Some Hawks are no threat to the Whiskered Tern. David and Pat Hawk from upstate Pennsylvania called me this week to get a reservation for two nights.
With a name like Hawk, it makes sense that you’re a birder, right?
David tells me when he was six years old, his grandmother, in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, stitched him a bed quilt. On the quilt were the state birds of the entire country at that time. The fact that there were only 48 birds should tell David’s age, who has been birding for over twenty years.
For birders, it’s a big deal to get “lifer-birds” into the books. David like most birders keeps a diary or record book of every bird he sees and where he sees it. These are David’s lifer birds. David has 630 life birds in his book, a number he proudly recalled immediately when asked. He said having 500 birds is good, but people who make a living from birding books, like Richard Crossley, probably have over 800 bird sightings recorded.
The Whiskered Tern is now in David’s book. According to the American Bird Association the Rare Whiskered Tern has been seen in the United States only three times, two of them in Cape May. In fact they refer to it as a Code 5 sighting. I think that means it’s a really big deal.
Whiskered Terns are such a big deal, that the Cape May Bird Observatory described attendance on the Hawk watch platform at Cape May Point as a virtual who’s who of birding.
Yesterday’s inventory of license plates at the Point included California and one man who apparently flew in from Minnesota to see the rare bird. Volunteers on the platform were gracious and helpful in pointing out the bird to visitors, enabling me to have this Code 5 bird in my book within minutes.
David Hawk tells me it doesn’t always go so smoothly. While vacationing in Arizona one year, a New Jersey man traveled out to see a rare Hummingbird. The man sat outside his cabin for three days and the Hummingbird never showed up. After three days the man’s wife called and said it was time to come home.
Cape May living affords residents opportunities like seeing the Whiskered Tern and last winter’s the Snowy Owl with relative ease. Birding visitors on the other hand, invest heavily in travel, hotel rooms and restaurants, not to mention the equipment they use.
Even when destination marketing is budgeted and executed properly, it’s hard to compete with a pelagic Whiskered Tern.