Cape May Natural History Hotline - 10/4/2001

The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience). This number (609-861-0466) is now the home of the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory.

CMBO's Cape May Hawkwatch crew this fall is composed of Bruce McWhorter, the counter; Brennan Mulrooney, the back-up counter, and two Interpretive Naturalists, Jennifer Leyhe and Derek Lovitch. If you're brand new to hawk watching or to Cape May's hawkwatch, be sure to take advantage of CMBO's Hawk ID Mini-workshops (each Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) and taught by Jennifer or Derek. Jennifer and Derek will be on the Cape May Hawkwatch Platform at the Cape May Point State Park each day to help folks with raptor identification and understanding the flight. Normally raptors are low and hunting in the early morning and again by mid-to-late afternoon and early evening. Mid-day they are often quite high, due to thermals or warm air rising.

The CAPE MAY HAWKWATCH began on September 1st and is now into its second month. As of October 3rd over 12,200 raptors have been recorded. The September 28-29 coldfront produced the season's first 1,000-bird-days. September 28's 1,483 birds included 15 BALD EAGLES, 44 N. HARRIER, 457 SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS, 75 COOPER'S HAWKS, 421 BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, 24 RED-TAILS, 337 AM. KESTREL, 32 MERLIN, 7 PEREGRINES. 26 PEREGRINES passed on September 30. Good flights on Oct. 2 (799 birds) and Oct. 3 (668 birds) followed. October 2nd's flight included 70 OSPREY, 11 BALD EAGLES, 155 AM. KESTREL, 44 MERLIN. To view the CMBO Hawkwatch daily totals, go to:


CMBO's Avalon Seawatch crew this fall is composed of Karl Bardon, the counter (back for a 2nd season), Brennan Mulrooney, the back-up counter, Cameron Cox, the Interpretive Naturalist, and CMBO Associate Naturalists Gail Dwyer and BJ Pinnock, who will be conducting Seabird ID Mini-workshops, from 10 a.m. to Noon, each Saturday and Sunday, October 6-21, at the Avalon Seawatch, 7th Street and the beach in Avalon. Bring a scope and your binoculars and enjoy the flight of seabirds as they migrate south along the coastline, often passing quite close to the Seawatch at the north end of Avalon because it juts a mile out into the ocean.

The AVALON SEAWATCH began on September 22nd. After a few quiet days, seabirds began moving in earnest, with 1,000's of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, 100's of BLACK SCOTERS & SURF SCOTERS, and the first waves of COMMON LOON. Highlights include 2 COMMON EIDERS on the 29th, a LARK SPARROW on the 26th, MARBLED GODWITS on the 26th & 28th, and a BLACK TERN on the 22nd & 24th.

CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project began September 1st. Chris Kisiel is this fall's Monarch Migration Technician. As of October 4th over 5,000 Monarchs have been tagged at Cape May Point by this project. For a history of CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project and details on this fall's weekly road census, go to: http://www.concord.org/~dick/mon.html

A major coldfront at the end of September with winds from the north and northwest triggered one of the most dramatic MONARCH concentrations in several years. By 2 p.m. on September 28 bushes in the dunes at Cape May Point were vibrating with roosting Monarchs that had settled in and stopped migrating because of the strong winds. That evening and dawn the following day (September 29) were times to remember. Pooled sightings documented at least 70,000 Monarchs roosting at 3 different locations: the undeveloped dune forest at Stone Harbor Point, the dunes and backyards in Cape May Point, and the stands of Red Cedars at East Point (in Cumberland County). There were no doubt many more Monarchs in South Jersey than those 70,000, since many other coastal stands of native vegetation were not checked for roosting Monarchs. The coldfront was followed by Indian Summer temperatures and winds from the wrong direction, winds that do not aide migration. The result has been lingering Monarchs in gardens the last three days (Oct. 2-4). One garden in the Villas counted 200, another garden in Mauricetown reports 50. The next coldfront they'll move on and others from the north will arrive and move through. Other migrant butterflies mixed in with Monarchs and also heading south include: RED ADMIRALS, PAINTED LADIES, and AMERICAN LADIES.

Good places to view and enjoy migrating & nectaring Monarchs (BUT NOT TO COLLECT or MANHANDLE any butterflies, since all gardens in South Jersey are butterfly sanctuaries!!!) include the various public gardens in Cape May County, all of which are noted on CMBO's "Birding & Butterflying Map": (1) Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Gardens in North Wildwood, (2) Pavilion Circle Gardens in Cape May Point, (3) Cape May Water Conservation Garden in Cape May, (4) Cape May Bird Observatory's Center for Research & Education "Model Backyard Habitat" gardens in Goshen, (5) Cape May Bird Observatory's Northwood Center gardens in Cape May Point, (6) NJ Audubon's Nature Center of Cape May gardens in Cape May, and on many of CMBO's scheduled bird and or butterfly walks (in the various natural areas around Cape May and Cape May County).

Be sure to take advantage of the many CMBO programs where you can learn more about Monarchs: (1) "Monarch Tagging Demos," Thursdays through Mondays from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m., until October 14, (2) Sunday and Wednesday "Butterfly Walks" from 10 a.m. to Noon, until October 17.

For full details about these various programs (or one of the countless other walks, workshops, field trips, and programs happening right now) go to New Jersey Audubon Society's web site (http://www.njaudubon.org) -- then to "Fall Program Schedule" -- then to Cape May Bird Observatory . . . or go directly there by typing in the following website: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

While migrant Monarchs from the north are coming through in force, some of our local Monarchs are still mating, laying eggs on Milkweed, and dying. These eggs will develop and become the final fall generation (the generation that migrates), about a month or so after the egg is laid. It will be curious to see how late our local Monarchs will lay eggs this fall. The warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay buffer the tip of the Cape May Peninsula and we may see Monarchs laying eggs into early November. To witness this incredible life cycle, be sure to stop by CMBO's Northwood Center, where a terrarium is set up with live caterpillars, chrysalises, and emerging Monarchs.

Southern vagrant butterflies this week, include good numbers of SACHEMS in gardens all over Cape May County, 1 VARIEGATED FRITILLARY on October 3 at the CMBO gardens in Goshen, 3 CLOUDLESS SULPHURS on October 4 at Higbee Beach. A WHITE M HAIRSTREAK was in a garden in the Villas on October 4. There is an unusual incursion of 2 southern butterflies occurring right now in coastal areas: S. DOGFACE & CASSIUS BLUES. They've been reported as far north as coastal Virginia. Keep your eyes open! A BANDED SPHINX moth was discovered in Goshen, NJ, at the CMBO Center for Research & Education on September 28. This tropical species can sometimes be common from Florida to Arkansas and Texas, and may stray as far north as Nova Scotia and Michigan.

New Jersey Audubon's web site has the Cape May County Butterfly Checklist available as a download: http://www.njaudubon.org/NatureNotes/bflies.html

Coyotes continue to be seen and heard in the Higbee Beach area and along New England Road. These new residents are doing an excellent job of keeping feral cats under control, or so it seems, since very few feral cats have been seen since the Coyotes moved into the area . . . certainly a positive change for migratory songbirds!

A River Otter was sighted crossing Lighthouse Avenue on September 25. River Otter live in the freshwater areas in Cape May County but are so secretive that they're rarely seen, though their scat or distinctive droppings (often full of fish scales) are often found if you know to look for them.

Tall or Giant Sunflower and Seaside Goldenrod are both in bloom right now and drawing in hungry Monarchs and other butterflies.

Wildlife gardens in Cape May County continued to report one or two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds through the last few days of September, though most have migrated south. After mid-October, question any hummingbird you see, even if it looks like a female or immature Ruby-throated Hummingbird, since that is when the western rarities occur.

The swallow show is still happening. Thousands of TREE SWALLOWS are migrating through now. An amazing spectacle to look for at dusk is when these thousands of swallows spiral down in one massive funnel into their communal evening roost. The Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge on Sunset Boulevard is one good observation spot to watch for this.

Male Great Horned Owls are already setting up territories by hooting at dawn and dusk. If you should hear the male's hoot, "whoo-who-who-who, whoooo, whoooo," you can be assured that a pair will nest somewhere nearby come January.

Stands of Pokeweed and Virginia Creeper are ripe with deep purple berries now and drawing in good numbers of migrant songbirds, especially Catbirds and Thrushes. Other good wild foods migrant birds are counting on right now include Bayberries, Waxmyrtle berries, and Poison Ivy berries

New Jersey Audubon Society's 55th Annual Cape May Autumn Weekend (& THE Bird Show) is scheduled for October 26-28, 2001, peak time for migration and all its magic! To receive the brochure stop by either CMBO center or call 609-884-2736 or go to the web site:


The Cape May Bird Observatory has daily walks, requiring no pre-registration, and many special field trips and programs that do. To receive a copy of our Program Schedule, stop by our centers, or call 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's WEB SITE at http://www.njaudubon.org

The Cape May Bird Observatory is a research and education unit of the New Jersey Audubon Society. Our aim is to perpetuate and preserve the ornithological and natural history significance of Cape May. Your membership supports these goals and this hotline. For more information call 609-861-0700 or send a request for information to CMBO, 600 Route 47 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210. Our two centers are CMBO's Center for Research & Education at 600 Route 47 North in Goshen and CMBO's Northwood Center at 701 East Lake Drive in Cape May Point.

The Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline is a service of New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties and near shore waters. Updates are made on Thursday evenings. Please report natural history sightings to CMBO at 609-884-2736 or 609-861-0700. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call 609-898-BIRD [2473]. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

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