Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/11/2003

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 Thursday, December 11. 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.

The first of South Jersey's 3 Christmas Bird Counts is this Sunday. Dates and contacts 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

ALERT! It is DEER HUNTING season! Roughly from December 1 through January 31, birders and naturalists should take precautions and wear blaze orange (hat or vest) when in the woods in Cape May and Cumberland Counties. December 8-13 and December 17-19 is Shotgun Season. On these dates we should probably all avoid walking in the woods. Muzzleloading Season falls on various other dates in the month. Winter Bow Season continues till January 31. Hunting Season at Higbee Beach WMA opens December 17 for small game. Woodcock Season at Higbee Beach WMA is December 26-27. Sundays are safe all over NJ since there is NO HUNTING on SUNDAYS.

The winter's first SNOWY OWL was a flyby over Route 9 near Ferry Road, flying towards the Delaware Bay, on November 23. This is right on schedule; often the 1st Snowy Owl shows up around Thanksgiving. SHORT-EARED OWLS have settled into favorite winter haunts. Since November 30th, 1-3 have been seen at Jakes Landing Road hunting the marsh across the creek. When the evening is calm, they begin flying by 4:20 p.m. On December 7, three birds were very vocal, yipping / barking. Corbin City WMA and Tuckahoe WMA have also been hotspots: 1 on December 4, 6 on December 8, and 5 on December 9. When two or more birds are in the area there are wonderful opportunities to watch them interact and vocalize. A Short-eared Owl was in "the Meadows" on Sunset Boulevard on December 9. Owl migration is still occurring when conditions are favorable, clear nights with gentle north and northwest winds. On December 3, a SAW-WHET OWL was seen at "the Meadows" flying down the duneline at dark, as well as a large owl, probably a LONG-EARED OWL, and lots of night-herons. GREAT HORNED OWLS are calling softly at dawn and dusk. They are our earliest nesting bird and will lay eggs by late January.

If you're keen on owls, be sure to sign up for the "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton, offered twice: Saturday, January 17, and Wednesday, January 21 (1:00-5:30 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 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.

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS are being seen with some regularity now. A light morph was at Jakes Landing Road on December 7, and 4 (including 3 dark morphs) were at Corbin City WMA on December 8. A N. GOSHAWK hunted Seagrove Avenue December 10, and one was at Hidden Valley December 8. Last week's hotline reported "copulating" RED-TAILED HAWKS on December 3 on the Maurice River ... the pair of RED-TAILED HAWKS were actually observed performing their spectacular "roller-coaster" display flight .... not copulating. Now that the leaves have fallen it is an excellent time to look for large stick nests. Bald Eagle nests and Red-tailed Hawk nests are much easier to see this time of year. Remember that our earliest nesting bird, GREAT HORNED OWL, does not build its own nest but will use a large stick nest (Red-tail's, Osprey's, or Bald Eagle's) from the previous nesting season.

Barnegat Light State Park at the north end of Long Beach Island is a "must visit" site right now and through the winter. "A Guide to Bird Finding in New Jersey," by Bill Boyle's, pp. 273-276 (available at CMBO's bookstores) makes your visit easy. CMBO Seawatcher Andy Wraithmell on a day off enjoyed excellent birding there on December 4: 13 HARLEQUIN DUCKS (8 male, 5 female), 7 LAPLAND LONGSPURS, 6 IPSWICH SPARROWS, 20+ SNOW BUNTINGS, 500 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, 10 COMMON EIDER (6 1st winter males, 4 females), and 4 KING EIDER (2 1st winter males, 2 females). Be sure to also visit nearby Manahawkin WMA and Cedar Run Dock Road (pp. 269-273, Boyle's book) in the afternoon / early evening for Short-eared Owls and Rough-legged Hawks!

From CMBO's Avalon Seawatch, Counter Andy Wraithmell shares that weather conditions were appalling for seawatching during the winter storm December 5 & 6, but he was rewarded with a 1st winter BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE on December 5. On December 7, a good flight of HERRING and RING-BILLED GULLS included a 1st winter GLAUCOUS GULL that hung around the Seawatch for 15 minutes! Hunting COMMON LOONS can be enjoyed in the waters near the Seawatch (best time is the hour leading up to high tide). PURPLE SANDPIPERS are daily on the jetty in front of the Seawatch. 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 December 7, the Seawatch has counted an amazing 845,446 seabirds! Some of the many highlights follow: 49,026 RED-THROATED LOONS so far (2,293 on Dec. 4), 2,550 COMMON LOONS so far (30 on Dec. 4), 73 HORNED GREBES so far (11 on Dec. 4), 38,331 N. GANNETS so far (943 on Dec. 4), 130 GREAT CORMORANT so far (1 each on Dec. 7 & Dec. 3), 232,237 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT so far (winding down drastically, 331 on Dec. 2), 9,937 GREEN-WINGED TEAL so far (20 on Dec. 4), 1st CANVASBACK on December 2, 1,560 LONG-TAILED DUCKS (105 on Dec. 2), 151,186 BLACK SCOTER so far (289 on Dec. 4), 210,585 SURF SCOTER so far (227 on Dec. 4), 1,622 WHITE-WINGED SCOTER so far (77 on Dec. 4), 1,354 BUFFLEHEAD so far (84 on Dec. 2), 183 HOODED MERGANSER so far (28 on Dec. 2), 3,324 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER so far (118 on Dec. 4), 227 PARASITIC JAEGER so far (1 on Dec. 2), 3,217 BONAPARTE'S GULL so far (1 on Dec. 2).

A good flight of SNOW GEESE and CANADA GEESE migrated over on December 7. That night's spectacular full moon lit up flocks of migrating Snow Geese. 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. An amazing 325 RED KNOT were seen in Hereford Inlet on December 10.

Cumberland County Winter Raptor Festival will be held Saturday, February 7, 2004, from 7:00 am til 8:30 pm. It will again be based at the Mauricetown Fire Hall in Mauricetown, NJ, adjacent to the Wild and Scenic Maurice River, a major viewing site for wintering raptors. Lectures will be held all day: (1) 10:30 a.m. Steve Eisenhauer, Regional Manager of the Natural Lands Trust -- "Flying Over Cumberland County: A Raptor's View." (2) 11:30 a.m. Keynote Speaker: Pat Sutton, Program Director, NJ Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory -- "A Naturalist's Journey Through Cumberland County," 26 years of experiences through the seasons. (3) 12:30 p.m. Book Signing by Clay Sutton, author of Birding Cumberland, produced by Cumberland County Department of Planning and Development and Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries. (4) 1:00 p.m. Clay Sutton, Writer and Naturalist -- "All About Eagles." (5) 2:00 p.m. David Mizrahi, Vice President of Research, NJ Audubon Society -- "Delaware Bay, Mecca for Migrants." (6) 3:00 p.m. Karen Williams, Proprietor of Flora For Fauna (nursery that specializes in wildlife habitat landscaping) and gardener at Cape May Bird Observatory -- "Inviting Wildlife into your Yard." (7) 4:00 p.m. Jane Galetto, President, Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries -- "Eggs to Flight; the Maurice River Osprey Colony." Pete Dunne, Vice President, NJ Audubon Society, will speak about "Wind Masters, Stories Behind the Stories" at an evening presentation after the sunset owl watch. Tickets for dinner at the evening lecture may be purchased that morning. Guided walks led by CMBO Staff and volunteer naturalists, boat tours, events for novice naturalists, vendors, a morning sunrise walk with Pete Dunne, and a sunset owl watch with Pat Sutton and other leaders will be part of the day's schedule. Bring binoculars! Registration begins at the Mauricetown Fire Hall in Mauricetown, NJ, at 8:00 a.m. Food will be available at the fire hall until 5:00 p.m. Admission is $4 for children and $8 for adults. For more information call the Cumberland County Department of Planning and Development at 856-453-2177 or 1-866-866-MORE.

Many with backyard bird feeders have reported an influx of FOX SPARROWS. 14 were feeding along Jakes Landing Road December 6. AMERICAN WOODCOCK have migrated in and are being encountered at Higbee Beach, Woodcock Lane (in Cape May NWR), and backyards in Goshen. Numbers of AMERICAN GOLDFINCH are coming to backyard thistle feeders after a lengthy absence. Look for PINE SISKINS mixed in. Many backyard feeders continue to pull in PURPLE FINCH.

Enjoy some early winter birding by joining CMBO for the following walks that require no preregistration! EVERY SATURDAY through December 13: "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm," 7:30-9:30 a.m. Beginning December 20, EVERY SATURDAY, " Birding Cape May Point," 8:00-10:00 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.

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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