Cape May Natural History Hotline - 2/21/2002
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 http://www.MonarchWatch.org/dplex).

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: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

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 DOWITCHER.

(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: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html

HIGHLIGHTS OF UPCOMING PROGRAMS (in addition to those already detailed above) follow:

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 register.

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 more details.

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) pat_sutton@njaudubon.org

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