Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/13/2004

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, May 13. 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.

Saturday, May 15, is the 21st Annual World Series of Birding, an event sponsored by New Jersey Audubon Society that enables teams from all over the country to raise money for their conservation causes! 66 teams are competing in the Level 1 category, including 12 youth teams! To learn more about this event go to:http://www.njaudubon.org/wsb

The most unusual bird that many of the teams may see will hopefully be the adult PURPLE GALLINULE that has been in and around the parking lot at the Wetlands Institute on Stone Harbor Boulevard for weeks and weeks now! I saw it today, May 13, for the first time & it is a show stopper. It was feeding on weed seeds in the shoulders of the parking lot. It's oversized feet can easily be seen, long toes that enable it to easily walk on gooey marsh mud. Apparently it has almost been run over a few times because it literally stands in the parking lot near Stone Harbor Boulevard.

The first big wave of HORSESHOE CRAB egg laying occurred during the Full Moon high tides on May 4 -- right on time! The morning of May 5, hundreds of Horseshoe Crabs littered the beach at Reeds Beach. Since then numbers have dropped off but will increase as the New Moon approaches on May 18. Horseshoe Crabs will continue to journey up onto the sandy beaches to mate & lay eggs through June; each female comes ashore 20 times to lay a nest of eggs in the two-month period. The biggest egg laying occurs on the highest tides (New or Full Moons) from mid-May through early June. Shorebirds have begun to arrive. Weekly aerial surveys are conducted by the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program. Their May 12 bay-wide survey flight (NJ & DE) tallied 2,200 RED KNOT, 10,000 RUDDY TURNSTONES, 4,200 SANDERLING, 7,700 DOWITCHER, and 32,300 DUNLIN. It is just the beginning; shorebird numbers will continue to grow. To witness this phenomenon at the peak time, CMBO has a number of offerings: (1) join Pat Sutton for a special "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore" indoor/outdoor program offered 4 times (May 20, 27, 28, 29) from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., meeting at 3:00 p.m. at the CMBO Center in Goshen, (2) join Karen Williams for "All About Horseshoe Crabs" on June 5 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register), (3) or sign up for NJ Audubon's incredible 3-day Cape May Spring Weekend, May 21-23 (a downloadable registration form is available on NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html To learn more about the efforts of NJ Audubon Society and other conservation groups to secure the conservation of shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs and to learn what YOU can do, go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Conservation/HScrabalert

Spring migration was in full swing this past week. On May 10th, 21 warbler species were enjoyed at both Higbee Beach WMA and in Belleplain State Forest, including many migrants passing through and many dazzling breeders. There's been a din of PARULA WARBLERS and BLACKPOLL WARBLERS since (through today, May 13). It's KITE TIME. 7-12 MISSISSIPPI KITES were enjoyed May 12 and 3 today, May 13. Each spring when kites appear, it is almost always in the vicinity of the Rea Farm and Pond Creek Marsh (the freshwater marsh between Higbee Beach, Hidden Valley and the Rea Farm. These insect-eating hawks probably find an abundance of dragonflies over Pond Creek Marsh. So, be looking skyward!

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS have settled in to sites with secure sources of food (feeders and spring gardens). In the last week males have been performing their "pendulum swing" over females in hopes of mating. Females build their nest first and then mate with one of these eager males. If you are seeing this mating behavior they are likely to nest in your yard. Feeders hung in mid-April and early May are key if you want them hummingbirds to nest in your yard, since nectar is so scarce with they arrive. Be sure to compliment feeders with a wildlife garden. Learn how by going to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat A terrific selection of hard to find wildlife plants is on sale at CMBO's center in Goshen. Selection changes weekly, so stop by often! Each week's selection will be posted on the "Backyard Habitat" pages on NJ Audubon's website, beginning later this week.

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 (except May 21), 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.

PIPING PLOVER are on nests at Avalon, Stone Harbor Point, Cape May Point State Park, and elsewhere. Many AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS are on eggs now too. Noisy pairs entertain birders at Nummy's Island and Stone Harbor Point.

Some of this year's BALD EAGLE chicks are quite large and testing their wings on nest edges, including the youngster in the Maurice River nest many of us enjoyed during CMBO's "Bald Eagle Cruises" in March & April and the 2 eagles in Dividing Creek on the Maple Avenue nest that many enjoyed during the Cumberland County Winter Raptor Festival. Other eaglets are still young and not visible yet. GREAT HORNED OWLETS are fledging now, including the pair at the nest on Goshen Landing Road that was on an Osprey platform. So the window of opportunity to observe the young is over or soon will be and we'll have to wait another year to easily study Great Horned Owls.

CHUCK WILLS-WIDOWS and WHIP-POOR-WILLS can now be heard through the night and pre-dawn, often beginning their calls between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m. PURPLE MARTINS are back at the nesting colony at the Cape May Point State Park, but there is widespread concern that something happened on the wintering grounds since many colonies are at half capacity or have no birds yet, including the CMBO colony in Goshen. OSPREY are incubating eggs now at their nest on Jakes Landing Road, Nummy's Island, and elsewhere. A din of CLAPPER RAILS can be heard on the saltmarshes and a great way to see them and learn about them is the Friday "Clapper Rail Madness" program at low tide at Jakes Landing Road (1-2:30 p.m. on May 14). GREAT EGRETS are in full breeding plumage with bright lime green around their eyes. BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS are super ornate now with their breeding plumes. GLOSSY IBIS are glossy green and maroon! Flocks of herons, egrets, and ibis traversing back and forth across the Cape May Peninsula is now a constant sight as they go from their Atlantic Coast breeding sites to rich Delaware Bay feeding sites.

Migrant shorebird numbers are building! Several thousand were enjoyed on Nummy's Island during the "Nummy's Island Bird Walk" on May 12, many in high breeding plumage, including 1,000 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (in rich reds and oranges), several RED KNOT (very rusty), 20 WHIMBREL, 100s BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (in all stages of plumage change ... some still dull winter plumage and some with blazing black bellies), 100s DUNLIN, several YELLOWLEGS, #s RUDDY TURNSTONE. COMMON, FORSTER'S, LEAST, and GULL-BILLED TERNS are all being enjoyed at Stone Harbor Point and Nummy's Island now. GULL-BILLED TERNS feed on frogs and are again traveling across the peninsula to hunt the impoundment at Beaver Swamp WMA where they fly low over the water lily pads scanning for perched frogs. For a terrific show of shorebirds, terns, herons & egrets, rails, and other goodies of the saltmarshes and back bays be sure to take advantage of the following: (1) every Tuesday, "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point" 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). And "The Great Shorebird Trek" with Mark Garland on Thursday, May 27, still has room (call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register).

CMBO's Cape May Birding Workshop offerings in 2004 include "Terns" July 28, "Butterflies" August 11, "Shorebirds" August 24-25, "Fall Warblers, Empid Flycatchers, Vireos, and other landbirds" September 1-2, "Fall Migration" September 18-22, "Raptors" September 25-26, 27-28, "Raptor Migration" October 24-28, "Sparrows" October 23-24, "Waterfowl" November 20-21, and "Wintering Owls, Hawks, & Eagles" January 21-24. To learn more & download a registration form for the 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 is available at either CMBO Center or call 609-861-0700, x-11, to have a copy sent to you.

All the breeding specialities are IN at Belleplain State Forest. In fact quite a few are already on nests and have recently become very quiet: YELLOW-THROATED, PROTHONOTARY, HOODED, WORM-EATING, PINE, PRAIRIE, BLACK AND WHITE, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, SUMMER TANAGER, a din of OVENBIRDS and WOOD THRUSH calling, and so much more! Treat yourself to Belleplain State Forest and nearby Peaslee WMA by joining CMBO Associate Naturalists on four weekly, 3-hour walks in May, 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) Saturday, May 29, the "Birds of Belleplain State Forest," (3) every Monday the "Back Trails of Belleplain," and (4) every Wednesday the "Birds of Peaslee WMA."

All the speciality breeders are IN. YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and BLUE GROSBEAK at Higbee Beach WMA & Hidden Valley; PROTHONOTARY WARBLER at Hidden Valley and the Rea Farm; COMMON MOORHEN and LEAST BITTERN at the Meadows. Combine this with spectacular looks at migrants, like N. GANNETS following the shoreline by Cape May Point, and you don't want to miss the many walks offered by CMBO with the local experts. South of the Cape May Canal each of the following walks meets at 7:30 a.m.: (1) every Friday (except May 21), "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" meets in the parking lot at the west end of New England Road, (2) Saturday, May 29, "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" meets in the parking lot on Bayshore Road, (3) every Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" meets at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (4) 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 Thursday, May 20, for "Easy Birding" (9:00-11:00 a.m.) and Judy Lukens Sunday, May 30, 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.

On the butterfly and dragonfly front, the toasty warm days have triggered good numbers and diversity. MONARCHS have been reported this week, no doubt the children of those that wintered in Mexico. Two were seen on May 6th (flybys in Woodbine and Clermont) and one on May 12 in Dennisville. Milkweed is now up a foot or so. This is good, since Monarchs right now need to mate and lay eggs to establish colonies here. Some will continue to move north until Monarchs have repopulated all the way north to southern Canada, as far north as Milkweed grows.. A HESSEL'S HAIRSTREAK was seen in a White Cedar Swamp in Atlantic County on May 12. The elfins are all flying: HENRY'S, BROWN, PINE, FROSTED, & HOARY ELFIN, were all seen this week. HOARY ELFINS were seen in the Pine Barrens where Bearberry grows. And the FROSTED ELFINS are very restricted too and found along power lines and railroad beds where certain grasses grow that they lay their eggs on. Consider the weekly "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" with Pat Sutton every Wednesday, which meets at 1:00 p.m. in the parking lot at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville and focuses on spring specialties. E. TIGER, SPICEBUSH, and BLACK SWALLOWTAILS are all flying. SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPERS are out. 100s of JUVENAL'S DUSKYWINGS can be enjoyed now on the sand roads of South Jersey. COBWEB SKIPPERS are flying and were seen laying eggs on May 12 on grasses in Dennisville. BLUE CORPORALS, SWAMP DARNER, PAINTED SKIMMER, and MANTLED BASKETTAIL entertained during CMBO's May 12 "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk." For news of other dragons & damsels here in New Jersey, be sure and visit http://www.njodes.com

In bloom now, enjoy VIBURNUM, POISON IVY, AUTUMN OLIVE (attracting hummingbirds), BEACH PLUMS (attracting hairstreaks & other butterflies), CHOKEBERRY (attracting hairstreaks), DOGWOOD, AZALEAS, WILD CHERRY (attracting hungry warblers to the insects), BLACK LOCUST (very fragrant), BAYBERRY, and many members of the heath family. The saltmarshes are turning greener each day. Cool evenings followed by warm days are bringing out sunbathing snakes on sand roads (be careful as you drive about): BLACK RAT SNAKES, N. WATER SNAKES, 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 are calling: "quonk, quonk, quonk."

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers many, many other programs than those briefly mentioned here. CMBO's SUMMER (June-August 2004) Program Schedule is now posted on NJ Audubon's web site with a link to the remainder of the SPRING (March-May 2004) programs: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html . The Spring program schedule 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!

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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