Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/13/2005

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 hotline was prepared on Thursday, May 12. 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 website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (top of any page).

This Saturday, May 14, is New Jersey Audubon's 22nd Annual WORLD SERIES OF BIRDING. A record 96 teams from all over the country are participating, including 22 Youth Teams! WOW! This event, hosted by NJ Audubon, enables groups from all over the country to raise $$$ for their own conservation causes! 60 MINUTES is going to cover the event, and the Associate Press has picked it up too. Good luck to all 96 teams; drive safe; and enjoy all 24 hours of the natural world on May 14. The May 12th "Swap Meet" shared the whereabouts of many of the hard to find birds and some not so hard to find. Bird-by-bird this info is posted at each center and can be viewed online at the World Series of Birding Discussion Group at: http://www.worldseriesofbirding.org

The first big wave of nesting HORSESHOE CRABS occurred at high tide the evening of May 10th, two nights after the New Moon. 100s to 1000s of crabs were tallied by counters as they came up onto the Delaware Bay beaches to lay their eggs. The next big wave should occur leading up to, during, and just after the Full Moon, which will be Monday, May 23. "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore," will be offered five afternoons from 3-5 p.m. on May 19 (Thursday), May 25 (Wednesday), May 26 (Thursday), May 27 (Friday), and May 28 (Saturday). This program will begin at the CMBO Center in Goshen with a brief indoor slide show and materials, followed by a visit to a nearby beach to witness crabs and shorebirds. The slide show is quite historic now with waning numbers of crabs and birds, since it includes photos of the massive gatherings of both crabs and shorebirds in the 1980s and early 1990s. To register call 609-861-0700, x-11.

Shorebirds are arriving and will continue to build. The big influx often occurs during New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Spring Weekend, this year on May 20-22. The NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program flew both sides of the Delaware Bay on May 10 and tallied 11,925 shorebirds, mostly DUNLIN, SANDERLING, and RUDDY TURNSTONE. On May 11 observers at Bivalve in Cumberland County tallied over 11,000 shorebirds at that location alone, so many more arrived overnight. Nummy's Island at high tide has been a super spot to view shorebirds that are pushed off many of the surrounding marshes: RED KNOT, SHORT- BILLED DOWITCHER, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, DUNLIN, and WHIMBREL. High tide at Nummy's Island will be 1 p.m. on Friday the 13th and about 1 hour later every following day (so 2 p.m. on Saturday, 3 p.m on Sunday, etc.). An amazing flight of over 200 WHIMBREL flew over the CMBO Center in Goshen at 8:30 p.m. on May 12, heading north.

To keep disturbance to a minimum and because RED KNOT numbers on the wintering grounds were disturbingly low, the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program will again close the Delaware Bay beaches to foot traffic from May 14 to June 7. They will also be closing the bay side (or back side) of Stone Harbor Point during this period, since it is heavily utilized by roosting shorebirds. Viewing opportunities will still be excellent from each of the road ends along the Delaware Bay, with roping and signage so that visitors can walk to the waters edge, but not up or down the beach. Shorebirds will quickly learn that people remain behind the ropes and are likely to feed quite close!

A Wednesday evening "Sunset Cruise for Spring Migrants and Heron Rookeries" on May 18 (3 to 7 p.m.) will explore inaccessible back bay marshes where shorebirds, rails, herons, egrets, hungry raptors and more can be enjoyed up close and personal. Mark your calendars too for the special "Cruisin' For Chicks" trips: Thursday, June 16 (3 to 6 p.m.) and Saturday, June 18 (5 to 8 p.m.). These trips are timed to savor the marsh nesting birds with nests full of young. To register for the Sunset Cruise or for the Cruisin' for Chicks trips, call 609-861-0700, x11. Another opportunity to cruise through marshes is the "Back Bay Boat Cruise" (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) every Sunday and Monday through May. To register for the "Back Bay Boat Cruises" call "The Skimmer" directly at 609-884-3100.

Female RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are on nests. They've returned to their favorite backyard habitats, set up territories, and built nests. Once the nest is built females visit a male's territory and mate. Then it's back to the nest to lay the eggs, incubate the eggs, and keep herself fed and her young fed once they hatch. The male's role is done; in fact he'll chase his own mate and young away. Females build their nest near and within view of food. A nest was found May 9th at the CMBO Center in Goshen within view of one of the feeders! Be sure to thoroughly clean and refill Hummingbird feeders at least once a week, even if full at week's end. Visit the "World of Backyard Habitat" pages on NJ Audubon's website for extensive information about gardening for hummingbirds (& butterflies): http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat

CMBO's 2005 Cape May Birding Workshops are timed to learn and savor peak concentrations. The next workshop is the "2-Day Backyard Habitat Workshop" on Saturday and Sunday, June 25-26. Many of the other summer workshops are held mid-week to avoid summer traffic. A "1-Day Tern Workshop" on Wednesday, June 29, is timed when the nesting colonies are a frenzy of activity and pull in regional rarities. A "1- Day Butterfly Workshop" on Wednesday, August 10, will study 36 species at one location! A "2-Day Shorebird Workshop" on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 23-24, will enjoy more than 30 species in many plumages! To receive the workshop brochure (covering 13 workshops now through January 05) call 609-861-0700 or go to: http: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks05.html

Young GREAT HORNED OWLS, born in late January or early February, are branching now (hopping around on branches, sometimes fairly far from the nest). Once their flight feathers grow in, they'll fledge (be able to fly) and be gone! That could be any day! SCREECH OWLS nest much later and have very young downy chicks now in their hollow tree nest sites or man-made nest boxes.

BALD EAGLETS are growing. The 2 chicks in the Bald Eagle nest at Beaver Swamp WMA are now about 4 weeks old and quite visible when they are awake. There is always an adult in attendance, often busy tearing up food and feeding the chicks.

BLACK SKIMMERS stage on the Delaware Bay before returning to nesting beaches; 27 were seen at Bivalve on May 11. GLOSSY IBIS, flock after flock, can be enjoyed all day long as they fly over the CMBO Center in Goshen. Many of them feed in the impoundment at Beaver Swamp WMA, just up Sluice Creek from the Center. A pair of GREEN HERONS take this route many times through the day as well.

OSPREY are on nests everywhere and seem to be successful catching fish after fish in Hereford Inlet and elsewhere. 76 were counted the length of the Maurice River on May 11. This population is entirely due to the efforts of Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River. Nearly every nesting platform they have erected is in use!

COMMON TERNS are back. So, no longer is every medium-sized tern a FORSTER'S TERN. KILLDEER already have chicks.

A great landbird flights occurred the night of May 10 & 11 and the morning of May 12, when at dawn from the Higbee Dike 350 YELLOW- RUMPED WARBLERS, 120 BALTIMORE ORIOLES, 80 E. KINGBIRDS, and a nice mix of other warblers were tallied. CMBO's Northwood Center has attracted many lingering warblers all week, including today, May 13. Belleplain State Forest has been a hotbed of activity for breeding warblers: PROTHONOTARY, OVENBIRD, PRAIRIE, PINE, YELLOW-THROATED, BLACK-AND-WHITE, BLACKPOLL, WORM-EATING, HOODED, BLUE-WINGED, N. WATERTHRUSH, and more! BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER nests are being found there too, looking like large hummingbird nests.

BEACH PLUM bushes have been in bloom for several weeks and are beginning to fade. The dunes at Higbee Beach (walking straight out from the parking lot) are a MUST when they're in bloom ... like a fairyland. HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY is in bloom. Its bell-shaped flowers are an important spring nectar source for RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS. FLOWERING DOGWOOD is blooming. LILACS, VIBURNUMS, and CHOKEBERRIES are beginning to bloom. CORAL HONEYSUCKLE is in full bloom at the CMBO Center in Goshen and razzle dazzle to our eyes and to hungry hummingbirds. TULIP TREES are beginning to bloom and drawing in hungry ORCHARD ORIOLES.

FALCATE ORANGETIPS are still flying (at Beaver Swamp WMA and along the railroad tracks at Dennisville) and laying their eggs on a dainty member of the mustard family, HAIRY BITTERCRESS. Other butterflies enjoyed this week include: SPRING AZURE, E. TAILED BLUE, BROWN ELFIN, HENRY'S ELFINS FROSTED ELFIN, HOARY ELFIN (in the Pine Barrens where Bearberry grows), PINE ELFIN, PEARL CRESCENT, AMERICAN COPPER, E. COMMA, MOURNING CLOAK, JUVENAL'S DUSKYWING, SLEEPY DUSKYWING (in the Pine Barrens), COBWEB SKIPPER, and WHITE M HAIRSTREAK (on May 9 in Salem County). HESSEL'S HAIRSTREAKS are flying now, but very illusive. One was seen May 5 nectaring on Sand Myrtle along the Atlantic City Expressway, and another on May 11 at Chatsworth, also nectaring on Sand Myrtle. AMERICAN LADIES are filtering into the area and laying their eggs. The first OLIVE' JUNIPER HAIRSTREAKS were seen May 7 at Reeds Beach, while 8 were nectaring on CHOKEBERRY blossoms along the Heislerville dike on May 11. The first BLACK SWALLOWTAIL was seen May 5 at Stone Harbor Point and on May 12 a female was in CMBO's gardens actively seeking fennel and laying eggs. The first TIGER SWALLOWTAIL was seen May 12 along the Delaware River near Petty's Island.

HARLEQUIN DARNERS, MANTLED BASKETTAILS, and BLUE CORPORALS are flying now along the sand roads of Belleplain, and a male GREEN DARNER patrolled CMBO's Dragonfly Pond at the Center in Goshen on May 12. LARGE BEE FLIES are out. A massive BULLFROG has emerged from the bottom of CMBO's Dragonfly Pond and can be found along the pond edge, along with Leopard Frogs.

Spring has FLOODED into every nook and cranny of Cape May County. A din of songsters on territory adds an auditory bonus to any outing! Belleplain State Forest, hotspots in Cumberland County, and sites around Cape May abound with singing warblers, vireos, flycatchers, cuckoos, and other goodies! And the trees have not fully leafed out yet, so observers are savoring good looks. Attend one or all of CMBO's 17+ different weekly spring walks, requiring no preregistration. For details on each walk, go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

THE ultimate spring experience, NJ Audubon's Cape May Spring Weekend (May 20-22, 2005) is coming up! Call for the brochure (609-884-2736) or print the downloadable pdf version from the website: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html Once you've read over the brochure, direct any questions to Sheila Lego or Marleen Murgitroyde at 609-884-2736

Volunteer opportunities follow. SHOREBIRD STEWARDS are NEEDED: Wintering numbers of Red Knot were even lower than last winter's low numbers. The NJ Endangered & Nongame Species program is looking for volunteer SHOREBIRD STEWARDS to cover NJ's Delaware Bay beaches May 14-15 and May 21 to June 5. Contact Larissa Smith (609-628-2103 or LLSmith@gtc3.com) for more details and to sign up.

Special programs and field trips in addition to those already mentioned follow (prices vary: call 609-861-0700 for info and to register):

"Cruisin' For Chicks at Sunset," Th., June 16 (3 to 6 p.m.), and Sat., June 18 (5 to 8 p.m.).

"Drawing With Nature" (Saturdays: May 28, June 25, July 30, Aug. 27).

"Dragons & Damsels in CMBO's Gardens," Saturday, June 18 (10 a.m. to Noon)

Kayak Trips to Wild Areas Great Cedar Swamp (Tu., June 21), Bidwell's Creek (Th., July 7), East Creek Lake and Pickle Factory Pond (Tu., July 26, and Tu., Aug. 16).

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers an extensive series of regular bird walks that require no pre-registration and many special field trips and programs for which advanced registration is required. All are detailed in the Kestrel Express. The summer edition is now available too. To receive a copy stop at either CMBO Center, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

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 Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties. Updates are typically made on Thursdays. Please report your natural history sightings to CMBO's Center in Goshen at 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

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