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Cape May Natural History Hotline - 11/21/2001
CAPE MAY NATURAL HISTORY & EVENTS HOTLINE A/O November 21, 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 21st. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

Both HUMPBACK and FINBACK WHALES were seen this week off Cape May County and close to shore. Observers on November 16th, while fishing for Striped Bass 1-2 miles off Wildwood, had 2 HUMPBACK WHALES breaching and feeding around them from 9 a.m. to Noon. Apparently the water was solid Krill (little shrimp-like creatures), so thick that when fish were caught they sparkled with krill attached to them. The krill were attracting bay anchoves and the bay anchoves were attracting lots of terns, N. GANNETS, gulls, and the whales. The water temperature was about normal, about 54 degrees F. The whales were first sighted off Hereford Inlet on November 15th. On November 18th observers aboard the Cape May Whale Watcher (800-786-5445) enjoyed good looks at a 65' FINBACK WHALE, another Finback spouting in the distance, and a 35' HUMPBACK WHALE.

The owl migration will continue into late November, maybe even early December, but Katy Duffy and her husband, Patrick Matheny, needed to return to their jobs in Montana. This fall they ran the Cape May Owl Banding Project from October 25th through November 17th, at the peak of that migration, and documented a fabulous owl migration by banding 277 owls, including 1 BARN OWL, a record 70 LONG-EARED OWLS, and 206 SAW-WHET OWLS.

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 70 LONG-EARED OWLS banded this fall is highly significant! It must have been a great breeding year for them.

Keen observers this fall have spotted a number of day-time roosting owls along the trails at the Cape May Point State Park and in good cover around Cape May Point, most recently two LONG-EARED OWLS on November 17 along Stevens Street. 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.

Other owls in the news include a SAW-WHET on November 18th and a SNOWY OWL on November 21st, both at Brigantine (Forsythe) NWR.

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 will run until November 30th, so is nearing the end. As of November 20th, 28,664 raptors have been recorded by Bruce McWorter, the counter, and Brennan Mulrooney. 5 BALD EAGLES this week bring the fall total up to 223. N. HARRIERS continue with some nice flights still, including 14 on the 20th. SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS are still steady, with some nice flights this week, including 64 on the 17th and 31 on the 18th. November 17th's flight included 12 COOPER'S HAWKS. 24 GOSHAWKS have been recorded so far, including 6 this week (a single on the 16th and 5 on the 17th). Buteo flights were minimal this week, but a late BROAD-WINGED HAWK was counted on the 17th. To date, 10 GOLDEN EAGLES have been recorded this fall. Small numbers of AMERICAN KESTREL (4 on the 17th), MERLINS (1 on the 18th), and PEREGRINES (1 on the 18th) 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, and Brennan Mulrooney have already recorded 557,796 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. 29,066 RED-THROATED LOONS have been counted so far with 1,000s passing daily now, including a flight of 3,438 on November 18th. 20-80 COMMON LOONS are passing daily now. A RED-NECKED GREBE was counted on the 16th. 16,034 N. GANNETS have been counted so far with @ 1,000 birds passing daily now, including 945 on November 19th. 2 late BROWN PELICANS flew by on the 19th. 167,280 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT have been counted so far, including 3,392 on the 17th. Be alert for GREAT CORMORANTS mixed in, there were 5 on November 18th. 2 COMMON EIDER were flybys at the Seawatch on November 16th. LONG-TAILED DUCK are being seen now, including 10 on the 18th. The biggest scoter flight so far this fall came on October 27 and 28, when 40,000 passed. Hundreds, and some days thousands, are still being counted daily. On November 17th the scoter flight included 2,092 BLACK SCOTER, 2,311 SURF SCOTER, and 92 WHITE-WINGED SCOTER. RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS are steady now, with 30-60 daily. 2 PARASITIC JAEGERS were seen this week on the 19th. The Avalon Seawatch's first RAZORBILL was seen November 15th and its first DOVEKIE of the fall on November 16th.

A male HARLEQUIN DUCK was seen at the Barnegat Lighthouse jetty on November 19th. Harlequin Ducks winter around this jetty annually. Sometimes the birds are up near the Lighthouse, other times one has to walk the jetty or beach almost out the end. This bird was out near the end of the jetty.

3 AMERICAN AVOCETS continue at Bivalve in Cumberland County and were most recently reported on November 17.

Sparrow stalkers on November 18th enjoyed 20 SHARP-TAILED SPARROWS (including 10 NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED, 5 SALTMARSH SHARP-TAILED, and 5 unidentified) and 2 "IPSWICH" SAVANNAH SPARROWS on Ocean Drive near Two-Mile Landing, just north of Cape May.

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 frost finally "hit" gardens and wild areas south of the Cape May canal, knocking out most of the remaining nectar. There may still be a few flowers blooming in sheltered spots. Butterfly sightings are slim this week and include a CHECKERED SKIPPER (in the Villas on Nov. 16), 2 RED ADMIRAL (in Cape May Point on Nov. 16), 1 COMMON BUCKEYE on the 16th in "The Meadows" on Sunset Blvd., and a COMMON BUCKEYE on the 19th at the CMBO Center in Goshen. YELLOW-LEGGED MEADOWHAWKS are still being seen. These colorful dragonflies with their bright red abdomens are one of the latest flying dragonflies to be found.

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. We have just learned that the Stow Creek Bald Eagle nest blew down in early October. Both adults remain in the area near the giant Sycamore tree that held their original nest, and it is hoped that they will rebuild their nest. This nest has been one of the most successful, often producing 3 youngsters. Bald Eagles and Great Horned Owls are our earliest nesting birds, so they have already set up their nesting territories.

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. 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 migrants as well as birds that may winter here 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

A special field trip coming up that still has room, includes: 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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