Cape May Natural History Hotline - 4/23/2004

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 Friday, April 23, and will next be updated on Thursday, May 6. 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.

Days with temperatures in the 70s and 80s have produced butterflies, dragonflies, tiger beetles, and sunbathing snakes, frogs, & turtles. On cold, overcast days, though, they're all impossible to find.

COMMON GREEN DARNER reports have come in from all over, probably immigrants from the south (though some do overwinter in our ponds). MANTLED BASKETTAILS, BLUE CORPORALS, and FRAGILE FORKTAILS are also flying now.

On April 20 a SLEEPY ORANGE was seen in Cumberland County on Robbinstown Road. This sighting, coupled with three seen spring 2002 proves that they can sometimes overwinter this far north. Other butterflies seen this week include: E. TIGER SWALLOWTAIL (1st on 4/19), CABBAGE WHITES, FALCATE ORANGETIPS (since 4/18 in Belleplain, Woodbine, & Goshen), CLOUDED SULPHURS, ORANGE SULPHURS, AMERICAN COPPER, BROWN ELFINS (#s), FROSTED ELFINS (4/17), HENRY'S ELFINS (#s), E. PINE ELFINS, HOARY ELFINS (20 on 4/18 near Warren Grove in the Pine Barrens), OLIVE' JUNIPER HAIRSTREAK, GRAY HAIRSTREAK, WHITE-M HAIRSTREAK (4/20 at Higbee Beach), E. TAILED BLUE, SPRING' SPRING AZURES (#s), ATLANTIC' SPRING AZURES (#s), QUESTION MARKS (laying eggs on Hops & Hackberry trees), E. COMMA, MOURNING CLOAK, AMERICAN LADY (immigrants repopulating the area), PAINTED LADY (immigrants repopulating the area), RED ADMIRAL (immigrants repopulating the area by laying eggs on Stinging Nettle in gardens), MONARCH (flyby at Higbee Beach on 4/17), and JUVENAL'S DUSKYWING. Every Wednesday, a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" with Pat Sutton (or Mark Garland) meets at 1:00 p.m. in the parking lot at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville, and focuses on spring specialties.

If you are eager to make your backyard more attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, birds, and wildlife in general, be sure to come to CMBO's Th Annual Plant Swap for Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens on Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. at the CMBO Center for Research & Education (600 Rt. 47 North) in Goshen. Seasoned gardeners will be sharing divisions of their favorite plants. Bring 3 plants for the CMBO gardens and for each additional plant you will go home with a new "to you" plant! If you don't have plants to bring, you can still buy plants in the Plant Swap for $1/each (limit of 3/person). Too, a lovely selection of wildlife plants is now on sale at CMBO's center in Goshen. Selection changes weekly, so stop by often! CMBO invites gardeners (no experience necessary) to help maintain CMBO's 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.

Blooming DANDELION is attracting butterflies. BEACH PLUM bushes are beginning to bloom and are a favorite with nectaring hairstreaks. Blooming HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY is drawing in hummingbirds. SHADBUSH is in bloom along roadshoulders all over the County (a small tree or large shrub with clusters of dainty white flowers), named Shadbush because they bloom when Shad are running or moving up the Delaware Bay into the Delaware River. SASSAFRAS trees are in bud and very eye-catching with their sizable clumps of yellow-green buds. GOLDEN CLUB and BULLHEAD LILY are beginning to bloom in freshwater ponds like East Creek Lake. SWAMP PINK is in bloom in wet woods of South Jersey, a Federally Endangered plant. Join Rick Radis & Pat Sutton on Saturday, May 8, for a "Hessel's Hairstreak & Swamp Pink Field Trip" in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. There are a few places left (call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register).

Toasty temperatures on April 19 brought out sunbathing snakes: BLACK RAT SNAKES, N. WATER SNAKES, and GARTER SNAKES. CARPENTER FROGS are calling their hammer-like calls at East Creek Lake, Head of River, and Beaver Swamp WMA. SPRING PEEPERS are deafening. FOWLER'S TOADS are calling their wailing "waaaaaaaaaa." S. LEOPARD FROGS are in CMBO's pond in Goshen. PINE BARREN'S TREEFROGS were calling on April 22.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD are daily now. The first few were seen April 15 at the CMBO Center in Goshen and near Hidden Valley, and then at feeders in Eldora, Woodbine, and Port Norris on April 17. They are daily now IF you have feeders hung. So little is in bloom that feeders are essential if you hope to attract nesting birds. To see just how far north Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have migrated, go to: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html

So much is happening in the natural world now. N. HARRIER were seen "sky dancing" on April 16 at Jakes Landing, a spectacular breeding display! A SHORT-EARED OWL was hunting the marsh across the creek at Jakes Landing the evening of April 15. BARRED OWLS are on nests and being heard calling, one at 10 p.m. at Corbin City WMA on April 22 and one at Higbee Beach on April 17 at Noon. Sometimes they'll respond to a Noon-day whistle. GREAT HORNED OWLS laid eggs in late January and have fairly large young now. A nest with two fluffy young owlets was just discovered in the marsh off the end of Goshen Landing Road on an Osprey Platform (park at the last house and walk to the road end because the deep puddles in this road are saltwater). Look from a distance; please do not walk across the marsh to the nest and disturb it! CHUCK WILLS-WIDOWS and WHIP-POOR-WILLS have just arrived and can now be heard through the night and pre-dawn. E. BLUEBIRDS are using the nest boxes at Woodcock Lane in the Cape May NWR. PURPLE MARTINS are back at the nesting colony at the Cape May Point State Park, but have not yet returned to the CMBO colony in Goshen. COMMON LOONS are being seen inland migrating high overhead during the day (4/16 over Belleplain and 4/21 over Peaslee). OSPREY are incubating eggs now at their nest at Jakes Landing Road and on Nummy's Island. A din of CLAPPER RAILS can be heard on the saltmarshes and a great way to see them and learn about them are the Friday "Clapper Rail Madness" programs at Jakes Landing Road (1-2:30 p.m. on April 30, 5-6:30 p.m. on May 7, and 1-2:30 p.m. on May 14). GREAT EGRETS have returned to Armacost Park in Avalon to nest after an absence of several years! A BROAD-WINGED HAWK was at Cold Spring on April 17. Maybe a breeding bird just returned!

There are now 40 active Bald Eagle nests in New Jersey! Many chicks have hatched and adults can be watched feeding the young. Some nests have sizable young that are becoming more and more visible as they grow. A new nest is at Beaver Swamp WMA, just north of the CMBO center in Goshen. It can be seen from the parking lot and from the walking dike.

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! There are still spaces; call 609-861-0700 to register. Two "Sunset Cruises for Spring Migrants and Heron Rookeries" still have room on Saturday, May 1, and on Wednesday, May 12, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for these cruises.

The spring migration flood gates have opened! 13 species of warblers and 3 species of vireo were seen in Belleplain State Forest on April 20, plus BLUE GROSBEAK and SUMMER TANAGER. INDIGO BUNTING and BLUE GROSBEAK were back at Higbee Beach on April 15. PROTHONOTARY WARBLER was back in Belleplain & Peaslee on April 17 and at the Rea Farm on April 18 (all breeding sites). HOODED, WORM-EATING, and BLUE-WINGED WARBLER were back in Belleplain on April 20.

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."

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.) and Judy Lukens every Sunday for "Birding for First Timers" (1-3 p.m.), both 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.

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.

Nummy's Island on CMBO's Wednesday evening walk, April 21, was a joy: very birdy and NO traffic! GREAT CORMORANT and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT perched side-by-side on nearby pilings in full razzle-dazzle breeding plumage! SNOWY and GREAT EGRETS, LITTLE BLUE HERONS, 15 roosting BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS, OSPREY at their nest, noisy WILLET and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, constant CLAPPER RAILS calling, LAUGHING GULLS in full breeding plumage (a beautiful pink wash on their chest!), FORSTER'S TERNS paired up and feeding each other, numbers of noisy BOAT-TAILED GRACKLES, COMMON LOONS in the back bay waters, a few RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, and a numbers of BRANT. There were also lots of shorebirds, including 20+ WHIMBREL, 50 DUNLIN (some even showing some dark feathering coming in on their lower belly), 30+ BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, and a few SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. Two 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).

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

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!

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).

"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!


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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