Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/21/2001

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 21st, and will be updated every other week due to holidays and travel. So, look for the next updates on January 3rd & 17th. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

1-2 SNOWY OWLS continue to be seen DAILY at Forsythe NWR (known fondly as "Brig" or "Brigantine Refuge"), including today December 21. The first bird showed up November 20, two were seen Nov. 22, and by Nov. 24th 3 were being reported. The last report of all three seen in one day was on December 1st. 2 were seen in the same day on December 19th. Most recently they have been favoring the northern half of the East Pool. Observers are conscientiously writing their sightings in the log book, so double check it before heading out onto the dike. Snowy Owls can be quite sedentary during the day, tucking in out of the wind but often choosing a sunny spot. Be sure to scan the marsh and mud edges, as well as any elevated perch, like the small cedars or snags in the East Pool. One wouldn't think that a large white owl could hide, but they are quite capable of being easily overlooked. If you don't succeed on your own, look for the gathering of birders with scopes & you're sure to find the Snowys.

It is quite a winter for SNOWY OWLS. Two others were found on the Cape May Christmas Bird Count on December 16. One in the marshes west of Ocean Drive between Cape May and Wildwood Crest near Two Mile Landing and the other at Stone Harbor Point perched atop one of the last houses. December 17 and 19 a Snowy Owl was found on the beach in North Wildwood near New Jersey and Spruce Avenues (perhaps the Stone Harbor Point bird). Today, December 21, a Snowy Owl was discovered in Avalon on the beach at 65th Street. If you should enjoy one of these Snowy Owls or discover your own, please educate beach goers so that they don't walk too close and disturb the bird(s).

The AVALON SEAWATCH (7th Street and the beach in Avalon) began on September 22nd and will end December 22nd. As of December 18th, close to 700,000 seabirds were recorded there by Karl Bardon, the counter, and Brennan Mulrooney. Some of the species totals follow: 74,300+ RED-THROATED LOONS, 3,650 COMMON LOONS, 44 HORNED GREBE, 4 RED-NECKED GREBE, 33,500+ N. GANNETS, 137 BROWN PELICANS, 169,000+ DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, 74 GREAT CORMORANT, 5,500 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 2 KING EIDER, 23 COMMON EIDER, 1 HARLEQUIN DUCK, 1,100 LONG-TAILED DUCK, 131,600 BLACK SCOTER, 145,000 SURF SCOTER, 2,250 WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, 1,950 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, 164 PARASITIC JAEGER, 2 POMARINE JAEGER, 380 BONAPARTE'S GULL, 2 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, 1 GLAUCOUS GULL (Dec. 15), 1 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Nov. 1), 2 BLACK TERN, 8 RAZORBILL (including 1 on Dec. 17 and 2 on Dec. 9), and 1 DOVEKIE (Nov. 16). For a look at some of the past years of CMBO's Avalon Seawatch, go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Research/seawatch.html

Even though CMBO's Avalon Seawatch will end on December 22nd, this is a good winter spot to visit. LONG-TAILED DUCKS, RED-THROATED LOONS, and PURPLE SANDPIPER (on the jetties) can be enjoyed there all winter. Often at high tide the Long-tailed Ducks are right around the jetty and at lower tides they may be further out. Bring a scope and your binoculars and enjoy the show. Be sure to check Avalon and Stone Harbor's back bay areas for BUFFLEHEAD, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, HORNED GREBE, SCAUP, and the thousands of BRANT.

A RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (now determined to be an immature male -- with rufous on its back), first found December 8, continues at feeders in Cape May Point, and was most recently seen today, December 21. It is coming to the feeder at 404 Central Avenue and the feeder across the street at 407 Central Avenue, 1 block from Lily Lake. Both feeders can be easily viewed from your car from the roadshoulder.

Any hummingbird seen this late in the season is NOT likely to be a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but instead a western rarity. This November and December quite a few western hummingbirds have been found in New Jersey. Others include: (1) A female RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (positively ID'd when, at the yard owner's request, it was banded), first found November 28, continued at a feeder in Barnegat Light at least until December 8. (2) reports from North Jersey include 2 CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRDS in New York City. So, if you should see a hummingbird now, take careful notes, try to capture it on film or video, and be sure to call in your reports to CMBO.

It's a great time of year to treat yourself to a journey along the Delaware Bayshore for winter raptors. On December 20th, from the viewing platform at the end of Turkey Point Road (reached from Dividing Creek in Cumberland County) a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, a BALD EAGLE, 2 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, and dozens of hunting N. HARRIER were enjoyed. The Rough-legged Hawk was only one of several reports so far this winter. There are dozens of excellent vantage points for winter raptors, including the various roads out to the Delaware Bay all along the western edge of Cape May and Cumberland Counties. Begin in Cape May County at Jakes Landing and work your way north and west to Stipson's Island Road, East Point, then cross the Maurice River and head towards Port Norris where you can access the marsh via a number of boardwalked trails and an observation tower at Bivalve, then continue on 553 west and enjoy access at Warren Avenue, Robbinstown Road, Berrytown Road, Hansey Creek Road, Maple Street, Turkey Point, Fortescue Road, Gandy's Beach Road, Newport Landing and on and on and on. Pick up one of the Patton Maps to Cumberland County so you don't get too lost, but getting lost might be key to finding even more in this rich area.

BALD EAGLES are paired up and getting ready for the upcoming nesting season. Many adults are spending part of each day near their nests now. NJ's nesting BALD EAGLE population stood at 31 pair in 2001. Who knows what 2002 will bring! If you should see any nesting activity, which is very likely at this time of year, be sure to report it to Larissa Smith at the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program's Tuckahoe office: 609-628-2103. Adults with sticks are surely taking them back to their nests. All such sightings are of interest.

Pairs of GREAT HORNED OWLS have been very vocal of late at dawn and dusk. With day length shortening, they often begin their dueting as early as 2:30 p.m. Each pair calling is near its potential nest site. Their hooting is a declaration of the territory they've set up. If you should hear the male's hoot, "whoo-who-who-who, whoooo, whoooo," and the female's lower answer ("wooo woooo") you can be assured that a pair will nest somewhere nearby come late January. Now that the deciduous trees are bare and you can see through a forest, it is time to haunt the woods looking for old raptor, crow, or heron nests that Great Horned Owls may nest in, they being our earliest nesting bird, often laying eggs by late January.

FYI, it is now DEER HUNTING SEASON, so be extra cautious when walking in the woods. SUNDAYS are SAFE all over New Jersey; there is NO HUNTING on SUNDAYS. Roughly from December 3 through January 4 (in Cape May County) birders / naturalists should take precautions and wear something blaze orange (hat or vest) when in the woods. NJ is broken up into 45+ zones, each with its own hunting dates; check the "New Jersey Fish & Wildlife Digest" for dates that apply to areas near you.

The meadow at CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen has attracted a feeding flock of E. BLUEBIRDS that may very well winter at this site. The wildflower and tall grass meadow, as well as the still standing gardens (full of plant stalks and seed heads), is insect rich and very attractive to wintering bluebirds, just the way we planned it in CMBO's "Model Backyard Habitat."

Thousands of AMERICAN ROBINS are wintering here this winter due to the heavy crop of berries on American Holly trees. If you've found a holly forest heavy with berries, just watch and wait and you're sure to be entertained by trees full of robins gorging themselves.

The Cape May Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on December 16th followed a night of temperatures in the low 20s. Despite that, butterflies were seen during the count, including 15 ORANGE SULPHURS, 2 COMMON BUCKEYE, and an AMERICAN LADY. On December 15th, in Chester, Pennsylvania, CBC goers discovered a RED ADMIRAL at the Taylor Arboretum.

FOX are active at their dens now, excavating fresh dirt in preparation for their next breeding season. A pile of fresh dirt at a den right now is a sure sign that it will be used. COYOTE reports continue to come in south of the Cape May Canal, and for eastern Coyotes they are being very vocal. One group has been heard along Route 626 or Seashore Road a mile or so south of the Canal. One or two groups have been heard from New England Road, one on either side. These new residents are doing an excellent job of keeping feral cats under control, or so it seems, since very few feral cats have been seen since the Coyotes moved into the area . . . certainly a positive change for migratory songbirds!

The Cape May Bird Observatory's 2001 CAPE MAY HAWKWATCH, sponsored by Swarovski Optic and manned by Bruce McWorter (the counter) and Brennan Mulrooney, recorded 28,851 raptors between September 1 and November 30. Species totals and peak flights follow. 104 BLACK VULTURE (25 on Nov. 11 & 17); 1,051 TURKEY VULTURE (200 on Nov. 11); 1,645 OSPREY (143 on Sept. 29); 229 BALD EAGLE (16 on Oct. 7); 1,204 N. HARRIER (76 on Oct. 27); 12,927 SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (730 on Oct. 18); 1,874 COOPER'S HAWK (92 on Oct. 28); 29 GOSHAWK (5 on Nov. 17); 343 RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (61 on Oct. 28); 1,229 BROAD-WINGED HAWK (421 on Sept. 28); 1 SWAINSON'S HAWK on Oct. 26; 1,049 RED-TAILED HAWK (168 on Oct. 28); -0- "NO" ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS (from the Hawkwatch this fall); 10 GOLDEN EAGLE (3 on Nov. 6); 5,188 AMERICAN KESTREL (944 on Oct. 7); 1,380 MERLIN (177 on Oct. 25); 588 PEREGRINE (55 on Oct. 6); 28,851 TOTAL RAPTORS (1,827 on Oct. 7). For a look at the first 23 years of the Cape May Hawkwatch go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Sightings/cmhw25.html

Katy Duffy and her husband, Patrick Matheny, ran the CAPE MAY OWL BANDING PROJECT (October 25 - November 17, 2001) at the peak of the fall owl migration, and documented a fabulous migration by banding 277 owls (1 BARN OWL, a record 70 LONG-EARED OWLS, and 206 SAW-WHET OWLS).

CMBO's MONARCH MONITORING PROJECT (September 1 - October 31, 2001) tagged about 6,700 MONARCHS. This year's team: Chris Kisiel, our Monarch Migration Technician; Louise Zemaitis, Michael O'Brien, LuAnn Tracy, and Patsy Eickelberg. Four of these tagged Monarchs were seen elsewhere along their journey as they headed to the mountains of Mexico (where they will spend the winter). Two in Chincoteague, Virginia; 1 on Assateague Island, Virginia; and 1 in Orlando, Florida. For a history of CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project and details on this fall's weekly road census, go to: http://www.concord.org/~dick/mon.html


For a copy of CMBO's WINTER PROGRAMS (January through March 2002) stop by either of our centers and pick up the Winter Kestrel Express, or call 609-861-0700 and ask us to mail it to you, or go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html

A "Purple Martin Workshop" on January 19 (10 a.m.-Noon) at the CMBO Center for Research & Education in Goshen. Yes, it's time to begin thinking of preparations for your own backyard so that you're ready for the 2002 Purple Martin season & perhaps enjoy more success than you ever have in the past! Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

"ALL ABOUT OWLS: Workshop and Field Trip" offered from 1-5:30 p.m. on 3 different dates: Saturday, January 19; Wednesday, January 23;, and Friday, February 1. Pat Sutton, coauthor of "How to Spot an Owl," will teach these workshops. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register


(1) "Delaware Bayshore Birding," every Monday, January 14 to April 1 (10 a.m. to Noon), meets at the CMBO Center for Research & Education in Goshen.

(2) "Birding Cape May Point," every Saturday, January 19 to March 30 (10 a.m. to Noon), meets at the Cape May Point State Park in the raised picnic pavilion.

(3) "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point," every Sunday, January 20 to March 31 (8 to 10 a.m.), meets at the wildlife viewing platform at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County (reached from Route 553 west or north of the town of Dividing Creek).

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 hotline. For more information call 609-861-0700 or send a request for information to CMBO, 600 Route 47 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210. 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.

The Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline is a service of New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties and near shore waters. Updates are usually made on Thursday evenings (except during this holiday season, when they will be made every other Thursday). Please report natural history sightings to CMBO at 609-861-0700 or 609-884-2736. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call 609-898-BIRD. 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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