Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/28/2002
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 28. 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 continues to mix with winter . . . a rich time of year!

A trip aboard the Cape May Lewes Ferry right now is a must if you want to get the look of a lifetime at N. GANNETS. The new ferry boats, as they cross the Delaware Bay, are attracting several hundred gannets to their wake. And the birds are close and right now all adults, with one or two sub-adults mixed in. As the spring unfolds fewer adults will be seen and more immatures, and eventually all immatures. The birds are actively feeding, diving into the churned up water in the boat's wake and successfully coming up with fish or pieces of fish. Apparently this "Gannet Show" (trailing behind each ferry) has been happening for the last 2-3 weeks. A din of LAUGHING GULLS "laughing" was enjoyed on March 25 as 50 birds flew about at the ferry dock, along with 4 BONAPARTE'S GULLS.

Any day with temperatures over 55 degrees is likely to be a good day for butterflies. These cold blooded creatures are solar powered and need warm temperatures to fly. Butterflies that overwintered as adults (MOURNING CLOAK and QUESTION MARK) have been enjoyed for the last several months on warm days. But now that spring is really upon us, other species are emerging from their overwintering chrysalises. Just today, March 28, a VERY fresh (i.e. just emerged!) HENRY'S ELFIN and 2 GRAY HAIRSTREAKS were enjoyed at Beaver Swamp WMA, along with 20 SPRING AZURES and 1 QUESTION MARK. An AMERICAN COPPER was seen at the Cape May Point State Park on March 24. A PINE ELFIN was seen in Heislerville (in Cumberland County) on March 23. 50+ ORANGE SULPHURS were enjoyed at Woodcock Lane in the Cape May NWR on March 28, and scattered sightings of CABBAGE WHITES continue to come in from a number of locations. While out enjoying spring butterflies at Old Robbins Trail (off Jakes Landing) on March 24, dozens of LARGE BEE FLIES were seen. These furry, golden flies, hover motionless and have beak-like mouth parts (nectar on flowers). They are a parasite on bees, by laying their eggs in the nests of solitary bees, and then their larvae feed on the bee larvae.

Where are MONARCHS now? Journey North's web site details the northbound migration of many species, including Monarchs. Since mid-March sightings have poured in from all over eastern Texas, a few in western Texas, a few in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Their departure on March 13 from one of the Mexican winter roost sites was shared on Journey North by Dave Kust -- he observed 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

New Jersey is experiencing a severe drought and herps are directly affected. With recent spring rains (which sadly have not dented the drought situation), frogs are calling. Listen for WOOD FROGS (sound like ducks quacking), S. LEOPARD FROGS (a guttural call), and SPRING PEEPERS (a din of peeping) in the wet areas in the South Cape May Meadows on Sunset Boulevard and elsewhere in Cape May County.

The full moon on March 27 triggered displaying AMERICAN WOODCOCK in the South Cape May Meadows on Sunset Boulevard. Join CMBO for its final "Woodcock Walk at the Meadows" FRIDAY, March 29 (5:30 p.m. till dark), at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking area on Sunset Boulevard.

Treat yourself to a visit to Sunset Lake in Wildwood Crest for lingering waterbirds. A HORNED GREBE in breeding plumage was enjoyed there on March 23. This is such a special time of year when our familiar winter birds "turn" before our eyes before migrating north to their breeding grounds.

Two very visible GREAT HORNED OWL nests in the area (that this hotline has been sharing details about) began incubation in early February. Observers last week noticed that the female was sitting much higher at each of the nests, indicating that the young had hatched. Since March 21, some lucky observers have caught glimpses of a fluffy white owlet at the Avalon nest. The Avalon, NJ, nest is in an old 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 pre-dawn and at dusk (5:30 a.m. and 6:30 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).

Pairs of KILLDEER can be heard in farm fields all over Cape May County as they display near the sites they've chosen for nesting. SNOW GEESE have moved off the saltmarsh and can be found feeding in bright green farm fields planted in winter wheat that recently has turned bright green (a flock of over 500 in Goshen and a smaller flock at the Rea Farm).

CMBO's March 23 & 24 weekend of MAURICE RIVER BALD EAGLE CRUISES were entertained by BALD EAGLES. 12 were seen on the AM trip and 8 on the PM trip on March 23, including the two adults at the nest. On Saturday, one of the adults carried a duck up to its mate at the nest. Sunday's trip watched the female bend down with small pieces of prey, obviously feeding young (though the young are so small & newly hatched that they are not at all visible). These cruises also enjoyed lone or paired OSPREY (newly returned) at each of the nest sites, BELTED KINGFISHERS near their nesting burrows, lots of TREE SWALLOWS, and some YELLOWLEGS and waterfowl (N. PINTAIL, MALLARD, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, and BLACK DUCKS). Four additional trips are scheduled. CMBO is still taking calls (609-861-0700, x-11) for waiting lists for remaining trips due to a number of cancellations.

Join CMBO for the final "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk, 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). On March 24, this walk enjoyed BALD EAGLES, RED-TAILED HAWKS, "sky dancing" (or displaying) N. HARRIER, the GREAT HORNED OWL on a nest, and lots of ducks and SNOW GEESE, among other spring goodies!

Bald Eagles are the second earliest nesting bird, right after Great Horned Owls. Since their nesting season began in early January, 34 pairs of breeding BALD EAGLES in New Jersey have been monitored, including four new nest sites. On February 3rd the first pair began incubating eggs and on March 18th the latest pair began incubating. Young from the earliest pair were due to hatch March 10 and young from the latest pair will not hatch until April 22. Four nests have already failed and the adults are no longer at these nests. 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.

OSPREY are back and already at nests, trying them out for size. Many males returned around March 18 and by March 20 a number of females had returned and pairs were being seen. On March 22 on the Maurice River, one pair was already mating. Pairs do not winter together.

The slow musical trill (on one pitch) of PINE WARBLERS is a constant now all over Cape May County. YELLOW-THROATED WARBLERS have just arrived (2 at Jakes Landing on March 25 and 1 in Belleplain State Forest on March 28) and will soon too be a constant in the northern part of Cape May County. TREE SWALLOWS, CHIMNEY SWIFTS, and PURPLE MARTINS are being seen with regularity. WOODPECKERS are drumming near their potential nest hole. MOURNING DOVES are cooing.

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."

Where are RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS now? According to the wonderful hummingbird web site: http://www.hummingbirds.net As of March 27, there were sightings all over the southeast (throughout e. Texas, all of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, & South Carolina, north to the middle of Arkansas), with the northernmost sighting on March 27 in coastal North Carolina at Morehead City.

DAFFODILS and FORSYTHIA are blooming. 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.

The Cape May Bird Observatory's SPRING PROGRAMS start in earnest this week! 8 different weekly walks for birds, butterflies and gardens ("hitting" each of the spring hotspots) are scheduled. Each requires no preregistration; JUST COME! There is a charge ($6 CMBO/ NJ Audubon member; $10 nonmember). Details follow:

Saturday, March 30: "Birding Cape May Point" (10 a.m. to Noon) meets at the Cape May Point State Park in the raised picnic pavilion.

Sunday, March 31 (EASTER): "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" (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)

Monday, April 1: (1) "Birding with Pete Dunne" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, and (2) "Delaware Bayshore Birding" (10 a.m. to Noon) meets at the CMBO Center for Research & Education in Goshen.

Wednesday, April 3: "Birding Cape May Point" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at the Cape May Point State Park in the raised picnic pavilion.

Thursday, April 4: "Birds of the Deep South in Belleplain State Forest (7:30-10:30 a.m.) meets at Belleplain State Forest Field Office, just off Rt. 550, west of Woodbine.

Friday, April 5: (1) "Birds of Higbee Beach" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at Higbee Beach WMA parking lot at the west end of New England Road, (2) "Garden Maintenance Workshop" (9:30 a.m.-Noon) meets at the CMBO Center in Goshen (and is FREE ... learn about wildlife gardening while you help tend the garden with garden consultant, Karen Williams).

Saturday, April 6: "Spring Migrants of the Rea Farm" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets in the "The Beanery / Rea Farm" parking lot on Bayshore Road (not the produce stand on Stevens Street).

Sunday, April 7: (1) "Hidden Valley for Birds & Butterflies" (7-9 a.m.) meets in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England Road 0.3 miles east of Bayshore Road, (2) "Raptors & Songbirds of the Delaware Bayshore" (8-10 a.m.) meets at the CMBO Center for Research & Education, 600 Route 47 North, in Goshen.

CMBO's SPRING PROGRAMS "in full" (April through June 2002) are now posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site (http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html) and also include 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, "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! To receive a copy of the spring schedule 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 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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