Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/20/2003
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 20. 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."

Nature is as close as a good look. Let a friend know about CMBO's "Annual Optics Sale" on Saturday & Sunday, March 22 and 23 at the Center for Research & Education in Goshen (600 Rt. 47 North) where, as usual, many spectacular DEALS on quality closeouts, demos, factory refurbished, used, and discounted binoculars and telescopes will be available. The sale is open to NJ Audubon or CMBO members ONLY, but folks can join that day. A specially arranged "Book Signing With Pete Dunne" on Friday, March 21 (5-7 p.m.), at the Center for Research & Education will feature all of Pete's books, including his new "Pete Dunne on Bird Watching" and the recently republished "Wind Masters."

Butterflies finally "popped." On March 16 and 17, 6 QUESTION MARKS and 3 MOURNING CLOAKS were seen from Cape May Point north to Belleplain State Forest. The wet and cold weather since has driven these butterflies back into the safe nooks where they've survived the winter thus far (wood piles, hollow trees, or under shutters or bark). Most butterflies winter as an egg, a partially grown caterpillar, or a chrysalis. Only 4 species winter in South Jersey as adult butterflies, so they are the first we see on a warm spring-like day. An OBLIQUE-LINED TIGER BEETLE on March 17 in Belleplain State Forest was the first of the season. Walking the forest's sand roads is a great way to find tiger beetles, just a dazzling as butterflies and dragonflies.

The warm weather on March 16 also activated reptiles and amphibians. 10 species were seen or heard (many of the frogs are calling now) from Cape May Point to Belleplain State Forest: N. WATER SNAKE, GARTER SNAKE, RED-BACKED SALAMANDER, FIVE-LINED SKINK, PAINTED TURTLE, RED-BELLIED TURTLE, SPRING PEEPER, CHORUS FROG, WOOD FROG, and S. LEOPARD FROG. March 17, N. FENCE LIZARD, GROUND SKINK, and 1" long TIGER SALAMANDER young were also seen. December rains and snows were so plentiful that Tiger Salamanders successfully bred and laid eggs then. Some years they do not breed until late winter rains come.

RED BATS have been flying on warm days hunting insects. "Welcome Spring, a general nature exploration of Cape Island" with Mark Garland on Wednesday, March 26 (1:30-6:30 p.m.) would be a great way to see some of these spring treats. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, soon to sign up and get directions.

On March 19, 14 OSPREY were back at their nest sites on the Maurice River, including a number of pairs. Many Bald Eagles were also seen there, including the two nesting pairs. This bodes well for CMBO's very special and very promising "Maurice River Bald Eagle Cruises." The following morning trips (10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) still have a few places left (but call 609-861-0700, x-11 soon to sign up): March 22 (Sat.), March 23 (Sun.), March 30 (Sun.), April 5 (Sat.), and April 6 (Sun.)

GREAT HORNED OWL young are a month old already. As they grow, females begin sitting higher and higher on the nest and becoming more and more visible. Sadly the Avalon nest on an Osprey platform failed, but a very hidden nest at Turkey Point is still active. Attend the "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk on March 23 or 30 to see it (8-10 a.m. -- meets at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County, reached from Route 553 south of the town of Dividing Creek).

SHORT-EARED OWLS are still being seen at Brigantine NWR (3 on March 12) and Jakes Landing (a close bird on March 17). AMERICAN WOODCOCK are displaying now at dusk (from @ 6:20 p.m. for a half hour or so). Many were heard in the various fields at Higbee Beach on March 14. Owls, woodcock, and many other treats are likely on two evening walks: "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" on Friday, March 21 & 28 (4:30 p.m. to dark -- meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road) and "Winter Evenings at the Meadows" on Saturday, March 22 & 29 (4:30 p.m. to dark -- meets in The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard).

BARRED OWLS are noisy now in the deep wet woods of New Jersey as they lay claim to their nesting territory. Very soon they may lay their first egg in a large tree cavity or nest box. A wonderful way to learn all about nesting Barred Owls can be found on the following web site where the last 6 nesting seasons of this New England nest have been chronicled with photos, diary accounts, and a sound library: http://www.owlcam.com

Crocuses are beginning to bloom. Flowering Quince buds are forming. Perennials in butterfly and hummingbird gardens are busting through the ground. PURPLE MARTINS are heading north (check out http://www.purplemartin.org to see exactly where they are now. E. BLUEBIRDS are inspecting the nest box in CMBO's meadow in Goshen and active around the Cape May NWR field office on Kimbel's Beach Road. We are all looking forward to spring and the butterflies, hummingbirds, and other visitors in our gardens. If you would like to make your yard wildlife friendly and don't know where to begin or would like to learn more, be sure to sign up for CMBO's "Create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat Introductory Workshop" on Saturday, March 29 (1:30 to 3:30 p.m.). Valuable handouts will be shared!

CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen is selling seed packages with annual seeds harvested from our very own gardens in Goshen: (1) Salvia "Lady in Red" which flourishes in drought conditions and is irresistible to hummingbirds and swallowtails, (2) Brazilian Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) for butterflies, hummingbird moths and lots of other insects, and (3) Cardinal Climber, a hummingbird magnet. Trees, shrubs, and vines will be available for sale there by mid-April. CMBO's "6th Annual Plant Swap & Plant Sale for Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens" is scheduled for Saturday, April 26 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Mark your calendars and begin potting up your favorite perennials as you divide them so they'll be ready for the swap. Last year's plant swap had gems and favorites like Coral Bells, Anise Hyssop, Bee Balm, Catmint, Mountain Mint, Boltonia, Cardinal Flower, New York Ironweed, Viburnum, Black Chokeberry, and Red Cedar. Don't miss this great and cost-free opportunity to start your first garden or expand on an already existing garden.

RED-THROATED LOONS are beginning to congregate at the mouth of the Delaware Bay and can often be enjoyed from the Concrete Ship. CMBO's very special and popular "Cruisin for Loons" trip will be offered on Saturday, April 26 (12:30 to 5 p.m.), when both Red-throated Loons and Common Loons (some in full breeding plumage) can both be enjoyed. Sign up for each of these early (spaces are limited) by calling 609-861-0700, x-11.

Additional regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration and will help you witness spring unfolding include: "Birding Cape May Point" (Every Saturday, 8-10 a.m. -- meets in the raised picnic pavilion of the Cape May Point State Park), "Stone Harbor Point Bird Walk" (Monday, March 24, 8-10 a.m. -- meets in parking area at the south end of 2nd Avenue at Stone Harbor Point), "Two Mile Beach Bird Walk" (Monday, March 31, 8-10 a.m. -- meets in the last /left parking area in the Two Mile Beach Unit of the Cape May NWR), and "Birding for First Timers" (Every Thursday, 1-3 p.m. -- meets at the CMBO Northwood Center in Cape May Point).

CMBO's full listing of spring programs (April - June) is posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org (click on "Calendar," then on "Cape May Bird Observatory"). CMBO's spring program schedule, the Kestrel Express, is now available. If you are not a member and would like to receive a copy, stop by either CMBO Center or call 609-861-0700.

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 Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, updated every Thursday evening.

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. Both are open DAILY, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information call 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

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