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 Monday, February 17 (and will next be updated in
early March). 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."
Weather is still big news around Cape May right now. Colder than normal
temperatures and snow cover of unusually long duration has dominated the
region since early January. The President's Day weekend has brought
more than a foot of new snow - one television station is reporting 17
inches in Cape May. Most freshwater ponds and marshes have been frozen
for over a month now. Drinking water is at a premium for birds and
other wildlife; if you've got a heated pond or bird bath, you're no
doubt seeing lots of visitors. Bird feeding stations are also drawing
hordes of birds right now.
Water birds are now concentrated in areas of open water. LOONS,
SCOTERS, and other sea ducks seem quite unperturbed by the 34 degree
ocean water, with numbers are being seen all along the coast. A few
rarer sea birds show up now and then; one such bird is a COMMON EIDER
that has been lingering at the Avalon Seawatch site (7th and the
seawall) for several weeks now. If the cold snap continues in the
eastern U.S., and the Great Lakes freeze, we may see an influx of
RED-NECKED GREBES in our coastal waters; two were seen off Cape may on
Feb. 14th. There have been more COMMON MERGANSERS around Cape May this
winter than is typical. Amazingly, an off-course LONG-BILLED CURLEW,
first found in late September, continues to reside in the salt marshes
behind North Wildwood. Scan the marshes (a scope is usually necessary)
from the west end of 14th, 17th, 19th, and 26th Streets at lower tides
for your best chance to see this rarity.
An influx of northern GULLS may also occur. Any time you find a large
group of gulls, search for ICELAND GULL, GLAUCOUS GULL, THAYER'S GULL,
LITTLE GULL, BLACK-HEADED GULL, and possibly something even more exotic.
On Feb. 13 both LITTLE GULL and BLACK-HEADED GULL were seen at the Cape
May ferry terminal. On the 14th at least three LITTLE GULLS were seen -
two at the Concrete Ship (Sunset Beach) and one at the 2nd Ave. jetty at
the western edge of the Cape May waterfront. It won't be long before
the first LAUGHING GULL returns to Cape May from the southeastern U.S.
The honorary Cape May "LAGU Award" is bestowed upon the first person to
spot at LAUGHING GULL in late winter. This usually occurs in early
March. Several CMBO weekly walks visit coastal areas where rare gulls
may be found, including:
1. BIRDING CAPE MAY POINT - Saturdays through March 29, 8 to 10 a.m.
Meet at the raised picnic pavilion in Cape May Point State Park.
2. WINTER EVENINGS AT THE MEADOWS - Saturdays through March 29, 4:30
p.m. to dusk. Meet at The Nature Conservancy parking area along Sunset
Blvd., halfway between Cape May and Cape May Point.
3. STONE HARBOR POINT BIRD WALK - Alternate Mondays, Feb. 24, March 10,
March 24, 8 to 10 a.m. Meet at the Stone Harbor Point parking area at
the south end of 2nd Ave. in Stone Harbor.
4. TWO MILE BEACH BIRD WALK - Alternate Mondays, March 3, 17, 31, 8 to
10 a.m. Meet at the last parking area on the left in the Two Mile Beach
Unit of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. Take Ocean Drive from
Cape May toward the Wildwoods. After crossing the first toll bridge (50
cents), make the first right onto Loran Drive into the Refuge. This
turn is immediately south of the beginning of the developed are of
Wildwood Crest (Diamond Beach).
All CMBO weekly walks cost $6 for members of CMBO and/or the parent
organization, the New Jersey Audubon Society, and $10 for nonmembers.
There is no advanced registration, just head to the meeting area
described. Dress for the weather and bring binoculars. NOTE THAT ALL
CMBO ACTIVITIES ARE CANCELLED WHEN WINTER WEATHER CAUSES UNSAFE TRAVEL
CONDITIONS. If in doubt, stay home and come out the following week. BE
Birds that typically feed on the ground are obviously having trouble
right now. Sunny road edges, such as the north side of Sunset Blvd.,
offer many birds a sheltered, snow-free refuge. Dark pavement heats up
during sunny days, and some of this heat radiates onto the roadside.
AMERICAN WOODCOCKS are gathering in these areas; they typically feed by
probing into the cover of the forest floor. This humus layer is frozen
solid in most Cape May woods. Seed eating songbirds - sparrows,
finches, juncos -- are also being seen frequently on roadsides. Please
slow down when driving in areas where these birds are concentrated; many
birds have been hit by cars on our roads since the cold snap began.
As soon as the weather moderates a little bit, AMERICAN WOODCOCKS will
begin courting at sunrise and sunset every day. The Saturday weekly
walk titled, "WINTER EVENINGS AT THE MEADOWS" often witnesses a Woodcock
courtship display. Details of this walk are listed above. On Sunday,
March 16, from 5 to 7 p.m., CMBO presents SKY DANCE OF THE WOODCOCK, a
special pre-registration program describing and (hopefully) observing
Woodcock biology and courtship. Cost is $8 for members, $15 others. To
register contact the CMBO Center for Research and Education, (609)
Dabbling ducks, GREAT BLUE HERONS, VIRGINIA RAILS, and other birds
associated with inland waters are concentrated wherever open water is
still found. A few Virginia Rails have been seen on sunny, sheltered
roadsides and trail sides, the same areas where woodcocks are being
seen. It's a great time of year to watch for sea-loving birds, such as
COMMON GOLDENEYE, BUFFLEHEAD, RED-THROATED LOON, and HORNED GREBE.
There were big ice flows in Delaware Bay during January, but for the
most part the salt water of the Bay and the Atlantic Ocean remain open
through Cape May's chilliest winter days. NORTHERN GANNETS are common
offshore some winters, but this year they have been scarce. March
should bring a major northward movement of these big seabirds. A great
vantage point for seabirds is often the Cape May - Lewes Ferry. On
Wednesday, March 19, CMBO sponsors a 4-hour program titled, "BIRDING
FROM THE FERRY." Nicknamed the "Poor man's pelagic," this trip combines
shore viewing with a round trip on the ferry. Cost is $15 for members,
$25 for nonmembers, plus the $10 ferry round-trip ticket. Advanced
registration is required; call (609) 861-0700.
Despite the cold weather and early sunsets, the Winter Solstice is
behind us, the days are growing longer, and signs of spring are slowly
showing up. The buds are already swelling on many species of trees,
including maples, willows, and elms. Soon the first OSPREY and EASTERN
PHOEBE will return. A few plaintive calls from the little tree frogs
called SPRING PEEPERS were heard around Cape May on this winter's very
few warmer evenings, but full-fledge peeper choruses are due to erupt
around Cape May's freshwater wetlands sometime in March. BALD EAGLES
have continued to actively court throughout winter's chill; many will
lay eggs and begin to incubate in late February. Preliminary results
from the South Jersey Eagle Survey, conducted Jan. 11 - 12, show between
105 and 110 Bald Eagles and 5 Golden Eagles in the coastal regions of
southern New Jersey. CMBO's "Winter Raptors of the Delaware Bayshore
program, Feb. 2, tallied 27 BALD EAGLES and one GOLDEN EAGLES.
It's time to think about signing up for one or more MAURICE RIVER BALD
EAGLE CRUISES, since all 7 trips sold out last year. This year we've
added an eighth trip. These 2 1/2 hour trips are scheduled to depart at
the following dates and times:
A. Saturday, March 22, 10 a.m.
B. Saturday, March 22, 1 p.m.
C. Sunday, March 23, 10 a.m.
D. Saturday, March 29, 10 a.m.
E Sunday, March 30, 10 a.m.
F. Saturday, April 5, 10 a.m.
G. Saturday, April 5, 1 p.m.
H. Sunday, April 6, 10 a.m.
These trips are all on The Skimmer, a stable 40-foot catamaran whose
enclosed viewing deck has removable windows. Cost is $35 for members,
$45 for others. Call (609) 861-0700 for more information or to
register. The trip begins and ends near Millville, in Cumberland
Many GREAT HORNED OWLS are incubating their eggs already, and many
chicks will be hatching before month's end. Pairs may often be heard
calling back to one another at dusk, again at dawn, and at intervals
through the night. They don't build a nest of their own, rather they
use an old stick nest that a hawk or crow built in a previous year. One
or more Great Horned Owls typically nest on Osprey platforms out in the
salt marshes. One such nest has been found in the marsh off Moran's
Marina, at 14th and Ocean Drive in Avalon. 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. These are
also great places to see SHORT-EARED OWLS, which hunt the marshes at
twilight. CMBO offers two weekly winter walks to raptor-rich areas
along the Delaware Bayshore:
1. NIGHTFALL AT JAKES LANDING - Friday evenings through March 28, 4:30
p.m. to dusk. Meet at the end of Jakes Landing Road, which leads south
from Rt. 47 just west of Dennisville. SHORT-EARED OWLS are being seen
almost every week on this walk.
2. SUNDAY MORNING AT TURKEY POINT - Sunday mornings through March 30, 8
to 10 a.m. Meet at the end of Turkey Point Road, which leads south
from Rt. 553 just west of Dividing Creek, in Cumberland County.
CMBO members who have followed through on our backyard habitat workshops
are reaping the benefits during this cold and snowy winter. Yards that
supply wildlife with food, cover, and drinking water are busy places
right now! If you would like to make your yard "wildlife-friendly,"
CMBO is offering a workshop in late March. "Create a Backyard Wildlife
Habitat Introductory Workshop" is led by Pat Sutton and offered on
Saturday, March 29 (1-3:30 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x11 to sign up!
If you are new to birding, CMBO would love to help you learn how to make
your birding field trips more enjoyable and rewarding. A 2-hour weekly
program titled, "BIRDING FOR FIRST TIMERS" begins on March 6 and runs
every Thursday in March from 1 to 3 p.m. Meet at the CMBO Northwood
Center in Cape May Point. No advanced registration, just stop by. For
a more serious introduction to birding, try the 6-hour "BIRDING 101"
course, offered next on Saturday, March 15. Advanced registration is
required for this program, whose cost is $20 for members, $30 for
others. Call (609) 861-0700 to register. If you need good binoculars
or wish to get a spotting scope, both CMBO Centers offer an excellent
variety at competitive prices throughout the year. One weekend per
year, however, we are able to accumulate an incredible selection of
closeout models, demos, factory-refurbished, new and used optics and
extraordinary discounts. The year the CMBO OPTICS SALE is set for March
22 & 23. Come early for the best selection. The sale is held at the
CMBO Center for Research and Education in Goshen, phone (609) 861-0700.
Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but a line usually develops well
before 9:00 on Saturday morning. The best deals are strictly
CMBO's Winter 2003 (January - March) KESTREL EXPRESS program schedule
should have reached members' mailboxes last month. The Spring Kestrel
Express will be mailed in early March. If you are not a member and
would like to receive a copy with full details about our programs, stop
by either CMBO Center, 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 Observatory"). The new WORKSHOP BROCHURE has also been sent,
featuring 3 Classic Workshops and 10 Bullet Workshops in calendar year
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 &
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., though the
Northwood Center is currently closed on Tuesdays due to staffing
shortages. For more information call 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling
and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!
Mark S. Garland
New Jersey Audubon Society
Cape May Bird Observatory
701 E. Lake Dr.
PO Box 3
Cape May Point, NJ 08212