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 Thursday, December 26 (and will next be
updated on Friday, January 10). 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
It's an OWLY WINTER indeed, as we have found on South Jersey Christmas
Bird Counts. Participants on December 22nd's Belleplain CBC had a
still night and morning and took advantage of the condition to play
Saw-whet Owl tapes. 9 SAW-WHET OWLS responded with "tooting" in 4
different territories from 3 a.m. until 6:45 a.m. (Belleplain State
Forest, Woodbine, Peaslee WMA). Lots of Screech & Great Horned Owls
and a number of Barred Owls were also heard, and at day-time roosts
both a Barn and a Long-eared Owl were found. SHORT-EARED OWLS were
thick at Jakes Landing with 3 close to the road (barking and chasing
each other and N. Harriers about) and 5 to the north at the far end of
the dead trees (which were close to observers way out on the marsh off
Sutton Road), also barking, carrying on, and putting on quite a show!
1 Short-eared Owl was also seen at the end of Stipson's Island Road
the evening of the 22nd. December 15th's Cape May CBC 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. Specific sites for
Saw-whets, Barn, and Long-eared Owls are not being shared on this
Natural History Hotline in the interest of the owls (the pressure
would be too darned great). But by sharing this owl news we hope to
make you aware that owls are HERE this winter and in pretty good
numbers, and the likelihood of you finding some if you put in the time
are very good.
If you want to learn more about owls and other winter goodies, there
is still room for the first time in 5 years (7 openings) on CMBO's
very popular 4-Day Classic Workshop focused on Owls, Hawks and Eagles,
& Waterfowl (Jan. 24-27) with Pat & Clay Sutton and Ward Dasey. Call
609-861-0700, x-11, and leave your name, full address, & phone number
to register or to get the workshop brochure!
A late afternoon walk on Christmas Eve (December 24) at Jakes Landing
was delightful with sightings of 5 Short-eared Owls (mostly as one
looks to the right down the creek and out towards the Delaware Bay), 3
adult Bald Eagles (having fun putting up the 7,000+ Snow Geese --
quite a show!), 2 Rough-legged Hawks, 1 Merlin, and 20+ Red-tailed
Hawks sitting as pairs dotting the landscape. On December 22 at Jakes
Landing (during the Belleplain CBC) flocks of American Pipits were
heard as fly-overs and a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow was found
along the road across the marsh.
The Corbin City portion of the McNamara WMA (accessed from Griscom
Mill Road off Route 50, north of the Tuckahoe River) is another good
spot this winter for SHORT-EARED OWLS with 10+ being seen there 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.
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.
BALD EAGLES (our second earliest nesting bird) were carrying sticks to
their nests in mid-December and on December 22 several nests already
had both adults sitting at them with the female nestled down inside
working on the comfort of the nest (rearranging the sticks and trying
it out). They won't lay eggs until early February at the earliest, but
are already territorial of their nest sites. The Mid-Winter Bald
Eagle Survey is coming up January 11 & 12, 2003. If you should see
any nest-building activity (adult Bald Eagles carrying sticks), you
may have discovered a new Bald Eagle nest. Their numbers have been
growing in recent years. In 2002 there were 22 successful nests, 7
nests that failed, and 5 other pairs on territory -- so 34 pairs in
the state of NJ. Call the Endangered & Nongame Species Program if you
should see nest activity (609-628-2103: Larissa Smith) and Vince Elia
(who is coordinating the Bald Eagle Survey in southern NJ) at CMBO
Some IDEAS for fun WINTER WALKS THIS WEEK this week include of course
Jakes Landing (with all the fun sightings shared above), Reeds Beach,
and Stone Harbor Point. 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 or two are 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 SCOTERS, WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, 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 7th Street and the
beach at the north end of Avalon (the site of CMBO's Avalon Seawatch:
Sept. 22 - Dec. 22) 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.
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. If you would like to make
your yard "wildlife-friendly," CMBO is offering 2 workshops this
winter: (1) "Backyard Habitat: Nuts & Bolts Workshop ... with special
emphasis on the design process" on Saturday, February 1 (10 a.m. to 3
p.m.) with Karen Williams and (2) "Create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Introductory Workshop" on Saturday, March 29 (1-3:30 p.m.) with Pat
Sutton. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to sign up!
Amazingly, butterflies were seen recently: a CLOUDED SULPHUR on Dec.
22 on Sunset Blvd. at the old Magnesite Plant property and a MONARCH
(yowiee!) on Dec. 22 at Higbee Beach in the 3rd field. The
temperature was 54 degrees F. The same day a RED BAT was flying
around at Higbee Beach at 3:15 p.m. If it's warm enough,
overwintering Red Bats will come out of dormancy and hunt, as this
individual was doing on December 22. COYOTES continue to be heard
near Higbee Beach and the Rea Farm.
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 and a Happy & Bird-y New Year!
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
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 every other week in January & February, on
Friday or earlier).
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)