Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/14/2004

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 Thursday, October 14. For bird news call the Cape May Birding Hotline at (609) 898-2473. NJ Audubon's three hotline can be read in full on our website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (at the top of any page).

South Jersey's fall colors are blazing! Flowering Dogwood trees are maroon. Virginia Creeper vines are purple and full or blue berries. Grasses are turning golden in meadows. Poison Ivy leaves are orange, reds, and purples and their white berries are drawing in hungry migrants. Female Red Cedar trees are blue with berries. The white-colored shrubs with the fluffy white blossoms are Groundsel-tree. They line the Parkway and are abundant at the Cape May Point State Park and The Meadows. Goldenrods and wild asters are in bloom. Phragmites or Giant Reed Grass is in seed and the plumes are quite attractive.

MONARCH numbers were very low this summer, a trend that has continued through the fall. CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project reports the lowest 6-week average in the history of the census (average of 10.48 per hour over the past 6 weeks). Go to NJ Audubon's website (http://www.njaudubon.org), click on "Research," then click on "Monarch Monitoring Project" for more information. Gardeners with Milkweed in their gardens found caterpillars and helped the population. CMBO still has Tropical Milkweed seed packets for sale at our Center in Goshen (609-861-0700). Stop by while they last! Through October 20, "Monarch Tagging Demos" (weather permitting) are offered daily (except Tuesdays & Thursdays) at 2:00 p.m. at the Cape May Point State Park in the East Shelter (which is next to the Hawkwatch Platform).

Over 21,000 raptors have been counted since September 1 at CMBO's "Cape May Autumn Hawkwatch." Flights are diverse now. BALD EAGLES are daily (7 on 10/11), still big numbers of SHARP-SHINS and COOPER'S HAWKS, RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS began moving, the season's 2nd GOLDEN EAGLE was seen 10/12, and there have been big flights of PEREGRINES (147 on 10/8), MERLINS (158 on 10/10, 124 on 10/12), and AMERICAN KESTREL (378 on 10/10). Almost daily, jaeger watching from the Hawkwatch has been super. On October 13, 8 PARASITIC JAEGER put on a show to shore as they dashed after feeding terns and gulls and stole their fish, and a LINCOLN'S SPARROW fed in front of the Hawkwatch.

There is still room on CMBO's "5-day Raptor Workshops" (October 24-28, Sunday through Thursday -- just prior to NJ Audubon's "Cape May Autumn Weekend"), taught by Pete Dunne and Pat Sutton. Not only will this workshop teach and focus on ID of raptors but many raptor-rich sites will be visited! Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register. 2-hour "Hawk ID Mini-Workshops" are offered by CMBO's seasonal naturalists every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10:30 a.m., meeting in the Cape May Point State Park's Environmental Education Building.

CMBO's October 10 "Birding Cumberland" trip enjoyed a mini-hawk flight at East Point and found adult BALD EAGLES sitting near their nest on the Maurice River. New Jersey's breeding Bald Eagles do not migrate but remain near their nests year-round. Explore with CMBO: (1) Mark Garland leads "Birding Slowly" Sunday, October 17 (7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), (2) Pat Sutton leads a "Cape May NWR Field Trip" to the Delaware Bay Division on Sunday, November 7 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), and (3) Mark Garland leads a "Cape Henlopen and Broadkill Marsh" field trip in Delaware on December 4 (9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register for any or all of these special field trips while spaces remain!

CMBO's Avalon Seawatch is picking up with thousands of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT and scoter. The first LONG-TAILED DUCK came October 12 and the first RED-BREASTED MERGANSER on October 11. A WHALE, probably a FIN WHALE, was seen close to shore from the Seawatch on October 13. Stop by the Avalon Seawatch at the north end of Avalon (7 th Street and the beach) any day or join CMBO for it's weekly "Seabird ID Mini-Workshop," held every Saturday, at 2:00 p.m. at the Avalon Seawatch at 7 th Street and the Ocean.

Stone Harbor Point has been terrific for shorebirds and other migrants. On October 13, it held 4 LAPLAND LONGSPURS, 1 HORNED LARK, 1 AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER, 4 MARBLED GODWIT, 18 "western" WILLET, a 2nd year LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, a LINCOLN'S SPARROW, and a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. On October 11, it held 400 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, 1 PIPING PLOVER, 404 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, 4 MARBLED GODWIT, 3 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER, #s of RUDDY TURNSTONES, RED KNOT, SANDERLING, DUNLIN, and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, 12 BROWN PELICANS, and 150 BRANT. On October 9, CMBO's "Sunset Cruise" journeyed up to Nummy's Island and the back side of Stone Harbor Point and enjoyed 4 MARBLED GODWIT, 7 hunting PEREGRINES (putting up clouds of shorebirds), 100s of Brant, numbers of TRICOLORED HERONS, BLACK-CROWNED & YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS, SALTMARSH SHARP-TAILED SPARROW, and 3 SEASIDE SPARROWS. Every Tuesday evening join Mike Fritz and other leaders for "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point and Nummy's Island," meeting at 4:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the south end of Stone Harbor. CMBO sponsored "Back Bay Birding By Boat" tours aboard "The Skimmer," are offered every Sunday & Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call Wildlife Unlimited directly to register for the "Back Bay" trips (609-884-3100); a portion of the proceeds go to CMBO.

It is sparrow time! LINCOLN'S (hawkwatch and Hidden Valley), CLAY-COLORED (West Cape May and hawkwatch), WHITE-CROWNED (many locations), VESPER (Hidden Valley & Higbee), NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED and SALTMARSH SHARP-TAILED (Two Mile Landing on Ocean Drive), and more have all been seen this week. And it will continue to get better. CMBO's "2-day Sparrow Workshop" with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis (Saturday & Sunday, October 23-24) has 4 spaces left. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register! To download a registration form for any of the Cape May Birding Workshops, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html

CMBO's "Twilight Watch" at the Meadows on October 13 enjoyed 100s of glittering TREE SWALLOWS dipping down into the pond at dusk to drink, an AMERICAN BITTERN getting up to migrate about 6:40 p.m., a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON joined the bittern, several bats hunted the skies, 100s of ducks raced through the skies to favored nighttime ponds, and 100s of BLACK SKIMMERS moved into the Delaware Bay at last light to begin their nocturnal feeding. Pat Sutton leads this "Twilight Watch for Owls, Bats, and Herons" every Wednesday, at 5:30 p.m., meeting in The Nature Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. As we get into peak owl migration time, join Pat Sutton for an "All About Owls Workshop & Field Trip" Saturday, October 23 (1:30-6:30 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register!

The Concrete Ship continues to attract perching GREAT CORMORANT (4 on 10/8). WILD TURKEY flocks are feeding in fields. 25 were seen in TNC's "Lizard Tail Swamp" fields at the intersection of Rt. 646 and 657 (west of Cape May Ct. Hse). 40 were in a field along the Maurice River on October 9. The nasal call of RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, the kissing call of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, the "jidit" calls of RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, and the "tse-tse-tse" calls of GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS continue to fill the airspace as these birds migrate through the Cape May Peninsula.

It's been an excellent fall for southern vagrant butterflies and they can still be found in gardens where Butterfly Bush, Zinnias, Globe Amaranth, and Tropical Milkweed bloom! OCOLA SKIPPERS arrived late, but are still here in force. 29 were counted October 6 in gardens in Cape May Point. 10+ were enjoyed on CMBO's October 13 Cape May Point butterfly walk, along with CLOUDLESS SULPHUR, 20 SACHEMS, and 20 FIERY SKIPPERS. 2 OCOLA SKIPPERS were in Port Republic (Atlantic Co.) October 10. A few MONARCHS trickle through daily, and Monarch eggs and caterpillars are still being found on Tropical & Common Milkweed. WHITE M HAIRSTREAK, 20 CLOUDLESS SULPHUR, and VARIEGATED FRITILLARY were seen October 8 (Rea Farm). BLACK SWALLOWTAIL caterpillars can still be found on Fennel. MORNING CLOAKS are migrating by and were seen this week from the hawkwatch, Cape May beachfront, East Point (10/10), and Maurice River (10/10). COMMON BUCKEYE, AMERICAN LADY, CABBAGE WHITE, and ORANGE SULPHUR are also still flying. A LONG-TAILED SKIPPER was seen October 6 in a garden in Avalon. The season's final "Butterfly Walk at Cape May Point," meeting at the Pavilion Circle Gardens (10 a.m. to Noon) will be offered Sundays (October 17) by Louise Zemaitis.

A RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD was seen October 9 in West Cape May. But otherwise they've been gone for some time. Question any hummingbird you see now through December since rare, western vagrants occur late in the fall and they will probably be immatures, so not easily identified. Be sure to call CMBO if you have a late hummingbird at your feeders or lingering flowers. Also plan to keep your hummingbird feeders up and maintained (clean out thoroughly & refill with fresh solution each week), since western hummingbirds show up late.

Consider complimenting feeders with a wildlife garden. Lots of shared knowledge and advice about creating a "Backyard Habitat," including an article on "How to Create a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden," is featured on NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Index.html

A terrific selection of hard to find hummingbird, butterfly & general wildlife plants are on sale at CMBO's center in Goshen (1-4:30 p.m.), including RED CEDAR, BLACK CHERRY, CORAL HONEYSUCKLE, LITTLE BLUESTEM, JOE-PYE-WEED, IRONWEED, and others! Selection changes weekly, so stop by often! The current selection is posted on the "Backyard Habitat" pages on NJ Audubon's website: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Index.html

CMBO invites gardeners (no experience necessary) to help maintain CMBO's wildlife gardens at the Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North). Join Karen Williams any Friday, 9:30 a.m. to noon, for a weekly "Garden Maintenance Workshop," where you work in the CMBO gardens while learning from Karen about gardening for wildlife.

"Hawks & Owls," an exhibit by prominent North American bird artists, is on display at CMBO's Center in Goshen (600 Rt. 47 North). Stop by and be dazzled.

Enjoy fall migrants by joining one of CMBO weekly walks with local experts, including walks already mentioned and these additional walks : (1) every Saturday, "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot on Bayshore Road (not at the Rea Farm produce stand on Stevens Street), (2) every Saturday, "Morning Flight" meets at 8:00 a.m. at the platform at Higbee Beach on the road out to the Canal, (3) every Saturday, "The Nature of Cape May Point" with Mark Garland, meeting at 2 p.m. at CMBO's Northwood Center, (4) every Sunday, "Birding Two Mile Beach" meets at 7:30 a.m. at the Two Mile Beach Unit of the Cape May NWR (in the last parking area on the left in the refuge, which lies east of Ocean Drive just south of Wildwood Crest), (5) every Sunday, "Morning Flight" meets at 8:00 a.m. at the platform at Higbee Beach on the road out to the Canal, (6) every Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" meets at 7:30 a.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (7) every Tuesday, "Birding for First Timers" meets at 10:30 a.m. in the Cape May Point State Park under the "North Shelter" (the shelter along the exit road out of the park, (8) every Tuesday (4:30 p.m. till dusk) the "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point" walk (with CMBO naturalists who know the area intimately) is a great way to enjoy this unique area (meet in the Stone Harbor Point parking lot at the south end of Stone Harbor), (9) every Wednesday, "Birding Cape May Point" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park, (10) every Thursday, "Hidden Valley Bird Walk" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England Road, (11) Every Friday, "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot at the end of New England Road, (12) every Friday, "Sunset Birding at the Meadows" meets at 5:00 p.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard.

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 our Program Schedule (the Kestrel Express), stop at one of our centers, 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 around Cape May County, and also include reports from 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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