Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/4/2003

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 Thursday, December 4. 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.

It's almost Christmas Bird Count time. Dates and contacts for the three South Jersey CBCs follow. When leaving a phone message with count organizers be sure to also leave your e-mail address. Cape May CBC, Sunday, December 14; contact Louise Zemaitis at 609-898-9578. Belleplain CBC, Sunday, December 21; contact Paul Kosten at 609-861-5827. Cumberland County CBC, Sunday, December 28; contact Clay & Pat Sutton at 609-465-3397 or

From the CMBO Avalon Seawatch, Counter Andy Wraithmell shares that quite a few LONG-TAILED DUCKS, COMMON LOONS, and RED-THROATED LOONS can be enjoyed in the waters close to the jetty with the best time being an hour leading up to High Tide. Too, as many as 40 PURPLE SANDPIPERS are daily at the jetty in front of the Seawatch. CMBO's Avalon Seawatch (7th street and the beach in Avalon), sponsored by Nikon Sports Optics, began September 22 and continues until December 22! As of November 30, an astounding 818,500 seabirds have been counted there! Some of the many highlights this week include: 2 RED-NECKED GREBE (11/26), thousands of N. GANNETS daily (including the season's daily high count of 3,386 on 11/26), GREAT CORMORANT on 11/27 (127 to date), 116 LESSER SCAUP on 11/30 (the season daily high so far), KING EIDER on 11/23, 168 COMMON EIDER so far (with 18 on 11/24, 7 on 11/26, 3 on 11/27, and 1 on 11/29), 337 LONG-TAILED DUCKS on 11/30 (the season daily high so far), 373 BUFFLEHEAD on 11/30 (the season daily high so far), 665 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER on 11/23 (the season daily high so far), 222 PARASITIC JAEGER so far (2 on 11/23, 2 on 11/26, 1 on 11/28, and 2 on 11/30), 806 FORSTER'S TERN on 11/20 (the season daily high so far), 2 RAZORBILLS this week (one each on 11/23 and 11/26). Each week the flight also includes: thousands of RED-THROATED LOONS, 100s of COMMON LOONS, hundreds to thousands of DOUBLE-CR. CORMORANT, GREAT BLUE HERONS, SNOW GEESE, BRANT, CANADA GEESE, TUNDRA SWANS, WOOD DUCKS, AM. BLACK DUCKS, N. PINTAIL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, RING-NECKED DUCK, GREATER SCAUP, BLACK SCOTER (9,000 on 11/23, 1,100 on 11/27), SURF SCOTER (5,100 on 11/23, 434 on 11/27), and WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (282 on 11/23, 52 on 11/30), COMMON GOLDENEYE, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (665 on 11/23, 95 on 11/30), BONAPARTE'S GULLS (34 on 11/26), and hundreds of RING-BILLED GULLS and HERRING GULLS.

Be sure to visit the Avalon Seawatch and do some seawatching with Andy and Bob. "Birding From the Ferry" with Mark Garland on Saturday, December 13 (7:00-11:00 a.m.) should be another great way to enjoy waterfowl and seabirds like N. Gannet. Call CMBO, 609-861-0700, x-11, to register now for either of these trips while spaces are still available.

The back bay waters behind the Wildwoods, Stone Harbor, and Avalon are full of thousands upon thousands of BRANT. Listen for their lovely crooning to one another. At the north end of Long Beach Island the jetty at Barnegat Light State Park attracts a flock of HARLEQUIN DUCKS each late fall and winter. The first two arrived November 16.

CMBO's Cape May Hawkwatch, sponsored by Swarovski Optik this fall, came to a close this week (September 1 through November 30, 2003). Hawkwatchers Jason Guerard and Bob Diebold tallied a total of 45,196 raptors, the best flight in 4 years (since 1999). The last raptor of the season was an adult BALD EAGLE on November 30. 197 BLACK VULTURE (still seem to be on the rise; this year's count had a new record daily high of 41 on 10/2), 1,241 TURKEY VULTURE, 1,975 OSPREY (the last Osprey counted this year was a late one on 11/30), 178 BALD EAGLE (which is double the yearly average: 1976-2002), 2,421 N. HARRIER (almost double last fall's count), 20,665 SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (first year Sharp-shinned Hawks have broken 20,000 since 1999), 4,260 COOPER'S HAWK (this year's count had a new record daily high of 570 on 10/13), 7 N. GOSHAWK (disappointing; lowest season on record), 605 RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (nearly 200 birds more than the yearly average: 1976-2002), 1,926 BROAD-WINGED HAWK (most were seen in October with the last individual being seen on 11/26), 4 SWAINSON'S HAWK (a good year), 1,258 RED-TAILED HAWK (700 less than the yearly average . . . maybe due to the lack of snow cover to the north . . . or could it be West Nile Virus?), 6 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (a good year), 9 GOLDEN EAGLE (less than average), 7,345 AMERICAN KESTREL (the best flight since 1999; northwest winds at the peak of their migration helped this year's flights), 1,920 MERLIN (the best flight since 1999), 1,024 PEREGRINE (this is only the 5th time that Peregrine numbers have been above 1,000; no huge flights; peak day was 118 with many flights of 50-80 in a day).

A late fall migration of raptors was observed on the Maurice River on December 3. Winds were from the Northwest 10-15 mph. Perfect for migration. 87 Red-tailed Hawks, 8 Red-shouldered Hawks, and 4 migrating Bald Eagles were seen. A total of 14 BALD EAGLES were counted on the Maurice River that day, including one pair of adults at their nest on the upper Maurice River. Bald Eagles are the second earliest nesting bird and New Jersey's breeding birds are non-migratory, found year round in the vicinity of the nest. The nesting season is fast approaching, and obviously the breeding birds are spending time closer to the nest. Copulating RED-TAILED HAWKS were also seen!

Now that the leaves have fallen it is an excellent time to look for large stick nests. Bald Eagle nests and Red-tailed Hawk nests are much easier to see this time of year. 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. SHORT-EARED OWLS have been seen at Jakes Landing this week (dusk on 11/29, 3:30 p.m. on 11/30), hunting the marsh directly across the creek from the road end. If you're keen on owls, be sure to sign up for the "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton, offered Sunday, December 7 (12:30-5:00 p.m.). Everyone in the know realizes that to really guarantee owls, 3-4 days of field time is the key, since many different sites need to be visited and weather can't always be predicted. For that reason, CMBO once again will offer its popular "4-day Workshop for Owls, Hawks, & Eagles" (January 23-26, 2004) with Pat and Clay Sutton and Ward Dasey, 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. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for these owl workshop offerings. GREAT HORNED OWLS are calling softly at dawn and dusk. They are our earliest nesting bird and will lay egg by late January.

An EASTERN PIPISTREL (BAT) has been roosting in under a porch roof for the last 3+ weeks near "the Meadows." When the temperatures remained below 55 degrees the bat didn't budge. When temperatures rose to 58-61 degrees it was mild and warm at dusk, the bat hunted for about 45 minutes. Wintering bats hibernate locally, but wake up every 10-14 days to get fluids. In the bitter cold they're able to get the liquid by drinking water droplets on their fur from winter moisture.

MONARCHS just won't quit this fall. One was seen at the Avalon Seawatch on November 23 and one was found during CMBO's "Birding Cumberland" field trip on Turkey Point Road. It was so chilled it couldn't fly. Apparently there are still good numbers in Florida. Monarchs are now reaching their winter roosts in the high altitude Oyamel Fir forests of central Mexico. Two excellent web sites that share information about the Monarch's fall migration include: (1) Journey North's web site: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/fall2003/monarch/index.html (2) Monarch Watch's web site: http://www.MonarchWatch.org

A COMMON GREEN DARNER was seen December 1 at the Rea Farm. WINTERBERRY HOLLY has lost its leaves (being a deciduous holly) and its branches are lined with small, bright red fruits. Though look for it quickly, since birds are feasting on it and the berries may soon be gone.

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH are coming to backyard thistle feeders in good numbers now after a lengthy absence. Look for PINE SISKINS mixed in. Roving flocks of EUROPEAN STARLINGS are descending on RED CEDAR trees and eating the berries. Many backyard feeders continue to pull in PURPLE FINCH.

It's the peak of rarity season and late fall migration and there are still lots of ways to enjoy it. CMBO offerings include the following walks that require no preregistration! EVERY WEDNESDAY through December 10: " Birding Cape May Point," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY SATURDAY through December 13: "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm," 7:30-9:30 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

If you are in the market for a holiday gift to yourself or a special friend, be sure to stop by either CMBO Center for ideas.

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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