Cape May Natural History Hotline - 11/22/2004

This is the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This message was prepared on Monday, November 22; happy Thanksgiving. For bird news check the Cape May Birding Hotline at (609) 898-2473. NJ Audubon's three hotlines may be read on our Web site (http://www.njaudubon.org); click "Sightings" at the top of any page.

As always, autumn is lingering longer in Cape May than at inland locations, as the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay waters remain moderately warm, tempering the regional cold snaps. As such, there is still attractive fall color in the foliage of our deciduous trees, a few late season wildflowers are still in bloom, dragonflies and butterflies are still flying (a monarch tagged somewhere else was seen in Cape May Point on November 17th), and spring peepers, those noisy little tree frogs, are still calling. Many southbound migratory songbirds are still lingering in Cape May, their numbers swelled with the arrival of winter residents. Waterfowl numbers are building rapidly and raptors continue to move through the region. Here are some recent highlights.

Many species are being seen in or near peak numbers at the Avalon Sea Watch. RED-THROATED LOONS and NORTHERN GANNETS have been especially numerous lately, with mainstays DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, BLACK SCOTER, and SURF SCOTER still migrating past the watch in great numbers. Other recent highlights from Avalon include KING EIDER, COMMON EIDER, BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE, and GLAUCOUS GULL. Visit the Sea Watch any day through December 22nd any time from sunrise to sunset - the location is along the seawall at the junction of First Avenue and Seventh Street in Avalon. Take exit 13 east from the Garden State Parkway and, upon entering Avalon, make the third left onto First Avenue. Drive to the end.

The Hawk Watch at Cape May Point will continue through November 30th. A record low count for AMERICAN KESTREL will occur this year, and it is likely that a record high count will be tallied for COOPER'S HAWK. Is there a connection? NORTHERN GOSHAWKS have been seen almost every day from the Hawk Watch during November, and many of these birds seem to be lingering around Cape May, as sightings are being frequently reported from all the regular birding areas around Cape Island (Higbee, Hidden Valley, Beanery, Meadows, State Park).

Freezing temperatures have only occurred one night thus far this autumn in Cape May, and sheltered pockets seemed to avoid the freeze. Some tender plants in gardens and in natural settings are therefore still blooming. Tubular red flowers such as pineapple sage, still blooming in many gardens here in Cape May, may attract wandering hummingbirds. This is peak season for the arrival of rare hummingbirds, so if you don't have flowers left, consider keeping a hummingbird feeder out. You might attract one of these strays. Possibilities include Ruby-throated, Rufous, Allen's, Calliope, Black-chinned, and who knows what else?

The mild weather has also kept many insects active. Recent sightings include many Green Darner dragonflies through Cape May, and the following butterflies: ORANGE SULPHUR, CLOUDED SULPHUR, CLOUDLESS SULPHUR, MONARCH, COMMON BUCKEYE, SACHEM, QUESTION MARK, and MOURNING CLOAK. BLACK SWALLOWTAIL and MONARCH CATERPILLARS are still feeding actively.

Many bats migrate, though they move primarily at night. A migrating RED BAT stunned itself at Cape May Point State Park on Nov. 20th when it flew into equipment working in the park, hinting at the migration that's occurring hidden from our view. Owls also migrate at night, and the Cape May Owl Banding team completed their work last week, banding a season total of 99 NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWLS, 11 LONG-EARED OWLS, and 1 BARN OWL. Owls are certainly continuing to migrate, but it's now up to vigilant birders to search them out.

Cape May's COYOTES have been quite active and vocal recently, with most reports coming from the northwestern quadrant of Cape Island. A very late ATLANTIC BOTTLE-NOSED DOLPHIN was seen off Two Mile Beach on Nov. 21st. A RIVER OTTER was glimpsed at Cape May Point State Park on Nov. 21st. Nocturnal naturalists around Cape May were treated to sightings of the aurora borealis on several nights in early November. While sightings of the northern lights are rare at this latitude, many winter evenings are crystal clear - perfect conditions for viewing aurorae, stars, and planets. Whenever the full moon shines in winter (next full moon will be Nov. 26th), the nocturnal world can be surprisingly bright.

Enjoy the wonders of late autumn in Cape May by attending some of the upcoming CMBO programs:

Weekly walks (no advanced registration, $6 for members, $10 for others): . Wednesdays, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., Nov. 24, Dec. 1 through 29: BIRDING CAPE MAY POINT. Meet at the South Shelter, Cape May Point State Park. . Saturdays, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., Nov. 27, Dec., 4, & Dec. 11: FALL MIGRANTS AT THE REA FARM. Meet at the Beanery, along Bayshore Rd. just north of Stevens/Fourth. . Fridays, 8:00 to 10:00 a.m., Dec. 3, 10, & 17: LATE FALL BIRDING IN CAPE MAY. Meet at the Hawk Watch Platform, Cape May Point State Park.

Preregistration programs (prices vary; call 609-861-0700 for info and/or to register): . ALL ABOUT OWLS: Saturday, Dec. 4, 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. Pat Sutton, leader. . CAPE HENLOPEN & BROADKILL MARSH: Saturday, Dec. 4, 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Mark Garland, leader. . BIRDING FROM THE FERRY: Saturday, Dec. 11, 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. Mark Garland, leader.

Many other programs are scheduled for early 2005; contact either CMBO Center for a copy of the Kestrel Express, which features the schedule, or check on the web at http://www.njaudubon.org

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers an extensive series of regular nature walks that require no pre-registration and many special field trips and programs for which advanced registration is required. To receive a copy of our current (December 2004 - February 2005) Program Schedule (the Kestrel Express), stop at one of our centers, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org

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 natural significance of Cape May. Your membership supports these goals and this hotline. Please report your natural history observations to CMBO's Center in Goshen at 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

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