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Cape May Rare Bird Alert - 5/25/1995
You have reached the Cape May Birding Hotline, a service of the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. Highlights of the week ending May 25, 1995, include: RUFF, MISSISSIPPI KITE, SOOTY SHEARWATER, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, BLACK-NECKED STILT, WHITE-WINGED TERN in Delaware, news of spring migrants, an announcement about Higbee Beach, local nature notes.

A RUFF in breeding plumage was discovered May 18 at Higbee Beach, in the impoundment visible from the dike reached via the road to the jetty. It reappeared on May 19 in the same area and was present until the morning of May 22, but has not been reported since. The bird had a gold head, black ruff, and rich brown and gold back. The dike also held a STILT SANDPIPER and up to 5 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS.

MISSISSIPPI KITES were in evidence during the early part of the week around the Point, with up to 3 seen together; there have been no reports since May 22 however. SOOTY SHEARWATERS were seen from shore off Cape May Point on both May 24 and 25. BROWN PELICANS have also been seen periodically and the mini-pelagic trip on the Audubon Spring Weekend had 5 PARASITIC JAEGERS offshore. Up to 6 BLACK TERNS were at the Cape May Ferry terminal on May 20.

Brigantine hosted a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE on May 19 in the west pool on the north side; and 2 BLACK-NECKED STILTS were at Brig on May 22. A WHITE-WINGED TERN was found at Bombay Hook in Delaware on May 19; it was at Bear Swamp.

The Delaware Bay shorebird gathering is in full swing. Thousands of RED KNOT, RUDDY TURNSTONE, and SANDERLING in near- or full-breeding plumage are here en masse. Reed's Beach is one of the best viewing beaches; it has official viewing platforms, good signage, weekend wardens, and specially arranged parking at the Marina at the end of Reed's Beach Road. The $1 parking fee helps build good will and promotes ecotourism. Through June 3, CMBO is offering daily naturalist-led field trips to witness this phenomenon. Call CMBO for information on field trips to view the shorebirds in the next two weeks at (609) 884-2736.

WARBLER migration was good early in the week, but slowed down considerably and the peak has now passed. Some highlights this week included WILSON'S WARBLER and MOURNING WARBLER at Higbee Beach on May 20. Other passerine highlights this week were a RED-HEADED WOODPECKER at Higbee on May 22, and a GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH at Cape May Point May 24.

The PIPING PLOVERS which breed in the Nature Conservancy sanctuary we call the Meadows are experiencing one of their best years, with 4 or 5 pairs present. Their nests are on the open beach and are very vulnerable to disturbance. LEAST TERNS are also setting up territories there.

RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS are again breeding in the Cape May County Park on Rt. 9 just north of the town of Cape May Court House. They nest in the oak trees with holes, across the road from the Zoo.

Many of the breeding birds are in at Belleplain State Forest, like YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, PRAIRIE WARBLER, PINE WARBLER, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, HOODED WARBLER, N. PARULA, WORM-EATING WARBLER, & BLUE-WINGED WARBLER. Also present, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, OVENBIRD, GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, RED-EYED VIREO, SCARLET TANAGER and SUMMER TANAGER. Pine Swamp Road, Sunset Road, and Cedar Bridge Road are good places to see these species.

The pine stands along Jake's Landing Road are good for YELLOW-THROATED WARBLERS which breed there. The salt marsh habitat at the end of the road attracts a number of breeding birds like SEASIDE SPARROW, NORTHERN HARRIER, & CLAPPER RAIL.

The State of New Jersey has closed Higbee's Beach parking lots for the summer. This does not mean that Higbee is closed, just the parking lots. You can still bird and butterfly the area- but you must be dropped off, or ride a bike, or park at the Hidden Valley parking lot further along New England Road. The parking lot closures are the state's attempt to address illicit activities that occur there during warm summer months.

Local nature notes follow. Belleplain State Forest is beautiful now, Mountain Laurel is just coming into bloom and lines many of the roadways. During the May 20-21 Spring Weekend, many observers noted migration or immigration of butterflies involving QUESTION MARKS, COMMAS, MOURNING CLOAKS, & RED ADMIRALS. A total of 35 species of butterflies were noted in the County and as far north as Brigantine.

The weekend marked the emergence of the first SOUTHERN CLOUDYWINGS, LEAST SKIPPERS, and ZABULON SKIPPERS, as well as the first movement north of CLOUDED SULPHUR, AMERICAN SNOUT, and SACHEM. Some of the spring specialties were still flying, such as BROWN ELFIN, PINE ELFIN, & FROSTED ELFIN, FALCATE ORANGE-TIP, & COBWEB SKIPPER. A CMBO butterly walk at Jakes Landing on May 24 discovered numbers of MONARCH eggs and a few tiny caterpillars on Common Milkweed, as well as 100+ webbed-together leaves on very young thistle plants; these house the caterpillar stage of PAINTED LADY butterflies, which as adults were scarce over the spring weekend.

Bob Barber, author of the study of Cumberland County's Dragonflies, discovered yet another new species for the list on May 21: a BANNER CLUB-TAIL. This rare dragonfly is only known from 4 sites in New Jersey, and is now gone from 2 of those. Nationwide, it is only found in 5 states, with most sightings occurring in Mississippi.

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. [Compiled by CMBO staff; transcribed by L. Larson (llarson@pucc.princeton.edu).] Please report sightings of rare or unusual birds to CMBO at (609) 884-2736. Thank you for calling; good birding.

 
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