Cape May Natural History Hotline - 4/15/2004

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 update was made on Thursday, April 15. 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.

The Cape's first RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD was seen today, April 15, at the CMBO Center in Goshen at a feeder. It was a male; they're the first to migrate north. Joponica or Flowering Quince has just begun to bloom, one of the hummingbird's favorite spring nectar sources and the tell-tale sign that they're due! Hummingbird may also be following migrant YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS north and feeding on their sap flows and the insects attracted to them and on fruit trees just beginning to bloom. To see just how far north Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have migrated, go to: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html

If you are eager to make your backyard more attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, birds, and wildlife in general, CMBO has just the selection of workshops for you. On April 17, Pat Sutton and Karen Williams will teach a day of "Backyard Habitat Mini-Workshops" designed for beginners at the CMBO Center in Goshen. Sign up for all 3 one-hour workshops or just one or two: "Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardening," "Basics of Backyard Habitat,"and "Designing a Wildlife Habitat." Slide presentations will feature backyard gardens and key plants! Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register or learn more! Too, don't miss CMBO's 7th Annual Plant Swap for Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens on April 24 (call 861-0700).

CMBO will 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 to register or stop by either center to request the Nikon School of Birding brochure. An "Optics Workshop" will be taught by Scott Edwards at the CMBO Northwood Center in Cape May Point on Saturday, May 8, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Call 609-861-0700 to register. This is an excellent opportunity to compare binoculars and telescopes side-by-side and learn what is best for you!

Hundreds of RED-THROATED LOONS are staging at the mouth of the Delaware Bay before migrating north, as they do each spring. The Concrete Ship is a great vantage point. Numbers change with the tides, so return off-and-on through the day. For the ultimate loon experience, join CMBO for "Cruisin' For Loons" on Sunday, April 25 (9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.), when Red-throated Loon numbers should be peaking and Common Loons in the back bay waters will be in breeding plumage & maybe even calling. Two "Sunset Cruises for Spring Migrants and Heron Rookeries" are scheduled for Saturday, May 1, and Wednesday, May 12, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., and still have room. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register, for these cruises. We've suffered through another week of glum, cold, rainy weather (except for the 10th and the morning of the 12th when a few migrants were seen), 4" of rain on April 13. But today, April 15, the sun has actually dared to come OUT! And the upcoming weekend will no doubt see the spring migration floodgates open wide! Come birding NOW, but also consider two very special workshops featuring the best of spring at Cape May: a 2-Day Bullet Workshop for WARBLERS on May 8-9 (Saturday & Sunday) and a 3-day Bullet Workshop at the peak of SPRING MIGRATION on May 18-20 (Tuesday thru Thursday). To learn more & download a registration form for these and other Cape May Birding Workshops, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html The "2004 Cape May Birding Workshop" brochure will reach CMBO members any day. For a free brochure, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

To learn how the recent rains and other weather systems affect bird migration, join Paul Lehman for his special "Weather and Bird Migration" program on Saturday, May 8, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the CMBO Center in Goshen. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register

In Belleplain State Forest and Peaslee Wildlife Management Area some breeding birds are back, in full song, chasing each other around, gathering nesting material, and generally very entertaining. Expect to enjoy many PINE WARBLERS, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLERS, CHIPPING and FIELD SPARROWS, a handful of LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, a few pairs of BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS, E. PHOEBE, and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, and singing, secretive E. TOWHEE just about everywhere you go. Numbers will probably build for all these breeders this weekend and other breeders will arrive. Some of the birds that wintered here and will breed far to the north are singing now, like YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, DARK-EYED JUNCOS, and HERMIT THRUSH. Treat yourself to Belleplain State Forest and nearby Peaslee WMA by joining CMBO Associate Naturalists on four weekly, 3-hour walks, all beginning at 7:30 a.m., and all meeting at the Belleplain State Forest Field Office, just off Rt. 550, west of Woodbine: (1) every Thursday and (2) every Saturday the "Birds of Belleplain State Forest," (3) every Monday the "Back Trails of Belleplain," and (4) every Wednesday the "Birds of Peaslee WMA."

Nummy's Island on CMBO's Wednesday evening walk, April 14, was a joy: very birdy and NO traffic! SNOWY EGRETS and GREAT EGRETS were plentiful (undoubtedly new arrivals since the severe winter killed off any that tried to winter here); 2 LITTLE BLUE HERONS (1st of the spring!), 15 roosting BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS, OSPREY at their nest, many pairs of noisy WILLET (just back!) and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, several vocal CLAPPER RAILS (new arrivals, since the few that tried to winter probably died), a din of LAUGHING GULLS, vocal and hunting FORSTER'S TERNS, numbers of noisy BOAT-TAILED GRACKLES, 20+ COMMON LOONS in Hereford Inlet, 60 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, a few BUFFLEHEAD, 3 LONG-TAILED DUCKS in breeding plumage (dark and not nearly as spectacular as their winter plumage), a pair of BLUE-WINGED TEAL, and a numbers of BRANT. There were also lots of shorebirds, including the first WHIMBREL of the spring (2), 50 DUNLIN (some even showing some dark feathering coming in on their lower belly), 30+ BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, 7 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, and a few SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. Three excellent opportunities to see the riches of the marshes follow: (1) every Tuesday, "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point & Nummy's Island" meets at 6:00 p.m. in the Stone Harbor Point parking lot at the south end of Stone Harbor, (2) every Wednesday, "Nummy's Island Bird Walk" meets at 4:30 p.m. on the Nummy's Island road shoulder just north of the toll bridge by the first "Speed Limit 50" sign (take North Wildwood Boulevard to Ocean Drive; cross toll bridge -- ignore "Bridge OUT" sign), (3) Friday, April 16, "Clapper Rail Madness" meets at 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville.

A new BALD EAGLE nest was built at Beaver Swamp WMA in late December. It is only 2 minutes up Sluice Creek from the CMBO Center in Goshen (see the CMBO Birding & Butterflying Map for directions). Just today, April 15, the adult in the nest was sitting higher and looking down into the nest, so perhaps the young have hatched. This is one of 38 active nests in NJ, many of which now have newly hatched young they are feeding. Three other pairs laid eggs but have already failed, one when the nest blew out of the tree during a wind storm in mid-March. There are four other pairs probably nesting, but impossible to monitor.

On April 14, the CMBO Cape May Point walk enjoyed CASPIAN TERNS, PURPLE MARTIN, AMERICAN BITTERN, CHIMNEY SWIFT, and LAPLAND LONGSPUR, among other birds. Eleven PURPLE MARTINS have returned to the martin housing at the Cape May Point State Park. To experience birding south of the Cape May Canal each of the following walks meets at 7:30 a.m.: (1) every Friday, "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" meets in the parking lot at the west end of New England Road, (2) every Saturday, "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" meets in the parking lot on Bayshore Road, (3) every Sunday, "Hidden Valley for Birds & Butterflies" meets in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England road, 0.3 miles past the intersection with Bayshore Road, (4) every Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" meets at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (5) every Wednesday, " Birding Cape May Point" meets in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park. If you're a beginner, join Mark Garland every Thursday for "Easy Birding" (9:00-11:00 a.m.), meeting on the Wildlife Viewing Platform in Cape May Point State Park. And to explore the Cape May NWR's newest acquisition, be sure to consider every Tuesday's walk "Spring at Two Mile Beach," which meets at 7:30 a.m. in the last parking area on the left in the refuge, which lies to the east of Ocean Drive just south of Wildwood Crest.

The cold, wet week was quiet for butterflies except on April 10 when the sun came out and SPRING AZURE and HENRY'S ELFIN were seen in Belleplain and at Beaver Swamp WMA. Today's sunny weather (April 15) also resulted in HENRY'S ELFIN and SPRING AZURE (two spring specialties) and CABBAGE WHITES and SULPHURS. One wonders if they survived all the rain or emerged with today's warmth? Every Wednesday, a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" with Pat Sutton meets at 1:00 p.m. in the parking lot at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville, and focuses on spring specialties. Pat Sutton and Rick Radis will lead a special field trip to see "Hessel's Hairstreaks and Swamp Pinks" on Saturday, May 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. A few spaces remain; call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register. To learn of the Monarchs' migration north, go to Journey North's very educational site at: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/spring2004/monarch/index.html Another excellent site is Monarch Watch: http://www.monarchwatch.org/update

The 4" of warm spring rains on April 13 triggered a fun natural history event, the emergence and breeding / calling of EASTERN SPADEFOOT TOADS in Goshen and no doubt elsewhere. They have the shortest development period of any frog or toad; from egg to land-dwelling subadult takes as few as 12-13 days. During years of drought Spadefoots may remain torpid burrowed underground and only come to the surface after warm, heavy rains like we had on April 13.

TRAILING ARBUTUS is beginning to bloom on woodland trails in Belleplain State Forest. In yards DAFFODILS, FORSYTHIA, and some fruit trees are in bloom. LILAC is in bud. SHADBUSH is leafing out. SPICEBUSH is in bud. During the rains APPLE RUST balls on Red Cedar trees were swollen and gelatinous-like. Red Cedar is the host for Apple Rust, which does not hurt cedar trees but does affect the fruit and leaves of nearby fruit trees. CMBO invites gardeners (no experience necessary) to help maintain our wildlife gardens at the Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North). Join Karen Williams each Friday, 9:30 a.m. to noon, for a weekly "Garden Maintenance Workshop," where you work in the CMBO gardens while learning from Karen about gardening for wildlife. Karen will also be available every Friday for "Wildlife Garden Advice" (1:00-4:00 p.m.) to assist with plant purchases & general wildlife garden questions.

"FINE FEATHERS: Selected Works of Prominent North American Bird Artists" is now on display at CMBO's Center in Goshen (open daily: 9-4:30) featuring works by John Sill, Sophie Webb, Julie Zickefoose, Keith Hansen, Jonathan Alderfer, Mimi Hoppe Wolf, and Cynthia House to name a few!

NJ Audubon's incredible 3-day Cape May Spring Weekend will be held May 21-23. To learn more & download a registration form, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.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).


Two dates are set to erect fencing for Beach Nesting Birds: (1) Saturday April 17 at Barnegat Light (meet 10 a.m. at Barnegat Light State Park parking lot) and (2) Sunday April 18 at Stone Harbor Point (meet 1 p.m. at municipal parking lot at southern end of Stone Harbor Borough). Held rain or shine, unless really nasty rain! Please RSVP to Todd Pover at 609-628-2103 or bnb@gtc3.com if you plan to help out. Directions available from Todd if needed.

Want to help the Red Knots as they concentrate on our beaches along the Delaware Bay this spring? Sign up as a Shorebird Steward (full details on back page of CMBO's Spring Program schedule). A training session will be held on Saturday, May 8, and a stipend will be paid to those who complete the training and work at least 3 days. Contact Larissa Smith (609-628-2103) to apply or send a letter of interest (and resume if available) to Larissa Smith, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, 2201 Route 631, Woodbine, NJ 08270.

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!

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