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
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:
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
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
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
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)