Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/21/2004

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, May 21. 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> http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" at the top of any page.

Results of New Jersey Audubon Society's 21st Annual World Series of Birding are in. The 66 teams (including 12 Youth Teams) competing in the Level I category saw a cumulative 272 species -- an all time record!!! See the standing of all 66 teams at: <http://www.njaudubon.org/WSB/WSB2004> http://www.njaudubon.org/WSB/WSB2004

The New Moon on May 18 created super high tides and the next REALLY, really big wave of mating & egg laying HORSESHOE CRABS. Last night (Friday, May 20) high tide was at 10:44 p.m. A group of us went to Reeds Beach at 9:30 p.m. and enjoyed an incredible show as the crabs began to come in on the rising tide. By 11 p.m. the length of the tide line was alive with groupings of crabs, females surrounded by males. The wrack along the tideline (or detritus that has washed off the saltmarshes and up onto the bay beaches) is full of Horseshoe Crab eggs, zillions of them. The night time high tide seems be when many more crabs come up to lay than the daytime high tide. High tide over the next few days will be: May 21 (11:10 a.m. & 11:22 p.m.), May 22 (11:48 a.m.), May 23 (12:01 a.m. & 12:28 p.m.), May 24 (12:44 a.m. & 1:12 p.m.), May 25 (1:29 a.m. & 2:01 p.m), May 26 (2:18 a.m. & 2:53 p.m.). 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. So the next really big spectacle will be on June 3rd during the Full Moon high tides at 9:30 a.m and 10 p.m. Shorebirds are here! Weekly aerial surveys are conducted by the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program. Their May 18 bay-wide survey flight (NJ & DE) tallied 6,600 RED KNOT, 35,000 RUDDY TURNSTONES, 9,500 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, 7,100 SANDERLING, 5,000 DOWITCHER, and 38,700 DUNLIN. 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 3 times (May 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 attend NJ Audubon's incredible 3-day Cape May Spring Weekend, this weekend, May 21-23. Walk-in registration is still possible at NJ Audubon's registration desk in the lobby of the Grand Hotel on Friday and Saturday, May 21 & 22 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and Sunday, May 23 (8-9 a.m.). 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> http://www.njaudubon.org/Conservation/HScrabalert

Migrant shorebird numbers are building! Thousand are being enjoyed at places like Nummy's Island and Stone Harbor Point. 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) Wednesday, May 26, "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).

It is the peak of the breeding season for herons, egrets, and ibis, and their plumages are stunning right now. Look for the bright lime green around the eyes on GREAT EGRETS and their flowing white feathers, the super ornate head plumes of BLACK-CROWNED and YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS. The glossy green and maroon coloration of GLOSSY IBIS! 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. Two very special "Cruisin' for Chicks" trips aboard the Skimmer are scheduled for Saturday, June 12 (3-6 p.m.), and Thursday, June 17 (5-8 p.m.). Nesting colonies of Forster's and Common Terns and Laughing Gulls will be highlights as well as visible chicks from American Oystercatcher, Osprey, and Clapper Rail nests! Heron rookeries will be "hopping" too! Spaces are limited (call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register). Make a day of it on June 12, and also consider signing up for the "Tidal Marsh Exploration" with marine biologist Karen Williams (8:30 a.m. till Noon) or Mark Garland's "Introduction to Wildflower ID" (10 a.m. till 3 p.m.)

Stone Harbor Point is the happening tern site right now! COMMON and LEAST TERNS are courting. Pairs are sailing around after each other, calling and proudly displaying their most recently caught fish! Several pairs of GULL-BILLED TERNS are regulars and may also nest there. BLACK SKIMMER numbers are building and putting on quite a show as they fly in unison. All this gull and tern activity pulls in rarities like the ROSEATE TERN that was seen there May 18 on the Stone Harbor Point walk. At the peak time to study terns CMBO is offering it's next Cape May Birding Workshop: on "Terns" July 28 (last year 10 species were studied side-by-side in late July). Additional "Cape May Birding Workshops" include: "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> 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.

If you have feeders up, RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are probably on nests somewhere in your yard. Sit where you can monitor the feeders and see where the female flies off to & you're likely to find the nest. Feeders hung in mid-April and early May, when hummingbirds arrive, are key if you want hummingbirds to nest in your yard, since nectar is so scarce in the spring. Be sure to compliment feeders with a wildlife garden. Learn how by going to: <http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat> 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 is posted on the "Backyard Habitat" pages on NJ Audubon's website. 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. Their nests are easy to find now, since they have been protected with wire cages to keep out ground predators like fox, opossum, skunk, and even night herons. View from a safe distance. AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER chicks are hatching; a fluffy 2-3 day old chick was seen May 18 during CMBO's "Stone Harbor Point Bird Walk." Noisy pairs entertain birders at Nummy's Island and Stone Harbor Point.

36 active BALD EAGLE nests are being monitored in NJ this spring. Additional pairs tried to nest and failed for one reason or another (one nest was blown out of a tree during a mid-March storm). So far observers have counted 42 eaglets in nests that can be safely observed, but the final count will not be in for a month or so since many nests are hidden deep in woodlands. 23 large young have already been banded by NJ Fish & Wildlife biologists. Other young are still quite small and just beginning to peek over the nest edge.

GREAT HORNED OWLS are our earliest nesting bird (even earlier than Bald Eagle). They laid their eggs in late January or early February and their young recently fledged from nests and disappeared deep into woodlands. OSPREY are incubating eggs now at their nest on Jakes Landing Road, Nummy's Island, and elsewhere.

CHUCK WILLS-WIDOWS and WHIP-POOR-WILLS can very vocal now wherever they're breeding. Listen for their calls at dawn around 5:00 a.m. and at dark beginning around 8:40 p.m. PURPLE MARTINS chortling at the nesting colony at the Cape May Point State Park; 7 eggs were laid in the houses there this week. Purple Martins are not back at many colonies; 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.

The special breeding birds of Belleplain State Forest have gotten tougher to see this last week due to full leaf out and the fact that they're now on nests and QUIET! But they're still there, carrying beaks full of caterpillars, spiders, and other goodies back to their nests. So, be extra alert for movement and don't count on their songs helping you to find them. If they are in full song, consider yourself very lucky! Favorite breeders include: YELLOW-THROATED, PROTHONOTARY, HOODED, WORM-EATING, PINE, PRAIRIE, BLACK AND WHITE, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, OVENBIRD, ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, SUMMER TANAGER, E. PHOEBE, WOOD THRUSH, E. TOWHEE, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, and more! Treat yourself to Belleplain State Forest and nearby Peaslee WMA by joining CMBO Associate Naturalists on the final week of four 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) Monday, May 24 the "Back Trails of Belleplain," (2) Wednesday, May 26, the "Birds of Peaslee WMA," (3) Thursday, May 27, and (4) Saturday, May 29, the "Birds of Belleplain State Forest."

Each spring MISSISSIPPI KITES show up at Cape May. They entertained many teams on May 15 during the World Series of Birding and since. Excellent observation spots include the Rea Farm, Higbee Beach, Hidden Valley, the Meadows, and the Cape May Point State Park. The Nature Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge ("The Meadows") has nesting PIPING PLOVER, LEAST BITTERNS, and GADWALL. YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and BLUE GROSBEAK are noisy and breeding at Higbee Beach WMA & Hidden Valley; PROTHONOTARY WARBLERS are breeding at Hidden Valley and the Rea Farm. Don't 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) Friday, May 28, "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, and (5) every Friday, beginning June 4, "Sunset Birding at the Meadows" meets at 6:30 p.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. If you're a beginner, join Judy Lukens Sunday, May 30, for "Birding for First Timers" (1-3 p.m.), meeting on the Wildlife Viewing Platform in Cape May Point State Park.

On the butterfly and dragonfly front, the super toasty days have triggered good numbers and diversity. All the elfins might still be seen: HENRY'S, BROWN, PINE, FROSTED, & HOARY ELFIN. HOARY ELFINS occur 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. BLACK SWALLOWTAILS are laying eggs on the Bronze Fennel in CMBO's gardens in Goshen. AMERICAN LADIES are laying eggs of Pussy Toes, Sweet Everlasting, and Pearly Everlasting in the wild and in CMBO's gardens in Goshen. The first SACHEMS were seen on May 12 and since. AMERICAN SNOUTS have been seen and might be attracted to Hackberry trees around the parking lot at Higbee Beach and at the entrance to CMBO's Northwood Center. The first RED-SPOTTED PURPLES were seen last week everywhere, and seen laying eggs on the tippy, tip of Wild Cherry leaves. Lots of LITTLE WOOD SATYRS were flying on May 19 in Peaslee WMA. TIGER SWALLOWTAILS are abundant now. COBWEB SKIPPERS are flying and were laying eggs on grasses. STRAWBERRY FLIES are out, a full week or two early! HARLEQUIN DARNER and MANTLED BASKETTAIL dragonflies are thick on the sand roads of Belleplain State Forest. BLUE CORPORALS, SWAMP DARNERS, and PAINTED SKIMMER are also out. CALICO PENNANT was seen May 18 at Higbee Beach. Join Pat Sutton, Wednesday, May 26 (1-3 p.m.) for a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk," meeting in the parking lot at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville and focuses on spring specialties. Mark Garland's "Bugs 101" on Sunday, May 30 (1-4 p.m.), still has room. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register). For news of other dragons & damsels here in New Jersey, be sure and visit <http://www.njodes.com> http://www.njodes.com

Take a close look at POISON IVY now to see its lovely flowers! Also enjoy the fragrant scent of blooming AMERICAN HOLLY trees. AUTUMN OLIVE flowers are attracting hummingbirds (but don't be swayed into buying one of these non-native, invasive shrubs ... they've spread throughout natural areas and crowded out many of our native shrubs!). MULTIFLORA ROSE is in full bloom, another non-native invasive! MOUNTAIN LAUREL is beginning to bloom throughout Belleplain State Forest. Pink LADIES SLIPPERS are in bloom at Jakes Landing, in Belleplain State Forest and elsewhere! The saltmarshes are really greening up now!

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> 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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