Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/30/2003

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 30, and will next be updated on November 13. 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.

This weekend is New Jersey Audubon's "57th Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend / THE Bird Show," a 3-day weekend October 31 through November 2. Don't miss it! Stop by the Cape May Convention Center all weekend long, where over 50 vendors from all over the country are showcasing their goodies.

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.

Migrant SHORT-EARED OWLS continue to be seen. One flew by the Avalon Seawatch on October 23. Two were in "The Meadows on October 24 at dusk and one flew by the dike at Higbee Beach and was seen by the "Morning Flight Project." Rain later in the week was not conducive to owl migration. The skies finally cleared during CMBO's "Twilight Watch" on October 29. GREAT BLUE HERONS and a GREEN HERON migrated over before full dark, but no owls . . . yet. Owl banders to the north have banded over 1,400 SAW-WHET OWLS since September 21 (566 in northern Ontario, 115 near Ottawa Ontario, 532 at Prince Edward County in Ontario, and 178 near Freeport, Maine) and they are still moving through some of these northern areas. Various sites in Pennsylvania have banded over 150 Saw-whet Owls so far. Banders share that many of the birds are young from this year's nesting season, heartening news. Katy Duffy and her husband Patrick Matheny began their owl banding project at Cape May last night, October 29, so we'll soon have a better idea of the number and diversity of owls migrating through. Big owl numbers during migration often means big numbers wintering along South Jersey's Delaware Bayshore. Let's hope so! GREAT HORNED OWLS have been dueting since mid-October, at dusk and dawn, declaring the nesting territory they will use in January and one was silhouetted against the horizon at last light in "The Meadows" on October 24. SCREECH OWLS and a BARRED OWL were also calling at dusk at Tuckahoe WMA on October 23. A BARRED OWL was in a backyard in Cape May Point on October 24, not surprising since young disperse before the next breeding season, looking for their own nitch (and there are breeding Barred Owls at the nearby Rea Farm / Hidden Valley area). If you're keen on owls, be sure to sign up for the "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton, offered twice on Sundays: November 16 (12:30-5:00 p.m.), December 7 (12:30-5:00 p.m.). There's still room on CMBO's "Owls, Hawks, & Eagles 4-Day Birding Workshop" with Pat and Clay Sutton, and Ward Dasey, January 23-26, 2004. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for either of these.

The AVALON SEAWATCH continues to be "charged" with big flights and is in the capable hands of CMBO's Seabird Counter, Andy Wraithmell, from the United Kingdom and co-counter Bob Diebold and educator Julie Diebold. Big flights this week include: 26,500 on October 23, 10,000 on October 24, and 30,000 on October 25. The CMBO Avalon Seawatch, sponsored by Nikon Sports Optics, has tallied over 286,000 seabirds so far (September 22 through October 27). The bulk of the Seawatch flight includes 1000s of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (10,000 on Oct. 23), BLACK SCOTER (17,000 on Oct. 25), and SURF SCOTER (6,800 on Oct. 25). Mixed in are RED-THROATED LOONS (75 on Oct. 25), COMMON LOONS (140 on Oct. 23), N. GANNETS (600 on Oct. 27), a few BROWN PELICANS and GREAT CORMORANT still, and various ducks mixed in with flocks of scoters (WOOD DUCKS, AM. BLACK DUCKS, N. PINTAIL, 100s of GREEN-WINGED TEAL, GREATER and LESSER SCAUP). Small numbers of LONG-TAILED DUCKS and RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS are beginning to move through now. Other goodies at the Seawatch this week include: GREAT CORMORANT (1-3 daily), a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (Oct. 23), a COMMON EIDER (Oct. 26), PARASITIC JAEGER (3 on Oct. 27, 1 each on Oct. 26 and 25), LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (Oct. 25), and 2 close BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE on October 27. To feel more comfortable identifying birds at the Avalon Seawatch be sure to attend the "Seabird ID Mini-Workshop" held Saturday, 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. The bulk of the BRANT population winters in South Jersey in the backbay waters behind Avalon and Stone Harbor. They're IN!

The Avalon Seawatch continues to see MONARCHS migrating by. To date the Seawatch has counted 8,372 Monarchs passing south by Avalon, including 64 this week, October 21-27. 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 36,791 raptors since September 1, including 146 BALD EAGLES, and will run until November 30 The last good flights were October 23 (1,470) and 24 (1,881) before the rainy weather which kept the flights down. Despite the poor weather, 16 species of raptors were enjoyed this week including N. GOSHAWK (Oct. 28), ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Oct. 24), GOLDEN EAGLE (Oct. 25).

The Morning Flight Project, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Optical, held at Higbee Beach on the dike every morning from sunrise until four hours later, began September 1 and ends October 31. PURPLE FINCH have been coming through in big numbers this week! 125 were counted on October 23, and 310+ on the 24th not only from the "Morning Flight Project" but from all over the southern Cape. It is time to savor SPARROWS. The grassy strip in front of the Cape May Hawkwatch, where bird seed is being scattered, is attracting good diversity and offering some of the best and lengthiest looks at all the regulars (SONG, SWAMP, CHIPPING, WHITE-THROATED, and WHITE-CROWNED), plus goodies like CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Oct. 28). Elsewhere VESPER (Hidden Valley), LINCOLN'S (Hidden Valley), GRASSHOPPER (Higbee Beach), and NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED and SALTMARSH SHARP-TAILED SPARROW (on Ocean Drive in the marshes near Two Mile Landing Restaurant) have been seen through the week.

Pavilion Circle in Cape May Point continues to attract YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS. 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. It's the tail end of the butterfly season especially with icy nights, but sheltered spots in the sun and out of the wind still have blooming flowers and butterflies. Diversity has dropped this week to include: BLACK SWALLOWTAIL caterpillars on fennel, CABBAGE WHITE, CLOUDED & ORANGE SULPHUR, GRAY HAIRSTREAK, AMERICAN SNOUT, VARIEGATED FRITILLARY, QUESTION MARK, MOURNING CLOAK, AMERICAN LADY, PAINTED LADY, RED ADMIRAL, and MONARCHS (still migrating through). Sightings came in this week from CMBO's gardens in Goshen, Higbee Beach, Hidden Valley, and Cape May Point State Park trails. Dragonflies were still being seen too, nearly all COMMON GREEN DARNERS.

The large flock of BLACK SKIMMERS continues on the beachfront at Cape May or "The Meadows." Through the day they rest on the beach unless disturbed by beach walkers and near dusk they take off and begin feeding.

A COYOTE was seen at Higbee Beach on October 28 by the observers on the dike as part of the "Morning Flight Project." Coyotes have settled in to Cape May County and are successfully breeding here now.

Some leaves have been blown from trees but some stretches are still glowing with South Jersey's fall colors. 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 late fall migration and there are still lots of ways to enjoy it. CMBO offerings include the following walks that require no preregistration! EVERY MONDAY: "Mondays at the Meadows," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY WEDNESDAY: " Birding Cape May Point," 7:30-9:30 a.m. Thursday, November 6: "Hidden Valley Bird Walk," 7:30-9:30 a.m., and "Birding For First Timers," 1-3 p.m. (perfect for newcomers to birding). EVERY FRIDAY: "Late Fall Birding at Cape May" with Mark Garland (8-10 a.m.). Saturday, November 8, "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm," 7:30-9:30 a.m. 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," Sunday (10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.), November 9-23. Call Wildlife Unlimited (609-884-3100) to register for these CMBO-sponsored trips. 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.), "Optics Workshop" at CMBO's Center in Goshen on Sunday, November 23 (1-3 p.m.), "Birding Cumberland," with Pat and Clay Sutton and Steve Eisenhauer (of the Natural Lands Trust, "Fortescue Glades"), on Sunday, November 30 (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). To register call 609-861-0700, x-11.

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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