osprey   Piping Plover   Killdeer   American Oystercatcher   Willet (Eastern) 
Short-billed Dowitcher (held in mud by a presumed turtle)
Laughing Gull   Least Tern   Forster's Tern   Black Skimmer   Eastern Kingbird  Tree Swallow   Barn Swallow   Carolina Wren 1
Grey Catbird   Northern Mockingbird   European Starling   Cedar Waxwing   Common Yellowthroat 1
Northern Cardinal   Blue Grosbeak   Red-winged Blackbird   House Sparrow  Semipalmated Sandpiper
Our favoured place to bird was the last birding destination of this section of the holiday. It was a nice ending to a great place as this was in the early evening ending with a stunning sunset. The usual birds were seen on our evening walk again with the CMBO but as we got to the beach a lifer at the death occurred for me as one of the leaders called 4 Brown Pelican flying low over the sea. Sure enough while distant they were pelican and we were quite pleased to add that unexpected bird to the list. We also managed to further enjoy the Black Skimmer as it dipped it's beak into the still freshwater and did, well what they do. It was one of those views the brain will never forget. It was a lovely warm evening, still, and a very nice orange sky and the Black Skimmer just dipped it's beak into the water and headed toward us causing anything but a faint ripple on the water. It came to within 30 feet of us before it's stiff wings beat away as it flew across us and toward it's evening feeding area where it's one of a kind pupil design aids the bird to see at night ans lessen glare from the water.
We really enjoyed this place and it was only slightly dampened as Mandy noticed a bird that was a Short Billed Dowitcher at the side of the pool about 10 feet away looking like it was stuck in the mud. It was explained that it was most likely a Turtle that had hold of it's leg. Most did not like this unfolding before us and moved on quickly but I hung around and agreed about the Turtle as it slowly, despite furious flapping, was going into the mud. A sad fate of a lovely bird but nature had to play a role despite our hope to free it. We finished up our walk and felt satisfied with our Cape may experience. We headed for a late dinner but most had stopped serving but Bella Vida was happy to accommodate us so we enjoyed a good cup of coffee and some of those damn grits!
9th June Saturday
After picking up supplies from the local bakery we set off to New York. We traveled quite steadily without much trouble although despite having a sat nav we did take the odd wrong turning when it came to multi exit motorways. I had hoped to take in a different viewpoint of Lady Liberty as we headed to Liberty State Park. Time was running short as we had to have the car back by 17:00. The park is another superb example of how good the American parks are. It was a real good taster of what was to come with the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline and Lady Liberty within touching distance. I am pretty sure this place is the closest place you can get on mainland to the statue. I had this down for a good birding place also but on this trip time just did not allow. It was a quick stop before we headed toward our hotel which we decided on would be in New Jersey across the Hudson river. The hotel and info about why we stayed here is in the above section of accommodation but this picture shows the view this hotel afforded us.
We checked our bags in and then headed back to drop the car off near the airport. Traffic was heavy and it was hectic in places with the motorway also throwing roadworks in to make us sweat. We were glad we gave ourselves a bit more time as we needed it but the car was parked up and keys handed over with 10mins to spare! We used the free courtesy bus to get to the airport and then got a taxi back to the hotel. It probably sounds long winded but it worked out OK with no bags to pull round and neither did we have to pay any extra for baggage to the taxi.
We had a small hiatus with the taxi driver but having paid the extra the good times certainly rolled. 
We wanted to make the most of the place so we decided to live out of the suitcases and not to get out the scope and tripod. It was a good decision and it allowed us to quickly get out and head to that place of dreams. The other real bonus of this hotel was that a ferry docked right outside every 15mins and took us across the river to pier 81-82. You could then board various buses that took you to different streets all included in the price of the ferry ticket which was about $18 return per person.
We were excited and the trip across the river seemed to help build up the suspense as we picked out buildings that had only been seen previously in movies or stills. For those that have been to New York then you will already know what we mean, for those that have's a must do place.
Birdwatching was not on the agenda despite my best efforts as being a tourist took precedence on this occasion. I had my trusty Android phone with me and loaded my New York map places (above) and the gps helped us navigate to the places we hoped to visit. The evening was soon upon us as we headed into Central Park. Wow what a park.....just superb....I could spend at least the rest of my life in there. We roughly scurried around the edges of the park with us heading to a place that is somewhere most would like to visit, imagine mosaic. We sat and watched as life went by and somebody had put strawberries around the inner ring of the mosaic which was strangely tasteful. Everybody posed as photos were taken and the peace was often pierced with a few people that were clearly from another planet whilst another was having a conversation with himself as a rock and roll super star. It was life Jim but not just how we know it. A man then started playing acoustic guitar quietly and reverently singing Beatles songs. It felt really peaceful and I just knew I was pleased to be there with Mandy to enjoy this city. We stuck around a while and as the sun started it's setting we walked out to the streets. I was mesmorised with the sunset that was giving a wonderful lighting in the trees of Strawberry Fields. The picture below captured the special time and ambiance perfectly. We then watched as people gathered on the streets to watch the sun go down between to streets giving a lovely spectacle...stunning end to the day.....but we had things to do!
I had read about a particular cafe that I thought was worth a visit. It turns out it was the meeting place of Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail" Cafe Lalo sounded great and you can find the website HERE. I have added this cafe to the food section above if you fancy visiting it and I recommend you do. I did wonder if we would get the right tipple when we asked for laphroaig...but it was spot on despite one shot costing $13. It was sipped as we faced the prospect of having to leave this electric place. It was getting late in the evening and I could tell we were now feeling the pace as Mandy had driven for 3 hours as well. It just did not seem right to head back to the hotel as I just thought you can sleep when you are dead.
We headed for that most famous of quiet spots in New York, Times Square. For me aptly named "The Crossroads Of The World" and I gave a moment over to our being their despite life's curve balls. It was manic. as I am sure if you have visited. Mandy was stunned and in truth a little wary of the situation with all these people rubbing shoulders with you wherever you went. If people watching is your thing then this is THE place. Iconic is something to behold and it can be easy thought as of such places being cleche or even cheesy....but when you are there it is jaw dropping in a perverse sort of way. All those lights, people, heat, horns, music, traffic...where do you's sensory overload in a different way to what we would normally be involved in. I was unsure of what to do once their but I realised the answer was nothing. Pick a seat, wall, stand on the huge stair platform and just watch it all happen.
At about 01:30 we ran out of steam so we headed toward the Lincoln tunnel to seek out a taxi. The taxi drivers as stated previously were not of the same species on occasion and the description of taxi driver implied they new where they were going. The cost at this time of morning for a 10min ride (including toll) was to much and I had a few exchanges with a few of them as they were just asking me where the hotel was?
Into the hotel and hit the bed as we were up for our first real sight seeing trips tomorrow. 
The view from the hotel at night across to Manhattan was stunning and whilst we needed sleep we could not help but take lot's of shots of this much vaunted skyline.
10th June Sunday
Up early and we waited on the jetty for the Ferry to arrive.
I had decided that I would purchase one of the card and tour packages and settled on the "New York Pass" A link to this is HERE. Lot's of people have opinion on this way of seeing New York and ours is that it was very good value and worked seamlessly. You have to pick up your bus ticket on the day you want to start using it but that was done with ease and the card itself is posted to you on initial purchase however far in advance you want it. The card is activated from the first time you enter an attraction. It also allows you to queue jump in some busy attractions. 
We had a packed agenda as no doubt 1000s of others did. First up we headed to the Radio City building Mandy wanted to see due to it's art deco features. Not far away was the Top Of The Rock observation platform. We were aware of the Empire State building but many told us that the "Top of the Rock" experience was better as yiu can go to the top without extra fees, the view of Central Park was better and you can actually see the Empire State Building from here. I picked up that going early was best and all the info i picked up was spot on. We reached the place about 09:30 and we were soon zipping our way up to the top in a super fast lift....something akin to Willy Wonka. The view of Central Park was everything I had hoped for and the skies were fairly clear with little wind. We had the place almost to ourselves and it was made even better as the top obs deck has an uninterrupted view as no glass is present.
We were pleased to help others with photos and some were happy to reciprocate others just walked away without an offer.
Soon back down to Terra Firma and I had a little surprise for Mandy as she loves a few thrills. I wanted to get up close to Lady Liberty but at the time it was closed to visitors going inside the statue and I did not really fancy giving all that time over to the ferry over etc...when there was lots more things we had to see.
The short video is of the Turbo 3000 horsepower speedboat that promises to get you wet and wild. It did both, for reasons beyond explanation but I won't ruin the why or how for others following. It was a great thing to do as you hold on to your hat and glasses as you fly down the Hudson River, get up close to the Lady herself and then head on back at what feels like breakneck speed. All in all it takes about 30mins which was great and Mandy never stopped smiling all day. The video below is a sample of this great ride to a wonderful soundtrack.
I was suffering with sunburn so having found some cream we had a bite to eat in a mostly forgettable place before we hopped on to our hop off hop on bus tour with a cracker of a guide who was very personable, knowledgeable and a native New Yorker...and we liked it. It first seemed that the bus tour may have been a bit cheesy but in truth the whole bus tours were very very good and is something I would recommend anybody to do as not only is it a great convenient way of getting around, but it also brings to life, through description, this wonderful City. The tour traveled North and headed into Harlem where fame was all around. The information given was so good we did not want to get of.... so we did the full uptown loop. It was fantastic and we were really pleased of the things unfolding.
11th June Monday
12th June Tuesday
Central Park, New York 08:00-13:00 (23 species)   (40.778446, -73.970910)

Canada Goose  Mallard   Double-crested Cormorant   Black-crowned Night-Heron   American Kestrel  Rock Dove   Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Downy Woodpecker   Northern Flicker   Blue Jay   American Crow   Black-capped Chickadee 1
Carolina Wren  American Robin   Grey Catbird   Northern Mockingbird  European Starling 10
Northern Cardinal   Common Grackle   Baltimore Oriole   American Goldfinch 2  House Sparrow 
This was a day I had wanted to encounter for some time...but would it live up to the expectations I began to wonder?
Up and out as soon as we could and headed straight into Central Park on the South end. We walked randomly but my phone with the marked areas was used to it's fullest. I enjoyed the place immensely and all the statues, gardens, fountains, walkways, eateries were all ace. Don't get me wrong this park is not perfect and I felt a tad uneasy as I was living it up in the park whilst others were fast asleep with there whole world at their sides. I had my own trials and I have been lucky enough to get by them and this place gave you something a thousand books cannot. Mandy and I took hundreds of pictures and we became very aware just how big this park was. I was always aware of time as we only had till midday so we skipped about at quite a pace. The bridges were lovely and one or two of those were recognised in movies and programs. It really is a surreal city and I no doubt looked quite insane as a smile kept flashing across my face.
We eventually hit the Ramble that is always talked about and you can see why as it was a real forest away from not just the noise of a big city but from most people as few seemed to venture into this area. It was beautiful and we both could spend weeks in that place but as we enjoyed seeing birds bathing in a stream it began to dawn that this was as far up as we were going as time was waiting for no man. It seemed a shame as spending time here is a must do thing. Non the less we were full of admiration, awe and a strange childlike happiness that we both had visited this great great place in the world.
We walked a pace back to catch the ferry and we said goodbye to the skyline that had us smiling for 3 days. Packed and ready to go we hired a limo like car from the hotel and comfortably wandered to the airport in style. I realised I had not handed in the room key....but the driver offered to return it. It seemed to fall flat as the rain that had started at 12 midday was still there when we took off at 20:00 that evening...I even felt for those having their first day in New York with the rain....but what a day they would have even if sodden!
The airport security was like being an extra for a cheap movie scene with two officials looking at your passport. The queues were long and one official just beckoned you over with a flick of the wrist without saying a thing and looking the other way. He looked at you and then wrote something before handing you your pass and then doing the whole thing over....he was trying to build himself a 50 cent persona but it seemed more like the joke was on him until the woman Mandy was being dealt with said to me as I waited for her "where are you going?" Mandy did the unforgivable and had water in her handbag....but she won't do that again as she was lead off to be finger printed and such like!  The flight was again a firm but fair ride with staff having a harder attitude than the last but we kept ourselves to ourselves so no issues encountered and for us it was great. Uneventful landing some 6 1/2 hours later and we were back in Blighty a day later than we set off....oh joy!
1) New York City
2) Black Skimmer
3) Excellent Organised Birding Trips At Cape May.
4) Friendly People Who Assisted
5) Old World Feel In Cape May
1) Generally Average Food
2) Tipping...just unnatural.
3) Overall Holiday Cost
4) Ticks!
5) American Airport Security Staff...Different Planet...Mum Said I was Special.

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