Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/11/2004

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 message was updated on Thursday, March 11. 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 web site (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" at the top of any page.

Spring is unfolding! New arrivals every day. All this while many winter birds are still here in huge numbers. It is an amazing blending of seasons right now.

The amazing concentration of sea ducks or scoters at the mouth of the Delaware Bay is thought to include @200,000 birds. The close-to-shore flocks are mostly BLACK SCOTERS (groups of @ 7-10 males around a lone female) and are being very vocal -- listen for their whistled "cree"calls. SURF SCOTER and more BLACK SCOTER are further offshore with a few WHITE-WINGED SCOTER mixed in. From the Concrete Ship the horizon is solid scoter low on the horizon in a state of flux. As tides carry flocks out the Delaware Bay and into the ocean, these flocks leap frog (fly) back into the mouth of the Delaware Bay. While enjoying all this also look for the new arrivals: FORSTER'S TERNS (small numbers) and BONAPARTE'S GULLS (175 on March 11) feeding in the surf or flying by, N. GANNETs (small numbers) migrating by offshore. A female HARLEQUIN DUCK continues at the St. Mary's Jetty, and 100+ RED-THROATED LOONS dot the near shore waters from the Concrete Ship north along Cape May Point and Cape May's beaches. Too, you may see migrants arriving . . . coming across the Delaware Bay, like the 2 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS on March 7. In the State Park's Bunker Pond CANVASBACKS, RING-NECKED DUCKS, scaup, AMERICAN WIGEON, and AMERICAN COOT are enjoying the freshwater. Several great ways to see some of these goodies follow: (1) needing no preregistration, " Birding Cape May Point" meets every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park. (2) Friday, March 19, "Birding From the Ferry" with Mark Garland (call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register). (3) "Cruisin' For Loons" on Sunday, April 25 (9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.), when numbers of Red-throateds will be peaking and when Common Loons in the back bays will be coming into full breeding plumage (call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register).

If you've looked for some of the fun birds mentioned on CMBO's 2 hotlines and failed to find them, be sure to go with CMBO naturalists on scheduled walks. These folks, out every day, know where "just about" everything is! Or, could it be your optics? Don't miss CMBO's Annual Optics Sale Saturday & Sunday (March 20-21), open to members (join now & come!). There will be many spectacular "deals"! Call 609-861-0700 for details.

In New Jersey (as of March 4) 30 pairs of BALD EAGLES (of the 45 pairs in the state) are now incubating eggs. The first pair laid eggs on February 4th and some pairs may not lay until mid-March. On February 10, one eagle nest was found to have a pair of Great Horned Owls nesting in it -- which happens, since they do not build their own nest and an empty Bald Eagle nest looks mighty fine to a Great Horned Owl. CMBO has 6 "Bald Eagle Cruises" (with openings still) that sail the wild & scenic Maurice River to enjoy Bald Eagles, Osprey, swallows, waterfowl and sail right by an active Bald Eagle nest (where the eggs are due to hatch mid-March). The following 2 hour trips have openings, but are filling quickly: March 20 (10 a.m.), March 21 (10 a.m.), March 27 (1 p.m.), March 28 (10 a.m.), April 3 (10 a.m.), and April 4 (10 a.m.) -- call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register.

Waterfowl is IN! A survey of the Maurice River on March 9 enjoyed 1,200 SNOW GEESE, 40 GADWALL, 9 AMERICAN WIGEON, 800 AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS, 400 MALLARDS, 1,200 N. PINTAIL, 1,700 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 40 CANVASBACKS (from the Heislerville WMA dikes), 300 RING-NECKED DUCKS, 155 BUFFLEHEAD, 40 COMMON GOLDENEYE, 80 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. Beaver Swamp WMA (just north of the CMBO Center in Goshen) has 45 RING-NECKED DUCKS and a number of GREEN-WINGED TEAL, all calmly feeding under the watchful eye of a pair of BALD EAGLES that (as of today, March 11) has not yet laid eggs in their very visible nest! The amazing flock of 30 HARLEQUIN DUCKS was last reported at the Barnegat Light jetty on February 29, but is probably still there. This site can be one brutal if a cold wind is blowing. Imagine seeing Harlequin Ducks on a comfortable day. Treat yourself & let us know if they're still there!

On March 7, the "Sunday Mornings at Turkey Point" walk (which meets every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County) enjoyed a dark ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, BALD EAGLES flushing clouds of SNOW GEESE, RED-TAILED HAWKS on their nest, and displaying RED-TAILED HAWKS.

This week experienced many new arrivals! OSPREY -- the first one was seen March 5 in Avalon. On March 9, five were seen on the Maurice River (2 diving on immature Bald Eagles, 1 looking as if it was just arriving and with a fish ... coming in high and whistling, one on a nest, and 2 soaring) and one over the pond on the Garden State Parkway near the Wildwood exit. Today, March 11, one was at the nest on Jakes Landing Road. PIPING PLOVER -- the first 5 were seen March 5 at Cape May NWR's "Two Mile Beach." One was at North Brigantine Natural Area on March 10, and three were on Stone Harbor Point on March 11. GLOSSY IBIS -- 3 at Turkey Point on March 7. GREAT EGRETS -- 2 on the Maurice River on March 9 (those that were seen on Christmas Counts in late December did not survive the harsh winter). PINE WARBLERS -- March 7 at Higbee Beach, Jakes Landing, and Belleplain State Forest. E. PHOEBE -- Cape May NWR (March 6 on Tyler Road), Rea Farm (March 7), Maurice River (March 9). TREE SWALLOWS -- Dividing Creek, Berrytown Road, and Weatherby Road (March 7), along bike path north of Ferry Road (March 9), and Townbank (March 10). Male E. BLUEBIRDS on territory and singing -- Cape May NWR at Tyler Road and in a backyard meadow in Goshen (March 6). LAUGHING GULLS -- Reeds Beach and Cape May (March 5). In no time at all these birds will be everywhere!

AMERICAN WOODCOCK have been displaying since February 20 in Cape May County. During a brief and magical window each evening between @ 6:15 and 6:45 p.m. and every dawn around 5:40 a.m. Their faint calls and twitters, preceded by the nasal "peent," is an auditory MUST in spring. If you've never witnessed this display be sure to take advantage of CMBO offerings, requiring no preregistration: (1) every Wednesday (through March 24), Mark Garland's "Woodcock, Owls, and Frogs" meets at 5:00 p.m. at Higbee Beach WMA at the end of New England Road. On March 6 & 9, three Woodcock displayed there and BARRED OWLS and GREAT HORNED OWLs hooting are also likely! (2) every Friday (now through March 26), "Winter Evenings at the Meadows" meets at 4:30 p.m. in The Nature Conservancy's parking lot on Sunset Boulevard to enjoy woodcock displaying, snipe on the move, Virginia Rails calling and other signs of spring. (3) every Sunday (now through March 28), "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" meets at 4:30 p.m. at the end of Jakes Landing Road. Three Woodcock display there nightly with Great Horned Owls hooting in the background. Also during this walk you might enjoy out on the marsh E. MEADOWLARKS singing, and a SHORT-EARED OWL hunting (March 6). Over a dozen AMERICAN WOODCOCK were heard at dusk, March 6, during CMBO's "Woodcock Dance" at Woodcock Lane in the Cape May NWR.

Male SAW-WHET OWLS are on territory and calling in southern and central Quebec in Canada. Locally, the din of SPRING PEEPERS began the evening of March 6. Anyone trying to hear Saw-whets "tooting" will have a difficult time if the Spring Peepers are calling.

Some RED-TAILED HAWKS are still courting, while others are on nests. GREAT HORNED OWLS have growing young. Woodpeckers are drumming, WILD TURKEYS gobbling, MOURNING DOVES cooing, and flocks of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS singing "Konk-a-reee." A number of our winter birds will soon leave for their northern breeding grounds, but in the meantime enjoy their spring songs. HERRING GULLS have lost their "dirty headed" winter plumage, and are now sporting a beautiful clean, white head.

On days when the temperatures reach the mid-50s and 60s expect butterflies (QUESTION MARK, E. COMMA, and MOURNING CLOAK all winter as adults and wake up on warm days), turtles (sunning PAINTED, RED-BELLIED, and SPOTTED TURTLES have all been seen), bats (hunting), OBLIQUE-LINED TIGER BEETLE (one on March 3), SNAKES (2 GARTER SNAKES & 2 RIBBON SNAKES (March 7 on Cape May Point St. Park trails), and FROGS! WOOD FROGS are calling (a nasal "cluck" or "yuck," like distant ducks quacking) from a vernal ponds, SPRING PEEPERs are peeping, NJ CHORUS FROGS (sounding like a finger running over the teeth of a comb) are calling with their peach-colored throat extended, and LEOPARD FROGS are giving their guttural calls. Two RED-BACKED SALAMANDERs were seen March 4 under a log in the Cape May NWR.

CMBO's meadow was burnt on February 26, for the 2nd year in a row to try and get ahead of non-native grasses. It was greening up already by March 9. The warm temperatures are getting many of us out into our gardens. Consider helping CMBO for our spring "Garden Preparation" on Saturdays: April 3 (9:00 a.m. to Noon) --call 609-861-0700, x-11, to sign up (lunch provided), and every Friday (9:30 a.m.-Noon) beginning on April 2.

A "2-Day Bird Watching for Beginners" course will be taught at the CMBO Center in Goshen on Friday, March 26 (7-10 p.m.), and Saturday, March 27 (8-10 a.m.), by Pat Sutton (call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register). CMBO will next teach the "Nikon School of Birding" April 23-25, Friday through Sunday. This workshop is designed to help birders of all experience levels build better birding skills. Call 609-861-0700 or stop by either center to request the Nikon School of Birding brochure. CMBO's complete listing of "2004 Cape May Birding Workshops" is now posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers many, many other programs than those briefly mentioned here. CMBO's SPRING Program Schedule can be read in full at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html and is available at either center (or request a copy be sent; call 609-861-0700).

Adult Purple Martins are in coastal Virginia. To learn more, go to the Purple Martin Conservation Organization's site at: http://www.purplemartin.org/scoutreport/2004/scout.html

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are coming too! There have been sightings all along the Gulf Coast and they are working their way north into Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. To learn more, go to: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html

The monarchs are still in Mexico on their wintering grounds. But mass mating has begun, and they will soon journey north into the US. If you would like to monitor their movements, go to Monarch Watch's very educational web site: http://www.monarchwatch.org/update and to Journey North's site at: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/spring2004/monarch/index.html

February 2-11, biologists from the NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Program were in Chile in search of wintering shorebirds, especially Red Knot. Read about their trip via the 2004 journal at: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/chile/index.html

NJ Audubon's Cape May Spring Weekend will be held on May 21-23, 2004. This incredible 3-day event includes zillions of field trips, indoor workshops, field ID programs, back bay cruises, a mini-pelagic trip, celebrated speakers like Scott Weidensaul sharing "The Ghost with Trembling Wings: The Search for Lost Species," and excellent times with other nature lovers! All held at the peak of shorebirds feasting on Horseshoe Crab eggs, spring warblers breeding and migrating through, butterflies and dragonflies, gardening for wildlife, and more! To learn more & download a registration form, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html

If you are interested in volunteering with beached bird survey work along the NJ coast (to begin this spring) two training workshops will be held at the Wetlands Institute on Stone Harbor Boulevard (Friday, March 19, at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 20, at 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.). The project is called SEANET (Seabird Ecological Assessment Network), and is organized by Wildlife Trust & Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine in conjunction with NJ Audubon's Nature Center of Cape May, the Wetlands Institute, and Stockton College. If interested in volunteering, contact Linda Dill at 609-898-8848 (lindad@njaudubon.org) or Christina Watters at 609-368-1211 (research@wetlandsinstitite.org).

The NJ DEP's Endangered and Nongame Species Program is looking for volunteers to survey reptiles and amphibians throughout NJ this spring. Details on a training seminar follows: March 13 at Lord Stirling Environmental Education Center, in Basking Ridge (lecture: 9 a.m. - noon; field session: 1 - 3 p.m.); capacity: 75 persons. Participants may register via e-mail at vernalpools@yahoo.com. Be sure to include the training seminar you wish to attend, name of attendee(s), your mailing address and telephone number. An e-mail containing registration confirmation and driving directions to the appropriate seminar will be sent back to you. Those without e-mail capabilities can call 908-735-8975 to register. For more information, visit the Division of Fish and Wildlife's website at: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/vernal

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 around Cape May County, and also include reports from Cumberland and Atlantic Counties. Updates are typically made on Thursdays. Natural history sightings can be written on sighting sheets at either CMBO center or called in to 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

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