Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/20/2002
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 Friday, December 20. 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 2 remaining South Jersey Christmas Bird Counts follow: 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.

A WESTERN TANAGER was discovered during the Cape May Christmas Bird Count (December 15) in Erma (just south of Rio Grande). Of significance is that the yard that has attracted and held this very rare visitor from the west is a successful wildlife habitat as result of the property owner attending Cape May Bird Observatory "Backyard Habitat Workshops." Pretty cool, huh! Directions to the site are shared on the Cape May Birding Hotline.

It's shaping up to be an owly winter. The Cape May Christmas Bird Count on December 15 tallied all the owls, but Snowy and Short-eared Owl (even though Short-ears are around!). 6 LONG-EARED OWLS and 4 BARN OWLS were found at daytime roosts on private property along the Delaware Bayshore upland edge of Cape May County. A SAW-WHET OWL responded to tooting that evening when the wind finally dropped, plus a number of their pellets were found during the day at daytime roost sites, so there might be a fair number around. Two other upcoming Christmas Bird Counts will shed more light on this. New Jersey's first Snowy Owls of the winter were discovered a bit later than usual (normally we see the first ones near Thanksgiving). On December 14 one was enjoyed at Sandy Hook during that area's CBC and another was found December 17 at Riverdale, NJ.

Jakes Landing is still a hotspot for SHORT-EARED OWLS; 7 were enjoyed there December 15 at dusk. Another good spot this winter to scan for Short-ears on overcast days and at dusk is the Corbin City portion of the McNamara WMA (accessed from Griscom Mill Road off Route 50, north of the Tuckahoe River).

You can set your clock right now by GREAT HORNED OWLS. They are tuning up as their nesting season draws near. They are our earliest nesting bird and will be on eggs by late January. Right now they are calling to one another at dusk as they sit near the stick nest that they have chosen and will use next month to lay their eggs in, a nest that they did not build but probably was built by a pair of Red-tailed Hawks last spring. They begin calling about 4:30 p.m. and by 5:00 p.m., just when it gets almost too dark to see, they fly out from the deep woods to a snag on an edge overlooking the saltmarsh or a farm field. Hundreds of Great Horned Owls live along New Jersey's upland edge of the Delaware Bayshore and one or several might be seen at any number of sites: Woodcock Lane, Goshen Landing, Jakes Landing, Hansey Creek, Turkey Point.

Upcoming Christmas Bird Counts will enlighten us further on this winter's owls as dozens of birders prowl South Jersey. CMBO's very popular 4-Day Classic Workshop focused on Owls, Hawks, & Waterfowl (Jan. 24-27) with Pat & Clay Sutton and Ward Dasey has 7 openings. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, and leave your name, full address, & phone number to register or to get the workshop brochure!

Searching for owls in the woods gets risky with the various deer hunting seasons. Locally, permit Muzzleload season is December 21, 23-24, 26-28, 30-Jan. 4, Jan. 6-10. 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 is 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

Some IDEAS FOR fun WINTER WALKS THIS WEEK this week include Reeds Beach and Stone Harbor Point, both are sites that should put you out of harms way with deer hunters. At Reeds Beach park midway down the road. Take your scope. Walk the road. Scan the pond on your right for Green-winged Teal and night herons. Scan the marsh and salt ponds along the road, both to the north and to the south. A Rough-legged Hawk seems to be wintering in these marshes to the north. Clouds of Snow Geese can be heard and seen to the north. Red-tailed Hawks and sometimes Bald Eagles perch on the tree islands in the marsh. At the creek before the "T," if it is low tide, linger and watch for Clapper Rails. Turn right and continue to walk out the road towards the jetty. Where breaks in the houses permit, scan the Delaware Bay waters for waterfowl. Canvasbacks (3), Greater Scaup (300), Lesser Scaup (2), Surf, White-winged, & Black Scoters (60), Bufflehead (30), and Ruddy Ducks (220) were all enjoyed here on December 15. At the road end scan the pilings and the jetty for the Great Cormorant, often perched here. Stone Harbor Point is always a wonderful place for a winter stroll. Again take your telescope. Thousands of shorebirds have been frequenting the area, mostly Dunlin and Western Sandpipers. Also look for Snow Buntings. In early December (the 8th) a Goshawk entertained as it hunted the Waxmyrtle thickets. Maybe it's still around. Thousands of Brant have filled the back bay waters and will winter here. Their soft gargling "rrot" calls are music to the ears.

A group of 10-20 LONG-TAILED DUCKS are regulars at the Avalon Seawatch now and busy 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 will continue till December 22. As of December 17th 708,631 seabirds have been tallied so far. Some highlights this week include: 100s Red-throated Loons (daily), 1 RED-NECKED GREBE (Dec. 11), 10-50 N. Gannets (daily), a few Great Cormorant (each week), 400 Greater Scaup (Dec. 15), COMMON EIDER (4 on 11th, 4 on 12th, 3 on 13th), 1000s scoter (daily), Long-tailed Ducks (30-50 migrants daily), Red-breasted Merganser (15-30 daily), Bonaparte's Gull (16 on Dec. 12), 1 ICELAND GULL (Dec. 16), and 2 ALCIDS (Dec. 16)!

On December 15, flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds settled into Sweet Gum trees and dangled from the seed balls, feasting on the seeds they extracted. White-throated Sparrows gulped down American Holly berries. Many of our native trees, shrubs, and vines are essential survival food for our wintering birds and other creatures. Despite nights of freezing temperatures, 2 ORANGE SULPHURS were seen December 15. Otherwise butterfly and dragonfly news has been nil. COYOTES are tuning up; two were heard near the Rea Farm the night of December 17.

The Cape May Bird Observatory's two centers will be closed December 24 through January 1. A number of weekly winter bird walks begin mid-January. January 18 (every Saturday) "Birding Cape May Point," from 8:00-10:00 a.m., meets in the raised picnic pavilion of the Cape May Point State Park. January 19 (every Sunday) "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point," from 8:00-10:00 a.m., meets at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County. January 24 (every Friday) "Nightfall at Jakes Landing," from 4:30 p.m. to dusk, meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road. January 27 (alternate Mondays: 1/27, 2/10, 2/24, 3/10, 3/24) "Stone Harbor Point Bird Walk," from 8:00-10:00 a.m., meets in the parking lot at the south end of 2nd Avenue in Stone Harbor. February 3 (alternate Mondays: 2/3, 2/17, 3/3, 3/17, 3/31) "Two Mile Beach Bird Walk," from 8:00-10:00 a.m., meets in the last (left) parking area in the Two Mile Beach Unit of the Cape May NWR.

Wishing you a lovely holiday & GOOD BIRDING!

CMBO's Winter 2003 (January - March) Kestrel Express program schedule is on its way to CMBO members now. If you are not a member and would like to receive a copy with full details about our programs, stop by either CMBO Center (remember: we're closed December 24-January 1), 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 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. (except between Christmas and New Years). 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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