Cape May Natural History Hotline - 2/24/2005

This is Pat Sutton with the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This hotline was prepared on Thursday, February 24. 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 website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (at the top of any page). The CMBO Center in Goshen is again open seven days/week. So both centers are now open daily 9-4:30.

A call for volunteers to help with fencing to protect beach nesting birds (Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and Black Skimmers) on Saturday, March 26th (Cape May Point State Park colony), and Saturday, April 2nd (Stone Harbor Point colony), can be found at the end of this hotline.

As this hotline is being written snow is coming down. Several inches have already blanketed the ground. Despite this reminder of winter, each warm day will see more signs of spring.

The pair of BALD EAGLES at Beaver Swamp WMA, just up Sluice Creek from CMBOs Center in Goshen, is getting very serious about nesting. They were one of the highlights during CMBOs Nightfall at Jakes Landing walk on February 20. That evening, at 4 p.m. the pair mated near Rt. 47. The male then flew down and snatched up the top third of a Muskrat house, and flew off with it back towards the nest. On February 23, at 5:30 p.m. both adults were perched at the nest. The male observing as the female worked diligently at arranging material in the nest. At 6 p.m. when it was nearly dark they mated. Last year this pair failed (which is not unusual the first year). Pat Sutton is the official volunteer nest observer at Beaver Swamp WMA. Please report any sightings of this pair to her at 609-861-0700, x16. CMBOs Sunday Morning at Turkey Point walk, held every Sunday (8-10 a.m.), continues to enjoy BALD EAGLES, including another active nest near Dividing Creek. This walk meets at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County (reached from Rt. 553 south of the town of Dividing Creek).

An exploration of the eagle-rich Cohansey River is scheduled for Saturday, March 12 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) during CMBOs Birding Cumberland field trip with Clay & Pat Sutton. The Cape May NWR Field Trip on Saturday, March 5 (1 to 4 p.m.) will explore the Great Cedar Swamp area at a time of year and a time of day when we just may hear Barred Owls as their nesting season approaches. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register for either trip.

SHORT-EARED OWLS continue to entertain. CMBOs field trip to Tuckahoe and Corbin City WMA on February 19 savored at least 5 (and maybe as many as 8) hunting Short-ears some very close, others beyond, and others in the background. Two hunted very close to the Jakes Landing Parking lot during the February 20 Nightfall at Jakes Landing walk. On February 23 at the Corbin City Unit of the Tuckahoe WMA numbers were again hunting, including one displaying, clapping its wings under its body during flight. Short-ears are being seen nightly at Corbin City from 5:30 p.m. until full dark. The Corbin City Unit is reached from Rt. 50, north of the Tuckahoe River. Turn right on Griscom Mill Road and right again past the houses to reach the driving dike between freshwater impoundments and tidal saltmarsh. The best concentration of Short-eared Owl activity has been where the driving dike reaches the first impoundment on the left and a creek goes off through the saltmarsh on the right. The birds perch on the many old fence posts in the marsh and hunt the marsh around and beyond them. Other treats at this site, earlier in the day, include waterfowl (if the waters are not frozen), TUNDRA SWANS (7 on Feb. 19), BALD EAGLES, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, and many N. HARRIER.

AMERICAN WOODCOCK are displaying now on the warmer evenings and at dawn. At least 3 were peenting in the field on Jakes Landing Road on February 20th at 6 p.m. during the Nightfall at Jakes Landing walk. CMBOs Woodcock Dance on Saturday, March 5 (5-7 p.m.) still has room. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register. Another opportunity to enjoy Woodcock displaying is CMBOs Winter Evenings at the Meadows walk every Friday, 4:30 p.m. till dusk, meeting in the TNC parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. On February 19, the wintering EASTERN PHOEBE was again enjoyed at the Rea Farm along with a MERLIN, and 3 BROWN CREEPERS. Join Mark Garland Saturday, February 26 (2-4 p.m.) for the final Winter at the Rea Farm walk. This walk meets in the Rea Farm parking lot on Bayshore Road.

Other signs of spring this week include noisy flocks of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS konk-a-reeing, E. MEADOWLARKS singing spring of the year at Jakes Landing at dusk on February 21, increased numbers of waterfowl in open water,

GREAT HORNED OWLS, our earliest nesting birds, have been on nests since late January. Their young will hatch in late February / early March. Most Great Horned Owl nests are in pine trees and hard to see, but occasionally theyll use an old Osprey or Red-tailed Hawk nest out in the open. Just such a nest is being used in Salem County on a major power line structure on Money Island Road, off Fort Elfsborg Road. A walking trail from a public parking lot goes under the power line and offers an incredible look at the adult incubating the eggs. Be sure to stay on the trail and view from this safe distance. You would not want to be the cause of the adults abandoning the nest. Once the young have hatched the adult will begin to sit higher and higher on the nest. And once the young are sizable, the adult will no longer fit on the nest with them.

On February 20, Mannington Marsh was packed with BALD EAGLES (2 adults and 7 immatures, including 5 immatures together on the ice) waterfowl (75 TUNDRA SWANS, close to 500 COMMON MERGANSERS, 230 N. PINTAIL, 80 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 35 AMERICAN WIGEON, 50 RING-NECKED DUCKS, 60 GADWALL, 15 HOODED MERGANSER, and 6 N. SHOVELER). An additional 8 BALD EAGLES were at Canton / Stow Creek, including 5 immatures (3 together on the frozen marsh and perched on Muskrat houses).

Lots of BONAPARTES GULLS are around right now. This dainty, winter gull is more like a tern than a gull. 125 were at the Concrete Ship on February 19. A FORSTERS TERN, just back from its winter quarters, was at Poverty Beach in Cape May on February 20.

RED-THROATED LOONS stage here each winter and early spring, gathering at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, their numbers growing day by day. The Concrete Ship or any of the jetties in Cape May Point are excellent vantage points to witness building numbers. The birds move around with the tide, so if you do not see them, go back at a different tide. The March 16 Cruisin for Loons trip (12:30-5 p.m.) is timed to drink this in plus COMMON LOONS in full breeding plumage (just before they migrate north). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

CMBOs 2005 Cape May Birding Workshops are set. Registrations are being taken now. To receive the workshop brochure call 609-861-0700 or go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks05.html

Enjoy late winter and early spring birding by attending upcoming CMBO programs:

Weekly walks (no advanced registration, $6 members, $10 for others): Fridays (4:30 p.m. to dusk), Winter Evenings at the Meadows meets at 4:30 p.m. in TNCs parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. Saturdays (8-10 a.m.), "Birding Cape May Point" meets at 8 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park. Saturday (2-4 p.m.), February 26, Winter at the Rea Farm with Mark Garland meets at 2 p.m. in the Rea Farm parking lot on Bayshore Road. Sundays (8-10 a.m.), Sunday Morning at Turkey Point meets at 8 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County (reached from Rt. 553 south of the town of Dividing Creek). Sundays (4 p.m. to dusk), Nightfall at Jakes Landing meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville. Sundays, beginning March 6 (1 to 2:30 p.m.), Birding for First Timers meets at the North Shelter in the Cape May Point State Park.

Special programs and field trips in addition to those already mentioned follow (prices vary: call 609-861-0700 for info and to register): CAPE MAY NWR Field Trip with Pat Sutton Saturday, March 5 (1-4 p.m.) BIRDING CUMBERLAND with Pat & Clay Sutton Saturday, March 12 (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) BIRDING FROM THE FERRY with Mark Garland Saturday, March 26 (7-11 a.m.) CMBOs 10th ANNUAL OPTICS SALE for CMBO or NJ Audubon members ONLY (become a member today to take advantage of the great deals!) Saturday & Sunday, March 19-20 (9-4:30 p.m.)

Many other programs are scheduled for 2005; contact either CMBO Center for a copy of the spring Kestrel Express, which features the schedule, or go to NJ Audubons website: http://www.njaudubon.org and click on Calendar, then on Cape May Bird Observatory.

NJs Fish and Wildlifes Endangered and Nongame Species Program is looking for volunteers to assist with the Annual Fencing Days to protect endangered beach nesting birds (Piping Plovers, Least Terns and Black Skimmers. Fencing nesting habitat reduces disturbance as the birds are establishing territory and protects the vulnerable ground nests once eggs are laid. This project is perfect for those who are unable to make a long-term commitment. Each fencing date only requires a few hours of mildly strenuous work (pounding posts, placing rope and signage). Fencing dates this year include Saturday, March 26th at 10am at Cape May Point State Park and Saturday, April 2nd at 10am at Stone Harbor Point. Contact Christina Kisiel, 609.628.2103 or ckisiel@gtc3.com, for questions and to register.

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers an extensive series of regular bird walks that require no pre-registration and many special field trips and programs for which advanced registration is required. To receive a copy of the Winter or Spring Program Schedules (the Kestrel Express), stop at either CMBO Center, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

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 Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties. Updates are typically made on Thursdays. Please report your natural history sightings to CMBO's Center in Goshen at 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

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