Cape May Natural History Hotline - 4/4/2002
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 4. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience). NJ Audubon's three hotlines can be read in full on NJ Audubon's web site (http://www.njaudubon.org) by clicking on "Sightings" at the top of any page. Now on with the hotline!

Many winter birds are still here, but beginning to show their breeding colors or in full breeding dress. And each day brings new spring arrivals. What a wonderful blending of seasons!

A COMMON LOON in full breeding plumage was enjoyed in Hereford Inlet from N. Wildwood on April 3, while a HORNED GREBE in full breeding plumage was enjoyed in Sunset Lake in Wildwood Crest the same day. Male AMERICAN GOLDFINCH are turning golden. Look for paired up N. HARRIERS on the Delaware Bayshore marshes. At Turkey Point (in Cumberland County) on March 29 a pair was sky dancing and vocalizing (whistling), and the female chased off another female and a COOPER'S HAWK. Also enjoyed at Turkey Point on March 29 was a dark morph ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (a lingering winter treat) and the GREAT HORNED OWL nest in an old Red-tailed Hawk nest, visible from the viewing platform at the end of the road. The very attentive female owl was observed getting "nibbled / bit" in the face by the hungry owlet.

Pairs of KILLDEER are still very vocal in farm fields all over Cape May County as they display near the sites they've chosen for nesting. With last week's full moon one pair was heard calling at 10:30 p.m. SNOW GEESE can still be found feeding in bright green farm fields planted in winter wheat that has recently turned bright green (a flock of over 500 in Goshen and a smaller flock at the Rea Farm). E. BLUEBIRDS are paired up & trying out houses hither and yon, including those in the meadow at CMBO's Center in Goshen. WOODPECKERS are drumming and calling near their potential nest hole; FLICKERS are loudly saying their name!

The Concrete Ship is a great place to experience the blending of seasons. BONAPARTE'S GULLS and RED-THROATED LOONS can still be seen there, along with LAUGHING GULLS and FORSTER'S TERNS now back in force from their wintering territories. Common Terns don't arrive in good numbers for another month (till late April) . . . so the confusion factor is at a minimum now and you can still "with certainty" say, "It's a Forster's Tern."

A trip aboard the Cape May Lewes Ferry right now is a must if you want to get the look of a lifetime at N. GANNETS. The new ferry boats, as they cross the Delaware Bay, are attracting several hundred gannets to their wake. And the birds are close.

Flocks of GLOSSY IBIS and sightings of TRICOLORED HERONS are a daily occurrence all over the Cape. MARSH WRENS, 2 pairs of BLUE-WINGED TEAL, good numbers of COMMON SNIPE (10 on 3/30), and calling VIRGINIA RAILS are being enjoyed in The Nature Conservancy's "Meadows" on Sunset Boulevard.

GREEN-WINGED TEAL are gathering at their favorite haunts as they stage before moving north to their breeding grounds through Canada. A flock of 200 was enjoyed at Thompson's Beach in Cumberland County on April 2.

CMBO's weekly walks have begun and have been treated to spring unfolding. The "Birds of the Deep South in Belleplain State Forest" walk on April 4 enjoyed many breeding birds already singing on territory, including: YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (sounding like a slurred or drunk Yellow Warbler) and PINE WARBLER (a slow musical trill on one pitch), LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, ACADIAN and GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER.

PURPLE MARTINS returned to some of the Martin houses at Cape May Point April 3, and CMBO's zip-zap new state-of-the art house built by CMBO volunteer, Dave Thomas, was opened for tenants today, April 4. So it will be fun to see how quickly they move in. The Purple Martin Conservation Association's web site maps their movement north in their "Scout Arrival Study": http://www.purplemartin.org As of today, April 4, this map showed Purple Martins scouting former colony sites as far north as the middle of Pennsylvania, all of NJ, and up the coast to eastern Connecticut.

The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota is tracking OSPREY migration, including several from South Jersey (2 from Stone Harbor & 1 from the Maurice River). http://www.raptor.cvm.umn.edu (then click on "Highway to the Tropics") Despite many of the Maurice River nests occupied by pairs of adults by March 23, this site's Maurice River bird was still in Brazil on April 1. One Osprey banded in Martha's Vineyard last June was still on the Venezuelan Coast on March 26, but this web site noted its fascinating movement north: Jamaica/Haiti on March 27, Cuba on March 28-30, Everglades Florida on March 31, and Orlando Florida on April 1.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are working their way up the Mississippi River (and were as far north as southern Illinois on April 3) and up the Atlantic Coast (and were as far north as southern Virginia on April 4) according to the wonderful hummingbird web site: http://www.hummingbirds.net

MONARCHS too are on the move. Journey North's web site details their northbound migration, along with that of many other species. As of April 4th this site noted Monarch sightings throughout Texas, some sightings in Oklahoma, Arkansas, one as far north as Kansas, and a number of sightings up the Gulf Coast into Louisiana, Mississippi, the Panhandle of Florida, and one sighting in northern Georgia, one in western North Carolina and 4 in coastal North Carolina. Follow their movement yourself on Journey North's site: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/spring2002/species/monarch/index.html

With warm temperatures quite a few butterflies are being seen now, especially days when the temperature is 55 degrees or higher. These cold blooded creatures are solar powered and need warm temperatures to fly. The sand roads through Belleplain State Forest are excellent places to look for some of the spring specialities like HENRY'S ELFINS and BROWN ELFINS, both of which were seen this week. Many, many SPRING AZURES are flying now and also likely to be found resting on the sand roads, so watch your step. Each of these 3 butterflies are teeny-tiny. Dozens of ORANGE SULPHURS and scattered sightings of CABBAGE WHITES are to be expected now. JUVENAL'S DUSKYWINGS are emerging and likely to be seen. MOURNING CLOAKS and QUESTION MARKS (both of which wintered over as adults) are expected on most butterfly outings. New arrivals from the south this week, include an AMERICAN LADY on April 4 in Cape May and an AMERICAN SNOUT at Cape May Point State Park on April 3. These two species can not winter this far north in any stage and most likely winter in northern Mexico. So, they've come north with the spring.

A newly emerged WHITE CORPORAL SKIMMER (dragonfly) was enjoyed April 2 in Belleplain State Forest.

TIGER BEETLES are "out" now and can be enjoyed on some of the same sand roads in Belleplain State Forest and northern Cape May County that are hotspots for butterflies and dragonflies. 200 tan and black Tiger Beetles were in northern Cape May County near Weatherby Road on April 2, while 30+ Six-spotted Green Tiger Beetles (the drop dead, gorgeous, emerald green tiger beetles) were on Old Robbins Trail (off Jakes Landing Road) on April 3.

A very visible GREAT HORNED OWL nest in Avalon, NJ, (in an old Osprey nest on a platform left of a cedar island in the backbay area, viewed from the 5th Avenue street end, just off 20th Street) has been enjoyed by many. Thank you all for the reports. The female has been observed feeding one owlet. Time will tell if there is a second youngster in this nest or in the Turkey Point nest. To reach the observation spot to enjoy this nest take the small bridge going west on 21st Street. Be aware that the male is somewhere nearby, hiding in whatever cover he can find where he still has a view of the nest. He is keeping the female fed & might be seen at dusk beginning to hunt for them both! As the young grow, the female will not fit on the nest & she too will be harder to spot. Great Horned Owls are our earliest nesting bird. Listen for them pre-dawn and at dusk (5:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.). If you hear a pair, you can be sure you have a nest somewhere nearby (since the female is calling from the nest).

FLOWERING QUINCE (or Japonica) is in bloom with its beautiful bright pink, tubular flowers -- a favorite of newly arrived Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. So, with them nearing our area it is certainly time to hang your feeders. Many ornamental fruit trees are blooming now. HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY flowers are about to open, another favorite of newly arrived hummingbirds. Some trees are budding. DAFFODILS and FORSYTHIA are blooming. WILLOWS are green. Male and female RED CEDAR trees can easily be told apart right now, since the male trees have a distinct brownish cast as the tiny cones grow at the tip of every stem.

There is a din of CHORUS FROGS in the few wet spots. Their call sounds like one running your finger over the teeth of a comb.

The Cape May Bird Observatory's SPRING PROGRAMS started APRIL 1! 8 different weekly walks for birds, butterflies and gardens ("hitting" each of the spring hotspots) are happening NOW. Each requires no preregistration; JUST COME! There is a charge ($6 CMBO/ NJ Audubon member; $10 nonmember). Details follow:

Friday, April 5: (1) "Birds of Higbee Beach" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at Higbee Beach WMA parking lot at the west end of New England Road, (2) "Garden Maintenance Workshop" (9:30 a.m.-Noon) meets at the CMBO Center in Goshen (and is FREE ... learn about wildlife gardening while you help tend the garden with garden consultant, Karen Williams).

Saturday, April 6: "Spring Migrants of the Rea Farm" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets in the "The Beanery / Rea Farm" parking lot on Bayshore Road (not the produce stand on Stevens Street).

Sunday, April 7: (1) "Hidden Valley for Birds & Butterflies" (7-9 a.m.) meets in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England Road 0.3 miles east of Bayshore Road, (2) "Raptors & Songbirds of the Delaware Bayshore" (8-10 a.m.) meets at the CMBO Center for Research & Education, 600 Route 47 North, in Goshen.

Monday, April 8: "Birding with Pete Dunne" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard

Wednesday, April 10: "Birding Cape May Point" (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meets at the Cape May Point State Park in the raised picnic pavilion.

Thursday, April 11: "Birds of the Deep South in Belleplain State Forest (7:30-10:30 a.m.) meets at Belleplain State Forest Field Office, just off Rt. 550, west of Woodbine.

CMBO's SPRING PROGRAMS "in full" (April through June 2002) are now posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site (http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calspec.html) and also include back-bay boat trips, a "Birding 101" course with Pete Dunne on April 5-6, a hands-on "Binoculars & Spotting Scopes" workshop with Pete Dunne on April 6, "Intermediate Birding Course" with Vince Elia on April 13-14, a full day "Nature of Belleplain" outing with Mark Garland on April 13, "Cruisin' For Loons" field trip & cruise on April 20, "Clapper Rail Madness" on April 26, CMBO's "5th Annual Plant Swap for Backyard Habitat Plants" on April 27, a field trip to the "Cape May NWR's Great Cedar Swamp Division" on April 27, "Full Moon Over the Meadows" on April 27, and much, much more! To receive a copy of the spring schedule 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 hotline. For more information call 609-861-0700 or send a request for information to CMBO, 600 Route 47 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210. 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.

The Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline is a service of New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties and near shore waters. Updates are made on Thursday evenings. Please report natural history sightings to CMBO at 609-861-0700 or 609-884-2736. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call 609-898-BIRD. 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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