Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/23/2003
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 Friday, May 23. 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 31, is the NEW MOON and our next very high tide during the period of peak horseshoe crab egg-laying. Over the Cape May Spring Weekend (May 16-18) with the FULL MOON high tides we did witness heavy HORSESHOE CRAB egg-laying along the Delaware Bay beaches. This has continued to a lesser degree with each high tide since, but will pick up again as we near the New Moon's super high tides. Also over the May 16-18 weekend we witnessed good numbers of the key shorebirds that have learned to time their arrival to take advantage of the horseshoe crab eggs as food. On May 17, the composition was mostly RUDDY TURNSTONES and a few RED KNOT and SANDERLINGS; by May 22 there were plenty of RED KNOT & Sanderlings mixed in. A true treat on May 22 was a SANDERLING in FULL BREEDING plumage. The NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Program's weekly aerial surveys of the entire Delaware Bay shoreline documents a severe decline in bird numbers. On May 20, total numbers for the Delaware Bay were 8,000 RED KNOT (in 2002 on this date there were 27,300), 24,300 RUDDY TURNSTONES (in 2002 there were 56,600), 4,200 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (in 2002 there were 16,600), 11,000 SANDERLING (in 2002 there were 14,000), 10,300 DUNLIN, (in 2002 there were 31,600). Shorebird numbers are VERY DOWN and it no doubt has a lot to do with the severe drop in Horseshoe Crabs over the last 15 years due to excessive harvest and the cold, hard fact that fewer crabs means fewer eggs for hungry shorebirds.

Severe conservation measures have been taken this spring regarding the harvest of HORSESHOE CRABS. This harvest in NJ has been closed between May 1 and June 7 and has been capped at 150,000 (half the number taken in 2002). Sadly Delaware was to have the very same restrictions, but fishermen overturned it and apparently it is a free-for-all harvest on the other side of Delaware Bay. New Jersey Audubon's current involvement, needing your help in a letter-writing campaign (and while you're at it, write a letter to Delaware's Governor too!), can be found at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Conservation/HScrabalert.html

To witness this incredible natural history event stop by the Cape May Bird Observatory and pick up the latest brochure, "Imperiled Shorebirds on Delaware Bay," and the map to viewing areas. You'll find great viewing opportunities (without disturbing the birds) at each road end. Shorebirds are gathering just beyond each roped off and well signed road end (or at the base of the Reeds Beach Jetty). Beach access (walking and other activities) is being restricted through signage and fines. Also consider signing up for one of CMBO's very special programs: "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore" (3:00 to 5:00 p.m.) on May 23 & 24, and "Horseshoe Crabs Up Close and Personal," with marine biologist Karen Williams, (9:00 a.m. to noon) on May 31. Call (609) 861-0700 x-11 to register.

Enjoy butterflies and all other elements of natural history with Mark Garland during "The Nature of Cape May," an outing every Thursday (9:00 to 11:00 a.m.) at the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area. Discover the many birding tools and learn how to find, observe, and identify birds with Mark Garland by signing up for "Birding 101," Sunday, June 1 (10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). Call (609) 861-0700 x-11 to register.

A great way to experience beach and marsh nesting birds 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). On the May 20 walk, the active tern colony included 2 pairs of preening and courting ROSEATE TERNS and 2 pairs of GULL-BILLED TERNS, including one pair already on a nest. PIPING PLOVERS are on nests and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS are paired up now! A number of YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS 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 (RED KNOT, DUNLIN, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, DOWITCHER, and more), especially towards evening, since many of them roost on these marshes through the night.

"Back Bay Birding By Boat" cruises, every Sunday and Monday (10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in May and 10:00 a.m. to Noon in June), offer comfortable and close looks at shorebirds, herons, egrets, Ospreys feeding their young, 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 5:00 to 8:00 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.

"Birds of Belleplain State Forest," (7:30-10:30 a.m.) every Thursday and Saturday in May, takes you through a maze of roads to incredible hotspots were many of the harder to find warblers breed: YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, HOODED WARBLER, WORM-EATING WARBLER, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, PINE WARBLER, PRAIRIE WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, OVENBIRD, and other goodies, like SUMMER TANAGER (a pair were seen gathering nest material on May 18).

Every Saturday (7:30-9:30 a.m.) "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" is a must, especially now that a RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD nest has been found (the female was seen collecting fuzz from Cinnamon Ferns on May 8 and is now incubating eggs) and a PROTHONOTARY WARBLER nest in a hollow tree nearby.

CMBO's "Mondays at the Meadows" walk, every Monday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), is now enjoying the nesting birds that will be here all summer like VIRGINIA RAIL, LEAST BITTERN, PIPING PLOVER (on nests now!), and excellent looks at herons and egrets, nesting BLUE-WINGED TEAL, and migrant shorebirds.

It's a great time of year to learn songs, and you can learn them under the tutelage of Pat Sutton on her "Birding by Ear Walk" Wednesday, May 28 (7:30-9:30 a.m.) at Jakes Landing. CLAPPER RAILS continue to be seen and heard easily there, as well as OSPREY, WILLET, FORSTER'S TERN, SEASIDE SPARROW, and MEADOWLARK in full song. Along the wooded portion of the road bird songs include GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, WHITE-EYED VIREO, WOOD THRUSH, PINE WARBLER, PRAIRIE WARBLER, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, BROWN THRASHER, and BLUE GROSBEAK.

At the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen PURPLE MARTINS and TREE SWALLOWS are actively using nest boxes, gourds, and houses. Both are strictly insect feeders and have struggled during the recent stretches of cold, wet weather. They could starve during lengthy periods of such weather. Join Pat Sutton for a "Purple Martin Nest Check" every Friday (June 6 through August 1) from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. (weather permitting: cancelled on rainy days) at the CMBO Center in Goshen to learn how to attract Purple Martins, about their habitat needs, proper housing, precautions, and maintenance needed to ensure success. A KILLDEER nested in the parking lot here again; eggs found on May 9 hatched about May 21. RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS, seen at CMBO's center in Goshen since mid-April, have been much more active and plentiful this past week. CORAL HONEYSUCKLE, CORAL BELLS, WILD COLUMBINE, and LARGE-FLOWERED VETCH, a weedy wildflower that many "not in the know" pull out as a weed are attracting them as well as well-maintained hummingbird feeders. Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are already on nests, so keep an eye on the path your female takes & you just might find the terrifically camouflaged nest. Be sure to keep your feeders clean, by thoroughly washing & refilling at least once a week, even if use is minimal. CMBO carries HummZinger feeders, which are one of the easiest feeders to clean and very well-thought out. Stop by & check them out.

38 pairs of BALD EAGLES were active in New Jersey in March. Sadly 9 of these pairs failed this spring. 23 pairs were successful ; some young are 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.

Despite the rainy, cold weather this past week a few butterflies and dragonflies have been seen when the sun peeks through. CMBO's "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" (every Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. to Noon) with Pat Sutton at the Dennisville RR tracks continues to enjoy spring specialities like COBWEB SKIPPER (10 on 5/21) and PINE ELFIN (5/18). A movement of AMERICAN LADIES occurred this past week. Many ragged individuals were seen. An earlier wave of American Ladies (which can not winter north of the southern edge of the United States and Mexico) arrived in late March and early April and laid eggs on everlasting and Pussy Toes. Caterpillars that hatched from those eggs are nearly full size now and some have even gone into a chrysalis. Overwintering BLACK SWALLOWTAILS are emerging now. On the dragonfly front, there are lots of BLUE CORPORALS and MANTLED BASKETTAILS. CMBO's dragonfly pond in Goshen has been an overwintering nursery for many dragonflies; even in the drizzle on May 17 several were emerging. 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.

TULIP POPLAR trees are blooming and pulling in bees, wasps, and lots of ORCHARD ORIOLES. WILD CHERRY trees, one of our prettiest native trees when in flower and one of the most beneficial to wildlife (52 birds feed on the fruits in early fall, are in full bloom. Take a close look and savor them. VIBURNUMS, HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY, and HUCKLEBERRY are also blooming now. PINE POLLEN, a dense yellow dusting, is covering everything now. 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.

If you'd like to learn as you help CMBO maintain its gardens in Goshen, join Karen Williams every Friday (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.

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

Additional regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration and will help you witness spring unfolding include: "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" Friday, May 30, (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Raptors and Songbirds of Delaware Bayshore" Sunday, May 25 (8-10 a.m.), "Birding for First Timers" every Sunday (1-3 p.m.), "Leader's Choice Bird Walk" Tuesday, May 27 (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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