Sunday, June 11, 2006

Trying Not to Disappoint

Today was my one day per month that I volunteer at the NJ Audubon Center at Sandy Hook. I work at the book store for 5 hours, help visitors to find good birding locations around Sandy Hook, and answer any crazy questions we get. I arrived at the center around 9:45 AM and the wind was blowing seriously hard. Being a barrier island with mostly short vegetation, the Hook gets wind either off the bay or off the Ocean and it's always about 15 mph more windy than on the mainland - and the mainland was pretty darn windy. I'd say that the wind at Sandy Hook was around 40 mph today. The wind and kite surfers were really enjoying the weather, but every bird was hunkered down looking for shelter. Gulls were blowing every which way, the Ospreys were having a tough time, and even the swallows couldn't cut through the wind. I figured with this kind of weather and due to the fact that this is a pretty low activity time of year at Sandy Hook, most birders would stay away and I wouldn't see too many visitors to the center. Boy was I wrong!

Ten minutes after I flipped the "Closed" sign to "Open", two beginning birders stepped through the door. Of course, their first question was, "Where is the best place to look for birds?" My mind was thinking, "Umm... anywhere but here!" but I couldn't disappoint these beginning birders. I wanted to do my best to promote birding and make sure they had a decent day. I gave them my best speech about how the diversity of breeding birds isn't great at Sandy Hook, but it does have interesting ones such as Least Tern, Piping Plover, and Osprey. I gave them directions to some sheltered areas and some spots that I thought for sure would have some herons or egrets.

Next a couple walked in who were also beginning birders. They had taken the ferry over from Manhattan and, of course, they had the same request. "We're looking for birds and we don't know much." I gave them a similar speech in an attempt to soften the blow that their birding might be difficult. I even tried to find some birds in the bay across from the center.

All in all, 15 visitors came by today on a day that I thought would be devoid of birders. They were all looking for the birds and I did my best not to disappoint them. This is proof that the weather can't keep the birders away. And as one patron said to me, "Well, at least it gets us outside." Amen to that.


MojoMan said...

It's great that you volunteer. I'm sure your efforts are greatly appreciated.

John said...

Birding Sandy Hook on a windy day is pretty darn hard. I guess the trick is to look for the sheltered spots like the wooded trails, but the wind seems to penetrate pretty much everywhere.

Patrick Belardo said...

Thanks Mojo. I really enjoy it. I also volunteer there as a field trip leader which I really love.

John, that's pretty much how I tried to direct people. But like you said, there's little shelter there unless your hiding in the old gun batteries.

LauraHinNJ said...

I'd love to hear more about the bizarre questions you get, Patrick! Such fun! I used to man the bird hotline for monmouth county audubon and boy could people come up with some crazy questions!

Glad you had plenty of visitors - five hours is a long time to spend there with no company. The summers at SHBO are hard that way.