I wrote the following after returning from watching a monster night flight from the deck around the Convention Center, Cape May. For photos and her description, see Susan's post.
It's about 10:30 p.m., and I'm lying on my back on the wooden deck behind the Convention Center in Cape May. Jeff Gordon is lying beside me; his wife is lying perpendicular to us above our heads. Susan is on Jeff's other side--he's put his arms around us to keep us warm in the cold night. Everyone is looking skyward, awestruck.
Overhead, hundreds--no, thousands--of American Robins, Chipping Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and other birds are flying erratically, like bats, glowing white in the night lights of Beach Avenue. A Savannah Sparrow rests on the street, a lifer for Susan. Every so often, a larger bird flies over: a Barn Owl? a gull? a woodcock? Hell, it could be a flamingo for all we know. We're seeing that many birds.
There are lifers for me too: Bill Thompson, Richard Crossley, Mark Garland, Louise Zemaitis. From our vantage point in the darkness, the birds look like leaves blowing in the stiff wind, highlighted by the street lamps. For me, it's an unbelievable, mind-blowing spectacle. Does this happen every night? How could I have missed it? How long will it last?
The best part? Even an ABA President, the editor of Birdwatcher's Digest, and one of the authors of The Shorebird Guide are just as dumb-struck as I am. They're all agog, gasping, uttering statements of disbelief -- just like I am.
For a magical hour on a magical night, we're all captivated, grasping for words and images to describe nothing more or less than the sight of robins and sparrows flying overhead on their way south. Common birds, common admirers, uncommon night.