Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/21/2004

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 21 and will next be updated on November 4. 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 website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (at the top of any page).

NJ Audubon's "58th Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend / The Bird Show" is fast approaching: October 29-31. The Cape May Convention Hall will be packed with vendors from all over the country (artists, conservation groups, optics companies, staff from 3 top birding magazines, and birding tour groups) and open Friday (Noon-5 p.m.), Saturday (10 a.m. - 5 p.m.), and Sunday (10 a.m. - 3 p.m.). Don't miss it! To sign up for the full weekend, call 609-861-0700, or stop at the registration desk in the Convention Hall lobby during the weekend.

Many, many thousands of seabirds flooded through October 20 and 21. Long, wavy lines of Double-crested Cormorants and scoters (all 3 species) never stopped coming. They filled the horizon over the ocean at Cape May Point and at the Avalon Seawatch. COMMON LOONS, N. GANNET, PARASITIC JAEGERS (daily) were also part of the show. On October 21, at the north end of Avalon behind the bridge to Sea Isle, 2 MARBLED GODWIT, 75 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, a probable GOLDEN PLOVER, and lots of BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, DUNLIN, and RUDDY TURNSTONES. Stop by the Avalon Seawatch any day or join CMBO for the "Seabird ID Mini-Workshop," held Saturdays (October 23 & November 6), at 2:00 p.m. at the Avalon Seawatch (at the north end of Avalon, 7 th Street and the beach).

On October 20 and 21, the drizzle and northeast winds drove observers onto the raised picnic pavilion at Cape May Point State Park. From there the offshore seabird flight was always a constant. Other treats included a mixed flock of Black & Surf Scoter in the waters around the jetty in front of St. Mary's, the PARASITIC JAEGER show (daily -- 25 in sight at once on 10/18) as they chased down gulls and terns and stole their fish, hunting PEREGRINES and MERLINS (despite the weather), flyby GREAT CORMORANT (with a crowd of 10 sitting on the Concrete Ship on October 19 and almost daily), and a lingering GOLDEN PLOVER feeding in the tideline with BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS. Many BOTTLENOSED DOLPHIN fed in the tideline at Cape May Point on October 18. 100s of BLACK SKIMMERS continue to roost by day on Cape May's beachfront, often near the Convention Center.

All day on October 20, GREAT BLUE HERONS migrated over, including one flock of 75. CMBO's "Twilight Watch" at the Meadows that night (October 20) was awesome! With NE winds and a fine mist drizzle the walk began with MERLINS, COOPER'S HAWKS, and a PEREGRINE chasing down dinner as YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS exploded from Waxmyrtle bushes and Red Cedars. At 5:30 p.m. 30 BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS in a flock migrated over and another flock at 6:00 p.m. In the dark at 7:00 p.m. the sky was full of squawks and croaks as 100s of night herons, Great Blue Herons, and Great Egrets migrated over. Their distinctive squawks and croaks lasted all night long. Thousands upon thousands must have migrated through. The next morning (October 21), 60 perched Great Blue Herons were found perched on tree tops behind Lighthouse Pond East, and 25 Great Egrets on the edge of Bunker Pond. Pat Sutton will lead the last "Twilight Watch for Owls, Bats, and Herons" Wednesday, October 27, at 5:30 p.m., meeting in The Nature Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. COYOTES were calling at 6:00 a.m. on October 18 near the Rea Farm. Resident GREAT HORNED OWLS and BARRED OWLS were tuning up on October 20 at 6:30 a.m. near the Rea Farm. LONG-EARED, SAW-WHET, SHORT-EARED, and BARN OWLS (migrants) are all overdue. As we get into peak owl migration time, join Pat Sutton for an "All About Owls Workshop & Field Trip" offered 3 different Saturdays (October 23 from 1:30-6:30 p.m., November 6 from Noon to 5 p.m., and December 4 from Noon to 5 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register!

Sparrows are here! WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS are singing ("oh Canada, Canada, Canada") and will be with us now through the spring. Lots of SAVANNAH, SWAMP, and SONG sparrows feed around the Hawkwatch and have drawn in WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS and a DICKCISSEL this week. 1 VESPER and 2 LINCOLN'S SPARROWS were at Hidden Valley on October 19. 8 SALTMARSH SHARP-TAILED and 4 NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROWS were at Two Mile Landing on Ocean Drive on October 19. A LARK SPARROW flew over the Higbee Beach "Morning Flight" on October 18. GRASSHOPPER SPARROW and LINCOLN'S SPARROW were in West Cape May on October 17. CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was at Higbee Beach (in the first field) on October 15. A WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW was at the feeding station at CMBO's Center in Goshen on October 16. 5 spaces remain on this weekend's "2-day Sparrow Workshop" with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis (October 23-24); call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register!

It's time for unusual hummingbirds. Yes, once RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS have cleared out, western vagrants show up. And don't expect them to be easy to identify, they'll probably be immatures. A CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD came to a backyard habitat garden in the Villas on October 17. It ignored feeders and instead came to flowers (Pineapple Sage, Butterfly Bush, Cardinal Climber, and Salvia Guarantica / "Black & Blue Sage") and "hawked" insects. In 2000 a Calliope Hummingbird came to CMBO's Gardens in Goshen (Nov. 11-15); it too never showed interest in nearby feeders. So, those of you with hummingbird gardens still in bloom, be alert and be sure to call CMBO if you see a hummingbird!

A terrific selection of hard to find native plants for hummingbird, butterfly & wildlife gardens is available for sale at CMBO's Center in Goshen (1-4:30 p.m.), including CORAL HONEYSUCKLE, WILD COLUMBINE, JOE-PYE-WEED, IRONWEED, BLACK CHERRY, LITTLE BLUESTEM, and others! The current selection of plants for sale as well as an article on "How to Create a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden" is posted on the "Backyard Habitat" pages on NJ Audubon's website: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Index.html

A high hawk flight on October 18 included 6 BALD EAGLES (1 adult) and a SWAINSON'S HAWK (light morph). The Swainson's Hawk did not pause, but continued directly across the Delaware Bay as did the adult Bald Eagle. Over 22,700 raptors have been counted since September 1 at CMBO's "Cape May Autumn Hawkwatch." Flights are diverse now. The first GOSHAWK was seen October 17. Big numbers of SHARP-SHINS and COOPER'S HAWKS still. RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS have begun. PEREGRINES (26 on 10/14, 23 on 10/16), MERLINS (188 on 10/14, 64 on 10/17), and AMERICAN KESTREL (18 on 10/17).

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 raptor ID, 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 at 10:30 a.m. on October 22, 23, & 24 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), meeting in the Cape May Point State Park's Environmental Education Building.

Explore little known haunts with CMBO: (1) 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 (2) 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 these special field trips while spaces remain!

BRIGANTINE (Forsythe) NWR is packed with shorebirds and waterfowl (many GREEN-WINGED TEAL and N. PINTAIL). 6 PEREGRINES on October 19 flushed the shorebirds repeatedly, including 8 HUDSONIAN GODWIT. 12 MARBLED GODWIT were there on October 15. If journeying to BRIGANTINE NWR be aware that they may possibly close the refuge on Thursday, October 28 and November 4 (if there are enough Snow Geese for a hunt). Call Tuesday afternoon to learn about Thursdays (609-652-1665).

Stone Harbor Point continues to be terrific for shorebirds and other migrants. 5 MARBLED GODWIT were seen there October 21, a LAPLAND LONGSPUR on October 15, and 100+ AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER daily. Nearby Nummy's Island held numbers of LITTLE BLUE and TRICOLORED HERON and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON on October 21. Join Mike Fritz for the final "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point and Nummy's Island" on Tuesday, October 26, 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 in October (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), and every Sunday in November (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Call Wildlife Unlimited to register for the "Back Bay" trips (609-884-3100); a portion of the proceeds go to CMBO.

MONARCHS continue to migrate through. October 18 & 19 a fair flight occurred prior to the rain. CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project reports the lowest numbers in the history of the census. Go to NJ Audubon's website (http://www.njaudubon.org), click on "Research," then click on "Monarch Monitoring Project" for more information. We can all help the Monarch population by planting more Milkweed in our gardens. CMBO has Tropical Milkweed seed packets for sale at our Center in Goshen (609-861-0700). Plant them next spring and enjoy this annual milkweed with its constant blooms all summer and right up until the frost. The tender leaves of the milkweed are especially attractive to egg-laying Monarchs. Stop by while they last! Great gifts for anyone with a garden.

It's continues to be an excellent fall for southern vagrant butterflies and they can still be found (when the sun is out) in gardens where Butterfly Bush, Zinnias, Globe Amaranth, and Tropical Milkweed bloom! A SLEEPY ORANGE was in a garden in Cape May Point on October 18, along with an OCOLA SKIPPER. CLOUDLESS SULPHURS, SACHEMS, and FIERY SKIPPERS are all still flying.

South Jersey's fall colors are still dazzling, though recent rain and wind blew many to the ground! 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.

"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 late fall migrants by joining one of CMBO weekly walks with local experts, including walks already mentioned and these additional walks : (1) Saturday (Oct. 23 & Nov. 6), "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) Oct. 23 & 24 (Saturday & Sunday), "Morning Flight" meets at 8:00 a.m. at the platform at Higbee Beach on the road out to the Canal, (3) Saturday, Oct. 23, "The Nature of Cape May Point" with Mark Garland, meeting at 2 p.m. at CMBO's Northwood Center, (4) Sunday, Oct. 24, "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 Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" meets at 7:30 a.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (6) Tuesday, Oct. 26, "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, (7) Tuesday, Oct. 26, (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), (8) 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, (9) Thursday (Oct. 28 & Nov. 4), "Hidden Valley Bird Walk" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England Road, (10) Friday, Oct. 22, "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot at the end of New England Road, (11) Friday, Oct. 22, "Sunset Birding at the Meadows" meets at 5:00 p.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (12) Friday, Nov. 5, "Late Fall Birds of Cape May" meets at 8:00 a.m. at the Hawkwatch Platform and heads to current hotspots around Cape May.

New Jersey Audubon Society needs volunteers to submit site nominations for the New Jersey Important Bird and Birding Areas Initiative. The NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection is integrating Important Bird Areas into the Landscape Project Mapping and its official Comprehensive Wildlife Plan. The Landscape Project is used by the NJDEP as the SOLE SOURCE of wildlife information for determining land acquisition priorities and management of state lands. Get involved in the NJ IBBA program: visit our website at http://www.njaudubon.org/conservation/IBBA or call 201-891-1240.

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!

<< 10/14/2004   11/5/2004 >>