Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/3/2005

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 hotline was prepared on Thursday, March 3. 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 website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (at the top of any page). The CMBO Center in Goshen is again open seven days/week. So both centers are now open daily 9-4:30.

A call for volunteers to help with fencing to protect beach nesting birds (Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and Black Skimmers) on Saturday, March 26th (Cape May Point State Park colony), and Saturday, April 2nd (Stone Harbor Point colony), can be found at the end of this hotline.

Despite the frigid wintery weather of the last two weeks, birds are responding to spring's approach. Purple Martins have moved north and are already throughout eastern Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and as far north as the middle of North Carolina! To monitor their movement north go to the Purple Martin Conservation Organization's excellent site and click on "Martins Are Back": http://www.purplemartin.org/scoutreport/2005/index.php

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter between southern Mexico and northern Panama. They too are moving north with the first U.S. sighting "IN" from Florida (February 20) and coastal Louisiana (February 19). To monitor their journey north and know just when to put your hummingbird feeders out, go to the following site and click on the migration map: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html

Other returning birds include KILLDEER (some in a flooded frozen field along the Maurice River on February 26) and WOOD DUCKS (2 at Bivalve on February 26 and 1 at Turkey Point on February 27). Spring is very much in the air, despite the temperature! RED-TAILED HAWKS were doing their courtship flight, a roller coaster display, on February 27 at Turkey Point. A COOPER'S HAWK was performing its courtship flight along the Maurice River on February 26. The noisy flocks of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS singing "konk-a-ree" are getting larger and even more vocal with the coming of spring.

Displaying AMERICAN WOODCOCK have been quiet through the really cold stretch, but if temperatures nudge up a bit, they will be "peenting" again! Despite the cold, one was heard at 6 a.m. on March 1 in Eldora. Since our "Woodcock Dance" is full, two other ongoing opportunities to experience this short-lived spring display are the Sunday evening "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" walk, every Sunday (4 p.m. till dusk) and the "Winter Evenings at the Meadows" walk, every Friday (4:30 p.m. till dusk, meeting in the TNC parking lot on Sunset Boulevard).

GREAT HORNED OWLS have been very quiet for the last month while on eggs. Over 40 pairs of BALD EAGLES nest in New Jersey. Some pairs began incubating last week. Other pairs are still working on their nests, mating, and being very territorial, including the pair at Beaver Swamp WMA, just up Sluice Creek from CMBO's Center in Goshen. The birds can often be gone for much of the day but are at or near the nest each evening between 5 and 6 p.m. Pat Sutton is the official volunteer nest observer at Beaver Swamp WMA. Please report any sightings of this pair to her at 609-861-0700, x16.

CMBO's "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" walk on February 27, held every Sunday (4 p.m. to dusk) had a pair of mating adult BALD EAGLES, a close hunting SHORT-EARED OWL, and will again hear AMERICAN WOODCOCK when temperatures rise. This walk meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road, off Rt. 47, just 4 miles north of the CMBO Center in Goshen. CMBO's "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" walk on February 27, held every Sunday (8-10 a.m.), enjoyed 6 BALD EAGLES, including the Maple Avenue Impoundment pair incubating eggs. The wintering GOLDEN EAGLE was seen there on February 26.

SHORT-EARED OWLS continue to be savored at the Corbin City Unit of the Tuckahoe WMA from 5:30 p.m. until full dark. The Corbin City Unit is reached from Rt. 50, north of the Tuckahoe River. Turn right on Griscom Mill Road and right again past the houses to reach the driving dike between freshwater impoundments and tidal saltmarsh. The best concentration of Short-eared Owl activity has been where the driving dike reaches the first impoundment on the left and a creek goes off through the saltmarsh on the right. The birds perch on the many old fence posts in the marsh and hunt the marsh around and beyond them.

Waterfowl is on the move. A survey of the Maurice River on February 26 tallied over 5,000 SNOW GEESE, 1,000 BLACK DUCKS, 700 MALLARDS, 500 N. PINTAIL, 300 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, and 200 BUFFLEHEAD. 28 CANVASBACKS were seen from the Heislerville impoundments looking towards the Delaware Bay. The Delaware Bay at Reeds Beach on February 26 held 20 COMMON GOLDENEYE, RED-THROATED LOON, and a migrating AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER.

RED-THROATED LOONS stage here each winter and early spring, gathering at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, their numbers growing day by day. The Concrete Ship or any of the jetties in Cape May Point are excellent vantage points to witness building numbers. The birds move around with the tide, so if you do not see them, go back at a different tide. The March 16 "Cruisin' for Loons" trip (12:30-5 p.m.) is timed to drink this in plus COMMON LOONS in full breeding plumage (just before they migrate north). The March 26 "Birding From the Ferry" trip (7 to 11 a.m.) is a great way to be surrounded by migrating N. Gannets and other goodies. To register for either trip, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

A special driving tour of some of "Cape May County's Biggest Trees" from Goshen to Cape May Point will be led by Lyman Hoffman, author of Giants Among Us, and fellow tree lover Pat Sutton on Saturday, April 9 (10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). To register, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

Many learning opportunities for wildlife gardeners are offered throughout the state by NJ Audubon Society and shared on the website at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Opportunities.html Details of CMBO's "Wildlife Garden Naturalist Training" (every Thursday evening, April 7 to May 19, except April 21) and the "Annual Plant Swap and Native Plant Sale" (Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) can be found there. Go to the "Plants for Sale" page to learn of spring sales.

CMBO's 2005 Cape May Birding Workshops are set. Registrations are being taken now. To receive the workshop brochure call 609-861-0700 or go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks05.html

The ultimate spring experience is New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Spring Weekend (May 20-22, 2005). The brochure is now available (call for a copy) and a downloadable pdf version is available on the website: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html Once you've read over the brochure, direct any questions to Sheila Lego or Marleen Murgitroyde at 609-884-2736.

Enjoy late winter and early spring birding by attending upcoming CMBO programs:

Weekly walks (no advanced registration, $6 members, $10 for others): . Fridays (4:30 p.m. to dusk), "Winter Evenings at the Meadows" meets at 4:30 p.m. in TNC's parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. . Saturdays (8-10 a.m.), "Birding Cape May Point" meets at 8 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park. . Sundays (8-10 a.m.), "Sunday Morning at Turkey Point" meets at 8 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County (reached from Rt. 553 south of the town of Dividing Creek). . Sundays (4 p.m. to dusk), "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" meets at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville. . Sundays (1 to 2:30 p.m.), "Birding for First Timers" meets at the North Shelter in the Cape May Point State Park.

Special programs and field trips in addition to those already mentioned follow (prices vary: call 609-861-0700 for info and to register): . CMBO's 10th ANNUAL OPTICS SALE for CMBO or NJ Audubon members ONLY (become a member today to take advantage of the great deals!) - Saturday & Sunday, March 19-20 (9-4:30 p.m.) . Birding 101, Saturday, April 16 (10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) with Mark Garland. . Weekend Field Trip to Chincoteague, April 23-24, with Mark Garland. . Introduction to Spring Wildflower ID, Sunday, May 1 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with Mark Garland . Hessel's Hairstreak field trip, Sat., May 7 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with Pat Sutton & Rick Radis . Listening to the Night, Monday, May 9 (9 to 11 p.m.) with Mark Garland and Chris Vogel

Many other programs are scheduled for 2005; contact either CMBO Center for a copy of the spring Kestrel Express, which features the schedule, or go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

NJ's Fish and Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program is looking for volunteers to assist with the Annual Fencing Days to protect endangered beach nesting birds (Piping Plovers, Least Terns and Black Skimmers. Fencing nesting habitat reduces disturbance as the birds are establishing territory and protects the vulnerable ground nests once eggs are laid. This project is perfect for those who are unable to make a long-term commitment. Each fencing date only requires a few hours of mildly strenuous work (pounding posts, placing rope and signage). Fencing dates this year include Saturday, March 26th at 10am at Cape May Point State Park and Saturday, April 2nd at 10am at Stone Harbor Point. Contact Christina Kisiel, 609.628.2103 or ckisiel@gtc3.com, for questions and to register.

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 for which advanced registration is required. To receive a copy of the Winter or Spring Program Schedules (the Kestrel Express), stop at either CMBO Center, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

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 Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties. Updates are typically made on Thursdays. Please report your natural history sightings to CMBO's Center in Goshen at 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

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