Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/16/2003

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 Thursday, October 16. 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 6th Autumn Open House program will be held on Saturday evening, October 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the CMBO Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North). BJ Pinnock, a CMBO Associate Naturalist, will share "Videos From Her Birding Adventure in Australia." Come be dazzled! These informal programs by local naturalists have been held each Saturday this fall. The final program, October 25, will be Paul Lehman on "Fall Birding in the Bering Sea Region of Alaska." Mark your calendars!

As CMBO Senior Naturalist, Mark Garland, so aptly put it, "Cape May is firing on all cylinders!" From the Morning Flight, to the Avalon Seawatch, to the Cape May Hawkwatch, to the Monarch Project. The numbers of migrants have been incredible!

There was a large flight of songbirds on October 11, including mostly YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS (several 1,000), PALM WARBLERS, N. FLICKER, and SWAMP SPARROWS. CMBO's Cape May Morning Flight Project, based at the Higbee Dike, two days later on October 13 recorded 67,000+ warblers (with 30,000 passing in the first hour), sparrows, and 1000s of N. FLICKERS. Most of the warbler flight was made up of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS (59,000) and PALM WARBLERS (1,500). Needless to say, Yellow-rumped Warblers are everywhere now! Their "kiss-like" calls can be heard as they flit from reed to reed, Bayberry bush to Waxmyrtle bush. The Morning Flight Project, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Optical, occurs at Higbee Beach on the dike, every morning from sunrise until four hours later. Join observers and CMBO educators Chris Vogel or Julie Diebold on the small observation tower just before the parking lot at the end of the road to the jetty. A "Morning Flight" workshop/watch will be held on the platform every Saturday and Sunday, 8:00-8:30 a.m., through October 26.

Sparrows are IN now too, as you've learned from the "Cape May Birding Hotline!" 30 SAVANNAH SPARROWS were at Woodcock Lane in the Cape May NWR on October 14. LINCOLN SPARROW sightings continued on October 16 at the Rea Farm and at Higbee Beach. NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW and SALTMARSH SHARP-TAILED SPARROW were both enjoyed at Two Mile Landing on Ocean Drive on October 12. WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS are back and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS are regular too. With the peak time for sparrow numbers and diversity here NOW 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.

The CMBO Avalon Seawatch, sponsored by Nikon Sports Optics, tallied over 79,000 seabirds between September 22 and October 14, including an amazing flight of over 21,000 on October 11! Andy Wraithmell, from the U.K, and Bob Diebold are this year's counters and Julie Diebold is the Interpretive Naturalist. 1000s of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS are moving (@ 3,000 most days with 9,500 on Oct. 11), 100s of GREEN-WINGED TEAL (with an amazing flight of 1,150 on Oct. 14), 1,000s of scoters (2,800 BLACK SCOTER & 3,000 SURF SCOTER on Oct. 11). Other species to expect at the Seawatch include COMMON LOONS (35 on Oct. 14), N. GANNET (62 on Oct. 11), BRANT (50 on Oct. 11), WOOD DUCK (67 on Oct. 13), N. PINTAIL (37 on Oct. 15), and GREATER SCAUP (73 on Oct. 14). PARASITIC JAEGERS put on a show daily: 12 on Oct. 10, 14 on Oct. 11, 6 on Oct. 14. The October 14 "Jaeger Show" included 2 chasing a Laughing Gull and then each other. The season's first HORNED GREBE and RED-BREASTED MERGANSER were seen October 14, and the first HOODED MERGANSER on October 13. GREAT CORMORANT are seen most days (mixed in with large cormorant flocks). A 2nd year male COMMON EIDER was swimming by the jetty at the Seawatch on October 11. 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 Cape May Hawkwatch, again sponsored by Swarovski Optik, has tallied over 30,000 raptors since September 1, including 121 BALD EAGLES. Recent coldfronts (north and northwest winds) triggered big flights this week on October 10 (1,023), 12 (2,224), and 13 (4,500). Bald Eagles have been daily, including 16 on Oct. 13. The rest of these big flights have included (with some high counts noted): OSPREY (138 on Oct. 11), N. HARRIER (135 on Oct. 13), SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (2,662 on Oct. 13), COOPER'S HAWK (570 on Oct. 13), BROAD-WINGED HAWK (619 on Oct. 13), AMERICAN KESTREL (863 on Oct. 12), MERLIN (78 on Oct. 12), and PEREGRINE (55 on Oct. 10. One other highlight of the week was the dark BROAD-WINGED HAWK on October 13, only the 2nd record at Cape May. If you're keen to learn your raptors, 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.

This fall, Monarchs began migrating through Cape May late (late September rather than early September) and may continue to migrate late into the season in good numbers. Time will tell. Observers near Shelburne, Vermont reported 53 southbound MONARCHS on October 13 passing by at lunchtime (1 Monarch every 2 minutes). CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project, sponsored by Bushnell Sports Optics, had one of the season's biggest movements on October 9 and another on October 13. Today, October 16, gardens all over the Cape May Peninsula were carpeted with Monarchs. The Avalon Seawatch tallies Monarchs migrating by and an amazing 7,200 were counted between September 22 and October 14, including 726 on October 12 and 1,125 on October 13. The Monarch Project has tagged over 3,000 Monarchs so far this fall. Coldfronts are the key (north and northwest winds) and push Monarchs to the tip of the Cape May Peninsula. If we're spared icy cold, killing conditions, Monarchs will continue maybe into early November. Till then, 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 view the history of this project go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Research and click on "Monarch Monitoring Project."

A noticeable migration of MONARCHS and other butterflies at East Point in Cumberland County on October 13, included RED ADMIRALS, QUESTION MARKS, COMMON BUCKEYES, and several CLOUDLESS SULPHURS. OCOLA SKIPPERS continue at CMBO's Gardens in Goshen (Oct. 14), along the Maurice River in Cumberland Co. (Oct. 13), and at Cape May Point in Pavilion Circle Garden and backyard gardens (Oct. 16). SACHEM is the commonest skipper now. 2 FIERY SKIPPERS were at Cape May Point on October 13. No reports of LONG-TAILED SKIPPER this week. VARIEGATED FRITILLARY have been seen at CMBO's Gardens in Goshen (Oct. 14), Higbee Beach (Oct. 14), and the Rea Farm (Oct. 15). October 16, MONARCH caterpillars were still on Milkweed in Cape May Point and BLACK SWALLOWTAIL caterpillars were still on Parsley and Fennel around Cape May County. On the dragonfly front, BLUE-FACED MEADOWHAWK and BLUE DASHER were enjoyed in Cape May Point on October 16. There are two more opportunities to join Karen Williams and learn about Garden Maintenance: Friday, October 17 & 24 (9:30 a.m.-Noon) 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. 15) "Twilight Watch for Migrating Owls, Bats, & Herons" (offered every Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at "The Meadows") enjoyed late hunting MERLINS, or "Merlin Madness" as Pete Dunne fondly calls their late-in-the-day activity. Also in the gale of wind WILSON'S SNIPE passed over, a flock of 12 GREAT BLUE HERONS migrated by "on the deck," or right over the waves, and a bat. If you were out on the night of October 10 when the wind was still and the sky was clear, a perfect night for migration, you perhaps heard the hundreds and hundreds of BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS migrating over. The morning of October 11, Jason Guerard, our Hawk Counter, tallied over 300 GREAT BLUE HERONS migrating by, mostly in the first four hours of the day. On October 16, an owl was seen briefly from the Hawkwatch as it lifted out of the cedars and settled back in. 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.

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. 100s of AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS are being seen, as well as godwits and other shorebirds by the 1000s!

Some special preregistration programs that still have room and also focus in what is special about migration NOW include: "Marvel at Migration" with Mark Garland on October 19 (7 a.m. to Noon), "Weekend Field Trip to Assateague Island" with Mark Garland October 8 & 9, "Gannets Galore" on October 15 (8-11 a.m.), and "Cape May NWR Field Trip" on October 15 (1-4 p.m.) To register call 609-861-0700, x-11.

Our upcoming "57th Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend / THE Bird Show," a 3-day weekend October 31 through November 2, should not be missed. Call CMBO for details!

HUMMINGBIRD sightings have been nil this week. But now that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have left, 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.

1000s of TREE SWALLOWS continue to dazzle observers as they feed and whirl around "the Meadows." 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 continues 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.

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. Female GROUNDSEL-TREE bushes are showy now as their white flowers get fluffy and begin to blow about. Many trees are turning color now!

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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