Cape May Natural History Hotline - 1/3/2002

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 3rd, and will be updated every other week due to travel. So, look for the next update on January 17th. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

Good numbers of wintering Bald Eagles were discovered during the Cumberland County Christmas Bird Count on December 30. Following CMBO's map to haunts along the Delaware Bayshore should certainly put you in proximity of some or many of these eagles. 5+ Red-shouldered Hawks were found too during this count.

New Jersey's resident adult BALD EAGLES (31 pairs in 2001) are paired up and being found at or near their nests. Who knows what 2002 will bring! 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.

Winter is a wonderful time in southern New Jersey to study and enjoy owls, raptors, and waterfowl ... all concentrate here at that time of year. There are dozens of excellent vantage points, including the various roads out to the Delaware Bay all along the western edge of Cape May and Cumberland Counties. Begin in Cape May County at Jakes Landing and work your way north and west to Stipson's Island Road, East Point, then cross the Maurice River and head towards Port Norris where you can access the marsh via a number of boardwalk trails and an observation tower at Bivalve, then continue on 553 west and enjoy access at Warren Avenue, Robbinstown Road, Berrytown Road, Hansey Creek Road, Maple Street, Turkey Point, Fortescue Road, Gandy's Beach Road, Newport Landing and on and on and on. Stop by CMBO and get a copy of the Delaware Bayshore Birding map, plus pick up one of the Patton Maps to Cumberland County for all the roads ... so you don't get too lost, but getting lost might be key to finding even more in this rich area.

Pairs of GREAT HORNED OWLS will soon nest, hence all the hooting each dawn and dusk, and sometimes even through the night or mid-day. They are very wound up right now. With day length shortening, they may begin their dueting by 2:30 p.m. or earlier. Each pair calling is near its potential nest site. Their hooting is a declaration of the territory they've set up. If you should hear 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 will nest somewhere nearby come late January. Now that the deciduous trees are bare and you can see through a forest, it is time to haunt the woods looking for old raptor, crow, or heron nests that Great Horned Owls may nest in, since they do not build their own nest.

BARRED OWLS have been vocal too the last few moonlit nights near Hidden Valley Ranch. They too are no doubt beginning to set up their nesting territory.

Some lucky backyard habitat owners in northern Cape May County had a SCREECH OWL move into their nest box. Nest boxes are often used in winter to get out of bad weather or as a safe "out of sight" roost site. For a week they watched it come to the entrance promptly at 4 p.m., grow more and more alert as 5 p.m. approached, and begin the hunt at about 5 p.m.

1 SNOWY OWL continues to be seen DAILY at Forsythe NWR (known fondly as "Brig" or "Brigantine Refuge"), including yesterday January 2, 2002, when it was found in the center of East Pool. Earlier this winter there were as many as 3 Snowy Owls there. 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. Be sure to scan the marsh and mud edges, as well as any elevated perch, like the small cedars or snags in the East Pool. 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 are being seen by keen observers putting time in at dusk and dawn. Recent reports include: 1 January 1st at Jakes Landing practically at dark, 2 on January 1 at Hansey Creek at 4:15 p.m, and 1 at dawn on December 30 from the Natural Lands Trust "Glades Wildlife Refuge" observation tower reached from Fortescue Road.

A RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, first found December 8, continues at feeders in Cape May Point, and was most recently seen today, January 3. It is coming to the feeder at 404 Central Avenue and the feeder across the street at 407 Central Avenue, 1 block from Lily Lake. Both feeders can be easily viewed from the road shoulder. Both properties are owned by CMBO members who have embraced the idea of "Backyard Habitat," promoted by CMBO for over 15 years. The BELL'S VIREO, first discovered on the Cape May CBC on December 16, too was attracted to a CMBO member's natural habitat rich property, a property the owners intentionally managed for wildlife. (For details on the Bell's Vireo, go to CMBO's Birding Hotline at 609-898-BIRD.) Create the habitat and they will come. And they have. It is very fitting that these most unusual birds have been attracted to properties intentionally managed for wildlife. Now, if each of us could convince just one neighbor to consider alternatives to lawn and ornamental non-native plantings, think what might benefit! Maybe show that neighbor a hummingbird in your garden or yard next summer and get the "habitat seed" planted. Might be all it takes . . .

The Cape May Point hummingbird is just one of three Rufous Hummingbirds in New Jersey right now. A second is in Columbia and a third in Barnegat. Any hummingbird seen this late in the season is NOT likely to be a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but instead a western rarity. So, if you should see a hummingbird now, take careful notes, try to capture it on film or video, and be sure to call in your reports to CMBO.

The meadow at CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen has attracted a feeding flock of E. BLUEBIRDS. Most recently they were enjoyed January 2nd as they drank from the edges of the dragonfly pond on an icy cold day when that was the only available water. 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."

COYOTE 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!


For a copy 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

A "Purple Martin Workshop" on January 19 (10 a.m.-Noon) at the CMBO Center for Research & Education in Goshen. Yes, it's time to begin thinking of preparations for your own backyard so that you're ready for the 2002 Purple Martin season & perhaps enjoy more success than you ever have in the past! Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

"ALL ABOUT OWLS: Workshop and Field Trip" offered from 1-5:30 p.m. on 3 different dates: Saturday, January 19; Wednesday, January 23;, and Friday, February 1. Pat Sutton, coauthor of "How to Spot an Owl," will teach these workshops. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register


(1) "Delaware Bayshore Birding," every Monday, January 14 to April 1 (10 a.m. to Noon), meets at the CMBO Center for Research & Education in Goshen.

(2) "Birding Cape May Point," every Saturday, January 19 to March 30 (10 a.m. to Noon), meets at the Cape May Point State Park in the raised picnic pavilion.

(3) "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point," every Sunday, January 20 to March 31 (8 to 10 a.m.), 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).

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 usually made on Thursday evenings (except during this holiday season, when they will be made every other Thursday). 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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