Cape May Natural History Hotline - 1/15/2004

You have reached the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This message was prepared on Thursday, January 15. For bird news call the Cape May Birding Hotline at (609) 898-2473. NJ Audubon's three hotlines can be read in full on our web site (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" at the top of any page.

ALERT! It is still DEER HUNTING season! Winter Bow Season continues till January 31. Birders and naturalists should take precautions and wear blaze orange (hat or vest) when in the woods in Cape May and Cumberland Counties. Sundays are safe all over NJ since there is NO HUNTING on SUNDAYS.

A LONG-EARED OWL, one of our most secretive winter owls, was seen January 10 on the CMBO "Birding Cape May Point" walk at the Cape May Point State Park. SHORT-EARED OWLS were seen this week at a number of locations: 3 at Motts Creek in Atlantic County January 11, 3 at Corbin City January 9, 3 along the road to East Point in the marsh across from the Lighthouse on January 8, and 1 at Hansey Creek / Turkey Point January 11. It has been a good winter for SHORT-EARED OWLS and they are at all their usual haunts (also including Jakes Landing and Brigantine NWR). GREAT HORNED OWLS are calling softly, briefly at dawn and dusk. This will stop abruptly once they lay their eggs, which will be very soon. If you want to spend 4 days with like-minded owl enthusiasts, there is still room on CMBO's popular "4-day Workshop for Owls, Hawks, & Eagles" (January 23-26, 2004) with Pat and Clay Sutton and Ward Dasey. It has been a very owly winter. Saw-whet, Long-eared, Barn, Short-eared, Barred, Great Horned, and Screech Owl are all enjoyed most years during this workshop. CMBO's complete listing of other "2004 Cape May Birding Workshops" can be seen at New Jersey Audubon's web site at (with more details added in January and a brochure printed and sent to members in January): http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html Another owly offering is the "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton, offered: Saturday, January 17, and again on Wednesday, January 21 (1:00-5:30 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for these owl workshop offerings.

Since the drastic drop in temperature on January 10, when temperatures were 4 degrees F. at 5 a.m., AMERICAN WOODCOCK have been easily spotted along road shoulders and trails. When winter weather hits and the ground freezes their only hope of survival is to come out onto open, sunlit edges where they can (hopefully) probe the thawed ground for earthworms. If you are driving the Garden State Parkway (or any other road with wide, sunlit, grassy shoulders) be looking for their very camouflaged and barely moving shapes as they probe down with their long bills and try to feed and stay alive. A good old-fashioned nature walk with Mark Garland, "The Wonders of Winter," on Sunday, February 8 (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) still has room. Learn how creatures adapt and survive winter's freezes! Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register.

January 10 and 11 was the Annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey. CMBO again coordinated @ 60 keen volunteer observers to cover southern New Jersey; additional observers covered the north. Preliminary results from the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program follow: 170+ BALD EAGLES were seen (the second highest total since 176 Bald Eagles were seen in 1997). The southern part of the state tallied 126 Bald Eagles (88 adults, 38 immatures); the Delaware Water Gap area tallied 20 (11 adults, 9 immatures); northern reservoirs tallied 24 (11 adults, 13 immatures). 9 GOLDEN EAGLES were seen during this survey, including a sub-adult at Motts Creek, an adult at Corbin City WMA, and an immature at Dividing Creek / Bear Swamp in Cumberland County. Observers at Tuckahoe WMA found a live Mute Swan frozen into the ice on January 10. By the afternoon an immature Bald Eagle was taking advantage of this opportunity and feeding on it. 20 Bald Eagles were in the Cohansey River area during the survey. Activity there was non-stop with adults chasing off other adults from nearby nests, immatures being chased off by adults, and clouds of Snow Geese getting hazed by hungry eagles. Adult Bald Eagles are spending more and more time now near their nests, they being the second earliest nesting bird. A number of observers watched adults adding sticks to their nests. "Winter Raptors of the Delaware Bayshore" is a great way to discover and savor many off-the-beaten path, raptor-rich areas in Cumberland County with Pat Sutton and a host of other raptor enthusiasts on Saturday, January 31 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register while there are still openings!

The Great Egg Harbor River area around the Tuckahoe & Corbin City impoundments tallied 6 Bald Eagles (4 adults), an adult Golden Eagle, 2 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS (1 dark and 1 light), 3 Short-eared Owls, and 20 TUNDRA SWANS during the survey, January 10 & 11. An unexpected surprise on the frozen impoundments on January 11 was a perched LEAST BITTERN. The emaciated bird was taken to a rehabilitator, it's been eating well, and will soon be released back at Corbin City WMA. To learn this complex area sign up for CMBO's field trip to "Tuckahoe and Corbin City WMAs" with Pat Sutton & Karen Johnson on Sunday, February 15 (2-6 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register while openings last!

Rough-legged Hawks were also seen on January 10 and 11 at Sea Breeze (dark bird) and Fortescue (dark bird) along the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County , and at Motts Creek (1 dark and 2 light birds).

Barnegat Light State Park at the north end of Long Beach Island is exceptional this winter! 28 HARLEQUIN DUCKS were seen there this week. Keep in mind, birds can be anywhere alongside the jetty and are often scattered all the way out to the end. Look for IPSWICH SPARROW on the jetty. One might all-of-a-sudden appear out of the rock crevices and just as rapidly disappear back down into the rocks. A few LAPLAND LONGSPURS have been feeding on the ground and flying from spot to spot with the local flock of HORNED LARKS or SNOW BUNTINGS. 8 COMMON EIDERS and a female KING EIDER were seen there this week. The eiders move around with the tides and may be near or as far away as the distant jetty on the other side of the inlet. Be patient or visit later in the day and the tide might bring them closer. The inlet visible from the Barnegat Light jetty is also an excellent place to study the regulars, BONAPARTE'S GULL, LONG-TAILED DUCK, COMMON LOON, and RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, as they feed close by and interact. "A Guide to Bird Finding in New Jersey," by Bill Boyle's, pp. 273-276 (available at CMBO's bookstores) makes your visit easy. Be sure to also visit nearby Manahawkin WMA and Cedar Run Dock Road (pp. 269-273, Boyle's book) in the afternoon / early evening for Short-eared Owls and Rough-legged Hawks! CMBO's "Longtails In Love" trip on Saturday, February 14 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) still has openings. Longtails are displaying now, but will be really wound up by mid-February! Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register.

Between December 16 and January 6, 5 road-killed SAW-WHET OWLS have been found in Cape May County (and 1 in Cumberland County): 3 on the Garden State Parkway between mile marker 0.2 and mm 16.7, 1 on Rte 347 just south of the Cumberland County line, and 1 on Rte 55 at mm 35). These birds were probably wintering near the road and made the mistake of crossing the road to hunt the other shoulder. Unfortunately they hunt low, bumper-level, listening for prey. Be on the alert. Also, be sure to check their legs for an aluminum band and, if found, report the band number and data (date found, condition, location where found, finder) to the USGS at 1-800-327-2263. And let CMBO know what you learned too. 1,000s of SAW-WHET OWLS were banded this fall in Canada and New England and the likelihood of learning where a wintering bird has come from is quite good! If a road-kill is in good shape, document when & where found and bring this information and the bird to the Cape May Bird Observatory.

Enjoy winter birding by joining CMBO for the following walks that require no preregistration! EVERY SATURDAY, " Birding Cape May Point," 8:00-10:00 a.m.; EVERY SUNDAY, "Nightfall at Jakes Landing," 4:30 p.m. to dusk; EVERY SUNDAY (beginning January 25) "Sunday Mornings at Turkey Point," 8:00-10:00 a.m.

CMBO will next teach the "Nikon School of Birding" April 23-25, Friday through Sunday. This workshop is designed to help birders of all experience levels build better birding skills. Call 609-861-0700 or stop by either center to request the Nikon School of Birding brochure. There are many additional special programs being offered this winter. Check out CMBO's WINTER Program Schedule. To receive a copy stop at either of the two centers, or call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site where a full listing of CMBO's WINTER 2003 PROGRAMS (November, December, January, February, and a few of the March programs) is posted at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

The Cumberland County Winter Raptor Festival , Saturday, February 7, 2004 (7:00 am till 8:30 pm.) will again be based at the Mauricetown Fire Hall in Mauricetown, NJ, adjacent to the Wild and Scenic Maurice River, a major viewing site for wintering raptors. Lectures will be held all day: (1) 10:30 a.m. Steve Eisenhauer, Regional Manager of the Natural Lands Trust -- "Flying Over Cumberland County: A Raptor's View." (2) 11:30 a.m. Keynote Speaker: Pat Sutton, Program Director, NJ Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory -- "A Naturalist's Journey Through Cumberland County," 26 years of experiences through the seasons. (3) 12:30 p.m. Book Signing by Clay Sutton, author of Birding Cumberland, produced by Cumberland County Department of Planning and Development and Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries. (4) 1:00 p.m. Clay Sutton, Writer and Naturalist -- "All About Eagles." (5) 2:00 p.m. David Mizrahi, Vice President of Research, NJ Audubon Society -- "Delaware Bay, Mecca for Migrants." (6) 3:00 p.m. Karen Williams, Proprietor of Flora For Fauna (nursery that specializes in wildlife habitat landscaping) and gardener at Cape May Bird Observatory -- "Inviting Wildlife into your Yard." (7) 4:00 p.m. Jane Galetto, President, Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries -- "Eggs to Flight; the Maurice River Osprey Colony." Pete Dunne, Vice President, NJ Audubon Society, will speak about "Wind Masters, Stories Behind the Stories" at an evening presentation after the sunset owl watch. Tickets for dinner and Pete Dunne's evening program may be purchased for $8 that morning. Guided walks led by CMBO Staff and volunteer naturalists, boat tours on the Maurice River, events for novice naturalists, vendors, a morning sunrise walk with Pete Dunne, book signings, and a sunset owl watch with Pat Sutton and other leaders will be part of the day's schedule. Bring binoculars! Registration begins at the Mauricetown Fire Hall in Mauricetown, NJ, at 8:00 a.m. Food will be available at the fire hall until 5:00 p.m. Admission is $4 for children and $8 for adults. For more information call the Cumberland County Department of Planning and Development at 856-453-2177 or 1-866-866-MORE.

This Cape May Natural History and Events Hotline is a service of the Cape May Bird Observatory, which is a research, conservation, and education unit of the New Jersey Audubon Society. Our aim is to preserve and perpetuate the ornithological and natural history significance of Cape May. Your membership supports these goals and this hotline. We detail sightings from around Cape May County, and also include reports from Cumberland and Atlantic Counties. Updates are typically made on Thursdays. Natural history sightings can be written on sighting sheets at either CMBO center or called in to 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

Patricia Sutton
Program Director
New Jersey Audubon Society's
Cape May Bird Observatory
Center for Research & Education
600 Route 47 North
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
609-861-0700, x-16 (phone) / 609-861-1651 (fax)

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