Cape May Natural History Hotline - 1/28/2005

This is Pat Sutton with the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This hotline was prepared on Friday, January 28. 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 website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (at the top of any page).

Heavy snowfall to the north has triggered a huge influx of BALD EAGLES and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS. Iced in waterways and marshes have pushed out waterfowl. GREEN-WINGED TEAL, PINTAIL, SNOW GEESE, and CANADA GEESE have left the area in huge numbers. A survey of the Mullica River on January 25 tallied 20 BALD EAGLES (including 7 adults), 42 N. HARRIER, 1 adult GOLDEN EAGLE, 2 MERLIN, 5 PEREGRINES, and 21 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS ... several winter's worth of Rough-legs! A survey of the Maurice River on January 24 tallied 19 BALD EAGLES (including 8 adults). A survey of the Great Egg Harbor River on January 21 tallied 8 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS from the Corbin City and Tuckahoe WMA dikes. Waterfowl had been forced out of the impoundments and into the only open water on the Tuckahoe River (best viewed from the boat launch at the end of Mosquito Landing Road in Tuckahoe). On January 21, 21 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, a male EURASIAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 63 COMMON MERGANSERS, and several HOODED MERGANSERS were seen from this spot. Learn this interesting area by joining Pat Sutton & Karen Johnson for the "Tuckahoe & Corbin City WMA Field Trip," Saturday, February 19 (2-6 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register!

RED-TAILED HAWKS were courting over Turkey Point on January 20. BALD EAGLES continue to spruce up their nest for the coming nesting season. On January 25, one adult flew over Rt. 47 with nest material, probably heading to the East Creek nest. They may lay eggs as early as early February. Join Pat Sutton for the popular "Winter Raptors of the Delaware Bayshore" Saturday, January 29 (9 -5:30). We're sure to be entertained by dozens of Bald Eagles! Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register! Cumberland County's "Winter Raptor Festival" will be held Saturday, February 5. CMBO staff and volunteers will be manning 4 raptor-rich outdoor sites during this festival. Call 856-453-2177 to pick up the festival flyer or stop by CMBO's Center in Goshen.

SHORT-EARED OWLS seem to be hunting early in the day with the frozen marshes; one might see them by 3 p.m. or earlier. One was enjoyed from Newport Landing on January 25 as it hunted over the marsh out by Gandy's Beach. On January 27, three were seen from Jakes Landing hunting out along the Delaware Bay against a dazzling clear red sky at dusk. This winter Corbin City WMA is another stronghold for Short-eared Owls, but the recent snow has made the driving dike deeply rutted and hazardous for anyone without 4-wheel drive. A SCREECH OWL took a sunbath in the entrance to a backyard nest box near the Rea Farm this week in the bitter cold. If you have a Screech Owl nest box, keep alert. You too may have an owl seeking shelter from this bitter cold winter in your box. GREAT HORNED OWLS will soon be on their nests, they being the earliest nesting bird. One pair entertained observers at Turkey Point on January 25 at 5:15 p.m. and another pair on January 27 at Jakes Landing at 5:30 p.m. Two excellent opportunities to enjoy raptors (owls, eagles, & hawks) and other birds include CMBO's (1) "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk, held every Sundays (8-10 a.m.) -- meets at 8 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County (reached from Rt. 553 south of the town of Dividing Creek), and (2) the "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" walk, offered every Sunday (4 p.m. to dusk), meets at 4 p.m. the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville.

Hundreds of TUNDRA SWANS were in the open water in the Wading River on January 25. 145 COMMON GOLDENEYE were in the Delaware Bay at the end of East Point Road on January 22 and a possible female BARROW'S GOLDENEYE (one with a full yellow bill) was with them. Be on the lookout to confirm this bird. The Avalon Seawatch is a hotspot for scoters and LONG-TAILED DUCKS. If you'd like to savor amorous waterfowl, be sure to sign up for the "Longtails in Love" field trip with Pat Sutton on Saturday, February 12 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Another waterfowl and N. Gannet learning opportunity is Mark Garland's February 20 "Birding From the Ferry" (7 to 11 a.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register for either trip! CMBO's Waterfowl Art Exhibit has opened at CMBO Center in Goshen. Stop by and be dazzled! The Opening Reception will be this Sunday, January 30 (2-4 p.m.)

Massive numbers of BOAT-TAILED GRACKLES were counted from Amassas Landing overlooking the Mullica River as they went to roost on January 25.

Roving flocks of AMERICAN ROBINS are searching for food. American Holly trees are the reason so many of them are here this winter. If there's a good holly berry crop, Robins winter here. If not, they migrate south. This winter they're here in force and roving around looking for holly trees that still have berries to stay ALIVE! A Robin flock on January 25 consumed all the hips on a tangle of Multiflora Roses.

Water is frozen solid everywhere and has been for at least a week now! Many birds are desperate for water to drink and to bath in. CMBO and many other NJ Audubon centers carry heated bird baths and heaters to place in bird baths. If you don't have one, get one. Birds need all the help they can get right now! CMBO has fielded a number of calls from people who have witnessed Robins being hit by cars or dozens of dead Robins along roadsides. The only available drinking and bathing water is along roadsides where ice and snow have been melted by the asphalt and in many cases by road salt. Some birds are so stressed by this weather that they are flushing into the path of high speed traffic and are being hit by cars. One wonders too if melted water tainted by road salt isn't contributing to their weakened condition.

A WILD TURKEY was found way up in the top of a small sapling eating buds on January 24. With 6 inches of snow on the ground wildlife needs to be resourceful!

Severe winter weather always forces AMERICAN WOODCOCK out of their normal deep cover. Needing to probe in soft earth for earthworms to stay alive, at times like this they can be found right out in the open along roadsides where the sun has warmed up the road shoulder. Ten were seen along Sunset Boulevard on January 25. Several others were along the exit road at the Cape May Point State Park. Also look for them along the Garden State Parkway. If you have an outdoor compost pile, you're likely to have a woodcock or two probing in the warm ground for a meal. Piles of leaves blanketing the ground also result in unfrozen spots and might keep a winter-stressed Woodcock alive. One more reason NOT to rake leaves. Leaves do break down into rich soil.

A RIVER OTTER feasted on a fish while lounging on an icy bank at Lower Bank on January 25.

The Cumberland Co. Christmas Bird Count was held on January 2. Sixty-seven participants tallied 125 species including some amazing finds. A WESTERN KINGBIRD was found near the Millville Recreational Area. Three CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS were found by two parties: 2 along Middle Marsh Road in Dix WMA and one along Reeves Road east of Bridgeton. An ICELAND GULL flew over the Union Lake boat ramp. A VESPER SPARROW was in the Bevan WMA on Ackley Road. 9 cranes (Sandhill x Common Cranes), a resident flock, was seen by 2 parties and watched as they went to roost at the end of Husted Landing Road in the marsh to the right of the road end/marina. Apparently this is a nightly ritual. If anyone gets photos, please e-mail them to Pat Sutton at CMBO (to determine lineage ... some might be pure Sandhills!). The count also tallied record numbers of RING-NECKED DUCKS (153), BALD EAGLES (58), WILD TURKEY (341), FISH CROW (7,473, mostly at a roost in Bridgeton), and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (94). It was a good night for owling too: 99 GREAT HORNED OWLS and 61 SCREECH OWLS.

CMBO's 2005 Cape May Birding Workshops are set. Registrations are being taken now. To receive the workshop brochure call 609-861-0700 or go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks05.html

Enjoy winter birds by attending upcoming CMBO programs:

Weekly walks (no advanced registration, $6 members, $10 for others): . Saturdays (8-10 a.m.), "Birding Cape May Point" meets at 8 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park. . Saturdays (2-4 p.m.), "Winter at the Rea Farm" with Mark Garland meets at 2 p.m. in the Rea Farm parking lot on Bayshore Road. . Sundays (8-10 a.m.), "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" meets at 8 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County (reached from Rt. 553 south of the town of Dividing Creek). . Sundays (4 p.m. to dusk), "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville.

Special programs and field trips in addition to those already mentioned follow (prices vary: call 609-861-0700 for info and to register): . Waterfowl Art Exhibit at CMBO Center in Goshen- Stop by and be dazzled! . BIRDING FROM THE FERRY with Mark Garland - Sunday, February 20 (7-11 a.m.) . OPTICS WORKSHOP at CMBO Northwood Center - Sunday, February 20 (1-3 p.m.) . WINTER AT TWO MILE BEACH with Mark Garland - Sunday, February 27 (1-4:30 p.m.) . CAPE MAY NWR Field Trip with Pat Sutton - Saturday, March 5 (1-4 p.m.) . WOODCOCK DANCE with Pat Sutton - Saturday, March 5 (5-7 p.m.) . BIRDING CUMBERLAND with Pat & Clay Sutton - Saturday, March 12 (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) . BIRDING FROM THE FERRY with Mark Garland - Saturday, March 26 (7-11 a.m.) . CMBO's 10th ANNUAL OPTICS SALE for CMBO or NJ Audubon members ONLY (become a member today to take advantage of the great deals!) - Saturday & Sunday, March 19-20 (9-4:30 p.m.)

Many other programs are scheduled for 2005; contact either CMBO Center for a copy of the Kestrel Express, which features the schedule, or go to NJ Audubon's website: http://www.njaudubon.org

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers an extensive series of regular bird walks that require no pre-registration and many special field trips and programs for which advanced registration is required. To receive a copy of the Winter Program Schedule (the Kestrel Express), stop at either CMBO Center, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

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 Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties. Updates are typically made on Thursdays. Please report your natural history sightings to CMBO's Center in Goshen at 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

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