Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/11/2003

You have reached the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This message was prepared on Saturday, October 11. 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 web site (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" at the top of any page.

CMBO's 5th Autumn Open House program will be held on Saturday evening, October 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the CMBO Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North). Kevin Karlson will share his beautiful photographs of the incredible 2003 nesting season and other visitors this year to nearby "Stone Harbor Point." Come be dazzled! Each Saturday evening in the fall consider dropping in for these informal programs by local naturalists: BJ Pinnock on "Videos from Australia" on Oct. 18 and Paul Lehman on "Fall Birding in the Bering Sea Region of Alaska" on Oct. 25. Mark your calendars!

It's the peak of the Cape May hawk and eagle migration and CMBO's "5-day Fall Raptor Workshop," Friday through Tuesday (October 17-21), with Pete Dunne, Clay Sutton and Pat Sutton still has room. This workshop spans 5 days so that chances are better that it will include one or two good coldfronts and excellent in-the-field learning opportunities under one of the greatest hawk migrations in the U.S. with leaders that will make learning fun and memorable! Stop by either CMBO Center to register or call 609-861-0700 for more details. The Cape May Hawkwatch, again sponsored by Swarovski Optik, has tallied over 22,400 raptors since September 1, including 98 BALD EAGLES. The season's first SWAINSON'S HAWK was seen October 7. Recent coldfronts (north and northwest winds) triggered big flights this week on October 5 (1,055), 6 (2,186), 7 (1,303), and 10 (1,023). Bald Eagles have been daily with 6 on the 5th and 7 on the 6th. The rest of these big flights have included (with some high counts noted): OSPREY (93 on Oct. 6th), N. HARRIER (137 on Oct. Oct. 6th), SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (965 on Oct. 6, 760 on Oct. 7, 592 on Oct. 10), COOPER'S HAWK (356 on Oct. 6, 226 on Oct. 7), BROAD-WINGED HAWK (318 on Oct. 6), AMERICAN KESTREL (259 on Oct. 5, 144 on Oct. 10), MERLIN (82 on Oct. 5), and PEREGRINE (118 on Oct. 6, 74 on Oct. 9, 55-65 Oct. 7, 8, & 10). If you're keen to learn your raptors and don't have 5 days to join Pete, Clay & Pat, join CMBO's seasonal interpretive naturalists up on the hawkwatch (all day every day), and also consider attending one of the "Hawk ID Mini-Workshops," every Friday and Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This workshop begins with an indoor session in the Cape May Point State Park classroom and ends with an outdoor session testing your skills on real live raptors overhead.

The CMBO Avalon Seawatch, sponsored by Nikon Sports Optics, tallied over 32,000 seabirds between September 22 and October 7. Andy Wraithmell, from the U.K, and Bob Diebold are this year's counters and Julie Diebold is the Interpretive Naturalist. Please welcome them when you stop by! 1000s of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS have been moving (6,450 on Oct. 7) and 100s of GREEN-WINGED TEAL (426 on Oct. 3) and scoters (344 SURF SCOTER & 152 BLACK SCOTER on Oct. 6). COMMON LOONS (17 on Oct. 17), N. GANNET (90 on Oct. 2), BROWN PELICANS (50 on Oct. 6), GREAT BLUE HERON (156 on Oct. 7), BRANT (150 on Oct. 3), N. PINTAIL (87 on Oct. 6), and PARASITIC JAEGER (11 on Sept. 28, otherwise 1 or 2 daily) are all daily! Other recent goodies there include 2 MANX SHEARWATER on Oct. 2, 12 GREAT CORMORANT on Oct. 5, 2 COMMON EIDER on Oct. 7, 2 SANDWICH TERNS on Oct. 2. To feel more comfortable identifying birds at the Avalon Seawatch attend the "Seabird ID Mini-Workshop" held every Saturday at the Seawatch (7th street and the beach in Avalon), 2-4 p.m.

The Avalon Seawatch also tallies MONARCHS migrating by and an amazing 4,830 were counted between September 22 and October 7, including 3,096 on October 2. Seawatch totals are not in for October 9th yet and may have that daily Monarch total beat! According to CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project, sponsored by Bushnell Sports Optics, October 9 was the biggest movement so far this fall. The project has tagged over 3,000 Monarchs so far this fall (September 1 to October 9), despite a very late and slow start to their migration. Coldfronts are the key (north and northwest winds) and push Monarchs to the tip of the Cape May Peninsula. Keep an eye on the weather & hop in a car to Cape May when temperatures drop (due to coldfronts) and you'll be sure to witness the next flight! To learn about the project and the monarch migration, join Christine Austin, CMBO's intern for the Monarch Monitoring Project, at 1:00 p.m. (meeting at the Picnic Pavilion next to the Hawkwatch Platform at the Cape May Point State Park) for a half-hour "Monarch Tagging Demo" Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (through October 13), weather permitting. To view the history of this project go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Research and click on "Monarch Monitoring Project."

Other butterfly news: WHITE M HAIRSTREAK was in CMBO's Gardens in Goshen on Montauk Daisy on October 8, for the 3rd week. The influx of PAINTED LADIES, first noticed September 25, continues. This is the first year in many that they have been abundant! LONG-TAILED SKIPPERS and OCOLA SKIPPERS, both vagrants from the south, continue to be seen in the Pavilion Circle gardens in Cape May Point, private backyard gardens, and the butterfly bushes in the Higbee Beach parking lot. CLOUDLESS SULPHURS, also from the south, are being seen daily as they dash by! Quite a few BLACK SWALLOWTAILS are still emerging from their chrysalides, much to our surprise (maybe the warm temperatures), mating, and laying eggs on parsley and fennel (which thankfully is still lush). Though these Black Swallowtail caterpillars better hurry up & grow to full size and pupate into a chrysalis, since this is the only way they can survive the winter. The warm temperatures and lush gardens are still full of butterflies; also expect: CABBAGE WHITE, ORANGE and CLOUDED SULPHUR, GRAY HAIRSTREAK, E. TAILED BLUE, SUMMER AZURE, AMERICAN SNOUT (2 on Oct. 8 in Cape May Pt.), PEARL CRESCENT, QUESTION MARK, E. COMMA (2 on fruit in West Cape May on Oct. 8), AMERICAN LADY, RED ADMIRAL, COMMON BUCKEYE, RED-SPOTTED PURPLE, and SACHEM.

The same weather that triggered a major Monarch migration on October 9 also pushed thousands of migrating dragonflies our way. Many were coming in off the ocean all day long. Common migrants include WANDERING GLIDER, SPOT-WINGED GLIDER, BLACK SADDLEBAG, CAROLINA SADDLEBAG, COMMON GREEN DARNER, and SWAMP DARNER. Learn your butterflies (and a bit about gardening and dragonflies if they are in evidence) with Pat Sutton during the season's final butterfly walks: (1) Wednesday, October 15, 10:00 a.m. to Noon, at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen (600 Rt. 47 North) for a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk in CMBO's Gardens," and (2) Thursday, October 16, 10:00 a.m. to Noon, at Pavilion Circle Gardens in Cape May Point for a "Butterfly Walk at Cape May Point." Another way to learn (and HELP at the same time) is by joining Karen Williams every Friday (9:30 a.m.-Noon) through October 24 for a "Garden Maintenance Workshop" at the CMBO center in Goshen. Plant divisions are often delightful payment for your labor and the chance to learn so much from Karen as you work. Terrific plants for butterfly & hummingbird gardens are FOR SALE at the CMBO Center in Goshen through the fall.

Pat Sutton and others on the Wednesday evening (Oct. 8) "Twilight Watch for Migrating Owls, Bats, & Herons" (offered every Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at "The Meadows") enjoyed migrating flocks of GREAT BLUE HERONS and NIGHT HERONS. Just at dusk the 2nd Avenue group of BLACK SKIMMERS headed out to feed, low over the water. October 5 at dusk a flock of 29 Great Blue Herons migrated down the beach. Those watching the full moon as it rose (through a telescope) on October 9 enjoyed the magic of migrant songbirds passing in front of it! Each night of good migration weather (clear nights with gentle north & northwest winds) not only savor birds by day, but be sure to step out several times through the night listening for chip notes as migrant songbirds pass over. Katy Duffy and her husband Patrick Matheny will arrive October 25 to again band migrating owls at Cape May. Once this project begins we'll have a better idea of the number and diversity of owls migrating through. We are getting into the peak time for migrating owls, hence Katy's arrival! If you're keen on owls, be sure to sign up for "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton on October 25 (2-6:30 p.m.), by calling 609-861-0700, x-11.

CMBO's "Cape May Morning Flight Project," sponsored by Carl Zeiss Optical, is still going strong with lots of wonderful diversity, including many late-season migrants. The "Morning Flight Project" occurs at Higbee Beach on the dike, every morning from sunrise until four hours later. Take the gravel road to the right just before the final parking lot at Higbee Beach. Follow the road to "the dike" and join observers and CMBO educators Chris Vogel or Julie Diebold on the small observation tower just before the parking lot at the end of this road by the jetty. A "Morning Flight" workshop/watch will be held on the platform every Saturday and Sunday, 8:00-8:30 a.m. With the peak time for sparrow numbers and diversity fast approaching don't miss the great "2-day Sparrow Workshop" with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis, Saturday and Sunday, October 25-26. There are still a few places left; call 609-861-0700, x-11.

It's the peak of fall migration and there are lots of ways to enjoy it. CMBO offers an incredible array of morning and evening walks, held at all the top birding spots, that require no preregistration! Walks not already mentioned follow. EVERY FRIDAY: "Higbee Beach Bird Walk," 7-9; "Sunset Birding at the Meadows," 5:00-dusk. EVERY SATURDAY: "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm," 7:30-9:30 a.m.; "Morning Flight" 8-8:30 a.m.; and "The Nature of Cape May Point with Mark Garland!," 1:30-3:30 p.m. EVERY SUNDAY: "Birding Two Mile Beach," (7:30-9:30 a.m.); "Morning Flight" 8-8:30 a.m. EVERY MONDAY: "Mondays at the Meadows," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY TUESDAY: "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point," 4:30 p.m. to sunset. EVERY WEDNESDAY: " Birding Cape May Point," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY THURSDAY: "Hidden Valley Bird Walk," 7:30-9:30 a.m.; "Birding For First Timers," 1-3 p.m. (perfect for newcomers to birding).

To explore the normally inaccessible back bay marshes, join Captain Bob Carlough on one of the CMBO sponsored "Back Bay Birding By Boat" cruises aboard "The Skimmer," every Sunday and Monday (10:00 a.m. to Noon). Call Wildlife Unlimited (609-884-3100) to register for these CMBO-sponsored trips.

Some special preregistration programs that still have room and also focus in what is special about migration NOW include: "Birding Slowly" with Mark Garland on October 12 (7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) and "Marvel at Migration" with Mark Garland on October 19 (7 a.m. to Noon). To register call 609-861-0700, x-11.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD sightings have become very scarce this week, with 1 in West Cape May on October 5 & 6 and 2 in Eldora on October 2. Now that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have really thinned out, do not assume that any hummingbird you see is a Ruby-throat. From now through December visiting hummingbirds are more likely to be odd strays from the west. Also don't expect them to be easy IDs, since they'll probably be immatures. Call CMBO with any hummingbird sightings from now on! AND, continue to maintain your feeders weekly (clean thoroughly) right up till freezing temperatures. CMBO carries HummZinger feeders, which are one of the easiest feeders to clean, very well-thought out, and even educational (including directions for the correct feeding solution). Stop by & check them out.

20,000 TREE SWALLOWS dazzled observers as they fed and whirled around "the Meadows" on October 4. Tree Swallows feed on BAYBERRIES and WAXMYRTLE berries, both of which are ripe now in the dunes along "the Meadows," Cape May Point, at Higbee Beach, and all up and down the coastline where dunes still exist. Enjoy this spectacle through the fall as they gather in numbers and migrate through. All the other swallows are strictly insect eaters, so more vulnerable as cold temperatures hit and far less common late in the fall. BLACK SKIMMERS stage on our beaches each fall, with numbers growing as the fall progresses. The flock on Cape May's beachfront has grown to several hundred and might be found anywhere from the Convention Center to 2nd Avenue Jetty. Another flock of about 100 is on Strathmere's beach, north of Avalon. They'll be here for some time, often resting on the beach by day.

PREYING MANTISES are huge and quite easy to find now in butterfly gardens. Their food, well yes, butterflies and other nectaring insects. Since September 24 we've been easily finding many pairs of Preying Mantises mating. The female will lay her Styrofoam-like egg mass and die and the eggs will winter over. WOOLY BEAR CATERPILLARS are very much in evidence now. They are the caterpillar stage of various TIGER MOTHS. WINTERBERRY HOLLY, a deciduous holly has recently lost its leaves, making its beautiful red berries (along the length of each branch) very eye-catching right now. Other wild foods that are favorites with migrant birds now include WINGED SUMAC and POISON IVY. SEASIDE GOLDENROD is still in bloom and attracting nectaring Monarchs and other butterflies. Its golden blooms catch the eye and it is mistakenly blamed for allergies! Don't make this same mistake. RAGWEED is the culprit and its inconspicuous flowers are to blame. Female GROUNDSEL-TREE bushes are showy now as their white flowers get fluffy and begin to blow about.

To receive a copy of CMBO's Program Schedule, stop at one of the two centers, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site where a full listing of CMBO's FALL 2003 PROGRAMS (September - November) is posted 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 around Cape May County, and also include reports from Cumberland and Atlantic Counties. Updates are typically made on Thursdays. Natural history sightings can be written on sighting sheets at either CMBO center or called in to 609-861-0700. 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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