Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/14/2002
861-0466 To Report: (609) 861-0700, 884-2736 Coverage: Cape May, Cumberland & Atlantic Counties, NJ Compiler: Pat Sutton, Cape May Bird Observatory URL: http://www.njaudubon.org

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, March 14. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience). NJ Audubon's three hotlines can be viewed on NJ Audubon's web site (http://www.njaudubon.org) by clicking on "Sightings" at the top of any page. Now on with the hotline!

What a wonderful time of year it is. Right now many winter birds are still in evidence. But each day is bringing new spring arrivals. This mix of seasons is exciting. PINE WARBLERS are BACK in Belleplain State Forest. Listen for their slow musical trill on one pitch. This spring, Tom Reed (a member of CMBO's Youth Team in the World Series of Birding) wins the "LAGU AWARD" for the first spring LAUGHING GULL (he saw 3 on March 2 at Cook's Beach on the Delaware Bayshore). On March 8 he found an adult in full breeding plumage at the same location. In no time their din of laughing calls will become a constant in the background. An OSPREY over the Cape May Point State Park on March 11 will no doubt be one of many sighted in the next few weeks as Osprey return to ponds, back bay marshes, and the Maurice River. A NORTHERN GOSHAWK that has wintered in and around West Cape May, seems to be attracted to a huge flock of mixed blackbirds that have in turn been attracted to backyard feeders.

RED-THROATED LOONS gather at the mouth of the Delaware Bay in March and early April as they stage here before migrating north. Some years thousands are counted. This year's numbers are way down, but a trip to the Concrete Ship is still worthwhile to view the handful of close Red-throated Loons feeding in the waters around the ship and in the waters between the Concrete Ship and the Alexander Avenue jetty in Cape May Point. Different tides bring the birds in closer, so if one visit is birdless, keep revisiting. When the tide is lower, also look for PURPLE SANDPIPERS on the Concrete Ship and on the rocks in the tideline.

On the owl front, a SHORT-EARED OWL was seen at Jakes Landing Road on March 7 at 5:30 p.m when it was still very light out. No doubt they've been there all winter, but sightings slimmed down when people stopped looking for them. The SCREECH OWL in a nest box on private property that was discovered March 5th continues to entertain. It comes to the entrance hole about 5:45 P.M. and leans way out looking at songbirds feeding beneath the box. At 6:30 P.M. (nearly full dark), the bird leaves the box and begins to hunt. Fresh whitewash each day is a dead givaway that the bird is doing much of its feeding right in the yard on rodents coming out to feed on fallen bird seed. CMBO just learned of a GREAT HORNED OWL nest that was discovered in early February in an old Osprey nest on Cedar Island in the backbay area behind Avalon. The nest can be viewed from 20th Street and 5th Avenue, which is reached via the small bridge going west on 22nd Street. A second Great Horned Owl nest discovered at the end of Turkey Point Road (visible from the viewing platform) on February 9th during the Cumberland County Winter Raptor Festival is still active. Great Horned Owls do not build their own nest, but usurp old stick nests built by hawks, herons, crows, or ravens. This nest is in an old Red-tailed Hawk nest. Be sure to keep CMBO posted on these two nests, especially if you begin to see the female sitting high on the nest . . . that means the young have hatched and are growing. Eventually there won't be room for her and the young on the nest; at that point the owlets will be quite visible. Be aware that the male is somewhere nearby, hiding in whatever cover he can find where he still has a view of the nest. Great Horned Owls are our earliest nesting bird. Many pairs got very quiet in late January or in early February, when they laid their eggs. But now that the eggs have hatched, the male and his mate are calling to one another again. Listen for them at dawn and dusk (6 a.m. and 6 p.m.). If you hear a pair, you can be sure you have a nest somewhere nearby (since the female is calling from the nest).

There are 34 pairs of breeding BALD EAGLES in New Jersey right now, including four new nest sites. Bald Eagles are the second earliest nesting bird, right after Great Horned Owls. On February 3rd the first pair began incubating eggs and their young no doubt hatched this week (due on March 10). One pair just laid their eggs on March 9th. 23 other pairs laid eggs all through February. And some pairs have not yet laid eggs. Adults at the Stow Creek Bald Eagle nest, in northwestern Cumberland County on the border of Salem County, began incubating February 23 (young should hatch 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.

CMBO's popular MAURICE RIVER BALD EAGLE CRUISES are almost full. Trips that still have room a/o today, March 14: Saturday, March 23 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.); Sunday, March 24 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.); Sunday, April 7 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.). We do have waiting lists in case of cancellations. Pick the date that suits you and join us! Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register. ABOUT THESE TRIPS: The Maurice River's rich marshes attract one of the largest concentrations of wintering Bald Eagles in the state and hosts two nesting pairs. The boat sails right by one of these nests, and the adults at this nest began incubating eggs on February 12 (with young due to hatch March 19). So we can dare to promise Bald Eagles on these trips; last year's trips enjoyed numerous looks at eagles. Expect to also see Osprey (newly returned), Belted Kingfisher nesting burrows, and more! If you are not able to get on one of this year's trips, be sure to sign up early next year. We run them every March & early April.

With warm temperatures butterflies and herps have been active. Butterflies that overwinter as adults have been enjoyed, including 3 MOURNING CLOAKS and 3 QUESTION MARKS seen on Old Robbins Trail (off Jakes Landing Road) on March 8; and a Mourning Cloak was in West Cape May on March 9. Several species that winter in the chrysalis stage were also seen this week, having just emerged as adults. CLOUDED SULPHUR on March 9 at Higbee Beach, ORANGE SULPHUR on March 11 at Cape May Point State Park, and the spring's first CABBAGE WHITES were seen on March 9 (1 at Cape May Pt. State Park, one on Seagrove Ave. in Cape May Point, and one at CMBO's Center in Goshen).

Frogs are calling, mostly WOOD FROGS (our earliest spring frog, sounding like ducks quacking) and SPRING PEEPERS, but also the low note of LEOPARD FROGS. All three were heard in "The Meadows" on March 13, a sign of just how fresh this freshwater area of ponds and marsh is. A sunning RIBBON SNAKE on March 8 laid across Old Robbins Trail in Belleplain State Forest.

RED MAPLES are blooming. Late winter / early spring butterflies and moths are dependent on these blooms, some of the only nectar available. DAFFODILS are blooming. FORSYTHIA is in bud. WILLOWS are greening up. Male and female RED CEDAR trees can easily be told apart right now, since the male trees have a distinct brownish cast as the tiny cones grow at the tip of every stem.

Pairs of KILLDEER can be heard all over Cape May County as they display near the sites they've chosen for nesting. WOODPECKERS are drumming near their potential nest hole. MOURNING DOVES are cooing.

Where are RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS now? The following wonderful web site maps arrival dates & locations: http://www.hummingbirds.net As of March 14, one was as far north as Georgia. Sightings continue to build all over Florida, and in coastal Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. One sighting on March 8 was from northwestern Louisiana.

Where are PURPLE MARTINS now? The Purple Martin Conservation Association's web site maps their movement north in their "Scout Arrival Study": http://www.purplemartin.org The sightings of scouts are still not numerous, but one was seen as far north as Pennsylvania on March 9. And in West Cape May, 2 were seen on March 11.

A catastrophic storm January 12-16, 2002, in Mexico killed about 80% of the overwintering MONARCHS at two of the roost sites. Estimates from Lincoln Brower and colleagues were released last week, sharing that up to 200-272 million Monarchs were killed during this storm. This opens everyone's eyes to just how many overwintering Monarchs were at these two sites: 250-342 million! WOW! On a bright note, information has come in that a third roost site (with @ 200 million Monarchs this winter) was not affected by this storm. This information has come from Monarch Watch's Dplex-L Email Discussion List (go to: http://www.MonarchWatch.org/dplex) and Journey North's site (see below). Every single MONARCH sighting this spring will be significant and Journey North is also looking for information about milkweed emergence along the migration route (when it first pokes through the ground). Wildlife friendly gardens and meadows with milkweed (that has been spared the mower) will be crucial to the 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 attending one of CMBO's many programs on butterflies or gardens. For more details go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

Where are MONARCHS now? Journey North's web site details the northbound migration of many species, including Monarchs. Dave Kust in Mexico shares on the site his observation of monarchs streaming north at Angangueo (near "El Rosario," one of the winter roost sites) on March 13 (27/minute at 11 a.m., 48/minute at 11:15 a.m., and 120/minute at 11:45 a.m.). WOW! Journey North's site will be fascinating to monitor this spring: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/spring2002/species/index.html

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 that do. Highlights of upcoming trips & programs are below, but 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.

For a sneak preview of CMBO's SPRING PROGRAMS (April through June 2002) go to New Jersey Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html

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" 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. AMERICAN WOODCOCK were performing in "The Meadows" on March 7 at dusk.

(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.

HIGHLIGHTS OF UPCOMING PROGRAMS (in addition to those already detailed above) follow:

"BALD EAGLE CRUISES ON THE MAURICE RIVER" -- trips detailed above!

One remaining "GARDENING FOR WILDLIFE WORKSHOP" in the series of four still has room: Saturday, March 16: "How to Maintain Your Wildlife Habitat," covering 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. Workshop runs from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM at CMBO's center in Goshen and will be taught by Karen Williams and Pat Sutton. Workshop includes a question and answer session regarding each landowner's particular situation. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register.

Join Mark Garland Saturday, March 16, for BIRDING FOR BEGINNERS (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.), a slow-paced field trip which will visit one or more natural areas on Cape Island. 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).

A program on the "GALAPAGOS ISLANDS" will be offered by Clay & Pat Sutton on 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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