Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/25/2004

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 25. 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.

It's late March and the seasons are mixing -- winter birds are still here, some in growing numbers before they migrate north, and spring arrivals continue.

OSPREY are back, including the pair along Jakes Landing Road. 34 were counted on the Maurice River on March 23. N. HARRIER are "sky dancing," one of the most elaborate display flights of all the raptors where the male flies up and then dives, repeatedly, in a roller-coaster pattern. On March 23 at 9:00 a.m., one was sky dancing over the Delaware Bay marshes beyond Heislerville WMA. RED-TAILED HAWKS are courting now too and performing spectacular aerial displays. 50 were counted on the Maurice River on March 23.

37 pairs of BALD EAGLES in New Jersey are actively nesting now. As of March 18, young have hatched in 4 of these nests, including the Maurice River nest that CMBO's "Bald Eagle Cruises" sail by. CMBO's 1:00 p.m. trip on March 20 confirmed that young had hatched -- the adult tending the nest was seen tearing food apart and appearing to feed young hidden down in the nest! 12 Bald Eagles (9 adults and 3 immatures), plus an immature GOLDEN EAGLE, were seen on the Maurice River on March 23. Many of the trips are full, but a tentative "Bald Eagle Cruise on the Maurice River" trip has been added for Saturday, April 10, at 10 a.m. (the day before Easter). If interested, call 609-861-0700, x-11. 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 began incubating March 14 and the incubating bird is so low in the nest that most of the time it is impossible to see. On March 21, the "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk (which meets every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County) enjoyed BALD EAGLES (including one nesting pair), E. PHOEBE, TREE SWALLOWS, and calling PINE WARBLERS..

GREAT HORNED OWLS have growing young, they being the earliest nesting birds (one pair began using an abandoned Bald Eagle's nest on February 10). Adult Great Horneds can be heard hooting softly and briefly at dusk and pre-dawn. Listen! Maybe they are nesting in your woods.

PIPING PLOVER have returned to their favorite beaches. 2 were seen from 2nd Avenue at The Meadows in the cove. AMERICAN WOODCOCK have been displaying since early February, each evening just as the sky darkens and also pre dawn. Three continue to be heard in an overgrown field during "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" with Karen Johnson, which next meets at 4:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the end of Jakes Landing Road on Sunday, March 28.

FORSTER'S TERNS are here in fair numbers now. 25 were counted on March 19. They arrive far earlier than Common Terns each spring.

Herons and egrets are filtering in. 25 SNOWY EGRETS and 2 GREAT EGRETS were counted along the Maurice River on March 23. Flocks of BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS were seen March 21 (7 birds at Jakes Landing) and March 24 (4 birds north of the Rea Farm). A LITTLE BLUE HERON was seen March 22 in Cape Island Creek.

SANDHILL CRANES have nested in Cumberland County since 1995 (page 87 in the newly published "Birding Cumberland, A Birder's Guide to Cumberland County, NJ," by Clay Sutton -- available for sale at CMBO. For years their nesting sites were deep within private property and unknown to birders. This spring 5 birds have been seen regularly at Bostwick Lake (on the border of Cumberland and Salem Counties), which is visible from Route 640. The 5 birds, including 2 pairs and a loner, are being seen to the right in the phragmites area. If you have luck, be sure to give us a call with details (609-861-0700).

PHOEBE are still arriving, others have settled in to former breeding sites. One was a fly-through in a backyard in Goshen on March 24. PINE WARBLERS are singing softly in Belleplain State Forest and elsewhere; drive with your windows rolled down to find them! On March 23 in Belleplain State Forest, both a BROWN CREEPER was calling (a very high call) and a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH was giving its nasal quiet song. A HERMIT THRUSH was heard singing March 20 in Belleplain; treat yourself to this song since they will soon head north and be replaced by our breeding thrush, the Wood Thrush. Be sure to attend walks with the CMBO leaders who know Belleplain intimately. Beginning April 1, every Thursday and every Saturday "Birds of Belleplain State Forest" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at the Belleplain State Forest Field Office, just off Route 550 west of Woodbine. Every Monday (beginning April 5), "Back Trails of Belleplain" (7:30-10:30 a.m.) meets at the same location.

Two very special workshops will feature the best of spring at Cape May: (1) 2-Day Bullet Workshop: WARBLERS on May 8-9 (Saturday & Sunday), and (2) 3-day Bullet Workshop: SPRING MIGRATION on May 18-20 (Tuesday thru Thursday). Spaces are filling quickly; see the abbreviated write-up in CMBO's Spring Kestrel Express for price and details. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to receive the "2004 Cape May Birding Workshop" brochure with full details.

NJ Audubon's incredible 3-day Cape May Spring Weekend will be held May 21-23. To learn more & download a registration form, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html

Waterfowl numbers are still strong, but many will soon migrate north to their breeding grounds. On March 23, the Maurice River held 750 AM. BLACK DUCKS, 350 MALLARD, 512 N. PINTAIL, 1,800 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, a male EURASIAN COMMON TEAL on Robbinstown Road (annual on the Maurice River for a number of years), 26 CANVASBACK, 175 RING-NECKED DUCK, 40 BUFFLEHEAD, and 19 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. St. Mary's Jetty in Cape May Point continues to attract HARLEQUIN DUCK (a male and a female on March 21). Clouds of SNOW GEESE were flushed by a Bald Eagle on March 21 during the Jakes Landing walk. On March 19, 170 CANVASBACKS and a male EURASIAN WIGEON were seen at Brigantine NWR, along with 2 GREAT CORMORANT.

SHORT-EARED OWLS winter here and will soon be gone. One continues to be seen during the Jakes Landing Walk and was last seen March 21 as it hunted high in the wind (a treat since they're often scarce in windy conditions). On March 19 one was seen hunting the marshes at Brigantine NWR at the East Pool.

The big story is STILL the amazing concentration of 100,000-200,000 sea ducks or scoters at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. 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! " Birding Cape May Point" meets Saturday, March 27, at 8:00 a.m. and every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park -- a great way to witness some of these goodies! Friday, March 26, the final "Winter Evening 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.

RED-THROATED LOONS gather at the mouth of the Delaware Bay each spring. This phenomenon has begun and 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).

Daffodils are blooming; lilac is budding. Red Maples are flowering and drawing in hungry butterflies, being the only nectar available in early spring. When temperatures climb to 55 degrees F. or higher, expect butterflies! SPRING AZURE (1st seen March 15), MOURNING CLOAKS, QUESTION MARKS, E. COMMA, and SULPHURS (March 24) have all been seen on warm days. Frogs are calling, turtles and snakes are sunning.

To learn of the Monarchs' migration north, go to Journey North's very educational site at: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/spring2004/monarch/index.html On the Journey North site you will learn that MONARCHS are on the move -- Dr. Bill Calvert reports from Mexico on March 19: "The butterfly colonies are definitely vacating, that's clear," said Calvert. Monarchs were pouring out of the arroyos at the base of the mountains. Where there were tens of millions of butterflies only last week, dense clusters were scarce this week. "It's very puzzling, though, because we haven't seen the flood of butterflies that typically fill the skies in Angangueo. Perhaps because it was unseasonably cold this past week -- the coldest of the 5 weeks I've been here. But the colonies are definitely breaking up, and the butterflies have to be going somewhere!"

Another excellent site is Monarch Watch: http://www.monarchwatch.org/update

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 spring and summer on Saturday, April 3, at the "Garden Preparation" morning (9:00 a.m. to Noon). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to sign up -- lunch provided. You can also help any Friday (beginning April 2) by joining Karen Williams for the weekly "Garden Maintenance Workshops," 9:30 a.m.-Noon (requiring no preregistration). Beginning April 2, Karen Williams will also be available for "Wildlife Garden Advice" every Friday (from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.) to assist with plant purchases and general wildlife garden questions. April 17, CMBO will teach a day of "Backyard Habitat Mini-Workshops." Sign up for all 3 one-hour workshops (Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens, Basics of Backyard Habitat, and Designing a Wildlife Habitat) or just one or two. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register or learn more!

Additional walks (requiring no preregistration) that will help you savor spring unfolding include: Every Sunday, "Birding for First Timers" (1:00-3:00 p.m.) meets at the Wildlife Viewing Platform at the Cape May Point State Park. Every Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. Every Friday (beginning April 2), "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets in the parking lot at the west end of New England Road. Every Saturday (beginning April 3), "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets in the parking lot on Bayshore Road. Every Sunday (beginning April 4), "Hidden Valley for Birds & Butterflies" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England road, 0.3 miles past the intersection with Bayshore Road. Every Tuesday (beginning April 6), "Spring at Two Mile Beach" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at the last parking area on the left in the refuge, which lies to the east of Ocean Drive just south of Wildwood Crest.

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. At three different sites in Maryland birds were seen on March 20 & 21. 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! They're surging north with 50 or so sightings in the Gulf States and one as far north as the middle of N. Carolina. To learn more, go to: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html


Two dates are set to erect fencing for Beach Nesting Birds: (1) Saturday April 17 at Barnegat Light (meet 10 a.m. at Barnegat Light State Park parking lot) and (2) Sunday April 18 at Stone Harbor Point (meet 1 p.m. at municipal parking lot at southern end of Stone Harbor Borough). Held rain or shine, unless really nasty rain! Please RSVP to Todd Pover at 609-628-2103 or bnb@gtc3.com if you plan to help out. Directions available from Todd if needed.

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.

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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