CAPE MAY NATURAL HISTORY AND EVENTS HOTLINE, March 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
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
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
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Christina Watters at 609-368-1211 (email@example.com).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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:
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!