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Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/15/2005
This is Pat Sutton with the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This hotline was prepared on Thursday, December 15. New Jersey Audubon's three hotlines can be read in full on our website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (top of any page).

Local Christmas Bird Counts begin this weekend. Dates and organizers follow: (1) Cape May CBC will be on Sunday, December 18; contact Louise Zemaitis to participate (609) 898-9578 or swallowtailstudio at comcast.net. (2) Belleplain CBC will be on Wednesday, December 28; contact Paul Kosten to participate (609) 861-5827 or floraff at algorithms.com. (3) Cumberland County CBC will be on Sunday, January 1; contact Pat & Clay Sutton to participate (609) 465-3397 or patclaysutton at comcast.net.

ALERT: HUNTING SEASON is underway. In Cape May County permit shotgun season runs from December 14-16. Permit muzzle loader season runs from December 17-31 and January 2-6, 2006. In New Jersey there is no hunting on Sundays. Woodcock hunting at Higbee Beach runs from December 23-31.

CMBOs special winter preregistration programs include: 2-Day Bird Watching For Beginners with Pete Dunne on January 13-14 and a number of winter workshops. To register or for more information call 609-861-0700, x-11. For details on the many CMBO programs go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

CMBOs winter Gardens in Goshen today, December 15, were filled with sparrows scratching through the fallen leaves and in under the still standing perennial stalks. Perennials were left standing intentionally and now offer excellent cover (and food: seed heads) for hungry birds. 4 FOX SPARROWS were busy scratching leaves under the stand of Birch trees beyond the pond. AMERICAN GOLDFINCH were feeding on seed heads of the wild BEE BALM. If you think you know the general area where a Hummingbird nested in your yard this past summer, now is the time to scan the branches for a tiny lump of gray dabbed with bits of lichen. Its also time to stroll through your garden looking for SILKMOTH COCOONS and PREYING MANTIS EGG CASES. Birds are desperate for water during the frozen winter. CMBO and other NJ Audubon Centers carry a host of options, from heated bird baths to elements that can be placed in a pond or bird bath to keep the water thawed. Help your birds survive the winter and get great, fun looks at the same time.

The RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD in Gloucester County, reported on the NJ RBA, on December 10 was coming not only to a feeder heated with a heat lamp, but also to still blooming CORAL HONEYSUCKLE!

The Barnegat Light BLACK GUILLEMOT entertained CMBOs Hooked on Harlequins field trip on December 10, as well as dozens of other visiting birders. From the road end just outside Barnegat Light State Park it floated by the bulkhead CLOSE... several times. At other times it was also close feeding next to the bulkhead (further down / away from the State Park) by diving underwater for a minute or so and then popping up. Wonder what they eat? We did too. The wonderful Birds of North America shares that they feed on benthic (bottom) and pelagic fish, as well as a wide variety of invertebrate species, including crustaceans and mollusks. Major fish prey include blennies, sea scorpions, herring, cod, sandlances, rock gunnels, pricklebacks, and sculpins. Amphipods and mysids are their most important invertebrate prey, but theyll also feed on sponges, jellyfish, polychaetes, mollusks, decapods, barnacles, copepods, euphauslids, and cumaceans (YES, its time to dust off your copy of Field Guide to the Atlantic Seashore and see what some of these taste treats are). Guillemots are opportunistic feeders; obviously something has attracted this bird to the Barnegat Light inlet. If you havent treated yourself to Barnegat Light yet, GO! CMBOs December 10th field trip also savored in-your-face looks at 20-25 HARLEQUIN DUCKS along the jetty and along the beachfront in the rough waves to the right of the jetty. 17 COMMON EIDERS, including 5 adult males in dazzling plumage, floated at the end of the jetty and flew back and forth across the inlet. 2 GREAT CORMORANTS perched on the navigational towers in the inlet. 1000+ scoters (mostly SURF, some BLACK, and a few WHITE-WINGED) drifted around in the waters beyond the jetties. 50 LONG-TAILED DUCKS and a number of RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, COMMON LOONS, and RED-THROATED LOONS were in the inlet. The beach held 7 HORNED LARKS and 40 SNOW BUNTINGS, while an Ipswich SAVANNAH SPARROW hopped around the jetty.

An ICELAND GULL was in Cape May on December 10. Did you look for it and miss it? May have been because it was a darkish first winter bird and you overlooked it. Now through January and early February is an excellent time of year to study gull ID. As part of CMBOs 2006 Cape May Birding Workshops Michael OBrien will teach a 2-day Gull Workshop, Saturday and Sunday, January 28-29, 2006. Some gulls take 3 years to mature, others 4 and 5 years. No wonder theyre so tough to master. To register, call 609-861-0700, x-11. To learn more about the Gull Workshop or the 16 other 2006 Cape May Birding Workshops (covering everything from Techniques of Field Identification in February, to Birding By Ear in May, Backyard Habitat in June, to Butterflies in August, to workshops on Warblers, Spring Migrants, Terns, Shorebirds, Flycatchers, Fall Migrants, Falcons, Sparrows, and Waterfowl ) go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks06.html

The Avalon Seawatch continues to rage and is on the brink of 900,000 birds! On December 8, 17,000+ CANADA GEESE and 3,000 SNOW GEESE passed, along with 8 COMMON EIDER, 2 N. SHOVELER, 8 GREAT CORMORANT, 390 BLACK DUCK (breaking the past peak season total), and 135 MALLARD (breaking that season total as well). 8 species have surpassed former season totals (N. GANNET with 91,838 a/o Dec. 11, CANADA GOOSE with 22,046 a/o Dec. 11, WOOD DUCK with 1,607 a/o Dec. 11, GADWALL with 93 a/o Dec. 11, MALLARD with 603 a/o Dec. 11, GREATER SCAUP with 2170 a/o Dec. 11, LESSER SCAUP with 2,940 a/o Dec. 11, RING-BILLED GULL with 32,533 a/o Dec. 11, and RAZORBILL ties former record with 13 a/o Dec. 11 ). Thereve been 10 HARLEQUIN DUCKS (none since 12/3), 2 RAZORBILLS on Dec. 10, 1 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE on Dec. 9, 97 COMMON EIDERS to date (5 on 12/7, 8 on 12/8, 1 each on 12/9 & 12/10), and 8 GREAT CORMORANT on 12/6 and again on 12/8 (86 so far this season). Daily flights include 100s RED-THROATED LOONS, dozen COMMON LOONS, 100s N. GANNET, dozens to hundreds of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, 500-1000+ SCOTER, dozens LONG-TAILED DUCKS, dozen COMMON GOLDENEYE, dozen+ RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, 15-100 BONAPARTES GULLS, and an assortment of other birds. The Avalon Seawatch continues (dawn to dusk every day) until December 22. Due to construction of a new seawall the Avalon Seawatch at the north end of Avalon has been juggling between the road end at 7th Street (if construction is quiet) to the jetty or beach at 8th Street (if construction at 7th Street is disruptive).

560 TUNDRA SWANS were flushed from the upper Wading River (perhaps by an eagle) and flew over the Wading River Bridge on December 10.

The Great Egg Harbor River, from Somers Point north to Lake Lenape and including Corbin City and Tuckahoe WMA, hosted 18 BALD EAGLES (9 adults, 2 subadults, and 7 immatures) on December 12, as well as an adult GOLDEN EAGLE and a dark ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. On December 10, 2 adult GOLDEN EAGLES were over the Mullica River while 6 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were in the area (4 at Motts Creek, 1 at Graveling Point, and 1 near the Garden State Parkway). The winds were right for a hawk flight on December 13th and indeed one occurred, even this late in the season. Clay Sutton was in West Cape May at an indoor meeting and distracted by a sky dotted with hawks. During hour after the meeting, from 12:30 to 1 p.m. he counted 25 RED-TAILED HAWKS, 4 RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS, and 47 BLACK VULTURES.

RED-TAILED HAWKS are paired up and sitting side-by-side. Many NJ birds remain in their territories year round. On December 13 Beaver Swamp WMAs nesting BALD EAGLES were perched side-by-side near their nest, visible from the parking lot. A brazen 1st year BALD EAGLE was perched 500 feet away from them. On December 10, an adult was seen carrying nesting material towards Port Republic. Adult BALD EAGLES in NJ remain in and near their nesting territory year round. Some are already working on their nests. If you should see an adult Bald Eagle carrying nesting material, large sticks, contact Larissa Smith of the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program (llsmith at gtc3.com) with specifics (location, date, time, and your contact info). You just may find a new nest!

South Jerseys first SNOWY OWL usually shows up around Thanksgiving. No such luck this year until December 8th when one was spotted on the beach at 33rd Street in Ocean City. Probably the same bird was found December 13th at 23rd flying by and sitting on a house. 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS were hunting the marsh at Jakes Landing on December 10 at dusk (5 p.m.). They were very vocal barking their dog-like yipping.

As part of CMBOs 2006 Cape May Birding Workshops Pat & Clay Sutton
and Ward
Dasey will teach a 3-day Owls & Eagles Workshop, Saturday through
Monday,
January 21 - 23, 2006. To register, call 609-861-0700, x-11. To learn
more
go to:
http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks06.html

Other excellent opportunities to enjoy winter raptors (diurnal and nocturnal) include CMBOs Sunday walks beginning January 22: (1) Every Sunday Sunday Morning at Turkey Point from 8 - 10 a.m., (2) Every Other Sunday Nightfall at Jakes Landing ... Jan. 22 at 4 p.m., Feb. 5 and Feb 19 at 4:30 p.m., and March 5 and March 19 at 5 p.m., and (3) Every Other Sunday Nightfall at Corbin City Impoundments ... Jan. 29 at 4 p.m., Feb. 12 at 4:30 p.m., Feb. 26, March 12, and March 26 at 5 p.m.

Surprisingly, flocks of AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS winter here. On December 12, a flock of 54 at the Longport Sodbanks were accompanied by a MARBLED GODWIT.

FOX SPARROWS have arrived in force! 25-30 were at Higbee Beach on December 11, and 15 were along the State Park trails on December 10. Many local backyard bird feeders continue to host a few PURPLE FINCH. AMERICAN WOODCOCK have arrived. At dusk keen observers are seeing them coming out of wet woods to fields and edges to feed.

AMERICAN HOLLY trees are full of red berries because we were spared a late freeze last spring when they were in flower! AMERICAN ROBINS winter here in huge numbers if the holly berry crop is good. 300+ AMERICAN ROBINS and 150+ CEDAR WAXWINGS were in the Cape May Point State Park on December 11. WINTERBERRY HOLLY is still stunning and will remain so until the birds strip it of its bright red berries.

CMBOs bookstore hours follow: (1) Northwood Center in Cape May Point will be open every day through December 24 (except December 18), from 9-4:30. (2) Center for Research and Education on Route 47 in Goshen is open 7 days a week, 9-4:30. Both Centers will be CLOSED the week between Christmas and New Years (December 24 - January 1).

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers an extensive series of regular bird walks that require no pre-registration and many special field trips and programs for which advanced registration is required. All are detailed in the Kestrel Express. To receive a copy of the Winter Kestrel Express (December through February) stop at either CMBO Center, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

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 Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties. Updates are typically made on Thursdays. Please report your natural history sightings to CMBO's Center in Goshen at 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

 
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