Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/29/2003
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 29. 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.

The heaviest HORSESHOE CRAB egg-laying along the Delaware Bay beaches so far this spring was reported May 28th. Hundreds and hundreds came ashore at many beaches during the high tides. At low tide the stranded crabs (those that got flipped by waves and couldn't right themselves) can be seen the length and width of the beaches. Saturday, May 31, is the NEW MOON and each high tide leading up to, during, and the few days after will trigger new waves of egg-laying Horseshoe Crabs. So this year, rather than the Full Moon high tides in the middle of May, the peak for Horseshoe Crab egg laying is definitely around the New Moon high tides at the end of May. Good numbers of RED KNOT, RUDDY TURNSTONES, SANDERLING, and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS can be seen from the viewing area at the base of the jetty at Reeds Beach and from many other locations. Many SANDERLING are now in rich red FULL BREEDING plumage. The NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Program's weekly aerial surveys of the entire Delaware Bay shoreline continue to document a severe decline in bird numbers. On May 27, total numbers for the Delaware Bay were 16,000 RED KNOT (in 2002 on this date there were 31,700), 19,800 RUDDY TURNSTONES (in 2002 there were 64,700), 11,600 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (in 2002 there were 51,300), 9,400 SANDERLING (this is the only species with higher #s in 2003 than in 2002 when there were 7,300), 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 "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.

At the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen PURPLE MARTINS, TREE SWALLOWS, and TUFTED TITMOUSE are actively using nest boxes. The Purple Martins and swallows 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: canceled 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. RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS, seen at CMBO's center in Goshen since mid-April, have settled in and are being seen easily now. 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.

The cold, wet weather has not been ideal for insects. A few butterflies and dragonflies have been seen when the sun peeks through. FROSTED ELFINS continue to be seen at Dennisville RR tracks, where their host plant WILD INDIGO grows, including one on May 28. TIGER SWALLOWTAILS are gathering in rain puddles. A RED ADMIRAL was a flyby at Reeds Beach on May 29. Other butterflies seen this week at Dennisville RR tracks include: HORACE'S DUSKYWING, JUVENAL'S DUSKYWING, BLACK SWALLOWTAIL, RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK (1st of the spring!), GRAY HAIRSTREAK, E. TAILED BLUE, SPRING AZURE, PEARL CRESCENT, AMERICAN LADY, PAINTED LADY, COBWEB SKIPPER, and SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER. Join Pat Sutton at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen (600 Rt. 47 North) each Wednesday (10:00 a.m. to Noon) for a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk in CMBO's Gardens." CMBO's dragonfly pond in Goshen has been an overwintering nursery for many dragonflies; we're finding shed skins for individuals that have emerged as winged adults. 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. 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.

TULIP POPLAR trees are blooming and pulling in bees, wasps, and lots of ORIOLES. BLACK (or HONEY) LOCUST trees are blooming and attracting flocks of CEDAR WAXWINGS. Treat yourself and smell one of the flower clusters, deliciously sweet. POISON IVY is in bloom now and the flowers are quite attractive. MOUNTAIN LAUREL is just beginning to bloom in Belleplain State Forest, at Jakes Landing Road, and elsewhere. The buds are bright pink. Once the flowers fully open they will be almost white. PINK LADY'S SLIPPER is in bloom now in under the pines at Jakes Landing and elsewhere in Belleplain State Forest. The lovely white blossoms on WILD CHERRY trees and on VIBURNUM bushes were short-lived this spring due to heavy rains. Learn how to identify wildflowers with Mark Garland at CMBO's "Introduction to Wildflower Identification" on Saturday, June 14. Call (609) 861-0700, x-11, to register.

There are now two great ways to experience beach and marsh nesting birds at Stone Harbor: (1) Every Sunday (7:30-9:30 a.m.) join Gail Dwyer & Dick Turner for "Stone Harbor Point Bird Walk," and (2) Every Tuesday (6 p.m. to dusk) join Mike Fritz and company for the "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point & Nummy's Island." 2 pairs of GULL-BILLED TERNS are on nests now, along with all the expected terns. Nesting PIPING PLOVERS and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS can also be enjoyed. 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.

Two opportunities to bird and learn the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (also fondly called, "The Meadows") include: (1) "Mondays at the Meadows" walk, every Monday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), and (2) "Sunset Birding at the Meadows," Friday, June 6 (6:30 to 8:30 p.m.). These walks are now enjoying the nesting birds that will be here all summer. 4 PIPING PLOVER chicks are now feeding on the beach there with the adults in attendance. Nesting GADWALL, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, and LEAST BITTERN can also be enjoyed. And WILSON'S STORM PETREL are being seen regularly on walks there by scanning offshore. Just down Sunset Boulevard a PEREGRINE FALCON has become quite a regular at the water tower on the old Magnesite Plant property.

"Back Bay Birding By Boat" cruises, every Sunday and Monday (10:00 a.m. to Noon), 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.), Saturday, May 31, 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.

Every Saturday, thru June 7 (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. On May 27 this hotspot also enjoyed a nice fallout of migrant warblers.

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.), "Birding for First Timers" every Sunday (1-3 p.m.), "Leader's Choice Bird Walk" Tuesday, June 3 (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 PROGRAMS (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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