Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/18/2005

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 Friday, 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 website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (top of any page).

As spring approaches and we get the itch to work in the soil some might be interested in the many learning opportunities for wildlife gardeners offered throughout the state by NJ Audubon Society and shared on the website at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Opportunities.html Details of CMBO's "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 too.

A special driving tour of some of "Cape May County's 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.

RED-THROATED LOON numbers are building and can be enjoyed from the Concrete Ship or any of the jetties in Cape May Point. 135 were counted on March 12 from St. Mary's jetty in Cape May Point. Each winter and early spring, they stage here before migrating north. The birds move around with the tide, so if you do not see many, go back at a different tide. CMBO's first Loon Cruise on March 16 filled, so a 2nd "Cruisin' for Loons" trip is scheduled for Sunday, March 17 (9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). These trips are timed to drink in the gathering of Red-throated Loons in Delaware Bay, plus COMMON LOONS in full breeding plumage (just before they migrate north). If you have a chance to scope COMMON LOONS now where they're feeding, watch as they feast on crabs (one after the next). To register for the NEW March 17 Loon Cruise call 609-861-0700, x-11.

CMBO's March 26 "Birding From the Ferry" trip (7 to 11 a.m.) should be peak time to savor N. Gannets close to land and so many other migrants. To register, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

CMBO's 2005 Cape May Birding Workshops (15 different offerings) are timed to learn and savor peak concentrations. Two session of the "Spring Migration Workshop" have filled with waiting lists for both. The first "Warbler Workshop" has filled, and a second has been scheduled for May 9 & 10 (Monday & Tuesday) with Louise Zemaitis and Michael O'Brien. Registrations are being taken now. To receive the workshop brochure call 609-861-0700 or go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks05.html

When it's time, IT IS TIME! Despite temperatures of 26 degrees, AMERICAN WOODCOCK were "peenting" and displaying at 5:20 a.m. this morning, March 18. They can also be heard at dusk, about 6:30 p.m. on most warm nights where the habitat is right. Three opportunities to experience this short-lived spring display are (1) the Sunday evening, March 20, "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" walk, 4 p.m. till dusk, (2) the Friday, March 18 & 25, "Winter Evening at the Meadows" walk, meeting at 4:30 p.m. in the TNC parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, and (3) the Saturday, March 26 & April 2 (5:30-7:30 p.m.) "Twilight at Higbee Beach" walk with Mark Garland, meeting in the parking lot at the west end of New England Road. VIRGINIA RAILS (calling and being seen) are another treat at The Meadows (at least 3 on March 12 at dusk).

This time of year is such an odd mix of wintering birds still here and breeding birds arriving. 5 OSPREY, including one bird carrying nesting material, were along the Great Egg Harbor River on March 16. GREAT EGRETS are arriving. The first PINE WARBLER was heard from a backyard in Millville on March 11. KILLDEER numbers continue to grow; 80 were sitting on a flooded marsh at Bivalve on March 10. FISH CROWS returned in numbers this week. TREE SWALLOWS were inspecting nest boxes at Hidden Valley on March 11. Be on the lookout for large flocks of WILD TURKEYS. 25 were on Rt. 83 near Dennisville on March 10. Large flocks of calling RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS singing "konk-a-ree" are almost deafening now. Newly arrived PIPING PLOVER were at Stone Harbor Point on March 12.

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.

SHORT-EARED OWLS continue at wintering sites. Jakes Landing (1 on March 10), Tuckahoe & Corbin City WMA (2 on March 16), Newport Landing in Cumberland Co. (1 close at dusk on March 16). A migrant SHORT-EARED OWL hunted The Meadows behind the dune the evening of March 12. 2 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were still at Corbin City & Tuckahoe WMA on March 16.

Waterfowl numbers continue to build. 580 N. PINTAIL, 860 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 1,115 AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS, 29 TUNDRA SWANS, and 3 male EURASIAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL were at Tuckahoe and Corbin City WMA on March 16. The flock of CANVASBACKS that winters in the Maurice River and can be seen from the HEISLERVILLE WMA, south of the dike, grew to 44 birds on March 10. At Barnegat Light on March 13, 35 HARLEQUIN DUCKS were very frisky and amorous, calling a rubber ducky-like squeak, along with all 3 scoters, and a first year RAZORBILL. A super added bonus was the surfacing of a very close HUMPBACK WHALE, only about 200 meters from shore.

An amazing 48 pairs of BALD EAGLES are on territory in NJ this spring! 38 pairs are incubating eggs. The earliest incubation was January 29, while other pairs just laid in early March. The first young eagles hatched March 7 (from the January 29 incubation). CMBO's "Birding Cumberland: Cohansey River Exploration" on March 12 was very raptor-rich, with 33 BALD EAGLES seen (including 11 immatures, and 9 of the adults on active nests), 6 GREAT HORNED OWL nests were discovered in deciduous trees, 41 RED-TAILED HAWKS were seen (including several doing their courtship "roller coaster" flight), and 320 CANVASBACKS were enjoyed in the Delaware River from Bayside.

A pair of BALD EAGLES is nesting at Beaver Swamp WMA, just up Sluice Creek from CMBO's Center in Goshen. They began incubating on March 5. 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 PAINTED TURTLE was sunbathing at Hidden Valley on March 12. WOOD FROGS were calling, sounding like distant ducks quacking, on March 12 at Dix WMA along the south side of the Cohansey River. On March 16, LEOPARD FROGS were calling near marsh habitats and WOOD FROGS from woodland pools along the Great Egg Harbor River, where sunning SPOTTED TURTLE and PAINTED TURTLE were also seen. On March 12, a HARBOR SEAL was sunbathing on the edge of Nummy's Island, while another was at the fish docks on Ocean Drive just north of Cape May. On March 16, an unidentified young SEAL was seen (face only: white with distinct black spots) in Great Egg Harbor Bay from Kennedy Park in Somers Point.

The first SPRING AZURE was seen on March 11, a warm day, but icy cold weather since then certainly did in this spring emergent. A QUESTION MARK was seen March 11 in the Cape May Point State Park, where it had no doubt wintered over in a hollow tree. A MORNING CLOAK flushed from a wood pile on March 12, when the wood pile was disturbed. In Goshen on March 16 there were still a few pockets of snow on the ground in shady areas.

Despite the continued wintery weather Purple Martins continue to move north. On March 15 an adult scout was seen as close as Maryland. To monitor their movement north go to the Purple Martin Conservation Organization's excellent site and click on "Martins Are Back": http://www.purplemartin.org/scoutreport/2005/index.php

Over sixty Ruby-throated Hummingbird sightings have come in from the Gulf Coast states, including one bird on March 17 in the middle of Georgia. 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

The ultimate spring experience is New Jersey Audubon Society's 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 you've read over the brochure, direct any questions to Sheila Lego or Marleen Murgitroyde at 609-884-2736.

Enjoy early spring birding by attending upcoming CMBO programs:

Weekly walks (no advanced registration, $6 members, $10 for others): . Friday: March 18 & 25 (4:30 p.m. to dusk), "Winter Evenings at the Meadows" meets at 4:30 p.m. in TNC's parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. . Saturday: March 19 & 26 (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. . Saturday, March 26 & April 2 (5:30-7:30 p.m.) "Twilight at Higbee Beach" meets at 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the west end of New England Road. . Sunday: March 20 (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). . Sunday, March 20 (4 p.m. to dusk), "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville. . Sunday, March 20 (1 to 2:30 p.m.), "Birding for First Timers" meets at the North Shelter in the Cape May Point State Park. . Monday, March 28 (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Birding With Pete Dunne" meets at 7:30 a.m. in TNC's parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. . Wednesday, March 30 (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Birding Cape May Point" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at 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): . CMBO's 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 . Hessel's 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

NJ's Fish and Wildlife's 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. Each fencing date only requires a few hours of mildly strenuous work (pounding posts, placing rope and signage). Fencing dates this year include: (1) Sat., March 26th at 10am at Cape May Point State Park, (2) Sat., April 2nd at 10am at Stone Harbor Point, and (3) Sat., 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 Spring Program Schedule (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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