Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/23/2003

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 23. 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 7th and final Autumn Open House program will be held on Saturday evening, October 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the CMBO Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North). Paul Lehman will share "Fall Birding in the Bering Sea Region of Alaska."

New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory (in association with the Cape May State Film Festival) is proud to announce a special showing of "Winged Migration" on Saturday, November 15, at 1:30 p.m. at Cape May Convention Hall, Beach & Stockton Ave. Cape May, NJ. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with some of the world's most distinguished experts on avian migration. Tickets are $15 and are available at the Cape May Bird Observatory, 701 East Lake Drive, Cape May Point (609-884-2736) or by calling the Cape May NJS Film festival office (609-884-6700). Tickets can be purchased at the door the day of the screening (pending seat availability).

"Winged Migration" is the incredible documentary film by Jacques Perrin which offers a first of its kind view of how difficult the life of migrating birds, complete with their struggles to survive environmental destruction and the constant human threat. The film captures like no nature documentary before it, a bird's-eye-view of flying, breathing, up-close look at their muscles and sounds. It is incredibly beautiful and suspenseful and has received numerous awards.

2 BARN OWLS were heard as they migrated over West Cape May on October 17, along with sizable numbers of vocal GREAT BLUE HERONS, NIGHT HERONS, AMERICAN BITTERNS, and GREEN HERONS. A flurry of SHORT-EARED OWLS were seen October 20: 1 at Avalon Seawatch, 1 at Higbee Beach during the Morning Flight Project, and 2 that evening hunting at Jakes Landing. GREAT HORNED OWLS have been dueting since mid-October, at dusk and dawn, declaring the nesting territory they will use in January. Owl banders to the north have banded over 1,200 SAW-WHET OWLS since September 21 (530 in northern Ontario, 532 at Prince Edward County in Ontario, and 148 near Freeport, Maine) and they are still moving through these northern areas in good numbers. Various sites in Pennsylvania have banded over 100 Saw-whet Owls so far. 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. If you're scanning for owls at dusk, be alert for migrating bats too. Several hundred migrating Red Bats were seen from the Avalon Seawatch on October 20 and a dozen over "The Meadows" on October 22. Pat Sutton will lead the final "Twilight Watch for Migrating Owls, Bats, & Herons" Wednesday, October 29, 4:00-6:00 p.m., at "The Meadows." If you're keen on owls, be sure to sign up for the "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton, offered 3 different dates: Saturday, October 25 (2-6:30 p.m.), Sunday, November 16 (12:30-5:00 p.m.), or Sunday, December 7 (12:30-5:00 p.m.), by calling 609-861-0700, x-11.

The AVALON SEAWATCH has been "rocking" according to CMBO's Seabird Counter, Andy Wraithmell, from the United Kingdom and co-counter Bob Diebold and educator Julie Diebold. Andy had a fantastic day on October 20, counting over 45,000 birds. The only other sites where Andy has counted over 40,000 birds in a day on a seawatch was in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, where he tallied 250,000 Manx Shearwaters. On October 20, Andy broke the all time DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT daily count by about 100 birds, with over 22,000 birds! The day included one flock of 3,000 cormorants that stretched from the bell buoy to the Taj Mahal in an absolute perfect line. When the cormorants thinned out scoters started pouring through. One flock of a thousand pure SURF SCOTER was made up almost entirely of adult males! A total of 14,000 SURF SCOTER and 5,000 BLACK SCOTER migrated by the Seawatch on October 20. That same afternoon, Andy also enjoyed a flock of 5 AMERICAN BITTERN and a SHORT-EARED OWL which flew by about 20 minutes apart. The CMBO Avalon Seawatch, sponsored by Nikon Sports Optics, has tallied over 174,000 seabirds so far (September 22 through October 20). Other species moving through now include: 100s of COMMON LOONS, dozens of RED-THROATED LOONS and N. GANNETS, a few BROWN PELICANS still, GREAT BLUE HERONS (168 on Oct. 17, 84 on Oct. 20), BRANT (with 1,489 on October 17); other ducks mixed in with flocks of scoters (WOOD DUCKS, AM. BLACK DUCKS, N. PINTAIL, and 100s of GREEN-WINGED TEAL, including an amazing flight of 1,352 on Oct. 20, GREATER SCAUP); the first few LONG-TAILED DUCKS, WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, BUFFLEHEAD, and RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS this week. Other goodies at the Seawatch this week include: 24 GREAT CORMORANT on Oct. 18, 5 COMMON EIDER (4 on Oct. 20, 1 on 19th), and daily sightings of PARASITIC JAEGER (12 on Oct. 16, 5 on 19th). To feel more comfortable identifying birds at the Avalon Seawatch be sure to attend the "Seabird ID Mini-Workshop" held Saturday, Oct. 25 and Nov. 8, at the Seawatch (7th street and the beach in Avalon), 2-4 p.m. CMBO's popular "Waterfowl Cruise," aboard the Skimmer, Saturday, November 29 (11 a.m.-3:00 p.m.), will explore back bay waters north to Stone Harbor to see thousands of water birds, including most of the Atlantic Coast population of Brant. This trip also often sails by mergansers, loons, Horned Grebe, Bufflehead, Long-tailed Ducks, N. Harrier, Great Cormorant, shorebirds (maybe the LONG-BILLED CURLEW will linger again!). Call CMBO, 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for the "Waterfowl Cruise."

SNOW GEESE, BRANT, and N. PINTAILS have arrived in big numbers at Brigantine NWR. BRANT are thick now too in the back bay waters behind Avalon and Stone Harbor, where they will winter by the thousands. Enjoy them during a trip to Stone Harbor Point and also study the 1000s of DUNLIN, plus the flock of 300 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER and, if you're lucky, the LONG-BILLED CURLEW and flock of MARBLED GODWIT that seem to favor the same sandbar visible from the base of the "now CLOSED" "Free Bridge" to Nummy's Island.

The Avalon Seawatch has also had a good season with migrating MONARCHS. To date the Seawatch has counted 8,300 Monarchs passing south by Avalon, including 1,047 this week, October 16-20. Monarchs began migrating through Cape May late this fall, so it looks as if they will continue to migrate late into the season in good numbers. Time will tell. CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project this fall is sponsored by Bushnell Sports Optics. To view the history of this project go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Research and click on "Monarch Monitoring Project."

The Cape May Hawkwatch, sponsored by Swarovski Optik this fall, has tallied over 33,000 raptors since September 1, including 142 BALD EAGLES. CMBO's 5-day Raptor Workshop (October 17-21) enjoyed a series of coldfronts that resulted in a "17-raptor species week" with 2 N. GOSHAWK (Oct. 20), 2 SWAINSON'S HAWK (Oct. 20 & 22), 2 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Oct. 20 & 22), and an immature GOLDEN EAGLE (Oct. 17), in addition to a good showing of all the other raptors. A special highlight was the SANDHILL CRANE (an honorary raptor) soaring endlessly over Cape May Point's Pavilion Circle with eagles, a squadron of vultures, and kettles of hawks. At the hawkwatch Bald Eagles continue to migrate through daily. High counts of the other species this week include OSPREY (59 on Oct. 16), N. HARRIER (76 on Oct. 22), SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (299 on Oct. 22), COOPER'S HAWK (104 on Oct. 20), RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (14 on Oct. 18), BROAD-WINGED HAWK (16 on Oct. 20), RED-TAILED HAWK (9 on Oct. 20), AMERICAN KESTREL (79 on Oct. 18), MERLIN (52 on Oct. 18), and PEREGRINE (15 on Oct. 17). 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 the "Hawk ID Mini-Workshops," Friday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, October 25, 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.

A report of a large flock of SANDHILL CRANES on October 21 over Husted Landing in Cumberland County was shared with CMBO. "Birding Cumberland," an all day field trip on Sunday, November 30 (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), with Pat and Clay Sutton and Steve Eisenhauer (of the Natural Lands Trust, "Fortescue Glades"), will explore many of Cumberland County's birding hotspots and receive a copy of the newly published guide, "Birding Cumberland," by Clay Sutton. Call CMBO, 609-861-0700, x-11, to register.

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 Saturday, Oct. 25, and Sunday, Oct. 26, 8:00-8:30 a.m. Highlights from this week's Morning flight Project include: over 100 EASTERN MEADOWLARK on Oct. 20; 5,900 AMERICAN ROBINS and 116 PURPLE FINCH on October 23; and many thousands of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS (69,600 on Oct. 19, 28,400 on Oct. 23). Needless to say, Yellow-rumped Warblers are everywhere. Their "kiss-like" calls can be heard as they flit from reed to reed, Bayberry bush to Waxmyrtle bush. The distinctive calls of RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS and GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS are everywhere now too. Sparrows are IN now too, including many different species, as you've learned from the "Cape May Birding Hotline!" 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.

Pavilion Circle in Cape May Point has been a hotspot for YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS for several weeks now. Their favorite trees can be spotted with binoculars by looking for the distinctive sapsucker drillings around tree trunks and limbs. These drillings are attracting an assortment of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, late flying butterflies like QUESTION MARK and RED ADMIRAL, and a few warblers.

A large flock of BLACK SKIMMERS continues on Cape May's beachfront 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 unless flushed, and taking off at dusk to feed.

It's the tail end of the butterfly season. Diversity has dropped this week to include: BLACK SWALLOWTAIL, CABBAGE WHITE, CLOUDED & ORANGE SULPHUR, E. TAILED BLUE, PEARL CRESCENT, QUESTION MARK, MOURNING CLOAK, AMERICAN LADY, RED ADMIRAL, COMMON BUCKEYE, RED-SPOTTED PURPLE, MONARCHS (still migrating through), SACHEM, and a surprising number of OCOLA SKIPPERS still (W. Cape May, Cape May Point, CMBO Gardens in Goshen). Dragonfly-wise this week's sightings include: number of COMMON GREEN DARNER, few BLACK SADDLEBAGS, CAROLINA SADDLEBAG, BLUE-FACED MEADOWHAWK, YELLOW-LEGGED MEADOWHAWK, and BLUE DASHER. Join Karen Williams and learn about Garden Maintenance: Friday, October 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 still FOR SALE at the CMBO Center in Goshen.

South Jersey's fall colors are becoming more vivid. Flowering Dogwood trees are orange, Sumac and Virginia Creeper are coral colored, Sour Gum trees are purple, Persimmon fruits are bright orange, rose hips (the seed pods on roses) are bright red, Winterberry Holly is covered with bright red berries. Trees and shrubs are heavy with fruit, many favored by birds, including Winged Sumac's red fruit clusters, Red Cedar's blue berries, and Pokeweed's deep blue, juicy berries.

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. Friday, October 24: "Higbee Beach Bird Walk," 7-9, and "Sunset Birding at the Meadows," 5:00-dusk. Saturday, October 25: "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm," 7:30-9:30 a.m.; "Morning Flight" 8-8:30. Sunday, October 26: "Birding Two Mile Beach," 7:30-9:30 a.m., and "Morning Flight" 8-8:30 a.m. EVERY MONDAY: "Mondays at the Meadows," 7:30-9:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 28: "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point," 3:30 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., and "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 1:00 p.m.). 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: "Weekend Field Trip to Assateague Island" with Mark Garland on October 8 & 9, "Gannets Galore" on October 15 (8-11 a.m.), a field trip to explore and learn access to rich areas in the "Cape May NWR" on October 15 (1-4 p.m.), "Cape Henlopen and Broadkill Marsh in Delaware" with Mark Garland on Saturday, November 22 (9:30 a.m.-6:00 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!

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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