Cape May Natural History Hotline - 1/31/2002
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 31. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

Special winter treats include BONAPARTE'S GULLS, one of our prettiest gulls, almost a tern want-to-be. A Rotary Park just beyond the Cape May Ferry Terminal entrance offers excellent looks at these dainty gulls. Several hundred have been attracted to this site and can be seen resting in the canal waters or dancing over the water in search of food. On January 26th, dozens were perched on the close shore, offering up-close, excellent looks. LITTLE GULLS are an added bonus at this site. 3 adults and 1 immature were seen there January 26. Also a LAUGHING GULL, unusual in winter, has been attracted to this site and was most recently reported there on January 28, along with 10 or so FORSTER'S TERNS.

Another winter destination not to be missed is a walk along the Barnegat Light jetty to savor wintering HARLEQUIN DUCKS (that were first reported there November 6, 2001). 18 (including males and females) were there on January 28, along with 1 female COMMON EIDER. The Harlequin Ducks were in three small groups of 5-7 birds, scattered the length of the jetty, and each group was actively diving and feeding around one particular rock or rocky edge of the jetty that must have held savory delights. We watched them pop up like air bubbles after each dive for food; one came up with a 3" long fish that was a struggle to get down. The Common Eider was all the way out at the end of the jetty. A group of 30 or so SNOW BUNTINGS flushed from the dune area and flew around for some time before settling down out of sight in the dunes again. An enormous grouping of 1,000s of LONG-TAILED DUCKS were barely visible in the distance beyond the je tty on the north side of the inlet.

Exploring the beach front and back bay waterways anywhere in the state, in winter, is another must. Popping out to a variety of jetties in Avalon, Stone Harbor, and the Wildwoods on January 29 afforded a variety of looks (some close, some far while scanning offshore) at N. GANNET, RED-THROATED LOONS, COMMON LOONS, HORNED GREBE, SURF & BLACK SCOTER, LONG-TAILED DUCKS, and RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS. Some of the beaches held WILLET (pale gray western birds), BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, RUDDY TURNSTONE, SANDERLING, and DUNLIN. Some of the jetties (those that still have waves washing around them and those that haven't been disturbed by fishermen) had feeding PURPLE SANDPIPERS sneaking in and out of the rocks after food that each new wave deposited. The back bay marshes and waterways in this same stretch held numbers of GREAT BLUE HERONS, several GREAT EGRETS, lone rafts of GREATER SCAUP, LESSER SCAUP, HOODED MERGANSER, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, YELLOWLEGS, and 8,000+ BRANT. One enormous flock of Brant at 80th Street and the back bay in Stone Harbor is an auditory experience as well as a visual treat. Stop to listen to the din of their soft gargling "rrot."

On January 29th, many of the ducks were already wound up for spring and going through courtship displays and calling, including the LONG-TAILED DUCKS (where numbers of males frisked after lone females), RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS (where males arched their necks back and scooted after females). American Oystercatchers were also very vocal and chasing each other about.

The waterfowl show at Forsythe NWR (fondly known as "Brig") includes excellent looks at thousands upon thousands of SNOW GEESE (all talking -- another auditory experience), N. PINTAIL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, AM. BLACK DUCKS, N. SHOVELER, and more.

On the owl front . . . The SNOWY OWLS at "Brig" are getting harder and harder to see. A white bag in the Peregrine hack box has been mi stakenly ID'd as a Snowy Owl. The sighting sheets at the refuge share sightings from January 21, 23, and 28. If anyone should see the bird there, please call it in to CMBO with a description of the plumage (dark, light, whatever). On January 29 a SNOWY OWL was at Corson's Inlet State Park. And today, January 31, a SNOWY OWL was discovered on a roof top in Cape May at the corner of New Jersey and Reading Avenues.

SHORT-EARED OWLS continue to be seen at a few locations, though numbers are definitely not thick this winter. 2 birds were enjoyed at dusk on January 27 at Jakes Landing. From the road end, looking right, out to where the creek disappears, the birds were hunting behind and along the stretch of tall phragmites. 3 were seen January 25 from the end of Hansey Creek Road in Cumberland County, 2 hunting the marshes north of the road and the 3rd bird out towards the Delaware Bay. BARRED OWLS continue to be vocal near the Rea Farm, most recently heard on January 29.

Some pairs of GREAT HORNED OWLS have gotten deathly quiet in the last two weeks. 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. Downy, tawny-colored feathers caught on the nest edge may be an indication that the nest is being used by Great Ho rned Owls. Until the young hatch and begin to grow, the adult female will be nearly impossible to see as she hides deep down in the nest.

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK reports this week have come in from Jakes Landing on January 28 and Turkey Point on January 27. The pair of BALD EAGLES at Stow Creek (at the northern end of Cumberland County, on the Salem County line) have rebuilt their nest that blew down in early October of 2001. Good news! 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. Most mornings and evenings keen observers can enjoy one or both of the East Creek Lake birds sitting in one of the dead pine trees on the back side of the lake (on Route 347 in Cape May County). The MIDWINTER BALD EAGLE SURVEY (January 12 & 13), cove ring the 7 southernmost counties in New Jersey, 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.

AMERICAN WOODCOCK were heard displaying on January 29 & 30, along Bayshore Road near the Beanery. Not surprising with the incredibly warm weather we've been having. Even in colder years, we often hear them off and on through the winter on warmer nights. Listen for the deep "peent" that is repeated several times before the male launches himself skyward to perform an aerial ballet for nearby ladies. This activity bodes well for CMBO's upcoming "WOODCOCK WALKS AT THE MEADOWS." This walk will be offered every Friday, beginning February 15 and run through March 29 (5:30 p. m. to dark). This walk meets at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard to enjoy this magic season at a magic time when local birders have come to expect woodcock displaying, snipe on the move, Virginia Rails calling, and other signs of spring. No preregistration is needed; just come!

The unseasonably warm weather also triggered a rash of butterfly and bat sightings. Temperatures rose to an incredible 64 degrees F. on January 29 and 30. Some hibernating critters took advantage of the situation. 17 RED BATS were seen over Route 347 at dusk on January 30th as they hawked flying insects. Also on January 30, a MOURNING CLOAK was seen flying at Jakes Landing. When the cold hits again the bats and the Mourning Cloak will go back to their safe shelter awaiting the next wave of spring weather. ORANGE SULPHURS and CLOUDED SULPHURS are a different story. 2 ORANGE SULPHURS were seen January 27 at Turkey Point, 9 ORANGE SULPHURS and 1 CLOUDED SULPHUR were seen in Goshen on January 30. Sulphurs do not hibernate as adults through the winter, but emerge as spring arrives. So, these early emergents are probably doomed to die when the next cold winter blast hits.

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 continue to be seen and heard south of the Cape May Canal. For eastern Coyotes they have been 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 RED-THROATED LOON, TUNDRA SWAN, AMERICAN BITTERN & LEAST BITTERN, PINTAIL, HOODED MERGANSERS, N. SHOVELER, CANVASBACK, 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" wa lk 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 & RED-TAILED HAWKS, BALD EAGLE, BLACK VULTURES, thousands upon thousands of SNOW GEESE, BROWN CREEPER, FOX SPARROW, E. MEADOWLARK, 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:

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 Developm ent 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 o f 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, an d 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.

"7th GREAT ANNUAL DUCK ROUND-UP IN CAPE MAY & CUMBERLAND COUNTIES" on Saturday, March 9 (8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) with Pete Dunne and Jay Darling (Captain of the Mighty Waterfowlers Team on the World Series of Birding). Oceanfront hot spots and little known Delaware Bayshore sites will be visited. Late winter/early spring is the time of peak diversity; 23 or so species of waterfowl, plus an assortment of other sea and land birds, is possible! There's still room!!! 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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