Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/12/2002
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, December 12. 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."

Dates and contacts for the 3 South Jersey Christmas Bird Counts follow: Sunday, December 15 = Cape May (Louise Zemaitis: 609-898-9578); Sunday, December 22 = Belleplain (Paul Kosten: floraff@algorithms.com 609-861-5827); Sunday, December 29 = Cumberland (Clay & Pat Sutton: pcsutton@bellatlantic.net 609-465-3397).

NEWS FLASH: If you should visit the Rea Farm, wear something blaze orange and expect to find hunters active there. CMBO purchased the "birding rights," but these rights are not exclusive.

Short-eared Owls continue at a variety of spots known to attract wintering birds, like the Corbin City portion of the McNamara WMA (accessed from Griscom Mill Road off Route 50, north of the Tuckahoe River) and Jakes Landing. Also, a bird was seen over Sunset Boulevard on December 9.

On December 8th, the CMBO "All About Owls" program held at Jakes Landing was very eventful. Whitewash and Long-eared Owl pellets were found in the pine stands. From about 3:00 p.m. on 5 Short-eared Owls bounded around chasing each other, hunting, and at times diving on a Rough-legged Hawk. It was a very still evening, perfect for owls, and occasionally the Short-eareds' "yipping" barks could be heard. By 4:45 p.m. Great Horned Owls began hooting from the upland edge and at almost full dark one was found perched on the tippy-top of a dead tree overlooking the marsh. All this while a lovely din of yapping Snow Geese could be heard. Yes, Snow Geese have arrived in amazing numbers and settled into the Delaware Bay saltmarshes north of Jakes Landing, just in time for hungry wintering Bald Eagles. An adult Bald Eagles headed inland to its roost late that evening as we scanned for more Short-eared Owls. Clapper Rails were quite vocal too.

Upcoming Christmas Bird Counts should enlighten us further as dozens of birders prowl South Jersey. And the recent snows will undoubtedly push additional migrant owls our way. CMBO's very popular 4-Day Classic Workshop focused on Owls, Hawks, & Waterfowl (Jan. 24-27) with Pat & Clay Sutton and Ward Dasey still has room. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register or to get the workshop brochure!

Searching for owls in the woods gets risky with the various deer hunting seasons (bow, muzzleloader, firearm, shotgun). Be sure to stay out of the woods through December 14th since this week is Firearm season in southern Cape May County. Permit Muzzleload is December 16-17, and 21. Permit shotgun is December 18-20. Sundays are still safe since no hunting is permitted on Sundays. New Jersey is broken up into 60 or so deer management zones. To learn when hunting for deer with bow, muzzleload, firearm, and shotgun are permitted in your area get the 2002 Hunting Issue of "New Jersey fish & Wildlife Digest" or visit their web site: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/njregs.htm

Hundreds upon hundreds, maybe even a thousand or more waterfowl have congregated off Reeds Beach. Reeds Beach resident Tom Reed noted when they were "close in" one day that about 80% were scaup. Some winters these rafts of ducks include some goodies. One year they were attracted to these waters by huge numbers of tiny bivalve in the Donax family, known as Coquina Shell or Butterfly Shell. Maybe that food source is abundant again this winter.

Long-tailed Ducks, a group of 10-20, are regulars at the Avalon Seawatch now and have been enjoyed courting and calling their distinctive, "South Southerly, south southerly." Often you'll find 10 or more males around a single female. The males' heads are held high, their tails stiff, and they chase each other about. It's all very entertaining. Check it out.

CMBO's Avalon Seawatch, with seabird counters Karl Bardon & Chris Vogel, will continue till December 22 and is having a great season! 695,350 seabirds have been tallied as of December 10th, with 1,000-6,000 passing daily. The bulk of the flight is made up of Red-throated Loons (800 on Dec. 10), N. Gannet (1,130 on Dec. 6, 19 on Dec. 10), Black, Surf, and White-winged Scoter. Snow Geese, Brant, and Canada Geese too are steadily moving south. Common Loons, Double-crested Cormorant, scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, & a host of other waterfowl are seen daily too. A few Great Cormorants are still mixed into each week's flight. 36 Tundra Swans moved on December 6, the day after the snowstorm. Two big movements of Bonaparte's Gulls passed recently (1,100 on December 7 and 2,150 on December 4). Other goodies this week include 1 Common Eider on Dec. 7 and 4 today, December 12.

One lone butterfly was seen this past week, a Clouded Sulphur on December 9 at The Nature Conservancy's Cape Island Creek Preserve. If the temperatures are warm enough a few butterflies might yet be enjoyed during the upcoming Christmas Bird Counts. Virginia Creeper berries, Poison Ivy berries, female Red Cedar trees (heavy with blue berries), American Holly berries, Multiflora Rose hips, and the seed heads in our perennial gardens are all survival foods right now, pulling in wintering birds.

CMBO's Cape May Autumn Hawkwatch was manned by hawk counters Jason Guerard and Chris Vogel from September 1 through November 30, 2002. The season's total came to 35,254, including 150 Black Vulture, 1,215 Turkey Vulture, 2,038 Osprey, 181 Bald Eagle, 1,252 N. Harrier, 17,167 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 3,503 Cooper's Hawk, 29 N. Goshawk, 483 Red-shouldered Hawk, 452 Broad-winged Hawk, 1 Swainson's Hawk, 921 Red-tailed Hawk, 2 Rough-legged Hawk, 11 Golden Eagle, 5,405 American Kestrel, 1,309 Merlin, 1,051 Peregrine, and 84 unid. raptors. The flight was still going strong at the end with 492 birds on Nov. 26th, 492 on the 28th, and 105 on the 29th.

CMBO's final December bird walk, "Birding Cape May Point," is Saturday, December 14, from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

To receive a copy of CMBO's program schedule with full details about programs through December, stop by either CMBO Center, or call 609-861-0700, or visit New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org (click on "Calendar," then on "Cape May Bird Observatory"). The Winter 2003 (January -March) program schedule will be available shortly.

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 Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline (updated Thursday evening).

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. Both are open DAILY, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information call 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) pat_sutton@njaudubon.org

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