Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/2/2003

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 2. 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 4th Autumn Open House program will be held on Saturday evening, October 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the CMBO Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North). Todd Klein and Mark Garland will share highlights of the 2002 NJ Audubon "Costa Rica Exploration." Come be dazzled! Each Saturday evening in the fall consider dropping in for these informal programs by local naturalists: Kevin Karlson on "Stone Harbor Point's nesting birds, 2003" on Oct. 11, 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!

A major coldfront passed the afternoon of September 28 and the wind finally came out of the north and northwest. With these winds and dropping temperatures the sky instantly filled up with TREE SWALLOWS, hawks, MONARCHS, dragonflies, and at dusk, bats. Each day since the winds have remained from the north and northwest and migrants have continued to descent on Cape May, AT LAST!

As soon as the wind switched on September 28, MONARCHS could be seen heading south. 1000s poured down the beach all day September 29, from first light till late afternoon. Over 5,000 were counted that evening roosting for the night in the dunes. On September 30, the 3rd day of the coldfront, Monarchs were still moving. Today, October 2, gardens all over the Cape May Peninsula are filled with Monarchs. As long as this coldfront holds and winds remain from the north and northwest, Monarchs will continue to come. This fall Christine Austin is CMBO's intern for the Monarch Monitoring Project, sponsored by Bushnell Sports Optics. To learn about the project and the monarch migration, join Christine 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" every Thursday through Monday (weather permitting). To view the history of this project go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Research and click on "Monarch Monitoring Project."

CMBO's "Cape May Morning Flight Project," sponsored by Carl Zeiss Optical, counted 2000 warblers the morning of September 29 and again on September 30. 20 warbler species were tallied, with dominant species being: PALM WARBLER, N. PARULA WARBLER, BLACKPOLL WARBLER, and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. 156 N. FLICKERS were counted on September 29. This project is noticing the beginning of the changeover from neotropical migrants to temperate 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. From the Hawkwatch on September 29 observers were distracted by a great flight of INDIGO BUNTINGS, N. FLICKER, N. PARULA WARBLER, and PALM WARBLERS. On September 29 and 30 the dunes at the Cape May Point State Park, the town of Cape May Point, and "The Meadows," especially at the dune crossovers, were full of tail-wagging PALM WARBLERS, and probably still are!

With this good migration weather (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. The night of September 29 chip notes were heard through the night all over the peninsula.

Pat Sutton and others on the Wednesday evening "Twilight Watch for Migrating Owls, Bats, & Herons," October 1 (offered every Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at "The Meadows") were mesmerized by zillions of sparkling TREE SWALLOWS, including an albino, as they dipped as a unit into the ponds to bath and drink. At 6:40 p.m. on the dot all zillion of them wooshed down into the marsh behind Cape May City in a spectacular vortex. Migrating GREAT BLUE HERONS and NIGHT HERONS, a lone dipping and darting COMMON NIGHTHAWK, and skimming BLACK SKIMMERS also entertained. The next"Twilight Watch" on October 8 falls just prior to the full moon & should produce a spectacular show of migrants if the night is clear!

TREE SWALLOWS by the thousands danced over the dunes on September 25 swooping down and feasting on bayberries on Bayberry bushes. This is happening all up and down the coastline where dunes still exist. It is a spectacle to be enjoyed through the fall as they gather in numbers and migrate through.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS continue to be seen daily, 1 or 2, but they don't linger. They're all migrants passing through. Now that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have thinned out, be alert for odd western hummingbirds. Now through December is when they show up. So, continue to maintain your feeders weekly (clean thoroughly). 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.

Observers on Nummy's Island on September 25 enjoyed a gathering of Night Herons, probably in the shrub island at the base of the free bridge, including: 90+ BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS and 6 YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS. Nummy's Island can be accessed via North Wildwood Boulevard, but not from Stone Harbor since the "free bridge" is closed. Stone Harbor Point has been incredible all summer with the colony of beach-nesting birds and is still great for gulls, terns, and shorebirds. Reports from September 25 include: 680 ROYAL TERNS, 6 SANDWICH TERNS, 150 COMMON TERNS, 350 BLACK SKIMMER, 1 BONAPARTE'S GULL, 20 BROWN PELICAN, 80 WESTERN SANDPIPER, 500 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, 25 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, 20 RED KNOT, 30 DUNLIN, and 7 PIPING PLOVER. To savor Stone Harbor Point join Mike Fritz and other leaders EVERY TUESDAY evening, 4:30 p.m. to dusk, for the "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point" walk, meeting in the parking lot at Stone Harbor Point.

Over 100 BLACK SKIMMER have gathered on the beach in Cape May and might be found anywhere from the Convention Center to 2nd Avenue Jetty. They'll be here for some time, often resting on the beach by day.

The Cape May Hawkwatch, again sponsored by Swarovski Optik, has tallied over 14,000 raptors since September 1, including 59 Bald Eagles. The same coldfront that brought Monarchs and songbirds brought raptors! 2,291 raptors on September 29, 1,190 on September 30, and 1,075 on October 1. The falcon show has been non stop: 1,101 AMERICAN KESTREL, 64 MERLIN, 27 PEREGRINE on September 29. At least one Peregrine is using the Bunker at the Cape May Point State Park to hunt pigeons and then rip them apart while sitting on the bunker, feathers flying. Sometimes 3 or more Peregrines sit on the water tower at the old Magnesite Plant on Sunset Boulevard. OSPREY have been steady (892 in September, and 117 on October 1). SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS (573 on Sept. 30) and COOPER'S HAWKS (268 on Oct. 1) have also been steady. The season's 1st N. GOSHAWK passed on September 30. The coldfront finally brought BROAD-WINGED HAWKS (383 between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1). The flights should continue as long as the wind holds from the north and northwest! If you're keen to learn your raptors join CMBO's seasonal interpretive naturalists up on the hawkwatch (all day every day), but also consider attending one or several of the "Hawk ID Mini-Workshops," every Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Saturday, October 11 at the same time. 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. CMBO's "5-day Fall Raptor Birding Adventure," October 17-21, with Pete Dunne, Clay Sutton and Pat Sutton still has room. Stop by either CMBO Center to register or call 609-861-0700 for the workshop brochure.

The CMBO Avalon Seawatch, sponsored by Nikon Sports Optics, began September 22. 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! An incredible 8 PARASITIC JAEGERS were seen from the Seawatch on September 28. LOONS, SCOTERS, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, and more can be enjoyed from the Seawatch. To feel more comfortable identifying the birds that migrate by 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.

On the butterfly front, aside from the MONARCH information already shared, a WHITE M HAIRSTREAK was in CMBO's Gardens in Goshen on Montauk Daisy on October 1 and one had been seen the previous week in these gardens too. A SLEEPY ORANGE, quite rare for Cape May County, was seen in Cape May Point on September 27. A real influx of PAINTED LADIES (20+), FIERY SKIPPERS (10+), and OCOLA SKIPPERS (10+) was noticed on September 25 in the gardens at Pavilion Circle in Cape May Point and no doubt elsewhere too. LITTLE YELLOWS, LONG-TAILED SKIPPERS, OCOLA SKIPPERS continue to be seen at or near the butterfly bushes at Higbee Beach, Pavilion Circle Gardens, and backyard gardens in Cape May Point. OCOLA SKIPPERS are being seen as far north as the CMBO Center's Gardens in Goshen. CLOUDLESS SULPHURS are being seen daily as they dash by! AMERICAN SNOUT are still flying and 5 were seen on September 30 on blooming English Ivy growing on the edge of Pavilion Circle in Cape May Point. RED-SPOTTED PURPLES and QUESTION MARKS are still coming to rotting fruit in backyard gardens and at CMBO's Center Gardens in Goshen, and fruit also attracted a VICEROY and a TAWNY EMPEROR on September 26 to West Cape May. COMMON BUCKEYES were almost as thick as MONARCHS on September 29 and 30 in the dunes. Their caterpillars can still be found on SEASIDE GERARDIA along the trails at "The Meadows" and on PLANTAIN in CMBO's meadow at Goshen. AMERICAN COPPERS, GRAY HAIRSTREAKS, PEARL CRESCENTS, AMERICAN LADIES, and SACHEMS are easily seen now. A few BLACK SWALLOWTAILS are still flying and their caterpillars can still be found on Fennel & Parsley in backyard gardens and at CMBO's Gardens in Goshen.

Thousands of dragonflies migrated through with the recent coldfront and continue to be in evidence, including WANDERING GLIDERS, SPOT-WINGED GLIDERS, BLACK SADDLEBAGS, CAROLINA SADDLEBAGS, COMMON GREEN DARNER, SWAMP DARNER. Other dragonflies still flying include E. PONDHAWK, BLUE DASHER, YELLOW-LEGGED MEADOWHAWK, and BLUE-FACED MEADOWHAWK. Learn your butterflies (and a bit about gardening and dragonflies if they are in evidence) with Pat Sutton each Wednesday, 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 each Thursday, 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) 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.

PREYING MANTISES are huge and quite easy to find now in butterfly gardens. Their food, well yes, butterflies and other nectaring insects. Many pairs of Preying Mantises are mating now. 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. WINGED SUMAC is in fruit now, a favorite with birds. POISON IVY fruits are also obvious now as the leaves fall, another important food for migrant birds and wintering birds. NODDING LADIES-TRESSES are in bloom now on the edge of Bunker Pond and at Higbee Beach around the pond in field #5. SEASIDE GOLDENROD is in full bloom and a favorite with Monarchs. 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. GROUNDSEL-TREE is in full bloom: the male shrub's flowers are little yellow buttons and the female shrub has the fluffy white flowers. Monarchs often collect on them.

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 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.

A "Sunset Cruise for Fall Migrants," Saturday, October 4 (2-6 p.m.), still has room and is a great way to savor herons & egrets, shorebirds, raptors, and more! Another "Sunset Cruise" on October 11 (2-6 p.m.) also still has room. An "Optics Workshop" October 11 (1-3 p.m.) at the CMBO Northwood Center still has room. Learn to ID "Wildlife Food Plants" at Higbee Beach with Pat Sutton on October 11 (2-4:30 p.m.). "Bird Slowly" with Mark Garland on October 12 (7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.). To register or learn more about any of these special programs that require preregistration, call 609-861-0700, x-11. The Cape May Bird Observatory offers an extensive series of regular bird and butterfly walks that require no pre-registration and many special field trips and programs for which advanced registration is required. 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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