Cape May Natural History Hotline - 4/11/2003
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 Friday, April 11. 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."

A week of rain and cold play havoc with some wildlife. Insect eating birds like the PURPLE MARTIN "scouts" and swallows that arrived 10 days or so ago may be on the verge of starvation, if not already dead. Butterflies that emerged 10 days or so ago have not been able to fly in this weather, so they too have perhaps died. Many birds and butterflies we expected to see by now, have been held up in their migration or emergence by this lengthy stretch of spring showers and lingering wintery weather. No butterflies were reported this week, but clear (& cold) conditions on April 6th produced the spring's first GREEN DARNER at the Cape May Point State Park. We'll be hopeful for better weather next week and hope you can join us two special walks. Join Pat Sutton every Wednesday (10 a.m.-Noon) for a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" near Dennisville and /or Louise Zemaitis for the "Hidden Valley for Birds & Butterflies" walk every Sunday (7-9 a.m.). Butterflying in early spring is challenging. Nectar is almost non-existent. One important nectar source in early spring is the delicate blooms of RED MAPLE trees, still eye-catching.

Allergies are bothersome right now and apparently partially due to microscopic pollen from RED CEDAR trees (Juniper viginiana) and Maples. Male Red Cedar trees are almost yellow in appearance right now with the cones at branch tips swollen and in full flower. With all this wet weather you're probably also noticing ball-shaped brown galls on cedars that look like something from outer space after rains with orange gelatinous-like wiggly arms extending from them. This is "APPLE RUST," a fungus that needs Red Cedar to live on.

This time of year is magical as SEASONS OVERLAP. Here on the Jersey Shore a brief outing spans winter, spring, and summer. It is the middle of the nesting season for some birds, like GREAT HORNED OWL and BALD EAGLE, both species are already raising sizable young. For other birds it is the very beginning of the nesting season and courtship. OSPREY (who have just returned from their winter quarters far to the south in South America) are already paired up, on nearly all the nests in the area, adding new nest material, and wheeling around in courtship flight. Each nice day new spring migrants are arriving. AMERICAN WOODCOCK are courting & still being heard at least light "peenting" and doing their display flight at Higbee Beach WMA (April 4). All of a sudden we're seeing GREAT & SNOWY EGRETS and GLOSSY IBIS in nearly all the marshes and flying across the county through the day in sizable groups. Simultaneously many birds that wintered here are still here in good numbers and will linger for some time because their breeding sites way to the north are still under snow. The Avalon Seawatch is a great place to still study COMMON LOON, SCOTERS, and LONG-TAILED DUCK and the back bay waters behind Avalon, Stone Harbor, and the Wildwoods are full of BRANT, RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, BUFFLEHEAD, and RED-THROATED LOONS. Every outing is a blending of winter, spring, and summer birds. Enjoy it while you can! CMBO's very special and popular "Cruisin for Loons" trip on Saturday, April 26 (12:30 to 5 p.m.), is scheduled to enjoy both Red-throated Loons and Common Loons (some in full breeding plumage). Sign up (spaces limited) by calling (609) 861-0700, x-11.

BARRED OWLS are nesting now in the wet woods of New Jersey, places like Belleplain State Forest and Great Cedar Swamp. 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 are chronicled with photos, diary accounts, and a sound library: http://www.owlcam.com Cape May Bird Observatory's "Cape May National Wildlife Refuge Field Trip" on Saturday, April 12 (1:00 to 4:00 p.m.) will explore the refuge's "Great Cedar Swamp Division," an area that stretches from Dennisville north to Route 50 and beyond up Cedar Swamp Creek. Spaces are limited; call (609) 861-0700, x-11 to register.

37 pairs of BALD EAGLES are nesting in New Jersey. Eggs are hatching every day! Since late March CMBO has been offering "Maurice River Bald Eagle Cruises" and regularly seeing 9+ Bald Eagles on these trips, including one pair on a nest (busy feeding young now), a second pair building a nest, and a third pair sitting side-by-side. The last trip of the season on Sunday, April 13 (10 am. to 12:30 p.m.) still has room; call (609) 861-0700, x-11 to register.

CLAPPER RAILS are returning to the tidal salt marshes. Their calls will soon be defening as they begin their breeding season. Join Pat Sutton for one of the specially arranged "Clapper Rail Madness" programs to actually see these very secretive birds: Friday, April 18 (5:30 to 7:00 p.m.); Friday, April 25 (12:30 to 2:00 p.m.); Saturday, April 26 (1:30 to 3:00 p.m.); call (609) 861-0700, x-11 to register.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are not YET here, and have no doubt been held up by the cold, wet weather this past week. The "migration map" on http://www.hummingbirds.net shows them very close in northern Maryland on April 10. Further inland they're already north to southern Michigan. So, they're CLOSE! Get your feeders up. Very little is in bloom for hummingbirds right now, so feeders are the key if you hope they'll nest in your yard. Of course, be sure to also provide a lush butterfly & hummingbird garden, but that won't be in bloom till later.

Bird song began in mid-March, slowly of course. Each week confusion will build as new arrivals join in. Pine & Yellow-throated Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, & E. Phoebes are all on territory in Belleplain State Forest. The "Birds of Belleplain State Forest" walk every Thursday and every Saturday (7:30-10:30 a.m.) is a MUST! And if you seriously want to learn bird songs join Pat Sutton for "Birding by Ear Walk" each Wednesday, 7:30-9:30 a.m.

Flocks of WILD TURKEYS, including displaying males, are being seen near Centerton, along Haleyville Road, and on Turkey Point Road in Cumberland County.

CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen is gearing up for CMBO's "6th Annual Plant Swap & Plant Sale for Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens" Saturday, April 26 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Begin potting up your favorite perennials as you divide them and bring them on April 26! 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. A great way to get design ideas is by attending CMBO 1st ever "Spring Tour of Private Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens," on Saturday, May 3 (1-4 p.m.); sign up (spaces are limited) by calling (609) 861-0700, x-11. If you'd like to learn as you help CMBO maintain its gardens in Goshen, join Karen Williams on Fridays (9:30 a.m.-Noon) for "Garden Maintenance Workshops." Plant divisions are often delightful payment for your labor and having a chance to learn so much from Karen as you work.

The Cape May Bird Observatory's spring walks have begun in force. In addition to the walks already mentioned, additional regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration and will help you witness spring unfolding include: "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" every Friday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" every Saturday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Raptors and Songbirds of Delaware Bayshore" every Sunday (8-10 a.m.), "Birding for First Timers" every Sunday (1-3 p.m.), "Mondays at the Meadows" every Monday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Birding Cape May Point" every Wednesday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Spring at Two Mile Beach" every Wednesday (2-4 p.m.), "The Nature of Cape May" every Thursday (9-11 a.m.). Full details about cost & meeting place can be found at NJ Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

CMBO's full listing of spring programs (April - June) is posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html 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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