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Cape May Natural History Hotline - 11/15/2001
CAPE MAY NATURAL HISTORY & EVENTS HOTLINE A/O November 15, 2001

You have reached the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This update was made on Thursday, November 15th. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

The owl migration is still underway and will continue into late November, maybe even early December. Katy Duffy and her husband, Patrick Matheny, journey here from Montana each fall to run the Cape May Owl Banding Project from about October 25th through about November 18th, at the peak of that migration. October 27th was the first night they banded owls. It has been a fabulous fall for owls! Since then they have banded 261 owls, including 1 BARN OWL, 66 LONG-EARED OWLS, and 194 SAW-WHET OWLS. Three major movements occurred this week: November 9th with 22 owls, 11th with 30 owls, and 12th with 21 owls -- 10 of the owls were LONG-EAREDS, the rest SAW-WHETS.

The biggest owl migration night this fall was October 28th, when 67 owls were banded, including 18 LONG-EAREDS and 49 SAW-WHETS. That one night of banding was higher than the entire total for the fall of 2000 (39 owls banded) and also higher than the total for the fall of 1998 (56 owls banded). In recent years two other falls stand out for owl migration: 1999 when 411 owls were banded (20 LONG-EAREDS and 386 SAW-WHETS) and 1995 when 669 owls were banded (28 LONG-EAREDS and 637 SAW-WHETS). With this history in mind, the 66 LONG-EARED OWLS banded so far this fall is highly significant! It must have been a great breeding year for them.

November 18th is the last night of this fall's owl banding project. Through then, if conditions look good for owl migration, Katy Duffy or Patrick Matheny will meet people in the parking lot on Sunset Boulevard at The Nature Conservancy's "Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge," also know as The Meadows at 8 p.m. and do a brief "Owl Demo" with whatever they've caught at their 7:30 p.m. check. If their truck is in the parking lot (it has Montana plates) and they are not there by 8 p.m., it means that they're busy with owls and will be out shortly. Many nights migration conditions are not good (winds are too strong or from the wrong direction, south or east), owls do not come through, and no owls are caught. So, before coming, call CMBO's Northwood Center (609-884-2736) anytime after 3 p.m. or stop in and the staff will know whether or not there might be an 8 p.m. "Owl Demo."

Keen observers have spotted a number of day-time roosting owls along the trails at the Cape May Point State Park this fall, most recently a LONG-EARED OWL on November 9 on the Yellow Trail If you should spot an owl roosting in a tree by day, please observe it from the trials. DO NOT step off the trails. The owls WILL FLUSH and then no one else will be able to enjoy this wonderful owly time.

Often following a good fall migration of owls like this one, good numbers of wintering owls occur, owls that journeyed no further and ended their migration here in southern New Jersey, especially in the habitat-rich Delaware Bayshore. So, this fall's owl migration bodes VERY WELL for CMBO's 4-day "Winter Workshop for Hawks, Owls, and Waterfowl," January 25-28, 2002; and there's still room on this workshop. Sign up now and plan to join us! For details go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html

The CAPE MAY HAWKWATCH began on September 1st and is half way through its third month. As of November 14th 28,399 raptors have been recorded by Bruce McWorter, the counter. A late OSPREY was seen November 9th. 3 BALD EAGLES this week bring the fall total up to 218. N. HARRIERS continue with some nice flights still, including 24 on the 9th and 16 on the 11th. SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS are still steady, with some nice flights this week, including 101 on the 9th, 98 on the 11th, and 44 on the 12th. November 9th's flight included 42 COOPER'S HAWKS and another 22 on the 11th. 18 GOSHAWKS have been recorded so far, including 4 this week (singles on the 9th, 11th, 12th, and 13th). Nice buteo flights this week came on the 9th (12 RED-SHOULDERS & 60 RED-TAILS), 11th (16 RED-SHOULDERS & 50 RED-TAILS), 12th (13 RED-SHOULDERS & 58 RED-TAILS). 14 BROAD-WINGED HAWKS were seen this week mixed in with the buteo flights. To date, 10 GOLDEN EAGLES have been recorded this fall, including 1 on the 9th and 1 on the 10th. Small numbers of AMERICAN KESTREL (4 on the 9th), MERLINS (4 this week, most recently 1 on the 14th), and PEREGRINES (3 this week, most recently 1 on the 11th) were seen this week. To view the CMBO Hawkwatch daily totals, go to: http://www.capemaytimes.com/birds/hawkwatch.htm#totals

The AVALON SEAWATCH (7th Street and the beach in Avalon) began on September 22nd and Karl Bardon, the counter, has already recorded 528,036 seabirds. 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. 17,848 RED-THROATED LOONS have been counted so far with 1,000s passing daily now, including a flight of 4,289 on November 13th. 20-190 COMMON LOONS are passing daily now. 11,653 N. GANNETS have been counted so far with 1,000+ bird days now, including 1,633 on November 14. 163,645 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT have been counted so far, with several thousand passing daily now. Be alert for GREAT CORMORANTS mixed in, there were 3 seen this week, 1 each on the 12th, 13th, and 14th. 5 COMMON EIDER were flybys at the Seawatch this week. LONG-TAILED DUCK numbers are picking up, with 46 on November 10th. The biggest scoter flight so far this fall came on October 27 and 28, when 40,000 passed. Thousands are still being seen each day. On November 13th the scoter flight included 3,545 BLACK SCOTER, 1,271 SURF SCOTER, and 71 WHITE-WINGED SCOTER. BUFFLEHEAD numbers are growing, November 9th's flight included 122. RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS are steady now, with 30-50 daily. 4 PARASITIC JAEGERS were seen this week, including singles on November 9th, 10th, 12th, and 14th. And the Avalon Seawatch's first RAZORBILL was seen today, November 15th!

CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project began September 1st. Chris Kisiel, this fall's Monarch Migration Technician, Louise Zemaitis, Michael O'Brien, and LuAnn Tracy tagged about 6,700 MONARCHS at Cape May Point in September and October. Three of these tagged Monarchs have been seen elsewhere along their journey as they head to the mountains of Mexico (where they will spend the winter). Two were found by a fellow Monarch tagger in Chincoteague, Virginia, and 1 was just found in Orlando, Florida. Recoveries are so important to this project, documenting the route, timing, and survival of migrating Monarchs.

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 smattering of Monarchs are still being seen, including 1 at the Avalon Seawatch on November 9th, though spotty now that we've entered November.

Flowers in sheltered spots are still blooming and butterflies and dragonflies are still flying. On November 10th compiled sightings from Higbee Beach, South Cape May Meadows, and the Cape May Point State Park added up to 15 species of butterfly, including over 100 ORANGE SULPHURS, several CLOUDED SULPHURS, 1 CLOUDLESS SULPHUR (a fun sighting, since it was not a big fall for them), 1 AMERICAN COPPER, 2 EASTERN-TAILED BLUES, 10 VARIEGATED FRITILLARY, 4 PEARL CRESCENT, 1 QUESTION MARK, 1 E. COMMA, 1 AMERICAN LADY, 1 PAINTED LADY, 5 RED ADMIRAL (all worn individuals), 20 COMMON BUCKEYE, 1 MONARCH, plus 2 unidentified skippers (which almost had to be SACHEMS). As of today, November 15th, COMMON GREEN DARNERS and BLACK SADDLEBAGS can still be found hunting warm edges out of the wind. On November 14th, 100+ YELLOW-LEGGED MEADOWHAWKS were seen near the Atlantic City Airport, including many mating (in tandem).

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

NJ's nesting BALD EAGLE population now stands at 31 pairs according to the NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Program. These adults do not migrate. Since early October observers have noticed that many of them are again spending time back at their nest. Bald Eagles and Great Horned Owls are our earliest nesting birds, so they have already set up their nesting territories.

Backyard feeders in Cape May County with thistle and sunflower offerings have attracted big flocks of AMERICAN GOLDFINCH in recent weeks ... mixed in have been northern treats, like PINE SISKINS and PURPLE FINCH. Scattered millet in backyards is attracting big flocks of WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS ... mixed in are one or two newly arrived FOX SPARROWS.

Many leaves have fallen and it is time to haunt the woods looking for old raptor, crow, or heron nests that Great Horned Owls may use as nest sites come January. Pairs of GREAT HORNED OWLS have been vocal most dawns and dusks, since September. Each pair is near its potential nest site. Their hooting is a declaration of the territory they've set up. If you should hear the male's hoot, "whoo-who-who-who, whoooo, whoooo," and the female's lower answer ("wooo woooo") you can be assured that a pair will nest somewhere nearby come January.

COYOTES continue to be seen and heard in the Higbee Beach area and along New England Road. One pack was heard yelping at 4:15 a.m. on Cape Island east of Seashore Road near Cape Island Creek. 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!

Persimmon trees are ripe with bright orange fruits and now that we've had our first frost they are no doubt ripe enough to eat. Keep an eye on them since they'll attract hungry birds as well. There is an excellent crop of holly berries on American Holly trees which bodes well for wintering Robin numbers. Other important food attracting migrant birds right now includes berries on Poison Ivy shoots, Red Cedar trees, Multiflora Rose bushes and other roses too, Sour Gum or Black Gum trees, Bayberry and Waxmyrtle bushes, Virginia Creeper vines, and Catbrier tangles. The fluffy white flowers on female Groundsel-tree bushes continue to accent the landscape.

The Cape May Bird Observatory has weekly 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/Calendar/calcmbo.html

Three special field trips coming up that still have room, include: (1) 'Gannet Gawking' on Saturday, November 17 (9:00 to 11:00 AM) -- held when masses of Northern Gannets migrate by our shores, adults and different aged immatures -- so lots of variety in plumage. Join Pat Sutton at a truly scenic site, the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse and Gardens in North Wildwood, where we'll let the birds come to us. An ideal adventure for those with limited mobility or energy who want to enjoy gannets galore. If we're in luck, the winds will be from the northeast and these impressive seabirds will be close to shore. Cost: $10 CMBO / NJAS members, $15 nonmembers; Limit: 20 people. (2) CAPE MAY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE FIELD TRIP on Saturday, November 17 (1:00 to 4:00 PM) -- This NWR was dedicated in 1989 and will ultimately preserve more than 22,500 acres in Cape May County. To date about 11,000 acres have been purchased and are open to walking access for bird and butterfly watching, photography, hiking, and nature study. This field trip will explore the "Delaware Bay Division" via trails running through a rich area of previously inaccessible fields and old forests on the edge of the Delaware Bay. Access to this rich birding area is not easy to find and refuge boundary signs frighten some potential visitors off, stating that "unauthorized entry (is) prohibited." Refuge staff will co-lead this field trip with Pat Sutton. Expect a fair amount of walking. Cost: $15 CMBO / NJ Audubon members, $25 nonmembers To register for either, call CMBO at 609-861-0700, x-11. (3) WATERFOWL CRUISE on Saturday, November 24 (11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) -- This 4-hour tour (beginning and ending at Cape May) is aboard the Skimmer, a stable 40-foot catamaran with open and enclosed viewing decks. The trip will explore the inaccessible reaches of back bay waters between Cape May and Stone Harbor, an area where thousands of waterfowl winter, including most of the Atlantic Coast population of Brant, a small goose. Also expect to enjoy good looks at mergansers, loons, Horned Grebes, Bufflehead, Long-tailed Duck, Northern Harriers, Great Cormorants, shorebirds (Marbled Godwit is possible), Bonaparte's Gulls, and more! Cost: $35 CMBO / NJAS members, $45 nonmembers. To register for either, call CMBO at 609-861-0700, x-11.

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 609-861-0700 or 609-884-2736. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call 609-898-BIRD. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

 
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