Cape May Natural History Hotline - 2/12/2004

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, February 12. 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.

NJ Audubon's Cape May Spring Weekend will be held on May 21-23, 2004. This incredible 3-day event includes zillions of field trips, indoor workshops, field ID programs, back bay cruises, a mini-pelagic trip, celebrated speakers like Scott Weidensaul sharing "The Ghost with Trembling Wings: The Search for Lost Species," and excellent times with other nature lovers! And all held at the peak of shorebirds feasting on Horseshoe Crab eggs, spring warblers breeding and migrating through, butterflies and dragonflies, gardening for wildlife, and more! To learn more & download a registration form, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html

Winter's grip has loosened! Spring is in the air!!! The evening of February 10, between 5:50 and 6:30 p.m., the first male AMERICAN WOODCOCK were heard displaying over weedy fields on Berrytown Road in Cumberland County and over fields in Woodbine. Any relatively warm night now we're likely to encounter them. Witness and learn all about this nuptial flight with Pat Sutton during CMBO's "Woodcock Dance" field trip on Saturday, March 6 (5:00 to 7:00 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register. Every Wednesday, (March 10-24), Mark Garland will lead "Woodcock, Owls, and Frogs" at 5:00 p.m., meeting at Higbee Beach WMA at the end of New England Road. Every Friday (now through March 26), "Winter Evenings at the Meadows" meets at 4:30 p.m. in The Nature Conservancy's parking lot on Sunset Boulevard to enjoy woodcock displaying, snipe on the move, Virginia Rails calling and other signs of spring. No preregistration needed for these Wednesday and Friday walks, just come! To help with an American Woodcock breeding survey on the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge (April 10-30), call Heidi Hanlon, the refuge's wildlife biologist, at (609) 463-0994.

Cumberland County's 4th annual Winter Raptor Festival on February 7 was very eagle-y! In Dividing Creek the breeding pair of BALD EAGLES at the Maple Avenue impoundment put on a show. The male hovered over the marsh, tore up talons of marsh grasses, brought them to the nest, and the female spent much of the day "interior decorating" the nest. The Newport Landing pair has chosen the enormous nest in the island off to the right as you look towards Fortescue. From 1:00 p.m. on the female didn't budge from down in the nest. She'd probably just laid her first egg! As early as 10:00 a.m. observers at the Maurice River Bridge enjoyed 6+ BALD EAGLES hunting and frolicking around the air. Two GOLDEN EAGLES were seen, one near Beaver Dam and the other at Newport Landing. Numbers of ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were enjoyed at Newport Landing (2 light and 1 dark morph) and Turkey Point. A flock of 55 WILD TURKEYS grazed in a farm field on Rt. 732 between Rt. 553 and Newport Landing. One male with tail spread chased 4 other males around in circles while the others fed a short distance away. The evening "Owl Watch" at Turkey Point discovered 6 GREAT HORNED OWLS at dusk sitting on perches overlooking the marsh, plus one hunting SHORT-EARED OWL. To enjoy this special area join Karen Johnson and Karen Williams every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County for "Sunday Mornings at Turkey Point;" no preregistration required.

The 45+ pairs of resident adult BALD EAGLES in New Jersey can be found near their nests this time of year, they being the second earliest nesting bird. The first pair laid eggs February 5. Others will soon follow. Be sure to report any behavior that may indicate nesting to the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program at 609-628-2103, since you might have discovered a new pair. The Maurice River is a Bald Eagle hotspot. A pair on the upper river began incubating their eggs February 12, while many immatures and a 2nd pair of adults chased each other around the sky. CMBO is again offering 2 hour "Bald Eagle Cruises on the Maurice River" this spring. These trips sail through waters and marshes attractive to 10-25+ Bald Eagles, and an active nest. There is still room on the following "Bald Eagle Cruises," but many are filling quickly: March 20 (10 a.m.), March 20 (1 p.m.), March 21 (10 a.m.), March 27 (1 p.m.), March 28 (10 a.m.), April 3 (10 a.m.), and April 4 (10 a.m.). The next "Birding Cumberland" field trip with Clay and Pat Sutton will explore the Cohansey River area on Saturday, March 13 (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), also a very eagle-y area! Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for any of these cruises or trips.

A visit to Beaver Swamp WMA on February 12 was rewarded with looks at the new pair of BALD EAGLES perched near their nest, easily viewed on the back side of the freshwater impoundment off to the left of the walking dike. 25 GREEN-WINGED TEAL frisked around after each other in the tidal creek to the right of the dike, courting males were giving their high shrill whistles. One more sign of spring! HOODED MERGANSERS were in the impoundment and the creek.

A survey on the Maurice River on February 11, found that the spring buildup of waterfowl has begun! 4,000 SNOW GEESE were back after having left during the deep freeze. Big numbers of N. PINTAIL (500), BLACK DUCKS (1,000), and MALLARDS (1,000) were seen. 150 RING-NECKED DUCKS were in the sandplant park pond in Mauricetown. And 5 CANVASBACKS were at the Heislerville WMA. It is indeed an excellent time to study waterfowl. CMBO's "Longtails In Love" trip on VALENTINE'S DAY, Saturday, February 14 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), will meet at the Avalon Seawatch at 10:00 a.m. There is still room! Savor waterfowl, gannets, and other goodies with Mark Garland on the "Birding From the Ferry" trip on Saturday, February 21 (7:00 to 11:00 a.m.). 25 COMMON EIDERS, 3 KING EIDERS and 3 HARLEQUIN DUCKS are wintering at Cold Spring Jetty, a nice treat for CMBO's upcoming "Winter at Two Mile Beach" on Sunday, February 29 (1:00 to 4:00 p.m.) with Mark Garland. To register for any of these special trips, call 609-861-0700, x-11, while there are still openings.

SHORT-EARED OWLS continue to hunt the marshes at Jakes Landing Road, along with several ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS and many NORTHERN HARRIER. E. MEADOWLARKS were singing their spring song there on February 10 and at Nummy's Island on February 11. Join CMBO every Sunday for "Nightfall at Jakes Landing," meeting at 4:30 p.m. at the end of Jakes Landing Road, no preregistration required.

Some GREAT HORNED OWLS have laid their eggs while others will soon, they being the earliest nesting bird. In most cases they use last season's Red-tailed Hawk nest, or perhaps the nest of an Osprey or a Great Blue Heron. Recently birds have been heard at dusk at a number of locations and pairs have been seen, indicating that the female is not yet on eggs. Once the female has laid her eggs, they become very quiet; don't make the mistake of thinking they've left. If you should find a nest, study it from a safe distance (ideally with a telescope) & not too often. The young won't be able to fly until late April or early May. A watchable nest is the only time of year that Great Horned Owls are easy to study.

Winter gardens are fun to explore now. Look for the very camouflaged ways in which our insects winter over on last year's now-dead plant stems: Preying Mantis egg cases, butterfly chrysalides, and moth cocoons. Mark your calendars to accompany Mark Garland to see the spring's first native wildflower in bloom during the "Skunk Cabbage Celebration" on Sunday, February 22 (9:00 a.m. to Noon). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for either.

CMBO's complete listing of "2004 Cape May Birding Workshops" is now posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to request a brochure be sent to you once available.

Additional ways, not already mentioned, to enjoy late winter and early spring birding include the following walks that require no preregistration! EVERY SATURDAY: (1) " Birding Cape May Point" (8:00-10:00 a.m) meets in the raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park, and (2) "Late Winter at the Rea Farm" (2:00-4:00 p.m.) meets in the parking lot on Bayshore Road (not at the Rea Farm produce stand on Stevens Street).

CMBO will next teach the "Nikon School of Birding" April 23-25, Friday through Sunday. 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 and spring. Check CMBO's WINTER and SPRING Program Schedules. Copies available at both centers, or request a copy by calling 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site where a full listing of CMBO's SPRING 2004 PROGRAMS (March through May) are posted (with a link to the remaining WINTER Programs) at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

The NJ DEP's Endangered and Nongame Species Program is looking for volunteers to survey reptiles and amphibians throughout NJ this spring. Training seminars are offered 3 different dates: #1 February 28 at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (Classroom B126), in Pomona (lecture: 9 a.m. - noon; field session: 1 - 3 p.m.); capacity: 50 persons. #2 March 6 at Hackettstown Natural Resource Education Center (located within the Hackettstown Fish Hatchery), in Hackettstown (lecture: 9 a.m. - noon; field session: 1 - 3 p.m.); capacity: 80 persons. #3 March 13 at Lord Stirling Environmental Education Center, in Basking Ridge (lecture: 9 a.m. - noon; field session: 1 - 3 p.m.); capacity: 75 persons. Participants may register via e-mail at vernalpools@yahoo.com. Be sure to include the training seminar you wish to attend, name of attendee(s), your mailing address and telephone number. An e-mail containing registration confirmation and driving directions to the appropriate seminar will be sent back to you. Those without e-mail capabilities can call 908-735-8975 to register. For more information, visit the Division of Fish and Wildlife's website at: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/vernal

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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