Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/27/2004

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 Thursday, May 27. 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.

Many of the breeding warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers in Belleplain and elsewhere have gotten very quite over the last week. This is normal when birds are on nests! There are still lots of birds here, they're just very hard to detect now that most of them are not singing. The final "Birds of Belleplain State Forest" bird walk will be held Saturday, May 29, at 7:30 a.m. and meet at the Belleplain State Forest Field Office, just off Rt. 550, west of Woodbine.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are settled in now. Females are on nests. Males are defending territories. And JAPANESE HONEYSUCKLE is in full bloom. Each year when this happens activity at feeders falls off and people think they've left. Nope! They're just feeding on honeysuckle instead; they'll be back once the honeysuckle flowers wane. So, continue to maintain your feeders, especially during severe heat, by cleaning feeders thoroughly every 3-5 days and refilling with fresh solution. Be sure to compliment feeders with a wildlife garden. Learn how by going to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat A series of workshops will be offered at the CMBO Center in Goshen utilizing the center's great gardens: (1) "Create a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife: The Basics" on Saturday, June 19 (1-3 p.m.), (2) "Dragons & Damsels in CMBO's Gardens (learn how to create a dragonfly pond!)" on Saturday, June 19 (11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), (3) "Gardening for Butterfly Caterpillars" on Saturday, June 26 (11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m), (4) "Create a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden," on Saturday June 26 (2-4 p.m.). No need to preregister, just come!

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! The current selection of available plants is posted and regularly updated 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.

OSPREY are incubating eggs now at their nests on Jakes Landing Road, Nummy's Island, and many other locations. Dozens were flying over Nummy's Island late in the afternoon on May 25 and 26, all with fish! Hereford Inlet and the back bays have been good hunting sites this spring. So, let's keep our fingers crossed and hope this year's nesting season will be a terrific success. Last spring's rain and cold resulted in many failed nests and dead young when adults could not successfully catch enough fish to feed mates or young.

Heron, egret, and ibis nesting colonies are full of adults in full breeding plumage, displaying for each other, working on nests, and generally quite noisy. The same goes for tern and gull colonies. The largest nesting colony of LAUGHING GULLS in the world is on the marshes behind Stone Harbor & Avalon. The din of their calls is almost deafening now. The Stone Harbor Point beach nesting bird colony is spectacular right now, including 100s of BLACK SKIMMER, 100s of COMMON TERNS, LEAST TERNS, and a few pairs of GULL-BILLED TERNS. Other rarer terns have been attracted to all the noise and activity at the Stone Harbor Point tern colony: CASPIAN (2 on May 22), ROYAL (1 on May 24), ARCTIC (3 on May 24), and ROSEATE TERNS (2 on May 22). There are also 9 pairs of PIPING PLOVER nesting at Stone Harbor Point, more than ever and probably due to the build up of sand. Be alert for AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS with young now, some newly hatched and others about a week old. To savor the Stone Harbor Point nesting colony don't miss "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point," every Tuesday (6:00 p.m. till dusk), meeting in the Stone Harbor Point parking lot at the south end of Stone Harbor.

Intense gull and tern activity at nesting colonies pulls in rarities like those mentioned above. CMBO is offering it's next Cape May Birding Workshop at the peak time to study "Terns" July 28 (last year 10 species were studied side-by-side in late July). Additional "Cape May Birding Workshops" include: "Butterflies" on 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 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.

HORSESHOE CRABS have been coming up onto the sandy beaches of the Delaware Bay to mate and lay eggs since late April. They will continue to do so 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. During the New Moon high tides leading up to and after May 19, we were finding that egg laying during the daytime high tide was minimal, but quite spectacular during the nighttime high tide. So the next really big egg-laying spectacle will be on June 3rd during the Full Moon high tide at 10 p.m. Viewing should be good the two hours leading up to high tide that entire week (so between 8 p.m. and Midnight the entire first week in June).

If you're out looking for the crabs and the shorebirds, also be alert for DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN; they've been coming out of the Delaware Bay and journeying into the dunes to lay their eggs over the last week or so. To witness this world famous 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 2 more times (May 28 & 29) from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., meeting at 3:00 p.m. at the CMBO Center in Goshen, and (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).

Weekly aerial surveys of shorebirds along the Delaware Bayshore are conducted by the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program. 60,000 shorebirds were feeding on horseshoe crab eggs on NJ's beaches along the Delaware Bay and another 68,100 shorebirds in DE during an aerial survey on May 25. Bay-wide (NJ & DE) 13,300 RED KNOT, 45,400 RUDDY TURNSTONES, 60,500 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, 5,000 SANDERLING, 200 DOWITCHER, and 4,350 DUNLIN were counted. The NJ Endangered & Nongame Species biologists are very concerned: Red Knot numbers are far below those of last year indicating a continued drop in their population. 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

On a bright note, the Manomet Center for Conservation Science shared news of a 21+ year-old RED KNOT that was seen alive near Jacksonville, Florida; the bird had been originally banded as an adult in 1984 (20 years ago) in southern Brazil. To read the full story go to: http://www.manomet.org/naturereport

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.). Trip goers can expect nesting colonies of Forster's and Common Terns, Laughing Gulls, visible chicks from American Oystercatcher, Osprey, and Clapper Rail nests, and heron rookeries "hopping" with activity! 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.). Spaces are limited on each of these special programs/cruises (call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register).

PURPLE MARTINS are chortling at the nesting colony at the Cape May Point State Park. The egg count by Purple Martin landlord, Dave Thomas, was 26 earlier this week and growing! Purple Martins have not returned to many colonies, including the CMBO colony in Goshen; there is widespread concern that something happened on the wintering grounds.

Enjoy summer birds by joining one of CMBO scheduled walks with the local experts. Walks near Cape May follow: (1) Friday, May 28, "Higbee Beach" meets at 7:30 a.m. in Higbee Beach parking lot, (2) Saturday, May 29, "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot on Bayshore Road, (3) every Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" meets at 7:30 a.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (4) every Wednesday, " Birding Cape May Point" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park, (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, and (6) every Sunday (beginning June 4), "Welcome to Cape May" with Senior Naturalist Mark Garland meets at 2:00 p.m. at the CMBO Northwood Center. 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. Sunday and Monday "Back Bay Birding By Boat" trips (10:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. in MAY &: 10:00 a.m. till Noon in June) aboard the Skimmer are sponsored by CMBO.

On the butterfly and dragonfly front, much is flying now, including many species that seem a week or two early . . . maybe due to the super warm May we've had. On May 22, numbers of AARON'S, ZABULON, and SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPERS were in CMBO's gardens in Goshen along with 2 LEAST SKIPPER and 1 SACHEM. SWARTHY SKIPPER was seen May 26 in Dennisville and HAYHURST'S SCALLOPWING on May 27 at Bivalve. E. TIGER and SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAILS were common May 26, BLACK SWALLOWTAILS were common on May 22 & now fennel is covered with their eggs and caterpillars. Dozens of RED-SPOTTED PURPLES are being seen, including some laying eggs at the tip of Wild Cherry leaves. FROSTED ELFINS could not be found May 26, but three of their caterpillars (1/8" long) were found on Wild Indigo on CMBO's final spring butterfly walk on May 26. E. PINE ELFIN too could not be found on the May 26 walk, but one of their tiny eggs was found on tender young pine shoots where a tree had been cut back. AMERICAN SNOUTS are being seen near Hackberry trees. A VARIEGATED FRITILLARY was at Cape May Point on May 23. HACKBERRY EMPERORS were seen in the dunes at Higbee Beach on May 22. A tattered JUNIPER HAIRSTREAK was in Goshen on May 24. SNOWBERRY CLEARWINGS (one of the hummingbird moths) are flying now. HARLEQUIN DARNERS are still abundant on the sand roads of Belleplain State Forest. BLUE DASHERS, COMMON WHITETAIL, E. PONDHAWK, CALICO PENNANT, COMMON GREEN DARNER, and EBONY JEWELWING were all enjoyed this week. Spend an afternoon learning to recognize the major orders of insects and discover some extraordinary adaptations with Mark Garland on Sunday, May 30 (1-4 p.m.), during "Bugs 101," an introduction to basic entomology (call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register).

SWEETBAY MAGNOLIA is beginning to bloom; treat yourself to it's lovely scent especially in the early, early morning. JAPANESE HONEYSUCKLE's scent is intoxicating now, especially in the early morning or late evening. SHEEP LAUREL and MOUNTAIN LAUREL are beginning to bloom. MULTIFLORA ROSE is in full bloom. The saltmarshes are finally a lush, rich green!

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 . 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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