Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/3/2004

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 Friday, December 3. For bird news call the Cape May Birding Hotline at (609) 898-2473. NJ Audubon's three hotline can be read in full on our website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (at the top of any page).

ANNOUNCEMENT -- Regarding the terrible oil spill in the Delaware River and an earlier call for volunteers, Kathy Clark of the NJ DEP writes that the call for birders to work on oil-spill surveys has had a great response and she needs no additional volunteers at this time. Thanks to all who responded. If you want to help out, there are many other opportunities both in NJ and other affected states; for a start, see http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org http://www.tristatebird.org

Tri State Bird Rescue is handling all the oiled birds. They need paper towels, Q-Tips, flat sheets, bath towels, Ensure (Vanilla only) and Pediolite (plain only). If people would like to drop off any of these items at the Cape May Bird Observatory's Northwood Center in Cape May Point (701 E. Lake Drive -- open every day from 9 AM to 4:30 PM), CMBO will take items to Tri State. Or you can make a donation of money or items directly to Tri State Bird Rescue, 110 Possum Hollow Road, Newark DE 19711 (302-737-9543).

The Avalon Seawatch continues to dazzle. Over 525,000 seabirds have been recorded since September 22, with the season's peak flight of 80,700 birds on October 28th. Big numbers are still moving. 10,247 birds were recorded November 27, including 3,801 RED-THROATED LOONS, the season's 35th COMMON EIDER, 44 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, 168 BONAPARTE'S GULLS, and quite a few season highs: 2,091 N. GANNETS, 930 BRANT, 49 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, and 4 RAZORBILLS. WHITE-WINGED SCOTER numbers have picked up. 20 PURPLE SANDPIPERS frequent the jetty in front of the Avalon Seawatch and 4 or more LONG-TAILED DUCKS are regulars in the waters right in front of the Seawatch. Visit the Avalon Seawatch any day through December 22nd any time from sunrise to sunset - the location is along the seawall at the junction of First Avenue and Seventh Street in Avalon. Take exit 13 east from the Garden State Parkway and, upon entering Avalon, make the third left onto First Avenue. Drive to the end.

CMBO's "Cape May Autumn Hawkwatch" ended November 30 with a grand total of 31,774 (September 1- November 30). November 29 a nice flight of 169 raptors was tallied including 5 BALD EAGLES and 3 GOSHAWKS. Even though the Hawkwatch has officially ended, raptors will continue to migrate through early December with each coldfront. Go to NJ Audubon's website to view 2004's FINAL TOTALS and the peak flight (total and date) for each species: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/HWdailytotals.html

Winter raptor haunts are fun to visit now, looking for N. HARRIER, RED-TAILS, ROUGH-LEGS, BALD EAGLES, and SHORT-EARED OWLS. SHORT-EARED OWLS (1-3) have been reported from Jakes Landing (since 11/26), Corbin City WMA (since 11/28), and Tuckahoe WMA (since 11/29). Keep an eye open for SNOWY OWLS, expected by Thanksgiving -- the first one in NJ was seen November 30 at the north end of Brigantine.

Katy Duffy & Patrick Matheny ended their Cape May Owl Banding Project November 17 with a total of 111 owls (99 N. SAW-WHET OWLS, 11 LONG-EARED OWLS, and 1 BARN OWL). Just like diurnal hawks, nocturnal owls will continue to migrate into early December with each coldfront. Some have undoubtedly settled into winter haunts already near CMBO's Center in Goshen in the midst of NJ's Delaware Bayshore. A road-killed SAW-WHET OWL was found November 9 on Avalon Boulevard. Be sure to check for leg bands if you find a road-killed owl.

Trees have been stripped of their leaves, making it easier to look through the woods for large stick nests, built by Red-tailed Hawks last spring and coveted now by Great Horned Owls looking for suitable nest sites to use in January. GREAT HORNED OWLS have been vocal at dawn and dusk near potential nest sites. Put off any woodland explorations on foot in the coming weeks due to Deer Season. In Cape May County and parts of Cumberland County Firearm Season runs from December 6-11, followed by Shotgun Season from December 15-17 and Muzzleloading Season (December 13, 14, 18-24, 27-31, and January 1-7, 2005). SUNDAYS are SAFE all over New Jersey; there is NO HUNTING on SUNDAYS.

Learn how to spot owls and all about them by joining Pat Sutton during one of the upcoming "All About Owls Workshop & Field Trips" offered December 4 (Noon to 5 p.m.), January 19 (1-5:30 p.m.), and January 27 (1-5:30 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register!

CMBO's "4-day Owls & Eagles Workshop" (January 21-24, 2005) still has room. To learn more about this Cape May Birding Workshops and be drawn to Cape May again and again by the great selection of other 2005 workshops go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks05.html

Backyard feeding stations have filled up with lots of AMERICAN GOLDFINCH. PINE SISKINS and PURPLE FINCH are mixed in. FOX SPARROWS have joined WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS in backyard feeding stations. AMERICAN ROBINS are feasting on American Holly berries (a good crop, so the robins will probably be here all winter). Cold snaps have quieted most of the butterflies and dragonflies, but a few can still be found. December 2, YELLOW-LEGGED MEADOWHAWKS (dragonflies) were in sheltered, sunny spots in the field at Jakes Landing Road. At the Rea Farm on November 29 a MOURNING CLOAK drifted over the old railroad tracks and will undoubtedly hibernate in one of the hollow railroad ties or nearby hollow trees. An ORANGE SULPHUR was on the field edge along with several large, illusive dragonflies, probably GREEN DARNERS.

RATTLESNAKE PLANTAIN (an orchid) is easy to spot this time of year. The rosette of green checkered leaves stands out on the forest floor. The shiny evergreen leaves of WINTERGREEN are another forest floor highlight.

CMBO's 2004 Autumn Monarch Monitoring Project ended with the lowest numbers in the history of this full-time project. We can all help the Monarch population by planting more Milkweed in our gardens. CMBO has Tropical Milkweed seed packets for sale at our Center in Goshen (OPEN DAILY: 1-4:30 PM). Plant them next spring and enjoy this annual milkweed with its constant blooms all summer, right up until frost. The tender leaves of this milkweed are especially attractive to egg-laying Monarchs. Stop by while they last! Great gifts for anyone with a garden.

Enjoy early winter bird and late migrants by joining a CMBO weekly walk with local experts : (1) Fridays (through December 17), "Late Fall Birding at Cape May" with Mark Garland, meets at 8:00 a.m. at the hawkwatch platform in Cape May Point State Park, (2) Saturdays (through December 11), "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot on Bayshore Road (not at the Rea Farm produce stand on Stevens Street), and (3) Wednesdays (through December 15), "Birding Cape May Point" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park.

South Jersey's 3 Christmas Bird Counts are all on Sundays. Dates and contacts follow. When leaving a phone message with count organizers be sure to also leave your e-mail address. Cape May CBC, Sunday, December 19; contact Louise Zemaitis at 609-898-9578. Belleplain CBC, Sunday, December 26; contact Paul Kosten at 609-861-5827. Cumberland County CBC, Sunday, January 2; contact Clay & Pat Sutton at 609-465-3397 or

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. To receive a copy of our Winter (December 2004 - February 2005) Program Schedule (the Kestrel Express), stop at one of our centers, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site 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. 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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