Cape May Natural History Hotline - 1/24/2002

Hotline: Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline Number: (609) 861-0466 To Report: (609) 861-0700, 884-2736 Coverage: Cape May, Cumberland & Atlantic Counties, NJ Compiler: Pat Sutton, CMBO Staff URL: http://www.njaudubon.org

You have reached the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This update was made on Thursday, January 24. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

It's been an owly week. SNOWY OWLS are being discovered here and there and it's likely that most of them are different individuals. (1) An immature male (a pale bird with many light brown markings) was found January 23 on a roof top in Sea Isle City at 30th Street & Landis Avenue. It hopped from rooftop to rooftop, bobbing its head and very alert for prey in what seemed like a most unlikely setting, but a resident claims that a SNOWY OWL has shown up at this spot for a brief stay each winter for the past 6 years. (2) A SNOWY OWL was found on January 22 in Wildwood Crest on the beach at Louisville Avenue. (3) A SNOWY OWL was found on January 17 at Stone Harbor Point. (4) And the SNOWY OWL continues to be seen DAILY at Forsythe NWR (known fondly as "Brig" or "Brigantine Refuge"), including yesterday January 23, when it was found in the East Pool. Earlier this winter there were as many as 3 Snowy Owls at the refuge. Observers are conscientiously writing their sightings in the log book, so double check it before heading out onto the dike. Snowy Owls can be quite sedentary during the day, tucking in out of the wind but often choosing a sunny spot. One wouldn't think that a large white owl could hide, but they are quite capable of being easily overlooked. If you don't succeed on your own, look for the gathering of birders with scopes & you're sure to find the Snowy Owl(s).

SHORT-EARED OWLS have started to show up regularly. 3 were enjoyed at Jakes Landing at dusk (@ 5:10 p.m. till dark) on January 23. From the road end, looking right, out to where the creek disappears, the birds were hunting behind and along the stretch of tall phragmites. 2 have been seen over the past week from the bridge at the end of Hansey Creek Road in Cumberland County.

SCREECH OWLS are frequenting nest boxes and hollow trees now. One backyard habitat gardener first noted the return of a bird in September. Another's returned December 30th. In each case the birds have been seen mid-day, when the sun in warmest, looking out of the hole and warming up. Also in each case the birds come to the hole promptly at 4:30 p.m. and lean way out, twitching in the hole as they actively turn their heads to the right and left as they listen and look for prey. There is about a half-hour window of time to enjoy this owl activity if you've discovered a Screech Owl using a nest box or hollow tree.

BARRED OWLS have been vocal recently at the Rea Farm, most recently heard on January 21.

Several pairs of GREAT HORNED OWLS have gotten deathly quiet in the last week. They haven't left, but this quiet stretch is often an indication that they've laid their eggs. Other pairs are still hooting each dawn and dusk. Each pair that has been calling for the last several months is near its nest. Their hooting is a declaration of the territory they've set up. If you have heard the male's hoot, "whoo-who-who-who, whoooo, whoooo," and the female's lower answer ("wooo woooo") you can be assured that a pair is nesting somewhere nearby right now. Great Horned Owls are our earliest nesting birds, laying eggs in late January. With the winter woods free of leaves you can see into the forest. Use this opportunity to look for old raptor, crow, heron, or Osprey nests that Great Horned Owls may use, especially in areas where you've been hearing their hooting.

CMBO's "ALL ABOUT OWLS: Workshop and Field Trip" is an excellent opportunity to learn how and where to look for owls &, with luck, even see and hear some owls! The January 23 workshop enjoyed a dazzling Snowy Owl in Sea Isle City and 3 Short-eared Owls at Jakes Landing. The final workshop on Friday, February 1, still has room. Pat Sutton, coauthor of "How to Spot an Owl," is teaching these workshops. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS are being reported all of a sudden, so there's been some sort of influx. 2 dark individuals were enjoyed January 21 during CMBO's Turkey Point walk. A dark individual was at Brigantine NWR on January 18.

A BALD EAGLE was hunting early on January 18 & 19, found between 7-7:30 a.m. chasing thousands of SNOW GEESE around at Jakes Landing. New Jersey's resident adult BALD EAGLES (31 pairs in 2001) are paired up and many are being found at or near their nests right now. A Bald Eagle nest visible (with the aide of a telescope) from the end of Newport Landing Road in Cumberland County is a rare opportunity to view eagle activity. The MIDWINTER BALD EAGLE SURVEY (January 12 & 13) covered the 7 southernmost counties in New Jersey and found 118 Bald Eagles (77 adults and 41 immatures). If you should see any nesting activity, which is very likely at this time of year, be sure to report it to Larissa Smith at the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program's Tuckahoe office: 609-628-2103. Adults with sticks are surely taking them back to their nests. All such sightings are of interest.

CMBO's upcoming "Winter Raptors of the Delaware Bayshore" field trip on Saturday, February 2nd, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. still has room, as do the 7 scheduled "Maurice River Bald Eagle Cruises" in March and early April. Call CMBO for more details or to register at 609-861-0700, x-11.

Stone Harbor Point is a hotspot now for shorebirds and waterfowl. On January 19, 300 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, 4 female COMMON EIDER, and SURF SCOTERS were seen there, and at the nearby 114th Street Jetty there were 250 DUNLIN, 35 PURPLE SANDPIPER, and RUDDY TURNSTONES.

Spring is in the air! MEADOWLARKS were singing at Jakes Landing on January 18. The laughing call of LAUGHING GULLS is just around the corner. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal has attracted 1 LAUGHING GULL, up to 20 FORSTER'S TERNS, & 2 LITTLE GULLS, seen off and on since January 21.

A nomadic flock of E. BLUEBIRDS comes to feed in the meadow at CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen several times each week. The wildflower and tall grass meadow, as well as the still standing gardens (full of plant stalks and seed heads), is insect rich and very attractive to wintering bluebirds, just the way we planned it in CMBO's "Model Backyard Habitat."

COYOTES reports continue to come in south of the Cape May Canal, and for eastern Coyotes they are being very vocal. One group has been heard along Route 626 or Seashore Road a mile or so south of the Canal. One or two groups have been heard from New England Road, one on either side. Coyotes have a very restricted breeding season, generally from January through March. They give birth in a den which they've either made themselves or remodeled from a fox or skunk hole. These new residents are doing an excellent job of keeping feral cats under control, or so it seems, since very few feral cats have been seen since the Coyotes moved into the area . . . certainly a positive change for migratory songbirds!

Three of CMBO's weekly winter walks are underway. And a lot of goodies are around. These walks require no preregistration; JUST COME! There is a charge ($6 CMBO/ NJ Audubon member; $10 nonmember).

(1) The "Birding Cape May Point" walk is offered every SATURDAY, through March 30 (10 a.m. to Noon), and meets at the Cape May Point State Park in the raised picnic pavilion. Some of the goodies enjoyed at Cape May Point so far this winter include AMERICAN BITTERN & LEAST BITTERN, PINTAIL, HOODED MERGANSERS, N. SHOVELER, COOT, RING-NECKED DUCK, SNIPE, CEDAR WAXWING, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, PURPLE FINCH, BALTIMORE ORIOLE and more! On January 19, a RAZORBILL was sitting in the waters just off the State Park, so anything's possible!

(2) The "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk is offered every SUNDAY, through March 31 (8 to 10 a.m.), and meets at the wildlife viewing platform at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County (reached from Route 553 west or north of the town of Dividing Creek). Pete & Linda Dunne, and Karen Williams are the leaders and so far this winter have been enjoying at Turkey Point lots of close looks at SNOW GEESE, most mornings GREAT HORNED OWLS at dawn, RED-TAILED HAWKS on territory, adult and immature BALD EAGLES, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, MARSH WRENS, VIRGINIA and CLAPPER RAILS, and some days even looks at FOX, OTTER, and one day a MINK. There have also been lots of waterfowl, including all 3 MERGANSERS. Shorebirds enjoyed there include: AMERICAN WOODCOCK, SNIPE, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, DUNLIN and DOWITCHER.

(3) The "Delaware Bayshore Birding" walk is offered every MONDAY, through April 1 (10 a.m. to Noon), and meets at the CMBO Center for Research & Education in Goshen. N. HARRIERS, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, BALD EAGLE, BLACK VULTURES, thousands upon thousands of SNOW GEESE, CANVASBACK at Reeds Beach, and more are all possible.

For a complete listing of CMBO's WINTER PROGRAMS (January through March 2002) stop by either of our centers and pick up the Winter Kestrel Express, or call 609-861-0700 and ask us to mail it to you, or go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html

HIGHLIGHTS OF A FEW UPCOMING PROGRAM (in addition to those already detailed above) follow:

"WINTER RAPTORS OF THE DELAWARE BAYSHORE," an all day field trip, on Saturday, February 2 (8 a.m - 5 p.m) will explore this winter wonderland looking for clouds of Snow Geese, which often give a hunting Bald Eagle's presence away, Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Turkey and Black Vultures, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, and Short-eared Owls. Other possibilities during the day, if the group is lucky, include American Kestrel, Red-shouldered Hawk, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Golden Eagle. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY's WINTER RAPTOR FESTIVAL on Saturday, February 9, is being hosted by Cumberland County. Don't miss this grand event! For all information about this festival, contact Cumberland County's Planning and Development Office at 856-453-2177. CMBO is very involved & will leaders stationed at outdoor viewing sites and be offering several of the indoor programs, but the contact for more information is Cumberland County.

Join us for one, several, or all four BIRDING FOR BEGINNERS (Wednesday, February 13; Saturday, February 23; Wednesday, March 6; Saturday, March 16) from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. These slow-paced field trips will visit one or more natural areas on Cape Island. Each meets at the CMBO Northwood Center in Cape May Point and begins with that site's feeding station. Other destinations will be chosen based on the weather and on recent sightings. No previous birding experience necessary. Time will be spent with every bird seen, discussing identification and natural history. No need to register, JUST COME. There is a charge ($6 CMBO/ NJ Audubon member; $10 nonmember).

"LONGTAILS IN LOVE" on Saturday, February 16 (10 a.m. - 2 p.m.) will explore the winter waterways in search of courting Longtails, since they'll soon be heading north to the Arctic where they breed. We'll also enjoy a host of other winter waterfowl, but only the Longtails and Common Goldeneyes will be displaying. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

A series of 4 "GARDENING FOR WILDLIFE WORKSHOPS" are scheduled and still have room. (1) Saturday, February 23: "How to Create a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife." (2) Saturday, March 2: "How to Create a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden." (3) Saturday, March 9: "How to Create a Wildflower Meadow & a Pond for Wildlife." (4) Saturday, March 16: "How to Maintain Your Wildlife Habitat." All run from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and will be taught by Pat Sutton and Karen Williams. Learn how to enhance your backyard landscaping for wildlife. Shake the winter, embrace spring, and come learn how you can plan your own backyard to attract showy hummingbirds, monarchs and other butterflies, bluebirds and other nesting birds, wintering birds, and so much more! These workshops have been scheduled for late winter, the perfect time to plan your gardens, order plants and seeds, and dream of the coming months. The first workshop is the backbone to the series and will supply a good foundation for the other three workshops. Topics covered during the final workshop will include pruning and shaping trees and shrubs, techniques for late winter clean-up, spring chores like dividing and moving perennials, new bed preparation, soil maintenance and nourishment, selection of annual seed varieties, starting annuals from seed, and much more. Each workshop will include a question and answer session regarding each landowner's particular situation. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

7 different MAURICE RIVER BALD EAGLE CRUISES still have room. 2 trips on Saturday, March 23 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-3:30 p.m.); Sunday, March 24 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.); Saturday, March 30 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.); 2 trips on Saturday, April 6 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-3:30 p.m.); Sunday, April 7 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.). Pick the date that suits you and join us! The Maurice River, a federally designated "Wild and Scenic River," attracts one of the largest concentrations of wintering Bald Eagles in the state and hosts three nesting pairs. We sail right by one of the nests and by late March their nesting season is well along, eggs are due to hatch. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

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 and natural history significance of Cape May. Your membership supports these goals and this hotline. For more information call 609-861-0700 or send a request for information to CMBO, 600 Route 47 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210. Our two centers are CMBO's Center for Research & Education at 600 Route 47 North in Goshen and CMBO's Northwood Center at 701 East Lake Drive in Cape May Point.

The Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline is a service of New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties and near shore waters. Updates are made on Thursday evenings. Please report natural history sightings to CMBO at 609-861-0700 or 609-884-2736. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call 609-898-BIRD. 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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