Cape May Natural History Hotline - 12/6/2001

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 Thursday, December 6th. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

The AVALON SEAWATCH (7th Street and the beach in Avalon) began on September 22nd. As of December 2nd, 648,540 seabirds have been recorded there by Karl Bardon, the counter, and Brennan Mulrooney. Bring a scope and your binoculars and enjoy the flight of seabirds as they migrate south along the coastline, often passing quite close to the Seawatch at the north end of Avalon because it juts a mile out into the ocean. 66,027 RED-THROATED LOONS have been counted so far with 1,000-3,000 passing daily. Daily flights also include 1-10 COMMON LOONS, 75-200 N. GANNETS, 0-150 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, 0-2 GREAT CORMORANT, 3-60 LONG-TAILED DUCK, 1,500-4,000 BLACK SCOTER, 180-750 SURF SCOTER, 8-40 WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, 10-50 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, and 0-40 BONAPARTE'S GULL. Other highlights mixed in this week include: 2 BROWN PELICAN on December 6, 1 COMMON EIDER on December 2, 2 KING EIDER on December 1, 1 PARASITIC JAEGER on November 30, and 1 RAZORBILL on December 6.

100 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE were seen by boat over Five Fathom Bank, 12 miles east of Cape May, on November 5.

HARLEQUIN DUCKS are IN at the Barnegat Lighthouse jetty. 10 were seen there on November 6. Harlequin Ducks winter around this jetty annually. Sometimes the birds are up near the lighthouse, other times one has to walk the jetty or beach almost out the end.

1-3 SNOWY OWLS at Forsythe NWR (known fondly as Brigantine) continue to be seen, most recently 2 were reported December 5. The first bird showed up November 20th, two were seen the 22nd, and by the 24th 3 were being reported. They are favoring the East Pool, often perching quite close to the driving dikes, and observers are doing a good job of noting where they've been seen last. Be sure to scan for extra bumps either on good perches or on the marsh or mud itself.

The impoundments at Forsythe NWR are excellent for waterfowl right now, offering close looks at thousands of SNOW GEESE, BLACK DUCKS, PINTAIL, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL. Also be looking for the flocks of HOODED MERGANSERS. TUNDRA SWANS have arrived too at Brig. There are also 1000s of DUNLIN in the impoundments. It's a show stopper, especially a visit in the afternoon when the light is perfect to enjoy close waterfowl from the south dike.

The Cape May Bird Observatory's 2001 CAPE MAY HAWKWATCH, sponsored by Swarovski Optic, ended November 30, 2001. Bruce McWorter, the counter, and Brennan Mulrooney recorded 28,851 raptors between September 1 and November 30. The final week of the count was quiet due to unseasonably warm and foggy weather. 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 (peak flights: 143 on Sept. 29, 128 on Sept. 27); 229 BALD EAGLE (peak flights: 16 on Oct. 7, 15 on Sept. 28); 1,204 N. HARRIER (peak flights: 76 on Oct. 27, 65 on Oct. 26, 57 on Nov. 7, 56 on Oct. 20); 12,927 SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (peak flights: 730 on Oct. 18, 610 on Oct. 27, 591 on Oct. 7, 498 on Oct. 26, 470 on Oct. 3, 457 on Sept. 28, 429 on Sept. 17); 1,874 COOPER'S HAWK (peak flights: 92 on Oct. 28, 90 on Oct. 8, 89 on Oct. 18, 87 on Oct. 7); 29 GOSHAWK (peak flights: 5 on Nov. 17, 3 on Oct. 28th, 29th, Nov. 6th); 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 (peak flights: 168 on Oct. 28, 100 on Oct. 29 & Nov. 6); -0- "NO" ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS (from the Hawkwatch this fall); 10 GOLDEN EAGLE (peak flights: 3 on Nov. 6, 2 on Nov. 5); 5,188 AMERICAN KESTREL (944 on Oct. 7, 403 on Sept. 11, 337 on Sept. 28, 324 on Sept. 26); 1,380 MERLIN (peak flights: 177 on Oct. 25, 154 on Oct. 17); 588 PEREGRINE (peak flights: 55 on Oct. 6, 44 on Sept. 23); 28,851 TOTAL RAPTORS (biggest flights of the fall: 1,827on Oct. 7, 1,483 on Sept. 28, 1,076 on Oct. 18, 1005 on Sept. 29, 1,001 on Oct. 27).

OTHER HAWK NEWS . . . Though absent from this year's hawkwatch, a light morph ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was seen November 30 over Stockton State College. A very late OSPREY was seen over Dias Creek in Cape May County on December 1 and a very late BROAD-WINGED HAWK was seen in West Cape May on December 2. 1-2 N. GOSHAWKS and 1 RED-SHOULDERED HAWK were seen the first few days of December in West Cape May near the Rea Farm. BALD EAGLES are paired up and being seen near their nest sites now, including 1 pair frequenting Forsythe NWR (fondly known as "Brig"). NJ's nesting BALD EAGLE population now stands at 31 pairs according to the NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Program. These adults do not migrate. Actually adults have been spending time back at their nests since early October. The Stow Creek Bald Eagle nest blew down in early October. Both adults remain in the area near the giant Sycamore tree that held their original nest, and it is hoped that they will rebuild their nest. This nest has been one of the most successful, often producing 3 youngsters. Bald Eagles (and Great Horned Owls) are our earliest nesting birds, so they have already set up their nesting territories.

A female RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, first found November 28, continues at a feeder in Barnegat Light and was most recently reported on December 5. This hummingbird was positively ID'd (when, at the yard owner's request, it was banded). Any hummingbird this late in the season is not likely to be a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but one of the more western rarities. So, take careful notes, try to capture it on film or video, and be sure to call in your reports to CMBO.

FYI, it is now DEER HUNTING SEASON, so be extra cautions 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. December 3-8 and December 12-14 is SHOTGUN season in Cape May County. On these dates we should probably all avoid walking 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.

Most trees are bare and it is time to haunt the woods (with the above information in mind) looking for old raptor, crow, or heron nests that Great Horned Owls may use as nest sites come January. Pairs of GREAT HORNED OWLS have been vocal most dawns and dusks, since September. Each pair is now 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 January. One keen observer not only heard but saw a pair at Jakes Landing at dusk on December 5. Scan tree tops and other good perches on the edge of the woods just at dusk for Great Horned Owls coming out to begin their day.

Katy Duffy and her husband, Patrick Matheny, ran the Cape May Owl Banding Project from October 25th through November 17th, at the peak of the owl migration, and documented a fabulous owl migration by banding 277 owls, including 1 BARN OWL, a record 70 LONG-EARED OWLS, and 206 SAW-WHET OWLS.

Following a good fall migration of owls like this one, good numbers of wintering owls occur, owls that journeyed no further and ended their migration here in southern New Jersey, especially in the habitat-rich Delaware Bayshore. So, this fall's owl migration bodes VERY WELL for CMBO's 4-day "Winter Workshop for Hawks, Owls, and Waterfowl," January 25-28, 2002 (there's still room on this workshop, for details go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html) and CMBO's "All About Owls: Workshop & Field Trip" offered on three different dates: Saturday, January 19; Wednesday, January 23; and Friday, February 1. Sign up now and plan to join us!

Find time for a walk out Stone Harbor Point or a drive across Nummy's Island right now to enjoy the huge flock of wintering AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (100s) and the 1000s of BRANT.

The meadow at CMBO's Center of 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.

The unseasonably warm weather has resulted in many butterfly sightings this week, involving 8 species. 5-25 ORANGE SULPHUR (daily in West Cape May and Port Norris); MOURNING CLOAK on Dec. 1 at Rancocas Nature Center in Mount Holly, NJ; AMERICAN LADY (small fresh male on Dec. 6 in Dividing Creek); PAINTED LADY (1 on Dec. 4 in Green Creek, 1 on Dec. 6 in Dividing Creek); RED ADMIRAL (one Dec. 1 and another Dec. 6 in Dividing Creek, 1 Dec. 5 in Cape May Point); COMMON BUCKEYE on Dec. 6 in Port Norris; MONARCH (fresh female in Heislerville on Nov. 30, 1 on Dec. 1 in Cape May Point, 2 on Dec. 4 in Cape May Point); and SACHEM (pair on Dec. 4 in West Cape May, male in Woodbine on Dec. 1).

GREEN DARNERS continue to be seen in small numbers, with the most recent sighting of one at Lily Lake in Cape May Point on December 6. A YELLOW-LEGGED MEADOWHAWK was seen December 3 in Goshen.

CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project (September 1 - October 31) tagged about 6,700 MONARCHS this fall. This year's team was made up of Chris Kisiel, our Monarch Migration Technician, Louise Zemaitis, Michael O'Brien, and LuAnn Tracy. Three 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 were found by a fellow Monarch tagger in Chincoteague, Virginia, and 1 was just found in Orlando, Florida. Recoveries are so important to this project, documenting the route, timing, and survival of migrating Monarchs. 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

New Jersey Audubon's web site has the Cape May County Butterfly Checklist available as a download: http://www.njaudubon.org/NatureNotes/bflies.html

SPRING PEEPERS continue to call with the warm weather, including 3 on December 5 in Cape May Point. Yes, it's been unseasonably warm.

COYOTES continue to be seen and heard in the Higbee Beach area and along New England Road. 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 has Saturday bird walks at Cape May Point, requiring no pre-registration, December 8 and 15. These walks meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Cape May Point State Park on the raised picnic platform. The winter program schedule, covering January thru March, is now available & on its way to members. If you are not a member and would like a copy, stop by our centers or call 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's WEB SITE at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

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 made on Thursday evenings. 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!

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