Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/7/2004

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 6. 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.

Researchers tagged over 200 HORSESHOE CRABS and are now able to monitor their movements; they have found that the crabs have left the deep waters of the Delaware Bay and are on the shelf in @ 12 feet of water. The Delaware Bay water temperatures have warmed up enough (above 60 degrees) to trigger mating. In late April some egg laying was observed and the first big wave of egg laying occurred during the full moon high tides on May 4 -- right on time! 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 crabs lay at high tide and the biggest egg laying occurs on the highest tides (New or Full Moons) in May and early June. High tide at Reeds Beach Thursday (May 6) was 10:45 a.m.; it's roughly one hour later each day. 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 4 times (May 20, 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 sign up for NJ Audubon's incredible 3-day Cape May Spring Weekend, May 21-23 (a downloadable registration form is available on NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/CMBO/SpringWeekend.html 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

Spring migration is at flood stage and will remain at flood stage for the next 3 weeks! Everywhere all over the Cape this morning, May 6, migrant songbirds were heard and seen! Couple that with the WOW of our dazzling breeders and any outing now is enriching. To learn how weather systems affect bird migration and learn to anticipate the next wave of migrants, join Paul Lehman for his special "Weather and Bird Migration" program on Saturday, May 8, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the CMBO Center in Goshen. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are daily now, and have set up territories and will nest where feeders are hung, like the CMBO Gardens in Goshen. Nectar is in short supply in spring, so feeders hung in mid-April and early May are key if you want them to nest in your yard. Be sure to compliment feeders with a wildlife garden. Learn how by going to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Splash Too, a lovely selection of wildlife plants is now on sale at CMBO's center in Goshen. Selection changes weekly, so stop by often! 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, 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.

The first PIPING PLOVER nests were discovered in late April: 2 pairs at Stone Harbor Point and 2 pairs at the Cape May Point State Park. AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS are on eggs at many locations.

A few BALD EAGLE nests failed last week, including the one at Beaver Swamp WMA, just north of the CMBO Center in Goshen. This sometimes happens with a new pair their first year. There are 36 remaining nests in New Jersey with young. Three nests have 3 chicks each, 12 nests have 2 chicks each, and a number of nests can not be monitored (so numbers are not yet known). A fourth nest had 3 chicks but the oldest chick became too aggressive towards the youngest chick and now there are two. This happens in nature. The chick in the Maurice River nest is quite large and flapping its wings from the nest edge. It may soon be flying!

GREAT HORNED OWLS laid eggs in late January and have sizable young now. A nest with two fluffy owlets was discovered several weeks ago in the marsh off the end of Goshen Landing Road on an Osprey Platform. Park at the last house on Goshen Landing Road (beyond this deep puddles in this road are saltwater) and walk the road till you reach the saltmarsh (just ahead). Look ahead and to the left for the nearby Osprey Platform. If the adult is on the nest, it will be quite obvious, but flushes quickly with activity on the road . Look from a distance; please do not walk across the marsh to the nest and disturb it! It can also be seen from the road end, but often from there the adult has definitely already flushed and flown to nearby cover. The young are so large now that they should be easily seen.

CHUCK WILLS-WIDOWS and WHIP-POOR-WILLS can now be heard through the night and pre-dawn. E. BLUEBIRDS are using the nest boxes at Woodcock Lane in the Cape May NWR and elsewhere. PURPLE MARTINS are back at the nesting colony at the Cape May Point State Park, but have not yet returned to the CMBO colony in Goshen. A few COMMON LOONS might still be seen in back bay waters and some are in full breeding plumage (1 on May 5 during Nummy's Island walk). OSPREY are incubating eggs now at their nest on Jakes Landing Road, on Nummy's Island, and elsewhere. A din of CLAPPER RAILS can be heard on the saltmarshes and a great way to see them and learn about them are the Friday "Clapper Rail Madness" programs at low tide at Jakes Landing Road (5-6:30 p.m. on May 7 and 1-2:30 p.m. on May 14). GREAT EGRETS are in full breeding plumage with bright lime green around their eyes. BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS are super ornate now with their breeding plumes.

Migrant shorebirds are here in big numbers and those numbers are building! 12,000 were counted between Bivalve and Heislerville in Cumberland County on May 5. Several thousand were enjoyed on Nummy's Island during the "Nummy's Island Bird Walk" on May 5, many in high breeding plumage, including 1,000 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (in rich reds and oranges), several RED KNOT (very rusty), 20 WHIMBREL, 100s BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (in all stages of plumage change ... some still dull winter plumage and some with blazing black bellies), #s DUNLIN, several YELLOWLEGS, 1 RUDDY TURNSTONE. COMMON TERNS returned in force on May 4 to the Stone Harbor Point breeding colony, along with several pairs of GULL-BILLED TERNS. The Common Terns are in full breeding plumage with silvery chests and easily stand out from the white-chested Forster's Terns right now. For a terrific show of shorebirds, terns, herons & egrets, and other goodies of the saltmarshes and back bays be sure to sign up for the Wednesday, May 12 "Sunset Cruise for Spring Migrants and Heron Rookeries" from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register. Two other excellent opportunities to see the riches of the marshes follow: (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) every Wednesday, "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).

All the breeding specialities are IN at Belleplain State Forest, quite a few already building nests or incubating eggs: YELLOW-THROATED, PROTHONOTARY, HOODED, WORM-EATING, PINE, PRAIRIE, BLACK AND WHITE, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, SUMMER TANAGER, a din of OVENBIRDS and WOOD THRUSH calling, and so much more! Treat yourself to Belleplain State Forest and nearby Peaslee WMA by joining CMBO Associate Naturalists on four weekly, 3-hour walks in May, 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) every Thursday and (2) Saturday, May 8 & 29, the "Birds of Belleplain State Forest," (3) every Monday the "Back Trails of Belleplain," and (4) every Wednesday the "Birds of Peaslee WMA."

Come birding NOW, but also consider two very special workshops featuring the best of spring at Cape May: a 2-Day Bullet Workshop for WARBLERS on May 8-9 (Saturday & Sunday) and a 3-day Bullet Workshop at the peak of SPRING MIGRATION on May 18-20 (Tuesday thru Thursday). To learn more & download a registration form for these and other 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.

All the speciality breeders are IN. YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and BLUE GROSBEAK at Higbee Beach WMA & Hidden Valley; PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (and migrants like RUSTY BLACKBIRD) at Hidden Valley and the Rea Farm; COMMON MOORHEN and LEAST BITTERN (and migrants like SORA RAIL on 5/3/04) at the Meadows. Combine this with spectacular looks at migrants, like N. GANNETS following the shoreline by Cape May Point, and you don't want 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) every Friday (except May 21), "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" meets in the parking lot at the west end of New England Road, (2) Saturday, May 8 & 29, "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" meets in the parking lot on Bayshore Road, (3) Sunday, May 9, "Hidden Valley for Birds & Butterflies" meets in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England road, 0.3 miles past the intersection with Bayshore Road, (4) every Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" meets at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (5) every Wednesday, " Birding Cape May Point" meets in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park. If you're a beginner, join Mark Garland every Thursday thru May 20 for "Easy Birding" (9:00-11:00 a.m.) and Judy Lukens Sunday, May 9 & 30, for "Birding for First Timers" (1-3 p.m.), both meeting on the Wildlife Viewing Platform in Cape May Point State Park. And to explore the Cape May NWR's newest acquisition, be sure to consider every Tuesday's walk "Spring at Two Mile Beach," which meets at 7:30 a.m. in the last parking area on the left in the refuge, which lies to the east of Ocean Drive just south of Wildwood Crest.

On the butterfly, dragonfly, and tiger beetle front much is flying now that we are experiencing toasty warm days. A few HESSEL'S HAIRSTREAKS have been seen since late April at White Cedar Swamps in Cumberland County. 3 OLIVE' JUNIPER HAIRSTREAKS and a RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK were seen on May 6 near the Tuckahoe River. The elfins are all still flying. HENRY'S, BROWN, & PINE ELFIN were all seen on May 5 on the weekly (every Wednesday) "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" with Pat Sutton, which meets at 1:00 p.m. in the parking lot at the end of Jakes Landing Road, near Dennisville and focuses on spring specialties. E. TIGER, SPICEBUSH, and BLACK SWALLOWTAILS are all flying. FALCATE ORANGETIPS, a spring speciality, is still flying. A SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER was seen May 6. 100s of JUVENAL'S DUSKYWINGS can be enjoyed now on the sand roads of South Jersey. 40 were on 3 mounds of animal scat on May 5 in Peaslee WMA. UHLER'S SUNDRAGONS were flying on May 2 in Cumberland County. BLUE CORPORALS and HARLEQUIN DARNERS entertained during CMBO's May 5 "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk." For news of other dragons & damsels here in New Jersey, be sure and visit http://www.njodes.com

A BAT flew in off the Delaware Bay on April 25 along with other migrants. COMMON MILKWEED and SWAMP MILKWEED are 8-12" up, so arriving MONARCHS should find plenty of choices for egg laying! VIBERNUMS are beginning to bloom. CHOKEBERRY, DOGWOOD, AZALEAS, and LILACS are in full bloom. Blooming DANDELION is attracting butterflies. BEACH PLUM bushes are in full bloom at Higbee Beach (treat yourself to a visit) and are a favorite with nectaring hairstreaks. Blooming HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY is drawing in hummingbirds. The deciduous forest is a filmy green as trees leaf out. The saltmarshes are beginning to green up. Cool evenings followed by warm days are bringing out sunbathing snakes on sand roads (be careful as you drive about): BLACK RAT SNAKES, N. WATER SNAKES, GARTER SNAKES. CARPENTER FROGS are calling their hammer-like calls at East Creek Lake, Head of River, and Beaver Swamp WMA. SPRING PEEPERS are deafening. FOWLER'S TOADS are calling their wailing "waaaaaaaaaa." S. LEOPARD FROGS are in CMBO's pond in Goshen. PINE BARREN'S TREEFROGS are calling: "quonk, quonk, quonk."

An "Optics Workshop" will be taught by Scott Edwards at the CMBO Northwood Center in Cape May Point on Saturday, May 8, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Call 609-861-0700 to register. This is an excellent opportunity to compare binoculars and telescopes side-by-side and learn what is best for you!

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers many, many other programs than those briefly mentioned here. CMBO's SPRING Program Schedule can be read in full at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html and 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!


Want to help the Red Knots as they concentrate on our beaches along the Delaware Bay this spring? Sign up as a Shorebird Steward (full details on back page of CMBO's Spring Program schedule). A training session will be held on Saturday, May 8, and a stipend will be paid to those who complete the training and work at least 3 days. Contact Larissa Smith (609-628-2103) to apply or send a letter of interest (and resume if available) to Larissa Smith, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, 2201 Route 631, Woodbine, NJ 08270.

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!

<< 4/23/2004   5/13/2004 >>