Cape May Natural History Hotline - 1/22/2004

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 22. 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 host of volunteer observers scattered all over New Jersey during the Midwinter Bald Eagles Survey, January 10-11, found 5 new BALD EAGLE nests, bringing the number of territorial pairs to 45! WOW! Be looking for nest building activity. An adult was seen January 19 flying with a large stick over Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County. Bald Eagles are our second earliest nesting bird. On January 17, 2 adults were sitting side-by-side on the marsh edge at Jakes Landing Road, another sign of the approaching nesting season.

Resident RED-TAILED HAWKS are paired up now too, often sitting side-by-side. It's a great time to get a feel for just how many Red-tails nest in your area. "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.). Up the Atlantic Coast another raptor-rice area is the Great Egg Harbor River. Explore it by signing up for the "Tuckahoe and Corbin City WMAs" field trip with Pat Sutton & Karen Johnson on Sunday, February 15 (2-6 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for either trip while openings last!

With the lengthy stretch of freezing temperatures, many creeks, ponds, and even waterways are freezing up and concentrating waterfowl either on top of the ice or at the few open water sites they can find. VIRGINIA RAILS have recently been seen in similar open water spots, like at the Cape May Point State Park. This situation results in great viewing opportunities. Where possible, use your car as a blind and enjoy them. 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.

Some birds and animals are quite stressed by the winter we are having. Predators take advantage of this stress and savor easy pickings. Many predators are highly opportunistic as was a COOPER'S HAWK found feeding on a pile of deer carcasses off Turkey Point Road on January 18. An AMERICAN WOODCOCK probed for earthworms beneath the leaf covered ground just outside the CMBO Northwood Center this week. Those of us who let our leaves lay are the most likely to attract American Woodcock right into our yards, since the earth under composting leaves can remain unfrozen. An active compost pile is another steamy site that may attract hungry woodcock. If you are driving the Garden State Parkway (or any other road with wide, sunlit, grassy shoulders) look 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. Also consider signing up to help with an American Woodcock breeding survey on the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge (45 minute surveys will be conducted after sunset between April 10-30), by calling Heidi Hanlon, the refuge's wildlife biologist, at (609) 463-0994.

Winter gardens are fun to explore now. Look for the very camouflaged ways in which our insects winter over on last year's now-dead plant stems: Preying Mantis egg cases, butterfly chrysalides, and moth cocoons. FOX SPARROWS were singing on January 19 on Berrytown Road in Cumberland County. Imagine that!

GREAT HORNED OWLS will be laying their eggs soon, they being the earliest nesting bird. They will use last season's Red-tailed Hawk nest, or perhaps the nest of an Osprey or a Great Blue Heron. On January 21 at 5:30 p.m. CMBO's "All About Owls" workshop group spotted a Great Horned Owl on a snag in the marsh at Jakes Landing Road. About 5 minutes later a 2nd owl sat next to it, undoubtedly a mated pair. Once the female has laid her eggs, don't expect to see two owls together at dusk. She tends to the nest and he tends to her. So, at least that pair has not yet laid eggs. Many are hearing Great Horned Owls call at dusk now. Be aware that they could be calling from quite close to the nest. And, not a surprise, they get silent once the eggs are laid.

SHORT-EARED OWLS continue to entertain at many of their favorite winter haunts. They've been seen hunting earlier in the day than just at dusk, so don't wait until near dark to go looking for them. A bird at Newport Landing in Cumberland County was seen flying quite high in the sky and appearing to clap its wings under itself . . . sure sounds like their display flight! On January 17, 7 were seen hunting at Brigantine NWR, 4 at Corbin City NWR, 3 at Jakes Landing, and 2 at Newport Landing.

CMBO's complete listing of "2004 Cape May Birding Workshops" is now posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to request a brochure be sent to you once available.

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, "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 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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