Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/25/2002
You have reached the Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline, a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This update was made on Saturday, May 25. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience).

The Memorial Day holiday weekend corresponds this year with the expected peak of egg-laying for horseshoe crabs along the Delaware Bay shoreline. Full moon occurs on Sunday, May 26, and typically the most extreme tides of late May, which come with either a full or new moon, trigger the horseshoe crabs into activity. Visit any of the Delaware Bay sites, such as Reeds Beach, Cooks Beach, or Norbury?s Landing, to see horseshoe crabs and large numbers of shorebirds and gulls feeding on their eggs. The shorebirds most frequently seen feeding on horseshoe crab eggs are Sanderlings, Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Dunlin, but many other species will also feed on this abundant food resource. Even Boat-tailed Grackles and Song Sparrows have been seen feeding on horseshoe crab eggs at Reeds Beach this week. CMBO offers its ?Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs Galore? program on Saturday, May 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and its ?A Close Look at Shorebirds? program on Sunday, May 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Both of these programs require advanced registration: call (609) 861-0700 for more information or to register.

It is impossible to predict what the ?typical? peak dates will bring this year. Horseshoe crab mating activity began much earlier than most years, on April 16, when thousands of Horseshoe Crabs came ashore to mate & lay their eggs along the Delaware Bay beaches. The next day hundreds were found on the beach at Fortescue in Cumberland County & thousands at Highs Beach in Cape May County.

Note that the New Jersey Audubon Society is sponsoring a letter-writing campaign in an effort to increase the protection for horseshoe crabs. To learn more about this critical conservation issue visit either of the CMBO centers or check the New Jersey Audubon Society web site at http://www.njaudubon.org

The noses of many diamondback terrapins were seen from the Delaware Bay waters just offshore from some of the horseshoe crab beaches. Do terrapins feed on these eggs too? Let us know if you have the answer!

Nummy's Island continues to harbor many shorebirds, including Whimbrel, Red Knot, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover, and Short-billed Dowitcher. The birds are easiest to see at this site at high tide.

Butterfly numbers and diversity are climbing rapidly now. Fourteen species were seen at the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management area on Thursday?s ?Birds, Butterflies, and their Habitat? program. This program will be offered each Thursday afternoon from 1 ? 3 p.m. though June 20. No advanced registration is required. Species being seen this week included Spicebush swallowtail, zabulon skipper, least skipper, and scalloped sootywing. Two species that aren?t usually seen in significant numbers this early in the season, the sachem and the common buckeye, are both being frequently seen already this year. Last winter?s mild weather probably allowed many immatures of these two species to successfully overwinter much further north than is typical.

Dragonflies are also becoming quite active now. CMBO sponsors a Dragonfly Workshop and Walk on Saturday, June 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Call (609) 861-0700 to register. Butterflies and Dragonflies are both subjects of Pat Sutton?s Wednesday walks at Jakes Landing Road from 10:00 a.m. to noon. The last of this spring?s series of these walks will be held on Wednesday, May 29.

The SWAINSON'S WARBLER, discovered May 1 during CMBO'S "Birding by Ear Walk" continues at Jakes Landing Road in the Mountain Laurel thicket just before the first pine stand on the left. The bird frequents both sides of the road & his distinctive song helps one know where to look. Please DO NOT use tapes on the Swainson's Warbler -- tapes are inappropriate, since their use may drive the bird away and make it unavailable to other birders. The bird has been and can be heard easily without tapes and with a little patience. Your best chance of seeing the bird comes from sitting or standing quietly along the road edge near the location where the bird is heard singing. It periodically comes to the road edge, but if there are people moving around it invariably heads way back off the road. If people are very still and quiet, it often will stop right along the road side for a few seconds, where its drab plumage may be enjoyed. Join Pat Sutton on the ?Birding By Ear? field trip that discovered this bird next Wednesday, May 29, at the end of Jakes Landing Road. No advanced registration is required.

Songbird migration is winding down, though migrant birds continue to be found. Some of the species still being include Mourning Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Wilson?s Warbler, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Bobolink. Check our birding hotline at (609) 898-BIRD for more details.

Many of the breeding birds are on territory or building nests or already feeding young. CMBO's many walks and field trips are in experiencing the waning spring as it gives way to the fecundity of summer. Join any of our weekly walks to experience this transitional time of year.

CMBO's "Birds of Higbee Beach," is offered every Friday through May 31 from 7:30-9:30 a.m., meeting at Higbee Beach WMA parking lot at the west end of New England Road.

CMBO's "Spring Migrants of the Rea Farm walk," is offered EVERY Saturday through June 8 from 7:30-9:30 a.m., meeting in the "The Beanery / Rea Farm" parking lot on Bayshore Road.

Our naturalists will be leading a Sunday morning walk at Stone Harbor Point from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. each week from June 2 through June 23. This walk is also offered on Tuesday evenings through June 11, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Meet at the parking area at the south end of 2nd Ave. in Stone Harbor.

The Nature Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (also known as the South Cape May Meadows) is always a hotspot. Join Pete Dunne or CMBO Associate Naturalists when Pete is traveling (which will be all June this year) every Monday through June 24 for CMBO's "Birding with Pete Dunne walk," from 7:30-9:30 a.m., meeting at The Nature Conservancy's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard.

CMBO perennial favorite, ?Birding Cape May Point,? is offered every Wednesday morning from 7:30 ? 9:30 a.m. through June 26. Meet at the raised picnic pavilion in Cape May Point State Park.

Another popular program, ?Sunset Birding at the Meadows,? returns on June 7 and will be offered every Friday evening in June from 6:30 p.m. until sunset. Meet at The Nature Conservancy refuge parking area along Sunset Blvd.

Every Thursday in June, from 10:00 a.m. until noon, Karen Williams, gardener extraordinaire, will lead a weekly tour through the wildlife-friendly Backyard Habitat Gardens at the CMBO Center for Research and Education in Goshen. Like all of the weekly walks listed above, the price is $6 for members and $10 for nonmembers and advanced registration is not required nor accepted. For a free tour of the garden, join Karen any Friday morning from 9:30 a.m. to noon. You?ll get a close-up look at the garden these days ? this is our ?garden maintenance workshop,? and participants help tend the gardens while learning about how they work. Roll up your sleeves, bring your clippers, and join the work party any Friday morning all summer long.

BALD EAGLES, our second earliest nesting bird, have nearly full grown young right now! In New Jersey, 23 pairs are busy with young. One of the most easily viewed nests in the state is at Stow Creek, in northwestern Cumberland County on the border of Salem County. This pair began incubating February 23 and their young hatched on April 4. Be sure to visit this nest now through June when the young begin to test their wings. A viewing platform on Route 623, just north of Stow Creek, offers an excellent view.

CMBO's center in Goshen has E. Bluebirds on eggs (behind the building), Tree Swallows building a nest (to the left of the building), Barn Swallows building a nest (over the plant sale area), Purple Martins in the gourds behind the building, and lots of Ruby-throated Hummingbird activity at the feeders, the blooming Coral Honeysuckle, Coral Bells, and Wild Columbine in the gardens! Males have been seen displaying (doing the "pendulum swing") over females at CMBO and elsewhere this week!

Hopefully your hummingbird feeders are hung, since breeders are already back & males have been vigorously defending territories for some time. Our gardens are not in bloom yet, so feeders are the key now in early spring if you hope to attract nesting hummingbirds. Stop by CMBO to see our full selection of easy-to-maintain feeders and to get CMBO's handout on hummingbird feeder directions and maintenance -- be sure to clean your feeders out thoroughly at least once each week, even if they are still full. Coupling a feeder with habitat and gardens is the key. If you are new to gardening for hummingbirds & butterflies, be sure to read "How to Create a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden," by Pat Sutton, posted on NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/NatureNotes/Garden.html If you are new to gardening for wildlife in general, be sure to read Karen Williams excellent article "A Dozen ?Must Have' Plants for Backyard Habitats" by going to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/NatureNotes/dozen.html

Check Garden Fennel and Bronze Fennel in your gardens now for fresh Black Swallowtail eggs. CMBO's gardens in Goshen have many eggs now. Red Admirals came through earlier and laid on patches of Stinging Nettle ... their growing caterpillars are now hiding in webbed together leaves.

On the flower front, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) has burst into bloom throughout the woodlands of Cape May County. Enjoy this show along many of the quiet roads through Belleplain State Forest. Black Locust trees are still in bloom, and American Holly tree flowers are about to open up. When they do, treat yourself to their delicious smelling blooms, all too often overlooked. Tulip Trees are beginning to bloom and already drawing in numbers of bees, wasps, and orioles.

CMBO's Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North) has WILDLIFE GARDEN PLANTS FOR SALE now through October, EVERY DAY (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.), including many trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials that are hard to find elsewhere. Stop by to see the selection, which changes weekly. A few of this week's sale items include: COMMON MILKWEED (Monarchs need for egg-laying!!!), CORAL BELLS (hummers), ANISE HYSSOP, NEW ENGLAND ASTER, NEW YORK IRONWEED, BOLTONIA, CARDINAL FLOWER & WILD COLUMBINE (hummers), HOPS (Question Marks lay their eggs on this), CATMINT, STINGING NETTLE (Red Admirals lay their eggs on this), GARDEN PHLOX, EASTERN RED CEDAR (30+ birds feed on the berries and Juniper Hairstreaks lay their eggs on this), various VIBURNUMS, SOUR GUM, BLACK CHOKEBERRY, and SHADBUSH. If you'd like to be e-mailed as wildlife garden plants "for sale" are delivered to CMBO, send CMBO (600 Route 47 North, CMCH, NJ 08210) your e-mail address and ask to be added to this outgoing e-mail message list.

TICKS are out in force. Explore with caution & be sure to do a thorough tick check of your person and your clothing after outings in South Jersey. CMBO's two bookstores carry excellent books on ticks and Lyme Disease. If you enjoy the outdoors, it is wise to be as educated as possible.

CMBO's SPRING PROGRAMS "in full" (April through June 2002) are posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html These programs include 13 different weekly walks for birds, butterflies and gardens ("hitting" each of the spring hotspots) that require no preregistration; JUST COME! There is a charge ($6 CMBO/ NJ Audubon member; $10 nonmember). Many specially arranged preregistration programs are also offered, including "Horseshoe Crabs Up Close" on May 20, "A Close Look at Shorebirds" on May 22 (and again on May 26), "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore" on May 23 (also offered on May 24 & 25), a "Dragonfly Workshop & Walk" on June 8, "Introduction to Wildflower ID" on June 15, "Cruisin' For Chicks at Sunset" on June 22 (when marshes rich in nesting birds are in full bloom: nest full of young terns, Laughing Gulls, American Oystercatchers, Ospreys, Clapper Rails, and more), and much, much more! To receive a copy of the spring schedule stop by either CMBO Center or call 609-861-0700.

The Cape May Bird Observatory is a research and education unit of the New Jersey Audubon Society. Our aim is to perpetuate and preserve the ornithological and natural history significance of Cape May. Your membership supports these goals and this hotline. For more information call 609-861-0700 or send a request for information to CMBO, 600 Route 47 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210. Our two centers are CMBO's Center for Research & Education at 600 Route 47 North in Goshen and CMBO's Northwood Center at 701 East Lake Drive in Cape May Point.

The Cape May Natural History & Events Hotline is a service of New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties and near shore waters. Updates are made on Thursday evenings. Please report natural history sightings to CMBO at 609-861-0700 or 609-884-2736. For the Cape May Birding Hotline call 609-898-BIRD. 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) pat_sutton@njaudubon.org

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