Cape May Natural History Hotline - 2/28/2002
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 28. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

An amazing number of SCOTERS is staging at the mouth of the Delaware Bay and visible from the Cape May Point State Park. On February 26, 10s of 1,000s of scoters were seen in these waters . . . a narrow raft of scoters miles long, extended from the rips off Cape May Point up the Delaware Bay to Brandywine Light. In addition to this mega gathering, many thousands of scoters were seen coming out of the Delaware Bay to the mouth. Other bonuses that day from Cape May Point included 150 N. GANNETS (coming out of the bay) and 50 RED-THROATED LOONS (in the waters offshore). 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. To witness these gatherings 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.

A survey of the Maurice River on February 21 found an increase in northbound waterfowl (955 GREEN-WINGED TEAL & 699 N. PINTAIL) and shorebirds on the move and numbers increasing (GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, KILLDEER, COMMON SNIPE).

100 BONAPARTE'S GULLS and an immature BALD EAGLE (which put all the Bonaparte's Gulls UP) were enjoyed on January 25 at low tide on the flats along the shoreline of the Delaware Bay at the end of High's Beach Road, which is just north of Norbury's Landing.

There are 34 pairs of breeding BALD EAGLES in New Jersey right now . . . that we know of, including three new nest sites. Bald Eagles are the second earliest nesting bird, right after Great Horned Owls. On February 3rd the first pair of Bald Eagles began incubating their eggs. By February 21, 10 pairs in NJ had begun to incubate eggs. Today's update on February 28 from the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program and the crew of volunteer nest observers, shares that 19 pairs are now on eggs in New Jersey. Young from the earliest nests could hatch as soon as March 10. Adults at the Stow Creek Bald Eagle nest, in northwestern Cumberland County on the border of Salem County, began incubating on February 23 (and their young should hatch at the end of March). This nest 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, and the adults at this nest began incubating eggs on February 12, so their young are due to hatch March 19. During these cruises wintering immature eagles should still be in the area hunting the rich marshes along the Maurice 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 1-3:30 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. This pair of Great Horned Owls is using an old Red-tailed Hawk nest that is visible from the viewing platform at the end of Turkey Point Road. Be sure to keep CMBO posted if and when you see young. It will be fun to see how many this nest produces.

On February 22 a LONG-TAILED DUCK in partial breeding plumage was enjoyed in the ocean waters off Avalon at 50th street. The ponds along Route 347 north of Belleplain State Forest have attracted COMMON GOLDENEYES, HOODED MERGANSERS, and RING-NECKED DUCKS. On February 26 the male Common Goldeneye were displaying.

Male AMERICAN WOODCOCK are displaying in earnest most evenings at last light. For their courtship display they utilize early succession fields with scattered woody plants 1-2 feet high and come out of nearby boggy thickets. Fields too grown up soon lose their breeding Woodcock. In Goshen the males have been heard at 6:10 p.m. or so, beginning their courtship by "peenting" (a loud, rasping note given every few seconds while the bird is on the ground) for almost five minutes before beginning his flight. Suddenly he shoots skyward and performs the most amazing aerial "dance" for nearby females. If you've never experienced this wonderful sign of SPRING and true love, be sure to join CMBO for one of the "Woodcock Walks at the Meadows," offered every FRIDAY through March 29 (5:30 p.m. till dark) and meeting at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard. These walks will teach you how and where to look and what to listen and look for, so that you might discover a spot close to home where woodcock display.

Spring has been put on hold in the last week with a blast of cold, windy weather. Despite this the week's reports included some snakes and some butterflies . . . before the temperatures dropped. MOURNING CLOAK reports came in from all over. On February 21 Jakes Landing Road held 5 Mourning Cloaks and 3 RED ADMIRALS, and a QUESTION MARK was seen in Woodbine. On February 26, 1 Mourning Cloak was seen at the CMBO Center in Goshen and 9 along Old Robbins Trail just off of Jakes Landing Road, along with a Question Mark. Mourning Cloaks were seen at the Beanery / Rea Farm on February 19 and at Cape May Point on the 24th. A CLOUDED SULPHUR was at the Cape May Point State Park on February 21. A little known, important spring nectar source for butterflies is budding Red and Norway Maples and sure enough they are beginning to bud, just in the nick of time for these butterflies. Speedwell is also in bloom. A RIBBON SNAKE was seen on February 26 at the Cape May Point State Park.

A RED BAT hunted the roads of Belleplain State Forest on February 26 during the day. An infrequently encountered mammal was found along the trails at the Cape May Point State Park on February 18, a LONG-TAILED WEASEL.

COYOTES continue to be seen and heard south of the Cape May Canal. For eastern Coyotes they have been very vocal. One group has been heard along Route 626 or Seashore Road a mile or so south of the Canal. One or two groups have been heard from New England Road, one on either side. Coyotes have a very restricted breeding season, generally from January through March. They give birth in a den which they've either made themselves or remodeled from a fox or skunk hole. These new residents are doing an excellent job of keeping feral cats under control, or so it seems, since very few feral cats have been seen since the Coyotes moved into the area . . . certainly a positive change for migratory songbirds!

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.

Mourning Doves and Red-winged Blackbirds continue to sing their spring songs.

After the devastating storm of mid-January in Mexico that killed many millions of overwintering Monarchs (much more information on this in Monarch Watch's Dplex-L Email Discussion List -- go to: 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 series of workshops on "Gardening for Wildlife." For more details go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html Or see blurb further along in this hotline.

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 553 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 2002) 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:

Three remaining "GARDENING FOR WILDLIFE WORKSHOPS" in the series (all still have room): (1) Saturday, March 2: "How to Create a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden." (2) Saturday, March 9: "How to Create a Wildflower Meadow & a Pond for Wildlife." (3) 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 3 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 2002 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 609-861-0700, 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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