Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/27/2003
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 27. 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."

CROCUSES and DAFFODILS are blooming. RED MAPLE trees are in full flower and beautiful; few know that spring butterflies and moths often find their spring nectar at these flowers. Flowering Quince buds are forming. Perennials in butterfly and hummingbird gardens are busting through the ground. PURPLE MARTINS are HERE (http://www.purplemartin.org ). 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. CMBO burnt its meadows March 28th, an important step in getting ahead of non-native grasses and encouraging native grasses and wildflowers. 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! If you'd like to help CMBO in the "Model Backyard Habitat," join Karen Williams on Friday, April 4 (9:30 a.m.-Noon) for the "Garden Maintenance Workshop."

BALD EAGLES have been on their nests since February . . . 37 active pairs in New Jersey. Some eggs hatched in mid-March, others may not hatch till mid-April. On March 23, on the Maurice River during CMBO's "Birding Cumberland" field trip a NEW pair of adults (# 38) were discovered and watched as they displaced a pair of Ospreys at their nest having just returned from their wintering grounds. The Ospreys would not leave without a battle and our group watched them diving repeatedly, one after the next, on the pair of eagles for what seemed like a full five minutes. Some dives connected & feathers flew! Finally, the adult eagles flew off and were lost from view. This same field trip tallied 32 Bald Eagle sightings on March 23, quite incredible, including a kettle of 7 over Maple Street impoundments in Dividing Creek and 3 or so immatures hazing a thousand Snow Geese in the Glades Wildlife Refuge. A pair of RED-TAILED HAWKS were performing aerial displays with feet dangling on March 24 and active at a nest visible from Turkey Point Road. "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" on March 30 (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) is an excellent introduction to this wild & rich area. CMBO's very special and very promising "Maurice River Bald Eagle Cruises" are all FULL, but if you'd like to be put on a waiting list, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

SHORT-EARED OWLS are still being seen at Jakes Landing (two close birds at 4:30-5 p.m. on March 22) and a bit later that evening (6:25 p.m.) 3 AMERICAN WOODCOCK were displaying in the field mid-way down the road. Don't miss "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" on Friday, March 28 (4:30 p.m. to dark -- meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road) and "Winter Evenings at the Meadows" on Saturday, March 29 (4:30 p.m. to dark -- meets in The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard).

Bird song has begun, slowly of course . . . it's only late March. Only a few songsters have returned, but each week confusion will build as others arrivals join in. PINE WARBLERS & E. PHOEBES were the first to arrive. Listen for the Pine Warbler's slow, musical trill on one pitch and the Phoebe's soft call soon to be replaced by their emphatic "Fee-bee." Join Pat Sutton for a "Birding by Ear Walk" each Wednesday, 7:30-9:30 a.m., meeting on Jakes Landing Road by the guard rail on the right.

Finally mid-March, warm temperatures woke up the overwintering adult butterflies (QUESTION MARK, E. COMMA, and MOURNING CLOAK); sightings from all over South Jersey have trickled in since, including 2 E. COMMAS on a pile of rotting onions on Old Robbins Trail (off Jakes Landing Road) on March 26. But warm temperatures (73 degrees F. mid-day on March 26) also triggered butterflies to emerge from overwintering chrysalids. Spring's first SPRING AZURE was seen March 24 and, by the 26th, 10 were seen in the same half-mile stretch of sandy road along Old Robbins Trail. CABBAGE WHITE (also newly emerged) on March 26 & 27 at the Cape May Bird Observatory "Model Backyard Habitat" gardens. Join Pat Sutton every Wednesday (10 a.m.-Noon) for a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk," meeting at the railroad tracks on Rt. 610, just north of Dennisville (about 1/4 mile from the WAWA store). Join Louise Zemaitis for the "Hidden Valley for Birds & Butterflies" Sunday, April 6 (7-9 a.m.) -- meets at the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England Road, 0.3 miles past the intersection with Bayshore Road.

Warm temperatures have also activated TICKS. Enjoy the outdoors, but be serious about tick checks afterwards. On the edge of the Maurice River on March 23 thousands of native PINK-SIDED LADY BEETLES were swarming on the sunlit side (down near the base) of many trees and shrubs near the river's edge. According to entomologist, Joe Patt, they winter over in the leaf litter and emerge with spring's warmth. RED BATS can be found hunting at dusk now too.

Sadly the GREAT HORNED OWL nest at the end of Turkey Point Road has failed; no adult was on the nest on March 23 for the first time in months. The Avalon nest on an Osprey platform failed in early March. Some people have noticed an absence of Great Horned Owls in their neighborhoods where they were always found. Negative information is important too. Keep us posted.

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 and this year's nesting of this New England pair are chronicled with photos, diary accounts, and a sound library: http://www.owlcam.com

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 congregating at the mouth of the Delaware Bay; 150 were counted from the Concrete Ship on March 24. 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" on Saturday, March 29 (from 8-10 a.m), and Wednesday, April 2 (from 7:30-9:30 a.m.) -- meets in the raised picnic pavilion of the Cape May Point State Park). "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). "Birds of Belleplain State Forest" Thursday, April 3, and Saturday, April 5 (7:30-10:30 a.m.) -- meets at Belleplain State Forest Field Office. "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" Friday, April 4 (7:30-9:30 a.m.) -- meets at Higbee Beach WMA parking lot at end of New England Road. "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" Saturday, April 5 (7:30-9:30 a.m.) -- meets in the parking lot on Bayshore Road (not at the produce stand on Stevens Street). "Mondays at the Meadows" Monday, April 7 (7:30-9:30 a.m.) -- meets in The Nature Conservancy's parking lot on Sunset Boulevard.

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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