Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/21/2002
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 21. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience). NJ Audubon's three hotlines can be read in full 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!

Spring mixing with winter is a rich time of year!

Many of our breeding birds that have been gone for months are arriving and suddenly everywhere, on territory, calling and displaying. PIPING PLOVER reports have tumbled in since March 16. Flocks of AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER were seen at Nummy's Island on March 17. E. PHOEBE and PINE WARBLERS are singing and on territory everywhere. Listen for the Phoebe's distinctive "fee-be" and the Pine Warbler's slow musical trill on one pitch. OSPREY are back and already at nests, trying them out for size. CLAPPER RAILS are all of a sudden numerous, based on their noisy calls from the saltmarshes. FORSTER'S TERNS are back and in evidence around Cape May Point and elsewhere along the coast and in tidal marshes . . . Common Terns don't arrive in good numbers for another month (till late April) . . . so the confusion factor is at a minimum now. You can "with certainty" say, "It's a Forster's Tern." TREE SWALLOWS, CHIMNEY SWIFTS, and PURPLE MARTINS are being seen with regularity. N. HARRIER were courting at Turkey Point (in Cumberland County) today, March 21. RED-TAILED HAWKS have been paired up for much of the winter; one pair was already on a nest by March 1st on the Cohansey River, but a pair at Turkey Point is still courting and was seen sharing prey on March 17. A SAW-WHET OWL was heard calling for a week (March 7-14) near Jakes Landing Road ... a wintering bird calling before going north ? ? ... or potentially a bird that plans to breed here. Interesting indeed, since Saw-whets breed no further south than Burlington County in New Jersey. AMERICAN WOODCOCK are displaying at dawn and dusk. One was seen on CMBO's "Woodcock Walk" on March 15th at dusk when it landed in the center path at "The Meadows." SNOWY EGRETS, GREAT EGRETS, and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS were all seen March 16 at Reed's Beach. Soon the marshes will be spotted with them. 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.

A RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD was reported to CMBO from a backyard garden in Atlantic City, where it was reported to be nectaring on Rosemary blossoms on March 19 and 20 in 39 degree weather! So, we better get our feeders hung, and fast! According to the wonderful hummingbird web site: http://www.hummingbirds.net

As of March 21, there were many sightings throughout eastern Texas, all of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and 3 sightings in South Carolina. So, this NJ sighting is most intriguing!

What a mix of seasons. Many spring birds are arriving and settling in as Bunker Pond still holds TUNDRA SWANS, BUFFLEHEAD, and RING-NECKED DUCKS. And as BALD EAGLES still chase flocks of SNOW GEESE at Turkey Point in Cumberland County (March 17). And as SHORT-EARED OWLS hunt the marshes (1 at Jakes Landing on March 20). GREAT CORMORANT are in full breeding plumage now. Look for their distinctive white hip-patch. One was at the Concrete Ship on March 19.

100 RED-THROATED LOONS were gathered at the mouth of the Delaware Bay today, March 21. Each March & April, Red-throated Loons stage here before migrating north. A trip to the Concrete Ship is a must; some are close and 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. Other treats at this site today, March 21, included N. GANNETS, BONAPARTE'S GULLS, and some SCOTERS.

The SCREECH OWL in a nest box on private property (discovered March 5) continues to entertain. It's habits are now predictable. It comes to the entrance hole about 5:45 P.M. and watches the homeowners with eyes that appear closed, but the head follows all movements through the yard, so the eyes that appear shut are not shut at all. At @ 6:30 P.M. (nearly full dark), the bird leaves the box and begins to hunt. Fresh whitewash each day is a dead giveaway that the bird is doing much of its feeding right in the yard on rodents coming out to feed on fallen bird seed.

Two very visible GREAT HORNED OWL nests in the area (that this hotline has been sharing details about) began incubation in early February. Observers this week noticed that the female is sitting much higher at each of these nests. . . so, the YOUNG HAVE HATCHED! In fact one youngster was visible beneath "Mom" on the Avalon nest today, March 21. The Avalon, NJ, nest is in an Osprey nest on a platform left of a cedar island in the backbay area and can be viewed from the 5th Avenue street end, just off 20th Street. To reach this area take the small bridge going west on 21st Street. The Turkey Point nest (visible from the viewing platform at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County) is in an old Red-tailed Hawk nest. Great Horned Owls do not build their own nest, but usurp old stick nests built by hawks, herons, crows, or ravens. Be sure to keep CMBO posted on these two nests, especially as the youngsters become (more) visible. It will be fun to see how many young each nest produces. Be aware that the male is somewhere nearby, hiding in whatever cover he can find where he still has a view of the nest. He is keeping the female fed & might be seen at dusk beginning to hunt for them both! As the young grow, the female will not fit on the nest & she too will be harder to spot. Great Horned Owls are our earliest nesting bird. 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).

BALD EAGLES put on a terrific show on March 17 during CMBO's "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk (details on this walk at the end of this hotline). Two adults at a brand new nest near the Maple Avenue impoundment chased off two immatures. And from the platform at the end of the road four immatures stirred up Snow Geese as they hunted. One additional adult was perched on the tree line out towards the town of Fortescue. So, a very eagle-y time was had.

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 were due to hatch March 10. One pair recently 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. One trip still has room a/o today, March 21: Sunday, March 24 (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register. 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 (young were 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! We run these trips every March & early April, so sign up early next year.

The incredible warm temperatures March 15 and 16 (in the 70s) forced a number of spring butterflies to emerge. 28 SPRING AZURES were seen March 15 near Pomona, NJ. 60+ "Blueberry" SPRING AZURES and 1 "Holly" SPRING AZURE were seen March 16 near Dividing Creek in Cumberland County, along with some other amazingly early spring sightings, including: 1 JUVENAL'S DUSKYWING and 1 HENRY'S ELFIN. This past week there have been steady reports from many locations of: 10-15 ORANGE SULPHUR, 2+ CABBAGE WHITE, 3-4 MOURNING CLOAK, 1 QUESTION MARK.

Nectar in the wild for these spring butterflies is still limited to blooming RED MAPLES. If anyone has ROSEMARY in their herb garden, check it out. It too is sure to attract spring butterflies (and if you're lucky, a hummingbird).

Frogs are calling. WOOD FROGS sound like ducks quacking. A din of SPRING PEEPERS peeping sounds good after the long dry winter we've had. Thank goodness for all the recent rain for the sake of breeding herps, blooming plants, and all wildlife!

DAFFODILS are blooming. FORSYTHIA is beginning to bloom. WILLOWS are green. 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.

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

CMBO's 7th ANNUAL OPTICS SALE will be held this weekend, 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 or plan to join when you come to the optics sale at CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen. Call 609-861-0700 for more details.

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. Four of CMBO's weekly winter walks are still underway. Each requires no preregistration; JUST COME! There is a charge ($6 CMBO/ NJ Audubon member; $10 nonmember).

(1) The "Woodcock Walk at the Meadows" each FRIDAY, through March 29 (5:30 p.m. till dark), meets at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard. AMERICAN WOODCOCK were performing in "The Meadows" on March 15 at dusk.

(2) The "Birding Cape May Point" walk each SATURDAY, through March 30 (10 a.m. to Noon), meets at the Cape May Point State Park in the raised picnic pavilion. Some of the goodies enjoyed 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 now all the spring arrivals are mixed in!

(3) The "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk each SUNDAY, through March 31 (8 to 10 a.m.), 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 now all the spring arrivals.

(4) The "Delaware Bayshore Birding" walk each MONDAY, through April 1 (10 a.m. to Noon), meets at the CMBO Center for Research & Education in Goshen. N. HARRIERS, RED-TAILED HAWKS, BALD EAGLE, BLACK VULTURES, SNOW GEESE, BROWN CREEPER, FOX SPARROW, E. MEADOWLARK, and now all the spring arrivals.

CMBO's SPRING PROGRAMS (April through June 2002) are now posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site (http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html), including 8 different weekly walks for birds, butterflies and gardens ("hitting" each of the spring hotspots), back-bay boat trips, a "Birding 101" course with Pete Dunne on April 5-6, a hands-on "Binoculars & Spotting Scopes" workshop with Pete Dunne on April 6, "Intermediate Birding Course" with Vince Elia on April 13-14, a full day "Nature of Belleplain" outing with Mark Garland on April 13, a "4-Day Basics of Birding Workshop" April 18-21, "Cruisin' For Loons" field trip & cruise on April 20, "Clapper Rail Madness" on April 26, CMBO's "5th Annual Plant Swap for Backyard Habitat Plants" on April 27, a field trip to the "Cape May NWR's Great Cedar Swamp Division" on April 27, "Full Moon Over the Meadows" on April 27, and much, much more! Join us.

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 609-861-0700 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 609-861-0700 or 609-884-2736. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call 609-898-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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