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, February 21. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to
-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).
Spring is way ahead of schedule this year . . . or maybe winter never
really happened. Ocean water temperatures are between 43-46 degrees F. At
this time of year they're normally between 32-34 degrees F. STRIPED BASS
fishermen have caught fish all winter, this winter, when normally the last
fish are caught in December. So, the OSPREY seen on February 15 over the
Garden State Parkway five miles north of Cape May (we expect them to return
the 2nd week of March) may have a chance of surviving if fish are more
active than they'd usually be at this time of year.
The spring's first snakes (2 GARTER SNAKES and 2 RIBBON SNAKES) were seen
February 19 sunning along the trails at the Cape May Point State Park.
Flowering Quince is beginning to bloom. This shrub is often the signal that
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are soon to arrive and triggers some backyard
habitat gardeners to put out their hummingbird feeders. Perhaps with the
temperatures so abnormally high we should think of doing just that in case
hummingbirds arrive long before they're normally expected and long before
our gardens are in bloom.
The warm temperatures have triggered some butterfly activity. On February
at Jakes Landing a MOURNING CLOAK and an Anglewing (either a Question
Mark or an Eastern Comma) were flying about. And on February 19 a MOURNING
CLOAK was seen at the beanery. These three species winter as adult
butterflies, often surviving winter weather safely tucked down inside a
hollow tree, in a wood pile, or under shutters or shingles. They are known
to fly on days when the temperatures rise above 55 degrees F. Also on
February 16, 3 sulphurs were flying in Goshen. Sulphurs winter in the
chrysalis stage, so these butterflies were tricked into thinking it was
spring, and emerged as adult butterflies. If a blast of winter comes again,
they will probably not survive.
Many birds are wound up and getting ready for the upcoming nesting season.
Woodpeckers are drumming and calling. Mourning Doves are cooing. Red-winged
Blackbirds are singing their spring song, "Konk-a-reeeeeeee." One observer
found a flock of 40 GREAT BLUE HERONS on February 20 in Salem County, no
doubt a migratory flock that had just arrived.
The Delaware Bay is a key staging area for RED-THROATED LOONS each spring.
They gather at the mouth of the bay before migrating north. This has begun!
To witness this gathering do not count on your naked eye or, some days,
even your binoculars, but take a telescope and study the waters off Cape
May and Cape May Point between the beach and the horizon, especially if the
waters are still enough to scan for silhouetted shapes resting low in the
water. On February 16, from Cape May Point State Park's raised picnic
pavilion one observer counted 100s of Red-throated Loons. An added treat
this year is the staging of 1000s of SCOTERS at the mouth of the Delaware
Bay, also seen February 16. And they are actively feeding; gulls were
hovering over them, no doubt trying to steal their food. Food is plentiful
in the waters at the mouth of the bay, hence the staging loons and scoters.
N. GANNETS were feeding in the rips off Cape May Point (the rough water
where the ocean meets the bay) February 21, also drawn to the abundance of
food in these waters.
CMBO's "Long-tailed Duck Field Trip" on February 16 enjoyed a lovely
"toasty warm" day and a smattering of waterfowl. Last fall was so mild that
wintering waterfowl did not arrive in normal numbers and much of what did
arrive seems to have already moved north. LONG-TAILED DUCKS were enjoyed at
the Avalon Seawatch, at 114th Street in Stone Harbor, and in Hereford Inlet
along with a dozen or so HORNED GREBES. Avalon and Stone Harbor's back bay
waters at 8th Street and 37th Street held flocks of HOODED MERGANSERS and RED-BREASTED
MERGANSERS. Thousands of BRANT were in the back bay waters; many were
"goosing" each other, no doubt a sign of courtship. An AMERICAN BITTERN was
right next to the road on Nummy's Island and 2 GREAT CORMORANT were on a
channel marker behind Nummy's Island.
CMBO's first "Woodcock Walk at the Meadows" on February 15 enjoyed five or
so "peenting" and displaying AMERICAN WOODCOCK. Experienced observers have
reported displaying woodcock nearly nightly. With warm temperatures any
still night should be good to go listening and looking for woodcock. But if
you've never experienced it, be sure to join CMBO for one of these walks to
get oriented and learn what to expect. The "Woodcock Walk at the Meadows"
is offered every FRIDAY, through March 29 (5:30 p.m. till dark) and meets
at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard.
Many of New Jersey's nesting BALD EAGLES are now on eggs or will soon be.
The Stow Creek Bald Eagle nest, in northwestern Cumberland County on the
border of Salem County, is one of the most visible nests in New Jersey. A
viewing platform on Route 623, just north of Stow Creek, offers an
excellent view. Too, CMBO is offering 7 different MAURICE RIVER BALD EAGLE
CRUISES, and many trips still have room. The Maurice River attracts one of
the largest concentrations of wintering Bald Eagles in the state and hosts
three nesting pairs; the boat sails right by one of the nests. By late
March their nesting season is well along and eggs are due to hatch, and
wintering immature eagles are still hunting the marshes along the river . .
. so we can dare to promise Bald Eagles. Last year's trips enjoyed numerous
looks at eagles, so we're excited to again offer these trips, which will
also offer good looks at returning Osprey, Belted Kingfisher nesting
burrows, and more! Trip details: Saturday, March 23 (2 trips: 10 a.m.-12:30
p.m. and 1-3:30 p.m.); Sunday, March 24 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.); Saturday,
March 30 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.); April 6 (2 trips: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and
-3:30 p.m.); Sunday, April 7 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.). Pick the date that
suits you and join us! Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.
GREAT HORNED OWLS laid their eggs at the end of January or in early
February and promptly got very quiet. The keen observer can still hear
pairs calling to one another briefly at dawn and dusk at the magic hour
when light is very dim. Keep in mind that the female is calling from the
nest. One nest was discovered on February 9th during the Cumberland County
Winter Raptor Festival. The pair of Great Horned Owls are using an old
Red-tailed Hawk nest and it is very visible from the viewing platform at
the end of Turkey Point Road.
Some very distressing news on the natural history front involves our
MONARCHS at their over wintering site in Mexico. In mid-February we learned
of a devastating winter storm January 11-13, where torrential rains soaked
many of the over wintering Monarchs in Mexico and knocked them off the trees
and to the ground. They piled up on the ground, laying in water and mud.
The storm was followed by low temperatures in the 20s for several days and
many of the Monarchs were killed (wet and frozen). Dead Monarchs lay in
piles on the ground, in some places more than a foot high. Lincoln Brower
estimates the mortality in the tens of millions. Pre storm estimates of
living Monarchs determined there to be 100 million or more at the winter
roosts this winter. 74% of the Sierra Chincua colony was lost due to this
storm & following deep freeze and 80% of the El Rosario colony was lost.
Thankfully, several other Monarch over wintering sites in Mexico were not
affected by this storm. All of the above information was gleaned from
Monarch Watch's Dplex-L Email Discussion List (visit
Every single MONARCH sighting this spring will be significant. Wildlife
friendly gardens and meadows with milkweed (that has been spared the mower)
will be crucial to the small number of survivors that we are now counting
on to parent future generations that we hope will populate the U.S. all the
way north to southern Canada. If you have considered gardening for
butterflies, but not known where to start, begin by signing up for CMBO's
upcoming series of workshops on "Gardening for Wildlife." Actually all four
workshops will be helpful to new (and experienced) butterfly gardeners, but
if you're short on time, the 2nd workshop in the series focuses totally on
"How to Create a Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden." For more details go to:
Four of CMBO's weekly winter walks are underway. And a lot of goodies are
around. These walks require no preregistration; JUST COME! There is a
charge ($6 CMBO/ NJ Audubon member; $10 nonmember).
(1) The "Woodcock Walk at the Meadows" (highlighted above) is offered every
FRIDAY, through March 29 (5:30 p.m. till dark) and meets at The Nature
Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard.
(2) The "Birding Cape May Point" walk is offered every SATURDAY, through
March 30 (10 a.m. to Noon), and meets at the Cape May Point State Park in
the raised picnic pavilion. Some of the goodies enjoyed at Cape May Point
so far this winter include RED-THROATED LOON, TUNDRA SWAN, AMERICAN BITTERN & LEAST
BITTERN, PINTAIL, HOODED MERGANSERS, N. SHOVELER, CANVASBACK, COOT,
RING-NECKED DUCK, SNIPE, CEDAR WAXWING, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT,
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, PURPLE FINCH, BALTIMORE ORIOLE and more!
(3) The "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk is offered every SUNDAY,
through March 31 (8 to 10 a.m.), and meets at the wildlife viewing platform
at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County (reached from Route
west or north of the town of Dividing Creek). Pete & Linda Dunne, and
Karen Williams are the leaders and so far this winter have been enjoying at
Turkey Point lots of close looks at SNOW GEESE, GREAT HORNED OWLS on a
nest, RED-TAILED HAWKS on territory, adult and immature BALD EAGLES,
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, MARSH WRENS, VIRGINIA and CLAPPER RAILS, and some days
even looks at FOX, OTTER, and one day a MINK. There have also been lots of
waterfowl, including COMMON MERGANSER, HOODED MERGANSER and RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. Shorebirds enjoyed there include:
AMERICAN WOODCOCK, SNIPE, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, DUNLIN and
(4) The "Delaware Bayshore Birding" walk is offered every MONDAY, through
April 1 (10 a.m. to Noon), and meets at the CMBO Center for Research &
Education in Goshen. N. HARRIERS, ROUGH-LEGGED & RED-TAILED HAWKS, BALD
EAGLE, BLACK VULTURES, thousands upon thousands of SNOW GEESE, BROWN
CREEPER, FOX SPARROW, E. MEADOWLARK, and more are all possible.
For a complete listing of CMBO's WINTER PROGRAMS (January through March)
stop by either of our centers and pick up the Winter Kestrel Express,
or call 609-861-0700 and ask us to mail it to you, or go to:
HIGHLIGHTS OF UPCOMING PROGRAMS (in addition to those already detailed
A series of 4 "GARDENING FOR WILDLIFE WORKSHOPS" are scheduled and still
have room. (1) Saturday, February 23: "How to Create a Backyard Habitat for
Wildlife." (2) Saturday, March 2: "How to Create a Butterfly & Hummingbird
Garden." (3) Saturday, March 9: "How to Create a Wildflower Meadow & a Pond
for Wildlife." (4) Saturday, March 16: "How to Maintain Your Wildlife
Habitat." All run from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and will be taught by Pat Sutton
and Karen Williams. Learn how to enhance your backyard landscaping for
wildlife. Shake the winter, embrace spring, and come learn how you can plan
your own backyard to attract showy hummingbirds, monarchs and other
butterflies, bluebirds and other nesting birds, wintering birds, and so
much more! These workshops have been scheduled for late winter, the perfect
time to plan your gardens, order plants and seeds, and dream of the coming
months. The first workshop is the backbone to the series and will supply a
good foundation for the other three workshops. Topics covered during the
final workshop will include pruning and shaping trees and shrubs,
techniques for late winter clean-up, spring chores like dividing and moving
perennials, new bed preparation, soil maintenance and nourishment,
selection of annual seed varieties, starting annuals from seed, and much
more. Each workshop will include a question and answer session regarding
each landowner's particular situation. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to
Join us for one or both of the BIRDING FOR BEGINNERS (Wednesday, March 6;
Saturday, March 16) from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. These slow-paced field trips
will visit one or more natural areas on Cape Island. Each meets at the CMBO
Northwood Center in Cape May Point and begins with that site's feeding
station. Other destinations will be chosen based on the weather and on
recent sightings. No previous birding experience necessary. Time will be
spent with every bird seen, discussing identification and natural history.
No need to register, JUST COME. There is a charge ($6 CMBO/ NJ Audubon
member; $10 nonmember).
"7th GREAT ANNUAL DUCK ROUND-UP IN CAPE MAY & CUMBERLAND COUNTIES" on
Saturday, March 9 (8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) with Pete Dunne and Jay Darling
(Captain of the Mighty Waterfowlers Team on the World Series of Birding).
Oceanfront hotspots and little known Delaware Bayshore sites will be
visited. Late winter/early spring is the time of peak diversity; 23 or so
species of waterfowl, plus an assortment of other sea and land birds, is
possible! There's still room!!! Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.
A program on the "GALAPAGOS ISLANDS" will be offered Saturday, March 16, at
p.m. at CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen. A trip in 2001
will be featured but details about a trip Pete Dunne will be leading in
will also be shared.
"WELCOME SPRING" on Wednesday, March 20, from 1-6 p.m., with Mark Garland
still has room and will explore spring unfolding on Cape Island. Call
-861-0700, x-11 to register.
CMBO's 7th ANNUAL OPTICS SALE will be held March 23 and 24 (9 a.m. to 5
p.m.). You must be a member of NJ Audubon or CMBO to take advantage of the
great deals, so join today if you're not already a member and plan to come
to CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen. Call 609-861-0700 for
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
-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
-861-0700 or 609-884-2736. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call
-898-BIRD. 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)