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Cape May Bird Observatory
School of Birding Workshops

WINTER WORKSHOPS

Techniques of Field Observation
Saturday, January 18, 2014 (1 day)
Leader:  Michael O'Brien
Second Leader (if registration warrants):  Louise Zemaitis
Preregistration required.
Cost:  $85 members; $125 nonmembers
Set the tone for the new year of birding by sharpening your field skills. This is the workshop that every birder wishes they’d taken. Binoculars show you the bird. Field guides identify the bird. But how many times have you studied a bird only to discover that all the information you gathered has evaporated by the time you get to the field guide, or that the one field mark you need to distinguish one feathered gremlin from another was the one thing you failed to note? This workshop will teach you how to look, record and recall and – most importantly – how to bird like an expert (even before you become one!).


Wintering Hawks, Eagles and Owls
Saturday & Sunday, January 18 & 19, 2014 (2 days)
Leader:  Pete Dunne
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Preregistration required.
Cost:  $150 members; $190 nonmembers
A weekend of raptor watching and learning. Thirteen diurnal raptors and all eight New Jersey owls are possible on this workshop, thanks to southern New Jersey’s mosaic of prey-rich habitats. You’ll see a lot of other great birds in the process, along with some of the most beautiful and remote landscapes on the Eastern Seaboard. Learn to find and recognize good wintering hawk and owl habitat. The bulk of this workshop is in the field, with indoor sessions to heighten your understanding of wintering birds of prey. Past years have featured a Golden Eagle hunting Snow Geese in the company of several Bald Eagles, plus point-blank Eastern Screech-owl, Rough-legged Hawks of both color morphs and hunting Short-eared and Great Horned Owls. 


Break Into Birding
Saturday & Sunday, February 15 & 16, 2014 (2 days)
Leader:  Pete Dunne
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Preregistration Required.
Cost:  $150 members; $190 nonmembers
This is the introductory course that you wish you'd taken!  One that imparts the basics, puts the accent on in-the-field learning, and never loses sight of the fact that bird watching is, after all, supposed to be FUN.  You'll discover how to get the most out of  your field guide and optics.  You'll learn where to go to find birds and how to identify them once you find them using all the hints and clues birds are offering you.  It's a course for absolute beginners, backyard birders who want to expand their horizon, and birders whose skills have grown a bit rusty.


Gulls Simplified
Saturday, March 8, 2014 (1 day)
Leader:  Michael O'Brien
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Preregistration required.
Cost:  $85 members; $125 nonmembers
From the brown and mottled to the clean and gray, you either love gulls or you don’t. Whatever camp you’re in, join us for a morning in the field learning the easy way to separate the four common winter gulls and practicing sifting flocks of gulls for something rare, and perhaps even find an Iceland Gull or other species. We’ll also cut through the fancy terminology around age and molt. After lunch we’ll head indoors for a review of gull plumages, aging, and some of the rarer species.



SPRING WORKSHOPS


Field Sketching for Beginners
Sunday, April 5, 2014 (1 Day)
Leader: Michael O' Brien
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Preregistration required.
Cost:  $85 members; $125 nonmembers

There is no better way to learn the details of a bird’s structure and plumage than to draw it, and many expert birders, like Michael and Louise, are also artists. Learn tips and tricks for quickly sketching birds in the field when there may not be time for painstaking observation. Drawing birds brings advantages to non-artists, too, simply from the need to look at a bird critically in order to draw it, and is a great way to document an unusual species. No artistic talent or training needed.


Introduction to Bird Photography
Saturday-Sunday April 12-13, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Scott Whittle
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $150 members, $190 nonmembers
 
Whether you’re looking to accelerate your identification skills, or show the world how you see the birds around you, the camera is a perfect tool. In this two-day workshop, professional photographer Scott Whittle will help you work with the equipment you have to achieve your photographic goals. The course will include an overview of gear and how to use it, shooting sessions in the field, and how to develop a digital workflow that gets you the best possible image. Participants are encouraged to bring their laptops for post-photo capture learning.


Birding by Ear: The Calls & Songs of Eastern Birds
Monday-Tuesday, May 19-20, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Michael O'Brien
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $150 members, $190 nonmembers
 
Everyone’s dreamed of learning bird songs - and everyone can. Even experienced birders spend time each spring “getting their ear in,” re-learning the songs they already know. Jump-start your audio-recall by learning how to listen critically, group and categorize song types, and (as your song and call repertoire grow) gain confidence and skill. Many of southern New Jersey’s breeding birds are back and singing heartily, while migrants will be joining the chorus, too.


Warblers by Sight and Sound
Thursday-Friday, May 22-23, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Scott Whittle
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $150 members, $190 nonmembers 
Few families of birds are so colorful, vocal and animate as the North American warblers and no spring is complete without a trip seeking warbler waves. Here’s your trip, timed to catch the peak of the wave of northern species like Blackburnian, Blackpoll and Canada, while also engaging southern breeders like Hooded, Yellow-throated and Prothonotary. This workshop aims to help you pick up on both audio and visual clues to be able to quickly and accurately locate these springtime gems.
 

Identifying Trees
Saturday, June 7, 2014 (1 Day)
Leader: Mike Crewe
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $85 members, $125 nonmembers 

As birdwatchers it’s useful to know at least the commoner trees of our area so that we can more easily explain where that elusive bird is located. But knowing trees can also help you understand more about the habitats that birds live in. We will spend the whole day in the field and visit several locations, covering the full suite of Cape May habitats. Learn just which parts of which species are important for identification and enjoy putting what you have learned into practice! Oaks, elms, hackberries, pines, cedars, hickories and much more.
 


SUMMER WORKSHOPS

Here Be Dragons!
Saturday, July 12, 2014 (1 Day)
Leader: Mike Crewe
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $85 members, $125 nonmembers 

Dragonflies & Damselflies are a common part of our local wildlife, yet they can be confusing at first glance. With a mixture of indoor theory and outdoor practice, come and learn how to identify many of the 100 or so species that occur in Cape May County. We’ll visit a variety of habitats around Cape May County that will allow us to see a good cross-section of species, from the tiny sprites to the mighty darners.


Shorebirds with the Man Who Wrote the Book
Wednesday-Thursday, August 13-14, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Michael O'Brien
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $150 members, $190 nonmembers 

It is not surprising Houghton Mifflin’s landmark The Shorebird Guide sprang from the brains and hands of three Cape May birders and authors. Now you can experience some of the East Coast’s best shorebirding while guided by one of them. Michael O’Brien is equal parts skilled birder and superb teacher. Search storied locations like Bunker Pond, the South Cape May Meadows, Stone Harbor, and Brigantine NWR for peeps, plovers and yellowlegs plus possible gems like phalaropes or godwits. Over 25 plovers and sandpipers are in easy reach, with some species numbering in the thousands. Learn to begin with size, shape, behavior and voice, and then move on to careful examination of plumage details, just as The Shorebird Guide teaches.


Butterfly Bonanza

Thursday, August 21, 2014 (1 Day)
Leader: Will Kerling
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $85 members, $125 nonmembers 

No other insects captivate us in quite the same way as butterflies, with their colorful wings and graceful flight styles. Spend a day around Cape May County, enjoying butterflies while at the same time learning identification tips and cues from the experts. Over 100 species have been recorded in the county and, whilst we won’t see that many in a single day, we shall nevertheless see a good cross-section, and learn how to tell them apart.


Birds in Flight
Wednesday-Thursday, September 3-4, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Michael O'Brien
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $85 members, $125 nonmembers 
  

You’ve heard of the legendary Higbee Dike, where migrant songbirds are identified and counted as they fly past. How do those guys do it? Here’s your chance to learn from one of “those guys!” For certain groups of birds – ducks, seabirds, raptors – flight identification techniques have been well established. But have you ever longingly watched a songbird fly over, wishing it would perch so you could identify it? Or had a flock of blackbirds on the horizon and wondered if they were grackles or red-wingeds? Learn how to apply what we’ve learned about flight i.d. to any bird that crosses your air space, be it a familiar-in-flight Sharp-shinned Hawk, or a relative stranger like a tanager or oriole. 


Introduction to Bird Photography
Saturday-Sunday September 13-14, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Scott Whittle
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $150 members, $190 nonmembers 

Whether you’re looking to accelerate your identification skills, or show the world how you see the birds around you, the camera is a perfect tool. In this two day workshop, professional photographer Scott Whittle will help you work with the equipment you have to achieve your photographic goals. The course will include an overview of gear and how to use it, shooting sessions in the field, and how to develop a digital workflow that gets you the best possible image. Participants are encouraged to bring their laptops for post-photo capture learning.


Falcon Fest & Hawks on High
Saturday-Sunday, September 27-28, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Pete Dunne
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $150 members, $190 nonmembers
   

Bird Cape May at the peak time for raptor diversity, with experts who know identification tricks unavailable anywhere else! This workshop will be “just birding,” no indoor workshop time (unless severe weather dictates otherwise) at the prime time to be in Cape May. Expect many falcons (including Peregrines), plus accipiters, buteos, harriers, ospreys and eagles. Though our aim will be to study and appreciate the sometimes spectacular passage of falcon species through Cape May at this time of year, we shall be in a prime location to enjoy other migrants too and, depending on the conditions, we may also seek shorebirds, late warblers, early sparrows, and more. 


FALL WORKSHOPS


Things that go Seep in the night!
Saturday-Sunday, October 4-5, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Michael O'Brien
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $85 members, $125 nonmembers 
  

Experience the cutting edge of birding! Birds don’t sing much in the fall – but they sure do call. Chip notes, flight notes and critical listening are the primary subjects of this workshop, led by the man who wrote the book (well, made the CD-ROM) on flight calls. Two hours with Michael equals years of struggle on your own! Includes night-time listening for nocturnal migrants. Learn to dissect a single note, determining whether it rises or falls, is clear or burry. You will never listen the same way again.


Sparrow Sampler
Saturday-Sunday, October 18-19, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Michael O'Brien
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $150 members, $190 nonmembers   

A workshop celebrating the LBJs (little brown jobs) of the bird world. Subtle and cryptic they might be; difficult to identify they are not, providing you have the right instructor, the right place and the right time. A time when lots of sparrows and lots of species abound. Common species like Swamp, Field, Savannah and Chipping. Uncommon ones like Clay-colored, Vesper, Lincoln’s, Nelson’s and Saltmarsh. Learn the basics of size, shape and behavior first, then practice examining plumage patterns to discover how stunning sparrows can be.


Hawks in Flight
Wednesday-Thursday, October 22-23, 2014 (2 Days)
Leader: Michael O'Brien
Second Leader will be added if registration warrants.
Cost: $150 members, $190 nonmembers   

At fifteen raptor species, this is the time of peak raptor diversity in Cape May. Perhaps including bonus birds like Golden Eagle and Swainson’s Hawk! It is a rare moment during late October in Cape May when something raptorial is not in view. Learn how to tell buteos from accipiters from falcons from eagles at the very edge of eyesight. Pete Dunne co-wrote the book that is the title of this workshop, and the only thing he enjoys more than watching hawks is imparting the knowledge he has accumulated during his 15,000 hawk watching hours.

Cape May with Everything on it
Monday-Wednesday, October 27-29, 2014 (3 Days)
Leader: Louise Zamaitis
Second Leader (if registration warrants) Michael O'Brien.
Cost: $225 members, $265 nonmembers   

Late October is the time local birders wait for.  Crowds have diminished, and the most massive fallouts of the season commonly occur NOW!  Sparrows, kinglets, bluebirds, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, and literally who knows what else, since this week starts the season for vagrants in Cape May.  It's also a great time for big raptors like buteos and Golden Eagle, while large seabird flights pass Avalon and Cape May Point nearly every day.



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