Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/15/2003
You have reached the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This message was prepared on Thursday, May 15. 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.

It is the eve of New Jersey Audubon "Cape May Spring Weekend," an amazing three-day weekend (May 16, 17, & 18) of talks, field trips, boat rides, and general celebration of nature in spring. Evening keynote talks by Pete Dunne and Kenn Kaufmann. There may still be room for you at this grand festival; call the Northwood Center at (609) 884-2736 for more information or to register. For a rough idea of the weekend schedule go to: (http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html)

Friday, May 16, is the FULL MOON in the middle of May, THE time when we expect the peak of horseshoe crab egg-laying and related shorebird feeding frenzies during the high tides triggered by the full moon. The NEW MOON on May 31 and the week leading up to the especially high tide triggered by the new moon should also be PEEK for horseshoe crab egg-laying & shorebird concentrations. Numbers of HORSESHOE CRABS on Delaware Bay beaches have been frighteningly low so far with only 12 counted from Kimbel's Beach, Cook's Beach, and Thompson's Beach on May 14. The water temperatures are still cold; 53 degrees F. on May 14, when they should be about 60 degrees F, so this may be holding the crabs up a bit from breeding. But the shorebirds can't wait & are arriving. On CMBO's first "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore" program on May 15 several hundred RUDDY TURNSTONES, 50 SANDERLING, 20 DUNLIN, and 1 RED KNOT were feeding on crab eggs at the tideline at Reeds Beach. And earlier in the day observers reported numbers of RED KNOT. Shorebird numbers will continue to grow with each tide and with each day. "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore" will also be offered from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on May 22, 23, & 24. "A Close Look at Shorebirds" (2:00 to 5:00 p.m.) on May 21 and "Horseshoe Crabs Up Close and Personal," with marine biologist Karen Williams, (9:00 a.m. to noon) on May 31 also still have openings. Call (609) 861-0700 x-11 to register.

Severe conservation measures have been taken this spring because HORSESHOE CRAB numbers have dropped so drastically and because shorebird numbers have dropped along with them. There is now access restrictions to many beaches where crabs & shorebirds are active, but there will still be great viewing opportunities -- without disturbing the birds. Viewing areas are roped off at many of the access points along the Delaware Bayshore and the shorebirds are gathering just beyond (offering great viewing opportunities). Beach access (walking and other activities) is being restricted through signage. This spring the Horseshoe Crab harvest has been closed between May 1 and June 7 and has been capped at 150,000 (half the number taken in 2002). New Jersey Audubon's current involvement, needing your help in a letter-writing campaign, can be found at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Conservation/HScrabalert.html

The 20th Annual WORLD SERIES OF BIRDING (May 10th) included a record 73 teams, including 13 enthusiastic youth teams. The day was stellar, birdy from north to south. Results were incredible: http://www.njaudubon.org/wsb/WSB2003.html

On the butterfly front, lots of RED ADMIRALS were seen on May 12, including 50 around Cape May Point (many nectaring on Beach Plum bushes in full flower and others flitting this way and that) and dozens dashing across roads by observers traveling on Rt. 47, Rt. 347, and along the Maurice River. This represents an obvious movement of new arrivals from the south. Reports have come in daily since of individual Red Admirals in gardens and natural areas all over the Cape May Peninsula. The weekly CMBO "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" with Pat Sutton along the Dennisville RR tracks on Wednesday, May 14, enjoyed a number of the spring specialities, including the spring's first FROSTED ELFINS (2) and COBWEB SKIPPERS (5), along with TIGER SWALLOWTAILS (all "on the move"), HENRY'S ELFINS, E. PINE ELFINS, PEARL CRESCENTS, SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER, and lots of JUVENAL'S DUSKYWINGS. FALCATE ORANGETIPS are still flying, another spring speciality.

On the dragonfly front, lots of BLUE CORPORALS and MANTLED BASKETTAILS are flying and COMMON GREEN DARNERS have just begun to fly. FRAGILE FORKTAILS are flying now too. CMBO's dragonfly pond in Goshen has been an overwintering nursery for many dragonflies; their shed skins are in evidence. New species should be emerging on every warm and sunny day. "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" with Pat Sutton along the Dennisville RR tracks is offered every Wednesday in May (10:00 a.m. to Noon). Enjoy butterflies and all other elements of natural history with Mark Garland during "The Nature of Cape May," an outing every Thursday at 9:00 a.m. at the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area. A "Dragonfly Workshop & Walk" will be held on Saturday, June 7, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Call (609) 861-0700 x-11 to register.

The Maurice River BALD EAGLE NEST that many observed during CMBO's "Bald Eagle Cruises on the Maurice River" in late March and early April has again been successful! On May 12, the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program banded the eaglet from this nest, a 4 week old youngster. 38 pairs of BALD EAGLES were active in New Jersey in March. Sadly a number of these pairs either did not nest or their nest failed. 23 pairs are still active with growing young, and some young are almost two months old now. By mid-June they will be ready to fly. One new nest is deep within Beaver Swamp WMA, just up Sluice Creek from the Cape May Bird Observatory's Center in Goshen. Keen observers spot one of the adults from this nest almost daily as it flies down Sluice Creek and over CMBO on its way out to the Delaware Bay.

On May 15 immature BALD EAGLES were seen at a number of locations around the Cape May Peninsula, too early for any of NJ's young to be flying, but not for young eagles born earlier this spring in Florida. The first 4 years of an eagle's life, they wander, and that's probably just what we witnessed on May 15.

The first young OSPREY have hatched on one of the Maurice River nests, but all other pairs on the river were still on eggs on May 11, according to Jane Galetto.

Mid-May migration is in full steam, plus our nesting birds are very much in evidence, vocal and actively defending nest sites. Join one of the "CMBO walks at Belleplain State Forest" for a chance to see the breeding warblers: YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, PINE WARBLER, PRAIRIE WARBLER, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, HOODED WARBLER, WORM-EATING WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, OVENBIRD, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, and other goodies, like SUMMER TANAGER. These walks begin at 7:30 a.m. every Thursday in May plus some Saturdays (May 24 and 31).

PROTHONOTARY WARBLERS are breeding at the Rea Farm. Be sure to attend "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" Saturday, May 24, (7:30-9:30 a.m.) if you've struggled to see them.

PIPING PLOVERS are on nests and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS are paired up now at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge and at Stone Harbor Point! A number of YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS (7 on May 10) continue to be seen easily in the marshes on the east side of Ocean Drive just south of Stone Harbor and just before the "free" bridge onto Nummy's Island. And Nummy's Island is loaded with SHOREBIRDS right now (RED KNOT, DUNLIN, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, DOWITCHER, and more), especially towards evening, since many of them roost on these marshes through the night. A great way to learn the area and see all it holds is to join Mike Fritz and company for the "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point & Nummy's Island" every Tuesday through June 10 (6 p.m. to dusk).

At the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen PURPLE MARTINS and TREE SWALLOWS are showing interest in nest boxes and RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are daily at the feeders and in the gardens. In bloom at CMBO now to lure them in is: CORAL HONEYSUCKLE, CORAL BELLS, WILD COLUMBINE, and lots of wildflowers (that some mistake as weeds). Male Ruby-throats arrived first but females are back in force now. Be looking for the male's display flight, a dramatic "pendulum swing." He performs it right over the female. Be sure to keep your feeders clean, by thoroughly washing & refilling at least once a week, even if use is minimal.

CLAPPER RAILS continue to be seen easily at places like Jakes Landing. On the saltmarsh at Jakes Landing OSPREY, WILLETS, FORSTER'S TERNS, SEASIDE SPARROWS, MEADOWLARKS in full song, and a wandering immature BALD EAGLE on May 14. Along the wooded portion of Jakes Landing Road bird songs include GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, WHITE-EYED VIREO, WOOD THRUSH, PINE WARBLER, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. It's a great place to learn songs, and you can learn them under the tutelage of Pat Sutton on her "Birding by Ear Walk" each Wednesday in May from 7:30-9:30 a.m.

"Back Bay Birding By Boat" cruises, every Sunday and Monday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), offer comfortable and close looks at shorebirds, herons, egrets, Ospreys, and maybe even a rail or two as the boat travels through the saltmarsh and back bays (call Wildlife Unlimited, call 609-884-3100 to register for these CMBO-sponsored trips). A special "Cruisin' for Chicks" trip is scheduled Saturday, June 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. -- peak time to see newly hatched FORSTER'S TERNS, AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS, CLAPPER RAILS, LAUGHING GULLS, OSPREY, and more! Sign up by calling (609) 861-0700, x-11.

Trees are fully leafed out now. VIBURNUMS, HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY, and HUCKLEBERRY are blooming now. WILD CHERRY trees are just beginning and will steal the show in another week. BEACH PLUM is waning, but can still be enjoyed in the dunes at Higbee Beach. Keep an eye out on the Beach Plum blossoms for JUNIPER HAIRSTREAKS and other nectaring butterflies. Learn how to identify wildflowers at the CMBO "Introduction to Wildflower Identification" program on Saturday, June 14. Call (609) 861-0700, x-11, to register. PINE POLLEN, a dense yellow dusting, is covering everything every day now. Flocks of GLOSSY IBIS, GREAT EGRETS, and SNOWY EGRETS are regular now passing back and forth over the Cape May Peninsula. CATTLE EGRETS are strutting around in unmowed fields eating bugs and even along the weedy edges of the Garden State Parkway..

If you'd like to learn as you help CMBO maintain its gardens in Goshen, join Karen Williams Friday, May 23 (9:30 a.m.-Noon) for a "Garden Maintenance Workshop." Plant divisions are often delightful payment for your labor and having a chance to learn so much from Karen as you work.

Additional regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration and will help you witness spring unfolding include: "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" Friday, May 23, (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Raptors and Songbirds of Delaware Bayshore" Sunday, May 25 (8-10 a.m.), "Birding for First Timers" Sunday, May 25 (1-3 p.m.), "Mondays at the Meadows" every Monday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Leader's Choice Bird Walk" every Tuesday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Birding Cape May Point" every Wednesday (7:30-9:30 a.m.). Full details about cost & meeting place can be found at NJ Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html -- LOOK for the link to SPRING 2003 for details on these spring programs.

CMBO's full listing of SUMMER 2003 PROGAMS (June-August) is now posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html If you are not a member and would like to receive a copy of the Cape May Bird Observatory's program schedule, call (609) 861-0700.

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers an extensive series of regular bird and butterfly walks that require no pre-registration and many special field trips and programs for which advanced registration is required. To receive a copy of our Program Schedule, stop at one of our centers, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site mentioned above.

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!

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)

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