Cape May Natural History Hotline - 4/17/2003
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 Thursday, April 17. 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."

After an almost solid week of cold and rain the sun finally appeared Saturday afternoon, April 12th and lasted through the 16th. The sun's warmth worked magic. Butterflies emerged and were dazzling. HENRY'S, BROWN, and PINE ELFINS are being seen on the sandy roads of Belleplain State Forest and were seen on CMBO's "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" with Pat Sutton at the Dennisville RR tracks on April 16. This walk is offered every Wednesday, from 10 a.m.-Noon. This week saw the spring's first OLIVE' JUNIPER HAIRSTREAK (looking like it had just emerged) near Dennisville and the first AMERICAN COPPER (Cape May Point State Park). SPRING AZURES are abundant, as are CABBAGE WHITES. A very tattered PAINTED LADY was seen April 14 along the Delaware Bay at Thompson's Beach, a migrant since Painted Ladies can winter no further north than Mexico. Dragonfly sightings have been sparse with the cold and wet conditions, though a few GREEN DARNERS have been seen and the spring's first BLUE CORPORALS were seen April 16.

A BEAVER was found dead on Sunset Boulevard near the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge on April 6, a most amazing sighting for south of the Canal and a mammal that was not known to occur any further south than Beaver Swamp WMA in South Dennis. A HARBOR SEAL was seen April 12 near St. Mary's Jetty in Cape May Point.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS have returned to New Jersey, just as FLOWERING QUINCE (or Joponica) is blooming. Fun how the blooming of this plant signals the arrival of hummingbirds to our area each spring. The first sighting near Cape May was on April 13, followed by a sprinkling of other sightings, all males (they're always the first to arrive). The "migration map" on http://www.hummingbirds.net shows their progress north. Be sure to get your feeders up, especially if you hope they'll nest in your yard. Don't forget to thoroughly clean feeders at least once a week, even if use is minimal. And of course be sure to also provide a lush butterfly & hummingbird garden. CMBO's Center for Research & Education in Goshen will host its "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.

A small native tree with dainty white flowers is blooming now and catching the eye. It's called SHADBUSH because it blooms when the Shad are running up the Delaware Bay. It's also known as JUNEBERRY, since it fruits in June when 26 different birds feed on the fruits. PIXIE MOSS (a Pine Barrens speciality at the northern limit of its range), SWAMP PINK (an Endangered Plant in New Jersey), and TRAILING ARBUTUS (found along the sandy woods trails of Belleplain State Forest) are all in bloom right now.

FOWLER'S TOADS started calling this week, sounding like a baby wailing (waaaaaaaaaaa) and their eggs were found in CMBO's dragonfly pond on April 16.

Several sightings of SHORT-EARED OWLS this week were a surprise. On April 16th, one hunted in full daylight at Jakes Landing from 7:30 to 8 a.m. and a 2nd appeared briefly, and later the same day one hunted in full sunlight at Forsythe NWR (Brig). Another was seen April 12th in the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. No doubt migrants, but one can only hope that this endangered breeder in New Jersey will perhaps be found nesting again in some of their historic nest sites.

This time of year is magical as SEASONS OVERLAP. Here on the Jersey Shore a brief outing spans winter, spring, and summer. Many winter birds can still be found in good numbers in the backbay waterways, at the Avalon Seawatch, along the oceanfront, and in Cape May Harbor. Some of these winter birds are molting into breeding plumage, a treat to see because they'll soon be gone (COMMON and RED-THROATED LOON, HORNED and RED-NECKED GREBE for example). Spring migration is surprising us each day with new arrivals. And many birds are courting: look for flocks of WILD TURKEYS, including displaying males, and paired up N. HARRIER displaying or "sky dancing"(seen at Jakes Landing April 13). And summer seems upon us with the din of LAUGHING GULLS and WILLET calling from the marshes, and as flocks of herons, egrets, and GLOSSY IBIS crisscross the peninsula. BALD EAGLE chicks are one to two months old and becoming visible in the 35 active nests in New Jersey.

Enjoy this mix of seasons 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. Sign up (spaces limited) by calling (609) 861-0700, x-11. CLAPPER RAILS are back and their calls will soon be deafening as they begin their breeding season. Join Pat Sutton or Judy Lukens 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.); Friday, May 2 (5 to 6:30 p.m.); call (609) 861-0700, x-11 to register. A "Sunset Cruise for Spring Migrants and Heron Rookeries" on Saturday, May 3 (3-7 p.m.), should be spectacular. Sign up (spaces limited) by calling (609) 861-0700, x-11.

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.) and the "Back Trails of Belleplain" walk every Monday (7:30-9:30 a.m.) are 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.

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.), "Hidden Valley for Birds & Butterflies" every Sunday (7-9 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.), "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point & Nummy's Island" every Tuesday (6 p.m. to dusk), "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.

New Jersey Audubon Society's 20th Annual World Series of Birding has a record 71 teams signed up so far and will be held on Saturday, May 10th, 2003. This event draws teams from all over the country and offers a forum for groups to raise money for their respective conservation causes. To learn more go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/wsb).

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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