Cape May Natural History Hotline - 2/8/2002
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 Friday, February 8. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

CMBO's "Winter Raptors of the Delaware Bayshore" on February 2 enjoyed a beautiful winter day along Cumberland County's bay shore. 18 BALD EAGLES were enjoyed, including several pairs at nests. 5 immature Bald Eagles played tag in the sky as they chased each other about and tumbled in the air. It was a sight to behold. Courting RED-TAILED HAWKS entertained us. Many pairs sat side-by-side. A ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was seen from the platform at the end of Turkey Point Road. The day ended at Jakes Landing Road with SHORT-EARED OWLS. 2 birds were found at dusk. They were NOT picked up as observers scanned low along the horizon, but spotted several fields-of-view up in the sky, out towards the Delaware Bay. They bounded around after each other and were enjoyed for at least five minutes.

To enjoy some of the very same sites & winter treats consider attending Cumberland County's WINTER RAPTOR FESTIVAL this Saturday (February 9). The event is centered at the Mauricetown Fire Hall in Mauricetown, NJ. The Fire Hall will open at 8 a.m. for registration ($5/person or $8/family) where festival packets and maps will be distributed. Breakfast and lunch will be available for sale at the Fire Hall. Last year the firemen served such taste treats as crab cakes, clam chowder, and other homemade goodies. Exhibitors will fill the Fire Hall. The day's lecture series includes: 10:30 a.m. -- Keynote Speaker: Pete Dunne (New Jersey Audubon Society), "Eagles & Me" 11:30 a.m. -- Steve Eisenhauer (Natural Lands Trust), "A Bird's Eye View of the Delaware Bayshore (featuring photos taken by kite) 12:30 p.m. -- Student Art Award Presentation 1 p.m. -- Clay Sutton, "Eagle Identification and Eagle Spotting" 2 p.m. -- Larry Niles (Bureau Chief, NJFW Endangered Species Program), "Eagle Recovery" 3 p.m. -- Pat Sutton (Cape May Bird Observatory), "How to Spot an Owl" 4 p.m. -- Jane Galetto (Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River), "Osprey & the Maurice River" Five different viewing areas will be manned from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cape May Bird Observatory/New Jersey Audubon Society staff and volunteer naturalist guides will man four of the sites and The Nature Conservancy staff and volunteers the fifth site. One of the sites (Turkey Point, the platform at the end of the road) will also host a 7 a.m. "Sunrise Walk" and a 5 p.m. "Sunset Owl Watch." The weather sounds GREAT! Consider joining us! For all information about this festival, contact Cumberland County's Planning and Development Office at 856-453-2177.

The Stow Creek Bald Eagle nest (at the northern end of Cumberland County, on the Salem County line) is one of the most easily viewed nests in the state. Too, it has been one of the most successful nests, often bearing three young, as was the case in 2001. In early October 2001 this nest blew down. Eagle nests are added to each year by the adult pair and over time become pretty darn heavy. One observer visited the viewing platform on Route 623 that overlooks this nest and was pleased and amazed to share that the adults have rebuilt their nest and it looks as massive as the old nest that blew down. So, the next time you visit this site, keep in mind that the nest is brand new, every stick.

Massive numbers of Snow Geese can still be enjoyed along the Delaware Bayshore. At least 10,000 were in the Greenwich area on February 7. This abundance of waterfowl along New Jersey's Delaware Bayshore in winter is what attracts high numbers of wintering Bald Eagles in the very same areas. An eagle hazing a flock of 10,000 Snow Geese is a sight to behold. 10,000 clamoring Snow Geese wheeling around in the sky. Deafening! Next time you witness this spectacle look for the Bald Eagle moving through or over them. You can be sure it has targeted an injured or sick Snow Goose.

Spring is certainly in the air, despite the date (February!). On warmer days woodpeckers are drumming and calling. Some wintering ducks are already going through courtship displays and calling, including LONG-TAILED DUCKS (watch for males chasing females), RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS (watch for males arching back their neck and chasing after females). The Atlantic oceanfront and back bay waterways are good places to check to drink this in. AMERICAN WOODCOCK have begun to perform their amazing spring courtship aerial display and were heard the evening of February 8 at dusk. Males start off this display by "peenting," then shoot skyward and "dance" and sing in the sky for any interested female woodcock. CMBO's first weekly "Woodcock Walk at the Meadows" is coming up on Friday, February 15 (5:30 p.m. till dark). This walk will be offered every Friday through March 29. Meet at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard. On these walks you might also enjoy snipe on the move, Virginia Rails calling, and other signs of spring. No preregistration is needed; just come! The last butterfly report was from February 1, when a Mourning Cloak was seen at the Rea Farm just north of Cape May City. Mourning Cloaks winter as adult butterflies in a safe spot, either inside a hollow tree, under shutters or shingles, or in a wood pile. On warm winter and early spring days they come out and explore. If the temperatures drop, they slip back into their safe and sheltered spot.

A RIVER OTTER was found feeding on February 7 in the pond along Route 347 nearest the Cape May - Cumberland County line. River Otter are fairly common in South Jersey, but not often seen. Their scat is much more frequently discovered. It's quite unique, gray and full of fish scales and bones. Piles of it might be found at their favorite feeding spots, places where fish concentrate. 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!

Most pairs of GREAT HORNED OWLS are now on eggs. Their nightly hooting is minimal, always a sign that eggs have been laid. At 5:15 p.m. on February 7 a bird in Goshen hooted very softly for about ten minutes. If you should hear this minimal hooting, keep in mind that the female is calling from the nest. The following day look through the woods where you heard the hooting for any large stick nest, often last year's Red-tailed Hawk nest (they'll also use crow, heron, or Osprey nests). Downy, tawny-colored feathers caught on the nest edge may be the only indication that the nest is being used by Great Horned Owls. The female sits way down in the nest and can be nearly impossible to see. In another month or so, once the young hatch and begin to grow, it will not be possible for her to hide. Her young will take up too much of the nest and she'll sit higher.

A nomadic flock of E. BLUEBIRDS comes to feed in the meadow at CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen several times each week. The wildflower and tall grass meadow, as well as the still standing gardens (full of plant stalks and seed heads), is insect rich and very attractive to wintering bluebirds, just the way we planned it in CMBO's "Model Backyard Habitat."

Three 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 "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!

(2) 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, most mornings GREAT HORNED OWLS at dawn, 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 all 3 MERGANSERS. Shorebirds enjoyed there include: AMERICAN WOODCOCK, SNIPE, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, DUNLIN and DOWITCHER.

(3) 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 A FEW UPCOMING PROGRAM (in addition to those already detailed above) follow:

Join us for one, several, or all four BIRDING FOR BEGINNERS (Wednesday, February 13; Saturday, February 23; 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).

"LONGTAILS IN LOVE" on Saturday, February 16 (10 a.m. - 2 p.m.) still has room & will explore the winter waterways in search of courting Longtails, since they'll soon be heading north to the Arctic where they breed. We'll also enjoy a host of other winter waterfowl, but only the Longtails and Common Goldeneyes will be displaying. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

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.

"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.

7 different MAURICE RIVER BALD EAGLE CRUISES still have room. 2 trips on Saturday, March 23 (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.); 2 trips on Saturday, April 6 (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! The Maurice River, a federally designated "Wild and Scenic River," attracts one of the largest concentrations of wintering Bald Eagles in the state and hosts three nesting pairs. We sail right by one of the nests and by late March their nesting season is well along, eggs are due to hatch. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

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 609-861-0700 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 609-861-0700 or 609-884-2736. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call 609-898-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 tel (609) 861-0700 x-16, fax (609) 861-1651

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