Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rea Farm ("The Beanery")

I have to thank Abigail Parker for her intimate knowledge of all the best places to go for birds and insects in the Cape May region of New Jersey. One of my favorite stops was at the Rea Farm, where we visited on October 17 of this year.

Actually, I should also thank Abby for letting Heidi Genter and myself be her guests, since Rea Farm is only open to members of the New Jersey Audubon Society. The site was once a working lima bean farm, hence the local name of “The Beanery.” The idle remains of the huge lima been shucking machines are a landmark for the parking area at the entrance to the birding area. They look like covered bridges to nowhere.

Property owners Les and Diane Rea decided to lease visitation rights to the Cape May Bird Observatory (a project of New Jersey Audubon) beginning in 1999, in the wake of sharply falling demand for lima beans. They also grow flowers, and run a nearby farmstand where you can purchase local fruits and vegetables.

The Beanery comprises 82 acres and is located near the very center of Cape Island. It is consistently the warmest place on the isle in late autumn. Migrating birds may linger there longer, among the fields, hedgerows, and swampy woodlands. The three fields, ringed with tractor paths, are the centerpiece of the farm. Several species of sparrows frequent the tall grass and autumn aster flowers, providing a real challenge for birders.

Then there are the raptors. Hawks, vultures, and even eagles like the immature Bald Eagle above can be seen daily over the fields as they rise on thermals in the afternoon. The unobscured skies over the fields and parking area afford great views of the soaring birds.

There is no shortage of insects, either, particularly Buckeye butterflies, their caterpillars, and chrysalids. At least they were very abundant during our visit.

Dragonflies forage over the fields as well, including the Common Green Darner, and Carolina Saddlebags (below).

The crops that are still grown feed grasshoppers as well as people, and while this Carolina Grasshopper found them tasty, I’m sure that such insects are not welcomed!

Rea Farm is yet another gem among the seemingly endless jewels that are Cape May birding areas. I can hardly wait to go back and visit during another season, to see what else calls the area home.

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