The Brown Booby is a bird that helps explain why birders don’t always want to share what they are doing with non-birders. Explaining to people that the main goal you have for a visit to Cape May is seeing a Brown Booby and you will, at the least, get an odd look. Others will crack ribald jokes, mock you, or accuse you of being crass. Being a birder can be a tough row to hoe sometimes.
I have always wanted to see boobies. There, you see what I mean? How can you not start cracking jokes? Boobies are beautiful (again!) but rare in my neck of the woods where we only get Northern Gannets. In fact, Brown Boobies are not likely to be seen north of the Caribbean and until this past Sunday I had never seen one. But the Brown Booby in Cape May has been around since mid-August and I had been chomping at the bit to get out to see it but I didn’t have my chance until the family was in California for a visit and I had to be in southern New Jersey anyway.
Now, there are two options for seeing the booby in Cape May. One is to drive out to the end of Fish Dock Road, which is just east of the toll bridge on Ocean Drive, and scope for it in its usual haunts in Jarvis Sound (it had favored channel marker 475 but lately it seems to prefer the old rotting dock and pilings all the way across the sound). This method is not tide dependant but does not provide the kind of looks that most people would like to have of Sula leucogaster. For those who want more intimate looks at the booby (ha!) there is the Osprey, a pontoon boat that does trips into the saltmarsh to show people wildlife (call ahead to ask about the tides because you want to go on a sailing at high tide to get as close as the booby will allow). I did both, because Susan needed to get back to Ohio and couldn’t wait for the boat.
How do you find Fish Dock Road? Stay on Ocean Drive until you see a giant fisherman and then turn off.
Though we found the booby from shore and were both happy to get the lifer, the view was far from satisfying so I made sure to be at the dock at 1:30 in the afternoon to get on the Osprey for a better view of my first ever Brown Booby.
Was it worth the two hours on the boat and the $23 it cost? Well, I was allowed to bring my digiscoping rig on the stable pontoon boat so why don’t I let you be the judge?
What a bird! ABA-area lifer number 476, world lifer number 1,047, and year bird number 368. Get to Cape May and see the booby. I bet you’ll lick, er, like it!
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Is the Brown Booby a Cormorant family member ? Lovely photographs 🙂
@christopher young: They are not in the same family but they are pretty close on the family tree. And thanks!
I wish I would have stayed for the boat trip. But of course, that means I would still be driving through Pennsylvania on that damn Turnpike.
Thanks for twisting my arm, Corey. Definitely worth the extra time.
Are you nuts? “The Brown Booby is a bird that helps explain why birders don’t always want to share what they are doing with non-birders. ” Making jokes about boobies, tits, cock-of-the-rocks, shags and woodswallows is the best thing about birding. Or at least about talking with non-birder about birding. Tell they you saw a Dull Job Bird or a Lesser Mangrove Throat Warbler and their eyes will glaze over. Thell them you saw a Dusky Woodswallow or a nice pair of Brown Boobies and they actually pay attention. Plus you can make lots of double entendres and comments about how your hands got all cut up because you mishandled underage booby and then act all innocent.
A Brown Boodby? Maybe the lady should take a bath?
Outch!! 😉 .-)
I recently took a trip to Cape May and we also went on the Osprey to see this Booby. My husband was thrilled that I went out of my way to see a Booby… Our first look was not so great – the tide was falling and she was in a low area with the Cormorants. Then toward the end of the trip, she was in a great spot in the middle of the water. We stayed around her for ten minutes (trying to stay steady with the heavy traffic of other boats). Cannot complain about the other boats though, the louder ones made her take flight for some nice shots! http://www.flickr.com/photos/mydigitalmind/tags/booby/ taken with a 400mm lens. Thanks for sharing your story (as always)!
Does anyone know if the Booby is still there? I am worried about her! When I asked the naturalist aboard the Osprey, he said it was basically a “fly or die situation”. Nice to see an exotic species but not nice to think of her untimely demise.
@Susan: The booby was reported in eBird as recently as 10/31. Not sure if the lack of reports since then is because the bird is gone or because no one who uses eBird has looked since.
Thanks for the info, I’ll email the Osprey website. Hope she has started home and makes it there safe. Do you know if she is banded?
Sorry, now that I look at the pics, she obviously is not banded. Stupid question, no need to answer!
I did not get a chance to see this bird, but really appreciate your photos. When I was looking at some google images, I was thinking “wow, that looks like a corm; if I saw it from far away, I am ignorant and would probably think it was just a cormorant.” And low and behold what is it haging out with?
I live in Canyon Lake Texas and frequently walk the dam there. On Sept. 29, 2012 I noticed a group of people with large cameras and binoculars (large) viewing the waters and a ramp that is built to a pumping station for the river. I stopped and asked what they were so interested in. I was then told of the rare apperance of a brown booby. I was quickly educated on this special visit of the bird and how in the world did it end up here ???? I plan on looking for this bird everytime I walk the dam!! Maybe he wanted a taste of fresh water fish.lol
The post above should read Aug. 29, 2012…sorry
After doing the beach for sixty years, this morning God blessed me with a Brown Booby. It was on the Boca Raton, FL beach, approx. 6:45 am, she was shaking a little so I just sat down next to her and waited till Kurt the Gumbo Limbo expert came and told me what it was. He’s not seen one in Fl for twenty years. She was beautiful, like she had a buzz cut, yellow eyes, straight bill, very sharp lines. I stayed with her till she walked around and we made sure nothing was wrong with her. Went back in an hour and a half and she was gone. So she was ok. Wish all the birders could have been with me, she was so gorgeous,I’ll never forget my morning on the beach with my very special new friend. Bobbi My Brown Booby
Wonderful pictures … i would so love to see one of these birds!