Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/11/2001

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, October 11th. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

CMBO's Cape May Hawkwatch crew this fall is composed of Bruce McWhorter, the counter; Brennan Mulrooney, the back-up counter, and two Interpretive Naturalists, Jennifer Leyhe and Derek Lovitch. If you're brand new to hawk watching or to Cape May's hawkwatch, be sure to take advantage of CMBO's Hawk ID Mini-workshops (each Friday and Saturday through Oct. 20th, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) and taught by Jennifer or Derek. Jennifer and Derek are on the Cape May Hawkwatch Platform at the Cape May Point State Park each day to help folks with raptor identification and understanding the flight. Normally raptors are low and hunting in the early morning and again by mid-to-late afternoon and early evening. Mid-day they are often quite high, due to thermals or warm air rising.

The CAPE MAY HAWKWATCH began on September 1st and is now in its second month. As of October 10th over 16,400 raptors have been recorded. The October 7th coldfront produced a flight of 1,827 raptors, included 16 BALD EAGLES, 32 N. HARRIER, 591 SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS, 87 COOPER'S HAWKS, 70 BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, and a dazzling falcon flight of 944 AM. KESTREL, 56 MERLIN, and 13 PEREGRINES. Kestrels were EVERYWHERE that week & might still be enjoyed in numbers in the evening perched on wires along Bayshore and New England Roads as they hunt the surrounding farm fields for insects. 55 PEREGRINES passed on October 6. 789 raptors on October 8th included the season's 1st GOLDEN EAGLE. BALD EAGLES continue to pass through daily, with a season total of 153 as of October 10. To view the CMBO Hawkwatch daily totals, go to: http://www.capemaytimes.com/birds/hawkwatch.htm#totals

The NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Program recently shared that NJ's nesting Bald Eagle population now stands at 31 pairs. These adults do not migrate, and in recent weeks observers have noticed that many of them are again spending time back at their nest. Bald Eagles and Great Horned Owls are our earliest nesting birds, so they are already setting up territories.

CMBO's Avalon Seawatch crew this fall is composed of Karl Bardon, the counter, Brennan Mulrooney, the back-up counter, Cameron Cox, the Interpretive Naturalist, and CMBO Associate Naturalists Gail Dwyer and BJ Pinnock, who teach Seabird ID Mini-workshops at the Avalon Seawatch (7th Street and the beach in Avalon) each Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to Noon, now through October 21. Bring a scope and your binoculars and enjoy the flight of seabirds as they migrate south along the coastline, often passing quite close to the Seawatch at the north end of Avalon because it juts a mile out into the ocean.

The AVALON SEAWATCH began on September 22nd and has already recorded 78,000 seabirds. September 29, October 2, and October 10 each saw flights of 60+ COMMON LOONS. NORTHERN GANNET are just beginning. 11 GREAT CORMORANT have been recorded, mixed in with over 26,000 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT that have passed the Seawatch to date. The first big SNOW GOOSE push came on October 6 with 262 birds, but a flight of 1,772 followed on the 8th, along with 900 BRANT. 1 COMMON EIDER was seen on October 9. Scoters or sea ducks are moving by in good numbers now, long strings of them often moving low over the water. 15,000 BLACK SCOTERS have been recorded to date, including close to 10,000 on October 9. 4,500 SURF SCOTER have been recorded to date, with really big flights the last 2 days (1,770 on October 9 & 1,840 on October 10). WHITE-WINGED SCOTER are "just" beginning, only 5 to date, including 2 on October 10. 31 PARASITIC JAEGER have been recorded to date, with an amazing 17 seen on October 10.

CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project began September 1st. Chris Kisiel is this fall's Monarch Migration Technician. As of October 10th over 6,000 Monarchs have been tagged at Cape May Point by this project and already 2 of our tagged Monarchs have been seen ALIVE further south on their migration route. Tagged by CMBO at Cape May Point on September 29, they were seen by Denise Gibbs on October 7, who is monitoring Monarch migration at Chincoteague, Virginia. For a history of CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project and details on this fall's weekly road census, go to: http://www.concord.org/~dick/mon.html

Major coldfronts at the end of September and in the first half of October, with winds from the north and northwest, triggered major and dramatic MONARCH movements through the Cape May Peninsula. In between each wave of migrating Monarchs, warm weather periods have still been monarch-filled with gardens full of nectaring butterflies, including October 10, when several hundred Monarchs were counted in a dozen gardens and roadside Goldenrod stands in Cape May Point. Monarchs will continue to migrate through with each cold front, though by late October and into November each sighting will be a treat.

Some local Monarchs are still mating, laying eggs on Milkweed, and dying. These eggs will develop and become the final fall generation (the generation that migrates), about a month or so after the egg is laid. On October 10, 2 Monarchs were seen mating and one garden of milkweed still had 6 Monarch caterpillars and 2 chrysalides. It will be curious to see how late our local Monarchs will lay eggs this fall. The warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay buffer the tip of the Cape May Peninsula and we may see Monarchs laying eggs into early November. To witness this incredible life cycle, be sure to stop by CMBO's Northwood Center, where a terrarium is set up with live caterpillars, chrysalises, and emerging Monarchs.

Butterfly diversity is waning now. Though on October 10th a CMBO butterfly walk enjoyed 13 species, including 2 GRAY HAIRSTREAKS, 4 southern vagrant species (VARIEGATED FRITILLARY at the Rea Farm, COMMON CHECKERED SKIPPER, FIERY SKIPPER, and handful of SACHEMS in gardens in Cape May Point) and 4 southbound migrant species aside from Monarchs (25 AMERICAN LADIES, 100 PAINTED LADIES, 200+ RED ADMIRALS, and 1 COMMON BUCKEYE). A late season WHITE M HAIRSTREAK was in a garden in the Villas on October 4.

There is an unusual incursion of 2 southern butterflies occurring right now in coastal areas: S. DOGFACE & CASSIUS BLUES. They've been reported as far north as coastal Virginia. Keep your eyes open!

Good places to view and enjoy migrating & nectaring butterflies (BUT NOT TO COLLECT or MANHANDLE them, since all gardens in South Jersey are butterfly sanctuaries!!!) include the various public gardens in Cape May County, all of which are noted on CMBO's "Birding & Butterflying Map": (1) Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Gardens in North Wildwood, (2) Pavilion Circle Gardens in Cape May Point, (3) Cape May Water Conservation Garden in Cape May, (4) Cape May Bird Observatory's Center for Research & Education "Model Backyard Habitat" gardens in Goshen, (5) Cape May Bird Observatory's Northwood Center gardens in Cape May Point, (6) NJ Audubon's Nature Center of Cape May gardens in Cape May, and on many of CMBO's scheduled bird and or butterfly walks (in the various natural areas around Cape May and Cape May County).

Be sure to take advantage of the many CMBO programs where you can learn more about MONARCHS: (1) "Monarch Tagging Demos," Thursdays through Mondays from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m., until October 14, (2) Sunday and Wednesday "Butterfly Walks" from 10 a.m. to Noon, until October 17. For full details about these various programs (or one of the countless other walks, workshops, field trips, and programs happening right now) go to New Jersey Audubon Society's web site (http://www.njaudubon.org) -- then to "Fall Program Schedule" -- then to Cape May Bird Observatory . . . or go directly there by typing in the following website: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

New Jersey Audubon's web site has the Cape May County Butterfly Checklist available as a download: http://www.njaudubon.org/NatureNotes/bflies.html

COYOTES continue to be seen and heard in the Higbee Beach area and along New England Road. 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!

TALL or GIANT SUNFLOWER and SEASIDE GOLDENROD are both in bloom right now and drawing in hungry MONARCHS and other butterflies.

Wildlife gardens in Cape May and Cumberland Counties continue to report one or two RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS. On October 10, one nectared on Salvia coccinea in a garden while another was seen at a feeder in Cape May Point, and 3 others were at a feeder in Mauricetown. Most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have migrated south. From now on, question any hummingbird you see, even if it looks like a female or immature Ruby-throated Hummingbird, since western rarities occur from now on.

Male GREAT HORNED OWLS have been setting up territories by hooting at dawn and dusk for several weeks now. If you should hear the male's hoot, "whoo-who-who-who, whoooo, whoooo," you can be assured that a pair will nest somewhere nearby come January.

Fall colors have swept through the forests and road shoulders. Sumac and Virginia Creeper add crimson red. Even poison ivy is gorgeous this time of year with its multicolored leaves and white berries. Stands of Pokeweed, Virginia Creeper, and Arrowwood Viburnum are ripe with deep purple berries now and drawing in good numbers of migrant songbirds, especially Catbirds and Thrushes. Migrant birds are also counting on Bayberries, Waxmyrtle berries, and Poison Ivy berries right now.

New Jersey Audubon Society's 55th Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend (& THE Bird Show) is scheduled for October 26-28, 2001, peak time for migration and all its magic! To receive the brochure stop by either CMBO center or call 609-884-2736 or go to the web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/BirdShow

The Cape May Bird Observatory has daily walks, requiring no pre-registration, and many special field trips and programs that do. To receive a copy of our Program Schedule, stop by our centers, or call 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's WEB SITE at http://www.njaudubon.org

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!

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