Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/20/2003

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 Saturday, December 20, and will be updated next on January 8. 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.

Wishing you a Wonderful Holiday with family and friends, peaceful, and bird-filled too!

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. Muzzleloading Season is every day through January 9, except Sundays and Christmas Day. Winter Bow Season continues till January 31, except Sundays. Hunting Season at Higbee Beach WMA opened 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 Great Egg Harbor River is full of waterfowl (BRANT, BUFFLEHEAD) and raptors this winter. On December 19, 23 TUNDRA SWANS were in the impoundments at both Corbin City and Tuckahoe WMAs. 3 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS (2 dark and 1 light), an adult GOLDEN EAGLE, 10 BALD EAGLES (6 adults and 4 immatures), an immature N. GOSHAWK, PEREGRINE, 35 N. HARRIER, 1 adult RED-SHOULDER, and 24 RED-TAILS were also seen.

The Maurice River, from East Point north to Millville, is also full of waterfowl and raptors. On December 12, close to 1,000 SNOW GEESE, 500 N. PINTAIL, 100 BUFFLEHEAD, 20 COMMON GOLDENEYE, 20 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER were tallied. Plus 7 BALD EAGLES (6 adults, 1 immature), 62 RED-TAILS, 1 RED-SHOULDER, and a PEREGRINE.

The Cape May Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on that rainy Sunday, December 14. 153 species were tallied by 60+ observers who did the count despite the nasty weather. The Avalon Seawatch had a great day with 4 DOVEKIES, 3 RAZORBILLS, 2 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, and 1 PARASITIC JAEGER. One of the Dovekie was sitting in the water right in front of the Seawatch. It wasn't discovered until a Parasitic Jaeger flew in and dove repeatedly on something right in front of Bob Diebold, the Seawatcher that day. Next a Great Black-backed Gull flew in and dove on something in the same spot. Bob braved the gale of wind and sheets of rain and peered over the seawall to find a DOVEKIE, right there! The last time Dovekie was on this count was in 1932 and in 1967. Of the 3 Razorbills he saw, 2 were sitting in the water right in front of the Seawatch. Lots of fun stories were shared by observers at the tally, some of which will be shared here. An AMERICAN BITTERN was in the parking lot at Sunset Lake in Wildwood Crest. Stone Harbor Point was fabulous with 160 RED KNOT, 175 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, 2 HORNED LARK, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, 4-5 IPSWICH SPARROWS, SEASIDE SPARROWS, SALTMARSH & NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROWS, the LONG-BILLED CURLEW, 4 MARBLED GODWIT, a PIPING PLOVER that has been seen there since October and is banded (originally banded in Great Lakes) . . . so it looks as if it has chosen to winter there, a LAPLAND LONGSPUR, and a COMMON REDPOLL that shared the same shelter for 1 hour with the party of birders covering Stone Harbor Point. Lily Lake is hosting 2 female REDHEADS. YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and BALTIMORE ORIOLE were seen at the Cape May Point State Park and were still seen December 18.

On the rainy Cape May CBC on December 14, observers who began early . . .. at 1:00 a.m. for owls lucked out ... conditions were perfect, still and dry (not raining). The rain didn't begin till @ 7:00 a.m. BARRED, LONG-EARED, SAW-WHET, SCREECH, and GREAT-HORNED OWLS were all tallied by their distinctive calls before dawn. A BARN OWL was seen during the day at a favorite winter roost along the Delaware Bayshore. SHORT-EARED OWLS, which are around this winter in good numbers, were the only owl (other than Snowy Owl) missed due to the rains!

Since then SHORT-EARED OWLS have been enjoyed at Jakes Landing (3 on December 15), Beesley's Point on the Great Egg Harbor (2 on December 17), and Tuckahoe WMA (2 on December 18). GREAT HORNED OWLS are calling softly at dawn and dusk. They are our earliest nesting bird and will lay eggs by late January. Eagle nests and Red-tailed Hawk nests are much easier to see now that the leaves are gone. 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.

A road-killed SAW-WHET OWL was found December 16 in northern Cape May County on Rt. 347, just before the Cumberland County line. Road-kills found this time of year are probably wintering birds. Their locations (plus date & condition) should be noted & shared with interested folks, like the author of this "Cape May Natural History Hotline" (pat_sutton@njaudubon.org). Also be sure to check their legs for an aluminum band and, if found, report the band number and data (date found, condition, location where found, finder) to the USGS at 1-800-327-2263. And let us know what you learned too. 1,000s of SAW-WHET OWLS were banded this fall in Canada and New England and the likelihood of learning where a wintering bird has come from is quite good!

If you're keen on owls, seriously consider signing up for CMBO's popular "4-day Workshop for Owls, Hawks, & Eagles" (January 23-26, 2004) with Pat and Clay Sutton and Ward Dasey. It's shaping up to be a very owly winter. 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. Another owly offering is the "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton, offered: Saturday, January 17, and again on Wednesday, January 21 (1:00-5:30 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for these owl workshop offerings (though CMBO centers will be closed December 24 through January 1).

Details about CMBO's "2004 Cape May Birding Workshops" can now be seen at New Jersey Audubon's web site at (with more details added in January and a brochure printed and sent to members in January): http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html

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. On December 13, 12 HARLEQUIN DUCKS, 12 eiders (COMMON & KING), and 3 LAPLAND LONGSPURS were seen there. 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!

CMBO's Avalon Seawatch (7th street and the beach in Avalon), sponsored by Nikon Sports Optics, began September 22 and will end December 22! As of December 14 the Seawatch has counted an amazing 850,828 seabirds! LONG-TAILED DUCKS have settled in and can be found most days courting in the waters right in front of the Seawatch. COMMON LOONS gather and feed in the same waters, diving down for food and popping up a long way off sometimes.

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 and Pete Dunne's evening program may be purchased for $8 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 are enjoying FOX SPARROWS. AMERICAN WOODCOCK have migrated in and are being encountered at Higbee Beach, Woodcock Lane (in Cape May NWR), backyards in Goshen, and near peoples' compost piles (where the soil often is warmer, even when quite cold).

Enjoy some early winter birding by joining CMBO for the following walk that requires no preregistration! 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

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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