Thursday, November 14, 2013

New Jersey birdman Pete Dunne is taking flight

Pete Dunne is a big deal in the world of birding. 

He is a widely published author on the subject of birds and natural history and, almost as famously, 
is the founder of the World Series of Birding which attracts ever-growing crowds of in-state and visiting birdwatchers each year to Cape May, NJ. 

Today, the New Jersey Audubon Society announced that Pete will be leaving his position as
 director of the Cape May Bird Observatory to take on a statewide challenge.

Because of Pete's stature among birders, we are 
publishing the entire news release below.


Thirty-seven years ago, a 25-year old birder named Pete Dunne came to Cape May to expand New Jersey’s bird conservation focus in the region.  Ultimately becoming the Cape May Bird Observatory’s Director, Dunne used his promotional and communication skills to advance Cape May’s fame as North America’s premier bird watching location.  A fame it justly deserved and one that the 62-year old senior employee now wants to see expanded to incorporate the entire Garden State.  Some may recall Dunne as the author of the column, In the Natural State, that was a regular feature in the New Jersey Sunday Section of the New York Times between 1976 and 2001.

“Cape May is not a geographic aberration,” says Dunne, who was raised in the northern part of the state and moved to South Jersey in 1976.  The fact is, all of New Jersey is a bird-rich eco-tourist destination. What has lagged is awareness.  In geographic fact, the entire state is a bird supporting peninsula - Cape May is just the southern tip - akin to a Baja, New Jersey.  “What I hope to do with the balance of my career is confer upon New Jersey the same appreciation Cape May enjoys among bird watchers,” states Dunne.

New Jersey Audubon’s statewide sanctuary network is the ideal promotional vehicle for this ambition, but it is New Jersey and its multitude of protected natural areas that constitute the star attraction.  “We have it all here,” says Dunne, “all the ingredients that made Cape May famous plus an extraordinary diversity of breeding, wintering and migratory birds. in addition to great natural spectacles like world renowned hawk migrations at both ends of the state.  We enjoy a statewide tourist infrastructure.  We’re served by three international airports and our compact geographic size is an advantage, too.  Visitors can drive from what is essentially Canadian-zone forest in the northern part of the state to coastal Carolina habitat (in Cape May) in less than three hours.” 

This diversity of habitat is precisely why New Jersey hosts the World Series of Birding - an event started by Dunne and organized by New Jersey Audubon.  Only in Texas and California have more species of birds been recorded in a single day than in New Jersey.   Yes, Texas and California have wonderful natural areas and great bird diversity, but no more than New Jersey. Yet tens of thousands of European birders travel to Texas and California every year.  But, it’s not just visitors that Dunne hopes to excite.  “New Jersey residents have a National Geographic Special on their doorstep,” proclaims Dunne.  Suburbia is fast becoming a forest landscape with houses tucked in.   Today Wild Turkey is almost as common a suburban bird as American Robin.”

When John James Audubon visited the state in 1829, turkeys were extirpated.  Now they’re back in numbers - attesting to New Jersey’s environmental health.  Birds vote with their wings.  If they’re here, the environment supports them.  And, if we as decision makers continue to exercise wisdom, birds will continue to be part of every New Jersey residents dowry.

Unfettered of his duties as Cape May Bird Observatory Director sometime this summer, Dunne hopes to move seasonally between New Jersey Audubon’s Northern and Southern Centers serving as a “bird watching ambassador.”

New Jersey Audubon President Eric Stiles summarizes: “Pete has touched many lives through the wonder of birds and birding.  As a birder, teacher, natural history maven and master chronicler of the natural world, I want to personally thank Pete for all he has accomplished as CMBO Director and will accomplish as our top ambassador…Pete and I will be spending the months ahead planning the transition.”  

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