Cape May Natural History Hotline - 11/26/2003

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 Wednesday, November 26. 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.

It's almost Christmas Bird Count time. Dates and contacts for the three South Jersey CBCs follow. When leaving a phone message with count organizers be sure to also leave your e-mail address. Cape May CBC, Sunday, December 14; contact Louise Zemaitis at 609-898-9578. Belleplain CBC, Sunday, December 21; contact Paul Kosten at 609-861-5827. Cumberland County CBC, Sunday, December 28; contact Clay & Pat Sutton at 609-465-3397 or

Those in the know have kept their hummingbird feeders up and maintained (cleaned and refilled each week) and ALLEN'S, RUFOUS, and RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS have all been seen recently, in "Backyard Habitats," I might add! The RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD continues in Ro and Larry Wilson's backyard habitat on Bayshore Road north of the Rea Farm. An immature male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, in a private yard in Villas with no public access, has been here since November 11. An ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD (positively identified on November 22 when it was banded) at 1012 Cape May Avenue in Cape May City arrived November 15 and was last seen the morning of November 24.

CMBO's "Birding Cumberland" field trip, Sunday, November 30 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), has 2 openings a/o 11/26. The trip is led by Clay Sutton, author of "Birding Cumberland," Pat Sutton, and Steve Eisenhauer, Preserve Manager of the Natural Lands Trust's Glades Wildlife Refuge, totaling 5,500 acres. On Pete Dunne's morning stroll at Turkey Point on November 23 he briefly watched a large owl hunting (probably a Long-eared Owl), had LAPLAND LONGSPUR, SNOW BUNTING, and flyover PINE SISKIN and PURPLE FINCH. Join CMBO for "Birding Cumberland" and learn of some wild and bird-y off-the-beaten path areas! Call CMBO, 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for "Birding Cumberland" while spaces are still available.

November 23, Andy Wraithmell, CMBO's Official Counter at the Avalon Seawatch, wrote: awesome day today. 43 COMMON EIDERS!!!! including flocks of 13 and 12. Several adult males as well. A nice 1st yr male KING EIDER (4th of the season). 282 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, including Andy's second largest flock ever in his many years of seawatching -- 26 birds; Andy's biggest flock was at Dungeness in Wales in May (32 birds). A nice RAZORBILL (2nd of the season) flew by with a bunch of scoters. All in all, November 23rd was another great day at the Avalon Seawatch. As Andy puts it, Avalon Rocks and delivers!!! CMBO's Avalon Seawatch (7th street and the beach in Avalon), sponsored by Nikon Sports Optics, began September 22 and continues until December 22! As of November 23, an astounding 791,285 seabirds have been counted there! The amazing eider flights (22 on 11/22) mentioned by Andy have added up to a record breaking 139 COMMON EIDER for the season so far (as of November 23) and the Seawatch still has a month to go! RED-THROATED LOONS continue to pour through with many thousands each day (5,200 on 11/23, 3,500 on 11/22). COMMON LOONS: 3-58/day. Big numbers of N. GANNETS (3,300 on 11/20, 1,350 on 11/22). 600-1,700 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT daily, with a few GREAT CORMORANT (3 on 11/22, 1 on 11/23) mixed in. 5 BROWN PELICANS migrated by November 25. 13 HARLEQUIN DUCKS have been seen so far with the last one on 11/18. LONG-TAILED DUCKS: 11-45/day. Thousands of scoters daily (9,000 BLACK, 5,100 SURF, 282 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS on 11/23). Hundreds of RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS (665 on 11/23, 311 on 11/22, 415 on 11/20). PARASITIC JAEGERS daily (10 on 11/19 & 11/20, 3 on 11/21, 2 on 11/23). BONAPARTE'S GULLS moving now (180 on 11/19, 510 on 11/20). The flights at the Avalon Seawatch are so fascinating because they're so diverse. Daily flights also include HORNED GREBE, SNOW GEESE, BRANT, WOOD DUCKS (11 on 11/21), AMERICAN BLACK DUCK (90 on 11/23), N. PINTAIL (22 on 11/20), GREEN-WINGED TEAL (25 on 11/23), RING-NECKED DUCK (19 on 11/22), GREATER SCAUP (158 on 11/23), LESSER SCAUP (32 on 11/23), COMMON GOLDENEYE (3 on 11/23), BUFFLEHEAD (6 on 11/23), and hundreds of gulls and terns (141 RING-BILLED GULLS on 11/23, 800 FORSTER'S TERNS on 11/20).

The back bay waters behind the Wildwoods, Stone Harbor, and Avalon are full of thousands upon thousands of BRANT. Listen for their lovely crooning to one another. At the north end of Long Beach Island the jetty at Barnegat Light State Park attracts a flock of HARLEQUIN DUCKS each late fall and winter. The first two arrived November 16. Later in the week 3 were seen there.

Enjoy the great variety of waterfowl migrating by the Avalon Seawatch and elsewhere. Also consider signing up for CMBO's popular "Waterfowl Cruise," aboard the Skimmer, Saturday, November 29 (11 a.m.-3:00 p.m.); 9 spaces left a/o November 26. This cruise explores back bay waters north to Stone Harbor to see thousands of water birds, including mergansers, loons, scaup, Horned Grebe, Bufflehead, Long-tailed Ducks, N. Harrier, Great Cormorant, shorebirds (and it's looking like the LONG-BILLED CURLEW and the flock of 9 MARBLED GODWIT is possible, seen 11/24), and most of the Atlantic Coast population of Brant. "Birding From the Ferry" with Mark Garland on Saturday, December 13 (7:00-11:00 a.m.) is one more special way to drink in seabirds like N. Gannet and waterfowl. Call CMBO, 609-861-0700, x-11, to register now for either of these trips while spaces are still available.

LONG-EARED OWLS were seen this week at the Cape May Point State Park (2 on November 21 and 2 on November 25). The dense Red Cedars along the park trails are perfect for daytime roosting owls that either migrated in the night before or are lingering before continuing their migration. If you should spot an owl on the trails, it could linger there all day for others to enjoy if observers are careful not to leave the trail and disturb the birds. Most of the sightings this week were of birds that flushed just as observers spotted them. So, step quietly and give owls a wide berth. A large owl hunted the Turkey Point marsh in Cumberland County, November 26, probably a LONG-EARED OWL. A SHORT-EARED OWL was in "The Meadows" November 21. Katy Duffy and Patrick Matheny ran the fall Cape May Owl Banding Project (late October through @ November 18) and banded 73 N. SAW-WHET OWLS, 3 LONG-EARED OWLS. The owl migration will continue through mid-December. If you're keen on owls, be sure to sign up for the "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton, offered Sunday, December 7 (12:30-5:00 p.m.). Everyone in the know realizes that to really guarantee owls, 3-4 days of field time is the key, since many different sites need to be visited and weather can't always be predicted. For that reason, CMBO once again will offer its popular "4-day Workshop for Owls, Hawks, & Eagles" (January 23-26, 2004) with Pat and Clay Sutton and Ward Dasey, Saw-whet, Long-eared, Barn, Short-eared, Barred, Great Horned, and Screech Owl are all enjoyed most years during this workshop and quite often Snowy Owl too. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for these owl workshop offerings. GREAT HORNED OWLS are calling softly at dawn and dusk. They are our earliest nesting bird and will lay egg by late January.

CMBO's Cape May Hawkwatch, sponsored by Swarovski Optik this fall, is near the end of the season (September 1 through November 30, 2003). Hawkwatchers Jason Guerard and Bob Diebold are nearing 45,000 but some lovely migration weather this past week has not produced expected big flights . . . so we'll see. . The season's total so far is 44,738 as of November 24. Highlights this week include: late OSPREY (11/21 & 11/24), 50 N. HARRIER on 11/22, 103 SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS on 11/22, 17 RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS on 11/22, a late BROAD-WINGED HAWK on 11/21, 39 RED-TAILED HAWKS on 11/22, a sprinkling of AMERICAN KESTREL (8 on 11/20), MERLIN (2 on 11/22), and PEREGRINES (2 on 11/20). Today, November 26, mid-day Tom Reed watched an immature GOLDEN EAGLE hunt the marsh at Reed's Beach and then fly north.

Another big wave of AMERICAN ROBINS (@ 20,000) an influx of FOX SPARROWS (25) occurred on November 21. Numbers of SNOW BUNTINGS were seen at the Cape May Point State Park beachfront that day and since at various locations. CMBO's "Birding Cape May Point" walk this week (each Wednesday, 7:30-9:30 a.m.) enjoyed close looks at WHITE-WINGED SCOTER and COMMON EIDER in the ocean waters. And along the State Park trails FOX SPARROW, PURPLE FINCH, MARSH WREN, WINTER WREN, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, and a lingering YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT.

As of November 23, 8,621 MONARCHS have been counted at the Avalon Seawatch this fall, including 1 individual this week, on November 23. Other Monarchs were sighted this week at Hidden Valley (2 on 11/22) and the Cape May Point State Park (1 on 11/23). Monarchs have just begun to arrive in the winter roosts in the high altitude Oyamel Fir forests of central Mexico. On November 16 they were still moving through northern Mexico in large numbers. Two excellent web sites that share information about the Monarch's fall migration include: (1) Journey North's web site: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/fall2003/monarch/index.html (2) Monarch Watch's web site: http://www.MonarchWatch.org

Other butterflies seen this week include ORANGE SULPHURS, COMMON BUCKEYE (20 on 11/24 at Stone Harbor, 2 at Hidden Valley on 11/21, 1 at the CMBO Center in Goshen on 11/21), AMERICAN LADY (1 in Goshen on 11/23), and a QUESTION MARK / E. COMMA (in Goshen on 11/23). A dozen YELLOW-LEGGED MEADOWHAWKS were sunning, hunting, and mating along a sun-lit field edge in Goshen on November 23. If you're keen to learn dragonflies, NEWS FLASH: a GREAT ! ! ! new "Field Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of Massachusetts," by Blair Nikula and 2 other authors, is now available for sale at CMBO. It includes full color, larger than life photos of 160+ live (in the field shots of) dragonflies and damselflies known to occur in Massachusetts (many of which also occur in NJ), plus excellent natural history information! We have no excuses now with this book and Blair Nikula and Jackie Sones' "Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies" in the Stokes series (also EXCELLENT ! ! !).

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH are coming to backyard thistle feeders in good numbers now after a lengthy absence. Look for PINE SISKINS mixed in. Roving flocks of EUROPEAN STARLINGS are descending on RED CEDAR trees and eating the berries. Many backyard feeders continue to pull in PURPLE FINCH.

It's the peak of rarity season and late fall migration and there are still lots of ways to enjoy it. CMBO offerings include the following walks that require no preregistration! EVERY WEDNESDAY through December 10: " Birding Cape May Point," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY SATURDAY through December 13: "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm," 7:30-9:30 a.m.

CMBO will next teach the "Nikon School of Birding" Friday, January 30, through Sunday, February 1. This workshop is designed to help birders of all experience levels build better birding skills. Call 609-861-0700 or stop by either center to request the Nikon School of Birding brochure. There are many additional special programs being offered this winter. Check out CMBO's WINTER Program Schedule. To receive a copy stop at either of the two centers, or 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 WINTER 2003 PROGRAMS (November, December, January, February, and a few of the March programs) is posted at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

If you are in the market for a holiday gift to yourself or a special friend, be sure to stop by either CMBO Center for ideas (though both will be closed on Thanksgiving day, November 27).

Wishing you all a lovely Thanksgiving!

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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