Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/10/2005

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, March 10. 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).

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), Saturday, April 2nd (Stone Harbor Point colony), and Saturday, April 16th (Barnegat Lighthouse State Park) can be found at the end of this hotline.

Despite the continued wintery weather Purple Martins continue to move north. Eastern Texas, along the Gulf Coast, all of Florida, and the Carolinas are solid with adult martin sightings, and this week some sub-adults have also been seen. They are as close as Virginia now. To monitor their movement north go to the Purple Martin Conservation Organizations excellent site and click on Martins Are Back: http://www.purplemartin.org/scoutreport/2005/index.php

Twenty Ruby-throated Hummingbird sightings have come in from all along the Gulf Coast, eastern Texas through Florida. Our hummingbirds winter between southern Mexico and northern Panama. To monitor their journey north and know just when to put your hummingbird feeders out, go to the following site and click on the migration map: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html

There were a number of local signs of spring on Monday, March 7, when temperatures soared. The first butterfly, a MOURNING CLOAK, was seen north of Rio Grande. This butterfly overwinters as an adult tucked down into a hollow tree or wood pile. With the subsequent frigid temperatures it went back to its safe winter quarters. WOOD FROGS (which sound like quacking ducks) were calling at Jakes Landing that evening and GROUND BEES were flying there earlier in the day. Several wildflowers were blooming at Higbee Beach: PENNSYLVANIA BITTERCRESS and PURPLE DEAD NETTLE. COYOTES were calling on March 7 near the Rea Farm.

A pair of N. HARRIER were performing their courtship display, known as sky dancing, on March 4 at Jakes Landing. AMERICAN KILLDEER have returned to many sites where they nest and are busy calling and displaying. GREAT HORNED OWLS, quiet for much of the last month while on eggs, are again quite vocal at dawn and dusk now that their young have hatched and are growing. Numbers of AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS were moving north March 6. One pair was displaying at Stone Harbor Point. GREAT EGRETS seen in December during Christmas Bird Counts did not survive this hard winter, but 5 newcomers were seen March 6. OSPREY are arriving (1 on March 4 over Wildwood, 1 on March 6 and 7 at Jakes Landing). The first LAUGHING GULLS returned March 7. 2 VIRGINIA RAILS were seen while others were heard in The Meadows on March 5. AMERICAN WOODCOCK are displaying on warm nights. 5-7 were heard during CMBOs Woodcock Dance program on March 5 after 6 p.m. in the fields at Woodcock Lane in the Cape May NWR. Several others were heard March 5 in The Meadows. Two opportunities to experience this short-lived spring display are the Sunday evening Nightfall at Jakes Landing walk, every Sunday (4 p.m. till dusk) and the Winter Evenings at the Meadows walk, every Friday (4:30 p.m. till dusk, meeting in the TNC parking lot on Sunset Boulevard). 100s of AMERICAN ROBINS are feeding on lawns warmed up by the sun. There is a din now of calling RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS singing konk-a-ree.

Winter waterfowl is getting quite frisky. LONG-TAILED DUCKS, scoters, and HARLEQUIN DUCKS were courting on March 5 at Barnegat Light. Concentrations of Long-tailed Ducks and scoters are likely anywhere along NJs coastline. Treat yourself to this display!

The impoundments at Corbin City and Tuckahoe, and the inlet at Longport, held impressive numbers of waterfowl on March 3: 2,570 BRANT, 800 AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS, 350 N. PINTAIL, 375 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 200 scaup, 200 BUFFLEHEAD, 300 scoter, 58 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, 150 COMMON MERGANSER, 92 HOODED MERGANSER, and 415 LONG-TAILED DUCKS. A male EURASIAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL / COMMON TEAL was seen March 3 in the Tuckahoe WMA impoundments, along with 14 TUNDRA SWANS.

The Sea Life Paulagics trip on March 6 saw close to 1,000 N. GANNETS off shore, all adults except 2. CMBOs March 26 Birding From the Ferry trip (7 to 11 a.m.) should be peak time to savor N. Gannets close to land, i.e. be surrounded by them while crossing the bay. To register, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

WOOD DUCKS have returned in force. 26 were seen together March 4 at Lower Bank along the Mullica River. They fed as a group, running up the river bank to root around under an Oak tree for acorns, then dashed back down into the water to eat them. It was quite comical!

Over 40 pairs of BALD EAGLES nest in New Jersey. Some pairs began incubating already. Other pairs are still working on their nests, mating frequently, and being very territorial, including the pair at Beaver Swamp WMA, just up Sluice Creek from CMBOs Center in Goshen. The birds can often be gone for much of the day but are at or near the nest each evening between 5 and 6 p.m. 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.

A SHORT-EARED OWL was seen at Jakes Landing on March 7. CMBOs Nightfall at Jakes Landing walk, held every Sunday (4 p.m. to dusk), is timed perfectly to enjoy owls & woodcock. This walk meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road, off Rt. 47, just 4 miles north of the CMBO Center in Goshen. CMBOs Sunday Morning at Turkey Point walk on March 6, held every Sunday (8-10 a.m.), enjoyed BALD EAGLES, including the Maple Avenue Impoundment pair incubating eggs, and the wintering GOLDEN EAGLE.

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). To register, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

A special driving tour of some of Cape May Countys Biggest Trees from Goshen to Cape May Point will be led by Lyman Hoffman, author of Giants Among Us, and fellow tree lover Pat Sutton on Saturday, April 9 (10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). To register, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

Many learning opportunities for wildlife gardeners are offered throughout the state by NJ Audubon Society and shared on the website at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Opportunities.html Details of CMBOs Wildlife Garden Naturalist Training (every Thursday evening, April 7 to May 19, except April 21) and the Annual Plant Swap and Native Plant Sale (Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) can be found there. Go to the Plants for Sale page to learn of spring sales.

CMBOs 2005 Cape May Birding Workshops (15 different offerings) are timed to learn and savor peak concentrations. Registrations are being taken now. To receive the workshop brochure call 609-861-0700 or go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks05.html

The ultimate spring experience is New Jersey Audubon Societys Cape May Spring Weekend (May 20-22, 2005). The brochure is now available (call for a copy) and a downloadable pdf version is available on the website: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html Once youve read over the brochure, direct any questions to Sheila Lego or Marleen Murgitroyde at 609-884-2736.

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. 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 (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): 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.) Birding 101, Saturday, April 16 (10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) with Mark Garland. Weekend Field Trip to Chincoteague, April 23-24, with Mark Garland. Introduction to Spring Wildflower ID, Sunday, May 1 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with Mark Garland Hessels Hairstreak field trip, Sat., May 7 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with Pat Sutton & Rick Radis Listening to the Night, Monday, May 9 (9 to 11 p.m.) with Mark Garland and Chris Vogel

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

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: (1) Saturday, March 26th at 10am at Cape May Point State Park, (2) Saturday, April 2nd at 10am at Stone Harbor Point, and (3) April 16th at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. 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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