Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/21/2005
Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline -- Dec. 21, 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 Wednesday, December 21, and will next be updated on Thursday, January 5. 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 have begun. Dates and organizers follow: (1) Belleplain CBC will be on Wednesday, December 28; contact Paul Kosten to participate (609) 861-5827 or floraff at algorithms.com. (2) 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. Woodcock hunting at Higbee Beach runs from December 23-31. In Cape May County permit muzzle loader season runs from December 17-31 and January 2-6, 2006. In New Jersey there is no hunting on Sundays.

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

Its a GREAT time of year for GULLS! 2 BLACK-HEADED GULLS were seen on the Cape May Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on December 18: (1) an adult at Higbee Beach (which was seen again at Sunset Beach on Dec. 19) and (2) a first cycle bird at the Avalon Seawatch. Also on December 18, an adult LITTLE GULL was at the Cape May Lewes Ferry Terminal. Did you look for any of these gulls and miss them? Some gulls take 3 years to mature, others 4 and 5 years. No wonder theyre so tough to master. 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. Want to be a better birder, more observant, more aware of what to pay attention to? Michael OBrien and Louise Zemaitis will teach a 1-Day Workshop on Techniques of Field Identification on Sunday, February 5. To register for either, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

To learn more about these workshops or the 15 other 2006 Cape May Birding Workshops (Warblers, Spring Migration, and Birding By Ear in May, Backyard Habitat in June, Butterflies in August, Terns in July, Shorebirds and Flycatchers, Vireos, and Fall Warblers in late August, Fall Migration and Falcons & Accipiters in September, Advanced Birding By Ear, Sparrows, and Raptors II in October, and Waterfowl in November ) go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks06.html

A light SNOWY OWL (probably an immature male), found December 16 at Stone Harbor Point, was seen through the Cape May CBC, including all day long on December 18. Between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. it was actively hunting the Point. When it wasnt in view observers knew just where it was by looking for the Herring Gulls. They dove on it relentlessly.

Also at Stone Harbor Point on December 18 the stands of healthy Dune Grass in what had been the summer tern colony area were full of feeding IPSWICH SAVANNAH SPARROWS (at least 14) and a number of SALTMARSH SHARP-TAILED SPARROWS. The sparrows were leaping up, grabbing the long stalks full of seeds and stripping them off. Mike Fritz, who found the feeding sparrows, wondered if other tern colony areas around the state werent also likely hotspots for these normally hard-to-see sparrows surmising that dune grass flourishes in these areas because of the all the tern droppings. A flock of SNOW BUNTINGS is also frequenting Stone Harbor Point.

A very sizable flock of RED KNOT is wintering on the Two Mile Beach Unit of the Cape May NWR. 650 were seen there on December 16 and seen again on December 18 during the Cape May CBC.

FOX SPARROWS are thick this winter. Many were seen December 18 on the Cape May CBC, including one flock of 26 on Cresse Road, just south of Rio Grande. 6 PHOEBE were in Hidden Valley on December 18.

A LONG-EARED OWL was seen December 21 at 4:30 a.m. perched in a Red Cedar at the Maple Avenue Impoundments near Dividing Creek. This bodes well for the upcoming Cumberland County CBC on New Years Day, January 1. GREAT HORNED OWLS pairs are dueting to one another now. On December 18, a pair called very faintly and very briefly just at dusk, 4:45 p.m.

Some birds are probably still moving south as winter gets a grip to the north, like SNOWY OWLS, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, and maybe SHORT-EARED OWLS. The Mullica River area on December 20 held 9 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS (5 dark and 4 light) and 2 adult GOLDEN EAGLES that were together.

RED-TAILED HAWKS are paired up and sitting side-by-side. Many NJ birds remain in their territories year round. 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!

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.

A COYOTE was seen December 21 walking through a field at the end of the Garden State Parkway.

The casual gardener, one who is not fussy, enjoys more winter birds. Perennials were left standing in CMBOs Gardens in Goshen intentionally. Theyre filled with sparrows scratching for food. If you did not rake your leaves, youre likely to attract hungry AMERICAN WOODCOCK once the ground freezes hard. Leaves blown up against the south side of a building, where the afternoon sun warms the area, might save a Woodcocks life during a hard winter. 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 gray lump dabbed with bits of green lichen. Its also time to stroll through your garden looking for SILKMOTH COCOONS and PREYING MANTIS EGG CASES. A POLYPHEMUS MOTH cocoon dangles from the stand of River Birch trees behind CMBOs Center in Goshen. The adult moth will emerge next spring. 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.

AMERICAN HOLLY trees are full of holly berries because we were spared a late freeze last spring when they were in flower! This winter there are 100s of wintering AMERICAN ROBINS because of the excellent holly berry crop. WINTERBERRY HOLLY is still stunning and will remain so until the birds strip it of its bright red berries.

CMBOs bookstore hours follow: Both the Northwood Center in Cape May Point and the Center for Research and Education on Route 47 in Goshen are open from 9-4:30 daily through December 23. Both Centers will be CLOSED between Christmas and New Years (December 24 - January 1) and open again on Monday, January 2.

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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