Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/8/2003
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 8. 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.

It is the eve of New Jersey Audubon's 20th Annual World Series of Birding, to be held on Saturday, May 10th. Fallouts are occurring (16 species of warblers at Higbees on May 7!), teams are finding birds right & left, spirits are high. You can be part of this event by sponsoring one of the home teams raising funds for CMBO. A record high of 73 teams are now registered for this great event, including 13 youth teams. To learn more go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/wsb) or call the Northwood Center at (609) 884-2736 for more information. Enjoy the online discussion at the World Series web site, to learn where top birders are finding special birds all over the state.

HORSESHOE CRABS are moving onto Delaware Bay beaches as their spawning season has begun. Shorebirds, including RED KNOTS and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS are arriving too, hoping for an ample supply of horseshoe crab eggs to fuel their northward journeys. There is great news from the states of New Jersey and Delaware this week for horseshoe crabs, shorebirds, naturalists and conservationists. A complete ban on the harvest of horseshoe crabs has been enacted in both states for all of May and early June, and the annual harvest quota has been cut in half. Hopefully these restrictions will allow populations of horseshoe crabs to rebound, and with it the shorebird numbers, which have been in rapid decline, may stabilize. It's a good time to send a note of thanks to the Governors of both states! There will also be access restrictions to many beaches where crabs & shorebirds are active, but there will still be great viewing opportunities -- without disturbing the birds.

The peak of horseshoe crab egg-laying and related shorebird feeding frenzies should accompany the high tides triggered by the full moon (May 16) and the new moon (May 31). May 16 is also the first day of the big "Cape May Spring Weekend," an amazing three-day weekend of talks, field trips, boat rides, and general celebration of nature in spring. Evening keynote talks this year will be by Pete Dunne and Kenn Kaufmann. There may still be room for you at this grand festival; call the Northwood Center at (609) 884-2736 for more information.

You can enjoy the phenomenal congregations of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs along the Delaware Bay shore on a number of upcoming programs. "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore" is offered from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on May 15, 22, 23, & 24. "A Close Look at Shorebirds" runs from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on May 21. "Horseshoe Crabs Up Close and Personal," with marine biologist Karen Williams, will be held from 9:00 a.m. to noon on May 31. Call (609) 861-0700 x11 to register.

On the butterfly front, lots of AMERICAN LADIES were seen around the Cape May Peninsula on May 7th, undoubtedly immigrants from the south where they winter, arriving to repopulate the area. SNOWBERRY CLEARWINGS (one of the hummingbird moths) are flying now & being drawn to Lilac blossoms. The spring's first HESSEL'S HAIRSTREAKS were discovered April 29 in Atlantic County in a White Cedar Swamp, where SLEEPY DUSKYWINGS were also flying. Swallowtails "popped" finally after all the cold & wet weather we've had. The first TIGER SWALLOWTAIL was seen April 27 and many since, and the first SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAIL and BLACK SWALLOWTAILS on April 30 and since. A MONARCH was seen April 29 in Avalon and thankfully COMMON MILKWEED, BUTTERFLYWEED, and SWAMP MILKWEED are all up, so early Monarchs will have plants to lay their eggs on. The spring ethereal butterflies are still flying: PINE ELFIN, HENRY'S ELFIN, BROWN ELFIN, FALCATE ORANGETIP. The sandy roads of Belleplain State Forest are ideal for elfin watching, though you'll have to look beyond the hoards of JUVENAL'S DUSKYWINGS. An amazing 24 OLIVE' JUNIPER HAIRSTREAKS and 34 FALCATE ORANGETIPS (29 males and 5 females) were seen on April 27 south of Millville.

On the dragonfly front, BLUE CORPORALS (tenerals & some already "BLUE") and MANTLED BASKETTAILS (1st seen April 30) are flying. And a TWIN-SPOTTED SPIKETAIL was seen April 27 in the NJ Pine Barrens at Harrisville. CMBO's dragonfly pond in Goshen has been an overwintering nursery for many dragonflies and we're finding shed skins from Blue Corporals and damselflies. New species should be emerging on every warm and sunny day. A "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" with Pat Sutton meets at the Dennisville RR tracks every Wednesday from 10 a.m.-Noon. Butterflies and all other elements of natural history are savored with Mark Garland during "The Nature of Cape May," an outing every Thursday at 9:00 a.m. at the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area. 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 x11 to register.

BALD EAGLES are the second earliest nesting bird. 38 pairs were active in New Jersey by February and March. Sadly a number of these pairs either did not nest or their nest failed. As of late April @ 23 pairs are still active with growing young, and some young are almost 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 flys down Sluice Creek and over CMBO on its way out to the Delaware Bay. On May 3rd an adult with sizable prey flew over the center.

As the calendar page turned to May, migrant songbirds really began to flood in. Almost all of our nesting birds are back, some already building nests (like the Blue-gray Gnatchatchers on Sunset Road in Belleplain). Tag along on one of the "CMBO walks at Belleplain State Forest" for a chance to see these nesting warblers: YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, PINE WARBLER, PRAIRIE WARBLER, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, HOODED WARBLER, WORM-EATING WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, OVENBIRD, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, and others. These walks begin at 7:30 a.m. every Thursday in May plus some Saturdays (May 24 and 31). If you know the "regular" places in Belleplain but want to walk some lesser known trails, try "Back Trails of Belleplain" on Monday mornings through May 12, 7:30-9:30 a.m.

PIPING PLOVERS were on eggs as/of May 7 at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge! Many OSPREY are sitting low on the nest, probably on eggs by now too!

At the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen PURPLE MARTINS and TREE SWALLOWS are showing interest in nest boxes, ORCHARD ORIOLES are back in the large trees, and RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are daily. Male Ruby-throats arrived first but females are back now in force too. Be looking for the male's display flight, a dramatic "pendulum swing." He performs it right over the female. Be sure to get your feeders up, especially if you would like them to nest in your yard. Clean feeders at least once a week, even if use is minimal. And of course be sure to also provide a lush butterfly & hummingbird garden.

This past winter's snowfall (unusual for South Jersey) flattened the winter stand of marsh grasses. The result . . . CLAPPER RAILS have been EASY to see at places like Jakes Landing. One pair mated right next to the parking lot in full view during CMBO's final "Clapper Rail Madness" walk on May 2. On the saltmarsh at Jakes Landing WILLETS, FORSTER'S TERNS, SEASIDE SPARROWS, and MEADOWLARKS have been in full song and also easy to see. Along the wooded portion of Jakes Landing Road bird songs include GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, WHITE-EYED VIREO, WOOD THRUSH, and many more. The field on Jakes Landing Road now has calling BLUE GROSBEAK, PRAIRIE WARBLER, and more. It's a great place to learn songs, and you can learn them under the tutelage of Pat Sutton on her "Birding by Ear Walk" each Wednesday from 7:30-9:30 a.m.

"Back Bay Birding By Boat" cruises, every Sunday and Monday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), offer comfortable and close looks at shorebirds, herons, egrets, Ospreys, 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 to 8 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.

Many trees are fully leafed out, others still look gauzy. LILACS and VIBURNUMS are blooming. BLUEBERRY bell-shaped blossoms are pulling in hungry hummingbirds. BEACH PLUM is waning, but was dazzling just a short time ago & might still be enjoyed in the dunes at Higbee Beach. Keep an eye out on the Beach Plum blossoms for JUNIPER HAIRSTREAKS and other nectaring butterflies. Learn how to identify wildflowers at the CMBO "Introduction to Wildflower Identification" program on Saturday, June 14. Call (609) 861-0700, x11, to register. PINE POLLEN, a dense yellow dusting, is covering everything every day now. Many ornamental fruit trees are in full bloom. Marsh grasses (SPARTINA ALTERNIFLORA) are greening up. BEES are suddenly all over lawns enjoying DANDELIONS and other spring blooms. Flocks of GLOSSY IBIS, GREAT EGRETS, and SNOWY EGRETS are regular now passing back and forth over the Cape May Peninsula. CATTLE EGRETS are strutting around in unmowed fields eating bugs.

Sunny warms days bring out the reptiles. PAINTED TURTLES, SNAPPING TURTLES, BOX TURTLES, RED-BELLIED TURTLES, BLACK RAT SNAKES, and NORTHERN WATER SNAKES are all being seen now. Amphibians have been active for some time now, and FROGS are extremely vocal on May nights. Listen for SPRING PEEPER, S. GRAY TREE FROGS, FOWLER'S TOADS, N. CRICKET FROGS, NEW JERSEY CHORUS FROGS, CARPENTER FROGS, GREEN FROGS, and SOUTHERN LEOPARD FROGS. CMBO's dragonfly pond is full of growing FOWLER'S TOAD tadpoles.

If you'd like to learn as you help CMBO maintain its gardens in Goshen, join Karen Williams Friday, May 23 (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.

Additional regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration and will help you witness spring unfolding include: "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" Friday, May 9, (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" Saturday, May 24, (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Raptors and Songbirds of Delaware Bayshore" Sunday, May 25 (8-10 a.m.), "Birding for First Timers" Sunday, May 25 (1-3 p.m.), "Mondays at the Meadows" every Monday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Leader's Choice Bird Walk" every Tuesday (7:30-9:30 a.m.), "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point & Nummy's Island" every Tuesday (6 p.m. to dusk), "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

CMBO's full listing of spring programs (April - June) is posted on New Jersey Audubon's web site at http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html CMBO's spring program schedule, the Kestrel Express, is now available. If you are not a member and would like to receive a copy, stop by either CMBO Center or 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 at: http://www.njaudubon.org

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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