Cape May Rare Bird Alert - 4/4/1996
You have reached the Cape May Birding Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. Highlights for the week ending April 4 include sightings of EUROPEAN HERRING GULL, ICELAND, GLAUCOUS and LESSER BLACK-BACK GULLS, new spring arrivals, local nature notes, and announcements.

A first-winter EUROPEAN HERRING GULL was found on April 2nd amid a large concentration of gulls in the vacinity of the fish docks along Ocean Drive at the base of the toll bridge. Also seen there were three LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, two ICELAND GULLS, and a GLAUCOUS GULL.

An AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER was seen at Thompson's Beach on the Delaware bayshore on March 30th.

A RED-NECKED GREBE continues to be seen near Mill Creek marina along Ocean Drive.

Two AMERICAN BITTERNS were present in the South Cape May Meadows this week.

A very early HOODED WARBLER and an on-time LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH were present at Savage's Run in Belleplain State Forest along Sunset Road on April 4th.

ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS returned April 4 and have already taken up residence at the Bunker in the State Park, where they breed in the pipes under the Bunker.

The first major steady push of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS passed over on April 2 involving hundreds of birds.

A fine early season passerine flight occured at Higbee Beach, today April 4th. Some highlights included about 30 PHOEBES, 100 N. FLICKERS, a YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, and three CHIPPING SPARROWS.

It is about peak for staging RED-THROATED LOONS, something we look forward to each late winter / early spring. They gather in the Delaware Bay in terrific numbers each spring before migrating north. Scan the waters off 2nd Avenue in Cape May, off the jetties in Cape May Point and around the Concrete Ship to find them; tides move them around. It's always fun to watch them begin to change from winter plumage into breeding plumage. 55+ were in the waters around the Concrete Ship along on April 4 and several hundred more flew when small boats went by offshore.

SHORT-EARED OWLS are still lingering. One was seen at dusk at Jakes Landing Road on April 3.

Local Nature Notes follow: Spring has sprung and some of our breeding birds are back in force, despite good numbers of wintering birds still in evidence. CMBO's Sunset Walk at Stone Harbor and Nummy's Island on April 2 enjoyed looks at numbers of paired up and calling OYSTERCATCHERS, OSPREY on their nests, and thousands upon thousands of LAUGHING GULLS -- a veritable din of "ha-ha- ha-hahaha" as they circled over their breeding colony in the marshes behind Nummy's Island. Flocks of GREAT EGRETS & SNOWY EGRETS are regular now. RED-TAILED HAWKS were seen mating this week, as were OSPREY. GOLDFINCHES are turning golden. WOODPECKERS are drumming. Our Belleplain Butterfly and Bird Walks were entertained by the ringing song of PINE WARBLERS.

SPRING AZURES, tiny bright blue butterflies, are flying now and especially in evidence along sand roads in Belleplain. If you're familiar with Spring Azures, look at them closely when they perch and you can see the underside and try to determine which of the three spring forms you are seeing: (1) "lucia" has a dark mark in the center of the hindwing below and has a dark brown margin, (2) "marginata" lacks the central dark mark but does have the marginal brown, and (3) "violacea" lack both marks and are quite white below. Both "lucia" and "marginata" spring azures were seen on Jakes Landing Road on April 3. Three butterflies winter as adults locally (MOURNING CLOAK, QUESTION MARK, and COMMA); both Mourning Cloaks and Question Marks have been seen this week.

WOOD FROGS, SPRING PEEPERS and CHORUS FROGS are calling now. Wood Frogs sound like distant ducks quacking, peepers peep, and chorus frogs sound like a finger being run over a comb. A Mud Turtle was seen on April 3. Red Maples are budding red. Dogwood trees are budding too. Great Horned Owl chicks are getting larger. Barred Owls are on territory and hooting their "who cooks for you -- who cooks for you all." Bald Eagle chicks have hatched.

The Cape May Bird Observatory is a research and education unit of the New Jersey Audubon Society. Our aim is to perpetuate and preserve the ornithological significance of Cape May. Your membership supports these goals and this birding hotline. For more information regarding Cape May birding, our programs and field trips, and the Observatory, call our office at 609-884-2736 or a send a request for info to CMBO, P.O. Box 3, Cape May Point, NJ 08212. If you are in the area, do not hesitate to visit our headquarters and growing birding bookstore at 707 E. Lake Dr., Cape May Point. We're open 9-5 every day but Monday.

The Cape May birding hotline [(609) 884-2626] is a service of Cape May Bird Observatory and includes sightings from Cape May, Atlantic, and Cumberland counties and adjacent areas. Updates are made on Thursday evening, more often if warranted. Please report sightings of rare or unusual birds to CMBO at (609) 884-2736. Thank you for calling; good birding.

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