Cape May Natural History Hotline - 3/4/2004

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 on Thursday, March 4. 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.

An amazing raft of scoters, now numbering 30-50,000, continues off Cape May Point near the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Some of the close-to-shore flocks of BLACK SCOTERS (mostly males with a few females) can be heard giving their whistle "cree"calls. SURF SCOTER & WHITE-WINGED SCOTER are further out. Also treat yourself to the amazing appearance of RAZORBILLS this winter. The St. Mary's jetty in Cape May Point attracted 4 on March 1 and 2 on March 3, along with a female HARLEQUIN DUCK. CMBO's February 29th field trip to the Cape May NWR's Two Mile Beach Unit walked to the Cold Spring Jetty and enjoyed Harlequin Ducks (6), Razorbills (2), GREAT CORMORANT (5), and many COMMON LOONS. Needing no preregistration, " Birding Cape May Point" meets every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. in the raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park -- a great way to see some of these goodies! Another great way to witness this is the Friday, March 19, "Birding From the Ferry" with Mark Garland (call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register).

If you've looked for some of the fun birds mentioned on CMBO's 2 hotlines and failed to find them, be sure to go with CMBO naturalists on scheduled walks. These folks are out every day and know where "just about" everything is! Or . . . could it be your optics? Don't miss the Sunday, March 7, "Optics Workshop" at the CMBO Center in Goshen (1-3 p.m.). And, open to members (join now & come!), CMBO's Annual Optics Sale on Saturday & Sunday, March 20-21, will have many, many spectacular "deals"! Call 609-861-0700 for details.

RED-THROATED LOONS are gathering at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, something they do each year in late winter. Scan from the Concrete Ship or any beach in Cape May Point or Cape May City. Numbers will continue to grow. Join CMBO 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).

In New Jersey (as of March 4) thirty pairs of BALD EAGLES (of the 45 pairs in the state) are now incubating eggs. The first pair laid eggs on February 4th and some pairs may not lay until mid-March. On February 10, one eagle nest was found to have a pair of Great Horned Owls nesting in it -- which happens, since they do not build their own nest and an empty Bald Eagle nest looks mighty fine to a Great Horned Owl.

One of the new pairs of Bald Eagles is at Beaver Swamp WMA, up Sluice Creek from CMBO's Center in Goshen. Sometime in December they built a huge nest that is visible from the parking lot and the walking dike, on the back side of the freshwater lake impounded by the walking dike. On March 3, while the adults sat side-by-side on the ground near their nest, two other Bald Eagles chased each other across the sky (a sub-adult chased off a white-bellied immature). About five minutes later the sub-adult came back, soared over the lake, and, talons down, dropped into the nest. That woke up the 2 adults. One quickly rose to the occasion and escorted the sub-adult out of the area. That evening they snuggled side-by-side and at 5:30 p.m. copulated! We're hoping they'll soon lay eggs. If so, boating activity will not be permitted there. Treat yourself & go take a look & be sure to keep us posted by jotting down in CMBO's sighting sheets the behavior you see. Once one of the adults is always on the nest, we will know that they've laid eggs. The NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program would like to hear from you if you should see signs of nesting eagles, especially if it's a new location that they do not already know about (call them at 609-628-2103).

CMBO has 7 "Bald Eagle Cruises" (with openings still) that will sail the wild and scenic Maurice River and enjoy Bald Eagles, Osprey, swallows, waterfowl and sail right by an active Bald Eagle nest (where the eggs are due to hatch mid-March). The following 2 =BD hour trips have openings, but are filling quickly: March 20 (10 a.m.), March 20 (1 p.m.), March 21 (10 a.m.), March 27 (1 p.m.), March 28 (10 a.m.), April 3 (10 a.m.), and April 4 (10 a.m.) -- call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register. "Birding Cumberland -- The Cohansey River" field trip with Clay and Pat Sutton on Saturday, March 13 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., will explore another eagle-rich river system with 9 active Bald Eagle nests! Four spaces remain; call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register.

AMERICAN WOODCOCK are displaying now during a brief and magical window each evening between @ 6:10 and 6:30 p.m. and every dawn around 6:00 a.m. Their faint calls and twitters, preceded by the nasal "peent," is an auditory MUST in spring. If you've never witnessed this display be sure to take advantage of CMBO offerings. The March 6 "Woodcock Dance" field trip is full, but there are many other opportunities needing no preregistration: (1) every Wednesday (March 10-24), Mark Garland will lead "Woodcock, Owls, and Frogs" at 5:00 p.m., meeting at Higbee Beach WMA at the end of New England Road. On February 29, two Woodcock displayed there while 2 BARRED OWLS and a GREAT HORNED OWL hooted! (2) every Friday (now through March 26), "Winter Evenings 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. 2 AMERICAN BITTERNS were seen there on February 27. (3) every Sunday (now through March 28), "Nightfall at Jakes Landing" meets at 4:30 p.m. at the end of Jakes Landing Road. Three Woodcock display there nightly with Great Horned Owls hooting in the background. Also during this walk out on the marsh: E. MEADOWLARKS singing and SHORT-EARED OWL hunting (2/29/04). To help with an American Woodcock breeding survey on the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge (April 10-30), call Heidi Hanlon, the refuge's wildlife biologist, at (609) 463-0994.

LONG-EARED OWLS were gone from winter roosts along the Delaware Bayshore on February 28. And the night of March 3rd Long-eareds were heard (and seen) flying over Eldora and, believe it or not, over the parking lot at the Hamilton Mall! BARN OWLS are still at their winter roosts; probably these birds are the lucky ones that survived this severe winter and will nest somewhere near their roost site.

Waterfowl is IN! A survey of the Great Egg Harbor River (which includes both the Corbin City WMA and Tuckahoe WMA) on March 3 found 500 N. PINTAIL, 1,000 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 7,000 SCAUP, 900 BUFFLEHEAD, 60 COMMON GOLDENEYE, 30 HOODED MERGANSER, 20 COMMON MERGANSER, and 170 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. Mergansers and teal, 4 TUNDRA SWAN, a COMMON LOON in breeding plumage, an active Bald Eagle nest, and a dark ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK were all enjoyed on February 29 during the "Sunday Mornings at Turkey Point" walk (which meets every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. at the end of Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County).

RED-TAILED HAWKS are in pairs, and entertaining with dramatic courtship flights. They'll soon be on nests. Woodpeckers are drumming to declare their nesting territory. WILD TURKEYS were gobbling on March 1. KILLDEER returned on March 2 and could be heard calling from potential nest sites. MOURNING DOVES are cooing. Flocks of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS are singing their spring song: Konk-a-reee. A number of our winter birds will soon leave for their northern breeding grounds, but in the meantime enjoy their spring songs. DARK-EYED JUNCOS were calling March 4. WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS have been singing for some time.

The toasty warm temperatures of the past week reached into the mid-50s and 60s and woke up butterflies (QUESTION MARKS and E. COMMA on February 29 and since, and MOURNING CLOAKS on March 3), turtles (sunning PAINTED TURTLES on March 1, RED-BELLIED and SPOTTED TURTLES on March 3), bats (hunting mid-day on March 1 and evenings since), and FROGS! On March 2, numbers of WOOD FROGS were seen hopping across a road in northern Cape May County. That afternoon 300 were calling (their calls sound like ducks quacking) from a vernal pond on Weatherby Road. A SPRING PEEPER was heard the same day! Wood Frogs since have been heard calling from freshwater pools in woods, like those at Beaver Swamp WMA and elsewhere. On March 2, a GREEN FROG was out and sunning at a backyard habitat pond.

CMBO's meadow was burnt on February 26, for the 2nd year in a row to try and get ahead of non-native grasses. It will be fun to see just how quickly it greens up. The warm temperatures got many of us out into our gardens. Consider helping CMBO for our spring "Garden Preparation" on the following Saturdays: March 6, April 3 (9:00 a.m. to Noon). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to sign up (lunch provided).

Every Saturday "Late Winter at the Rea Farm" (2:00-4:00 p.m.) meets in the parking lot on Bayshore Road (not at the Rea Farm produce stand on Stevens Street). RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, AMERICAN PIPIT, BLACK VULTURE, and RUSTY BLACKBIRD are all possible.

To sharpen your "Field Leadership Skills" consider attending this March 14 (1:00-4:00 p.m.) program with Mark Garland (call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register). 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 are nearly into South Carolina. 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! The first were seen February 25 in Florida and Alabama. By March 1 they'd arrived in southern Louisiana and Mississippi! To learn more, go to: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html

If you are wondering how our Monarchs are doing in Mexico, go to Monarch Watch's very educational web site: http://www.monarchwatch.org/update and to Journey North's site at: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/spring2004/monarch/index.html

February 2-11, biologists from the NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Program were in Chile in search of wintering shorebirds, especially Red Knot. Read about their trip via the 2004 journal at: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/chile/index.html

NJ Audubon's Cape May Spring Weekend will be held on May 21-23, 2004. This incredible 3-day event includes zillions of field trips, indoor workshops, field ID programs, back bay cruises, a mini-pelagic trip, celebrated speakers like Scott Weidensaul sharing "The Ghost with Trembling Wings: The Search for Lost Species," and excellent times with other nature lovers! All held at the peak of shorebirds feasting on Horseshoe Crab eggs, spring warblers breeding and migrating through, butterflies and dragonflies, gardening for wildlife, and more! To learn more & download a registration form, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html

If you are interested in volunteering with beached bird survey work along the NJ coast (to begin this spring) two training workshops will be held at the Wetlands Institute on Stone Harbor Boulevard (Friday, March 19, at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 20, at 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.). The project is called SEANET (Seabird Ecological Assessment Network), and is organized by Wildlife Trust & Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine in conjunction with NJ Audubon's Nature Center of Cape May, the Wetlands Institute, and Stockton College. If interested in volunteering, contact Linda Dill at 609-898-8848 (lindad@njaudubon.org) or Christina Watters at 609-368-1211 (research@wetlandsinstitite.org).

The NJ DEP's Endangered and Nongame Species Program is looking for volunteers to survey reptiles and amphibians throughout NJ this spring. Details on two remaining training seminars follow: #1 March 6 at Hackettstown Natural Resource Education Center (located within the Hackettstown Fish Hatchery), in Hackettstown (lecture: 9 a.m. - noon; field session: 1 - 3 p.m.); capacity: 80 persons. #2 March 13 at Lord Stirling Environmental Education Center, in Basking Ridge (lecture: 9 a.m. - noon; field session: 1 - 3 p.m.); capacity: 75 persons. Participants may register via e-mail at vernalpools@yahoo.com. Be sure to include the training seminar you wish to attend, name of attendee(s), your mailing address and telephone number. An e-mail containing registration confirmation and driving directions to the appropriate seminar will be sent back to you. Those without e-mail capabilities can call 908-735-8975 to register. For more information, visit the Division of Fish and Wildlife's website at: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/vernal

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!

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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