Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/18/2004

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 prepared Thursday, March 18. 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.

DO NOT miss CMBO's Annual Optics Sale Saturday & Sunday (March 20-21) at the CMBO Center for Research & Education in Goshen (600 Route 47 North), open to members (join now & come!). This is a great way to purchase "high end" optics at comfortable prices! Call 609-861-0700 for details.

Want to help the Red Knots as they concentrate on our beaches along the Delaware Bay this spring? Sign up as a Shorebird Steward (full details on back page of CMBO's Spring Program schedule). A training session will be held in early May and a stipend will be paid to those who complete the training and work at least 3 days. Contact Larissa Smith (609-628-2103) to apply or send a letter of interest (and resume if available) to Larissa Smith, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, 2201 Route 631, Woodbine, NJ 08270. Spring . . . amidst a snowstorm March 17! Winter birds are still here in huge numbers and spring arrivals continue. It is an amazing blend of seasons.

OSPREY are back! The Jakes Landing pair was observed adding material to their nest platform March 18. PIPING PLOVER have returned to their favorite beaches (Two Mile Beach Unit of Cape May NWR, Stone Harbor Point, and North Brigantine Natural Area). PHOEBE are in at a number of sites. PINE WARBLERS are singing in Belleplain State Forest and elsewhere. AMERICAN WOODCOCK continue to display each evening just as the sky darkens and pre dawn. AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER are coming north across the Delaware Bay.

Wintering birds in the area are beginning to molt into their breeding plumage, including a HORNED GREBE at Sunset Lake on March 14 and a male LONG-TAILED DUCK at Barnegat Light on March 17 (their winter plumage is much more dazzling!). A flock of RING-NECKED DUCKS at Beaver Swamp WMA is stunning. The first eggs are beginning to hatch in New Jersey's 30 active BALD EAGLE nests. Sadly last Friday's wind storm (March 12) blew down an active Bald Eagle's nest near Sea Breeze. A new Bald Eagle nest (built in late December) is visible from the parking lot and dike at Beaver Swamp WMA, just north of the CMBO Center in Goshen. This pair did not lay their eggs until March 14. The incubating bird is so low in the nest that most of the time it is impossible to see. 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 hatched 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.

The big story is STILL the amazing concentration of 100,000-200,000 sea ducks or scoters at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. One observer said there was "no more room left in the ocean" -- they'd taken up all the surface space. If you haven't yet treated yourself, GO SEE IT and HEAR it! The close-to-shore flocks of BLACK SCOTERS are very vocal -- whistled "cree"calls. SURF SCOTER and more BLACK SCOTER are further offshore. The entire horizon is solid scoter in a state of flux ... as tides carry flocks out the Delaware Bay and into the ocean, they leap frog (fly) back into the mouth of the Delaware Bay. The entire population of North American Black Scoter is thought to be about 500,000, so probably the entire Atlantic population is here now! Join Mark Garland tomorrow, Friday, March 19 (7:00-11:00 a.m.), for his CMBO "Birding From the Ferry" trip, which still has room, to witness this spectacle! He is meeting the group at the entrance to the Cape May Ferry terminal at 7:00 a.m. for a bit of birding before the 7:30 a.m. ferry. The cost for this trip is $25 ($15 for members) plus the walk-on ferry fee.

If enjoying the scoter show from land, also enjoy new arrivals: FORSTER'S TERNS, LAUGHING GULLS, BONAPARTE'S GULLS (absent until recently), and N. GANNETS. A female HARLEQUIN DUCK continues at the St. Mary's Jetty (seen today, March 18) and 100+ RED-THROATED LOONS dot the near shore waters. Their numbers will continue to grow as they stage here. Consider signing up for "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). " Birding Cape May Point" meets every Saturday through March 27 at 8:00 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park and every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m.; this walk requires no preregistration.

Waterfowl is IN! On March 17, 29 species were tallied between Brigantine NWR and Barnegat by one observer. HARLEQUIN DUCKS are still being seen at the Barnegat Light jetty (at least 11 on March 17) as well as many LONG-TAILED DUCKS and a female COMMON EIDER. The Cold Spring Jetties, from Two Mile Beach Unit of Cape May NWR and from Poverty Beach in Cape May, continue to host 8 HARLEQUIN DUCKS and many, many LONG-TAILED DUCKS. Both the Barnegat Jetty and the Cold Spring Jetties can be brutal if a cold wind is blowing. Pick one of the spring-like days and treat yourself to Harlequin Ducks under comfortable conditions. 100+ GREATER SCAUP are in the Delaware Bay at the East Point Lighthouse.

SHORT-EARED OWLS are still being seen! One hunted the marshes at Brigantine NWR on March 17 in the mid-afternoon. Another was at Jakes Landing on March 14 during CMBO's "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" walk, which meets every Sunday (now through March 28) 4:30 p.m. at the end of Jakes Landing Road. This walk also enjoys displaying AMERICAN WOODCOCK each week.

AMERICAN WOODCOCK have been displaying since mid-February in Cape May County. During a brief and magical window each evening as the sky darkens and just before dawn, their faint calls and twitters, preceded by the nasal "peent," can be heard. This 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, where you may also hear hooting Barred and Great Horned Owls. (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. Other walks requiring no preregistration and not already mentioned include: "Sunday Mornings at Turkey Point," which meets every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County. Saturday, March 20 (2:00-4:00 p.m.), will be the final "Late Winter Birding at the Rea Farm." Sunday, March 21, the spring's first "Birding for First Timers" (1:00-3:00 p.m.) meets at the Wildlife Viewing Platform at the Cape May Point State Park.

GREAT HORNED OWLS have growing young. Woodpeckers are calling, 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.

Daffodils are beginning to bloom. Lilac is budding. Red Maples are flowering and drawing in hungry butterflies, being the only nectar available now. When temperatures climb to 55 degrees F. or higher, expect butterflies! The first SPRING AZURE was seen March 15 at Beaver Swamp WMA. MOURNING CLOAKS and QUESTION MARKS were seen at Jakes Landing on March 15 amidst a deafening din of WOOD FROGS. On March 14, an offshore pelagic trip out of Cape May saw 2 FIN WHALES and 80 ATLANTIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN. To learn more about this pelagic trip and others run by "See Life Paulagics" go to the following site and click on "Trip Results": http://www.paulagics.com

The warm temperatures are getting many of us out into our gardens. Consider helping CMBO get the wildlife gardens at the Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North) ready for sping and summer during the "Garden Preparation" morning (9:00 a.m. to Noon) on Saturday, April 3, (call 609-861-0700, x-11, to sign up -- lunch provided) or during weekly "Garden Maintenance Workshops," offered every Friday, beginning April 2 (9:30 a.m.-Noon), and requiring no preregistration. Beginning April 2, be sure to visit with garden guru Karen Williams during her "Wildlife Garden Advice" sessions every Friday (1:00 to 4:00 p.m.). Karen will be available to assist with plant purchases and answer general wildlife garden questions.

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 will be here soon. One was seen in Bear, Delaware, on March 15. 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! One was seen in coastal South Carolina on March 16. Many sightings are coming in from all over Florida, and from central Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. To learn more, go to: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html

To learn of the Monarchs' migration north, 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

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).

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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