Cape May Natural History Hotline - 5/9/2002
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 Thursday, May 9. The Cape May Birding Hotline has moved to 609-898-BIRD (sorry for any inconvenience). NJ Audubon's three hotlines can be read in full on NJ Audubon's web site (http://www.njaudubon.org) by clicking on "Sightings" at the top of any page. Now on with the hotline!

HORSESHOE CRAB news: Much earlier than most years (April 16) 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. Since then temperatures dropped, the Delaware Bay water temperatures dropped, and crab activity seemed to stop. Some horseshoe crab egg laying has occurred this week, but not yet in a big way. Each year Horseshoe Crab mating occurs from late April through all of June, so it is something that can be witnessed for quite a long stretch. Peak activity usually occurs from the middle of May through early June, especially during the high tides around the new moon (May 12 -- this Sunday!) and the full moon (May 26). In addition to our Cape May Spring Weekend (http://www.njaudubon.org/centers/cmbo/springweekend.html), CMBO has many special programs scheduled to witness this incredible happening: "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore" on May 23 (also on May 24 & 25), "Horseshoe Crabs Up Close" on May 20, "A Close Look at Shorebirds" on May 22 (and again on May 26). Call CMBO at 609-861-0700, x-11, to register.

Thousands of LAUGHING GULLS covered the tideline at Reeds Beach today, May 9, all feeding on Horseshoe Crab eggs (no doubt from the earlier laying followed by a bit of laying this week when the new females dug up eggs from previous nests). The Laughing Gulls were so thick that one wonders if any shorebirds could also feed there. At the south end of Reeds Beach hundreds of SANDERLINGS, dozens of RUDDY TURNSTONES, and a dozen RED KNOT fed in the tideline. And even further south at Miami Avenue in the Villas hundreds of Sanderlings and 12 Ruddy Turnstones fed. The state's Endangered & Nongame Species Program aerial surveys of the Delaware Bay (both sides: DE & NJ) counted 23,000 shorebirds on May 7. The NJ side had: 155 Red Knot, 2,600 Ruddy Turnstones, 2,700 Sanderling, 2,700 dowitcher, and 3,900 Dunlin. The Delaware side had more Red Knot (500) and Dunlin (7,100).

On May 8, Thompson's Beach was packed with shorebirds at 2 p.m. (low tide): 2000+ dowitcher & 2000+ Dunlin, as were the mudflats next to the driving dike at the Heislerville WMA: 1,000 Dunlin, 500 Short-billed Dowitcher, 300 Black-bellied Plover, 50 Semipalmated Plover, 50 Least Sandpiper, 10 Greater Yellowlegs, and 2 Spotted Sandpiper.

Beaver Swamp WMA, just north of the CMBO center in Goshen (and on CMBO's Birding Map) on May 7 had the usual goodies: Gull-billed Terns, Wood Ducks, Prothonotary Warbler, plus a male Cerulean Warbler.

The fall Avalon Seawatch site (7th Street & the beach in Avalon) still has Purple Sandpipers on the jetties.

The residential area of Cape May Point today, May 9, enjoyed a nice fallout of migrants: Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Yellow, N. Parula, Chestnut-sided, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ovenbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and more!

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. The Sibley Guide describes the song well: "song of strong, clear, slurred notes ?seew seew seee SISTerville' (downslurred notes at beginning with emphatic ending)." It has been brought to CMBO's attention that some observers are using tapes to draw in the Swainson's Warbler. 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. First discovered on May 1, it has been heard daily since. We ask all birders to help us police this situation and speak up if you should see someone using tapes on this bird. Thank you!

CMBO's popular 5-day Spring Migration Workshop (Monday, May 20, through Friday, May 24), led by Pete Dunne, Louise Zemaitis, and Clay Sutton, still has room. Call CMBO at 609-861-0700, x-16, to register or to get a copy of the 2002 "Birding (and Butterfly & Natural History) Workshops for Beginners, Intermediates, and Experts Alike" brochure. This year's selection includes 6 Classic 4- & 5-Day Workshops and 4 Bullet 2-Day Workshops.

Migration is in full swing PLUS many of the breeding birds are on territory or building nests or already feeding young. And MANY birds that wintered here are still being enjoyed. What a terrific mix of seasons. CMBO's many walks and field trips are in experiencing the spring to the fullest and triggering some excellent sightings. What follows is a snapshot of some of the goodies seen on CMBO's various walks or field trips.

CMBO's "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point & Nummy's Island Walk," offered EVERY Tuesday, now through June 11, from 6 p.m. to dusk, meets in the Stone Harbor Point parking lot. On May 7 this walk enjoyed 2 dozen Black Skimmers (finally!), great scope views of Seaside Sparrow, Royal Terns, Purple Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Bonapart's Gull, Piping Plover, Gannets, about 2000 Red Knot, Oystercatcher on nests, Merlin, Yellow-crowned Night heron, dozens of Black-crowneds Night Herons, Tricolored Heron, Brant, 12 species of shorebirds, and had great fun.

Enjoy the Whimbrel on the marshes at Nummy's Island and also from Shell Bay Landing.

If you are struggling to sort out bird song, join CMBO's "Birding by Ear Walk" EVERY Wednesday, now through May 29 (7:30-9:30 a.m.) meeting at the end of Jakes Landing Road. On May 8 this walk enjoyed lots of fun listens & some looks at Yellow-breasted Chat, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Yellow-throated & Prairie Warbler, Swainson's Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Seaside and Swamp Sparrow, Willet, N. Harrier, Osprey, Clapper Rail, and more! This year at Jakes Landing there are 2 pairs of nesting Ospreys, both building their nests right now -- one out towards the Delaware Bay and the second pair can't decide and is building a nest in both platforms next to Jakes Landing Road.

The Belleplain State Forest walks are enjoying all the speciality breeding birds: YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, PINE WARBLER, PRAIRIE WARBLER, BLACK-AND-WHITE, BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS, WORM-EATING, HOODED WARBLERS, PROTHONOTARY, and YELLOW WARBLERS, COMMON YELLOWTHROATS, OVENBIRDS, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, ACADIAN FLYCATCHERS, SUMMER TANAGERS, SCARLET TANAGERS, E. PHOEBES, WHITE-EYED VIREOS, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS, and GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS. Explore this forest with CMBO naturalists (who know it intimately) EVERY Thursday (thru May 30) and Saturday May 4 & May 25 on CMBO's "Birds of the Deep South in Belleplain State Forest" (7:30-10:30 a.m.). Walk meets at Belleplain State Forest Field Office, just off Rt. 550, west of Woodbine.

CLAPPER RAILS are back & thick as ever. CMBO's final "Clapper Rail Madness" trip, scheduled for May 10 (2-3:30 p.m.), still has room. Call CMBO to register: 609-861-0700, x-11.

CMBO's next "Hidden Valley for Birds and Butterflies" walk will be offered Sunday, May 26, 7-9 a.m. meeting in the small clamshell parking lot on New England Road. On May 5, this walk enjoyed male & female Blue Grosbeak, 6 Bobolink, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-throated Green Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Wood Duck, Indigo Buntings, N. Parula, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

CMBO's "Birds of Higbee Beach," EVERY Friday, now through May 31 (except May 17), from 7:30-9:30 a.m., meets at Higbee Beach WMA parking lot at the west end of New England Road. Many of the fun breeders are back here too:YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, INDIGO BUNTING, BLUE GROSBEAK, and more!

PROTHONOTARY and YELLOW WARBLERS, WHITE-EYED VIREOS, RUSTY BLACKBIRDS and more have been enjoyed during CMBO's "Spring Migrants of the Rea Farm walk," offered EVERY Saturday, now thru June 8 (except May 11 & 18), from 7:30-9:30 a.m., meeting in the "The Beanery / Rea Farm" parking lot on Bayshore Road (not the produce stand on Stevens Street).

The Nature Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (also known as the South Cape May Meadows) is always a hotspot. Some of this week's highlights include: American & Least Bittern, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, American Coot, Sora & Virginia Rail, Gull-billed Tern, and a displaying AMERICAN WOODCOCK on May 8. Join Pete Dunne or CMBO Associate Naturalists when Pete is traveling, EVERY Monday (thru 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 to enjoy this area.

SEASIDE SPARROWS, often hard to see, are in full song now at places like Goshen Landing, Jakes Landing, and on up the Delaware Bayshore. Learn their call, and put some time in trying to see the singing male. CLAPPER RAILS, WILLETS, and FORSTER'S TERNS are also thick in these bayshore habitats and might be enjoyed along with YELLOW-THROATED WARBLERS, N. HARRIER on territory, breeding E. BLUEBIRDS, and more on CMBO's "Raptors & Songbirds of the Delaware Bayshore walk, offered EVERY Sunday, now thru May 26 (except May 12 & 19), from 8-10 a.m., meeting at the CMBO Center for Research & Education, 600 Route 47 North, in Goshen.

CMBO's "Sunset Cruise for Spring Migrants & Heron Rookeries" on May 4 enjoyed Common Loon, Great Cormorant, 8 species of heron, Peregrine Falcon, Clapper Rail, 10 species of shorebird, Seaside Sparrow, and Black Skimmer. Every Sunday & Monday (except May 19) "Back Bay Birding By Boat" trips, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., aboard "The Skimmer" are sponsored by CMBO. Call Wildlife Unlimited to register at 609-884-3100.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT continue to migrate over in big numbers. Look for the long, wavy lines or large dark birds. Flocks of GLOSSY IBIS and flocks of GREAT EGRETS and SNOWY EGRETS cross back and forth across the Cape May peninsula. Recent rains and soaked farm fields have drawn in feeding flocks of GLOSSY IBIS and scattered CATTLE EGRETS to wet farm fields in Goshen.

BALD EAGLES, our second earliest nesting bird, are also now feeding young. 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!

Be sure to hang your hummingbird feeders ASAP, if you haven't already, otherwise the hummingbirds moving through will not settle in but continue to wander looking for a sure source of food. 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

On the butterfly front, Elfins are still flying. A CMBO field trip to the Warren Grove area in the NJ Pine Barrens on May 4 enjoyed PINE ELFINS, BROWN ELFINS, & HOARY ELFINS, as well as our target: HESSEL'S HAIRSTREAKS. Other bonuses there were COBWEB SKIPPER and lots of SLEEPY DUSKYWINGS. On May 8 CMBO's weekly "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" visited Jakes Landing Road, Old Robbins Trail, and the Dennisville RR tracks and enjoyed E. PINE ELFINS and FROSTED ELFINS, along with TIGER SWALLOWTAIL & SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAIL, AMERICAN COPPER, GRAY HAIRSTREAKS, E. TAILED BLUE, PEARL CRESCENT, RED ADMIRAL, AMERICAN LADY, COMMON BUCKEYE, SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER, JUVENAL'S DUSKYWING, COBWEB SKIPPERS, and a SACHEM. On May 5, a RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK was found at Allaire State Park. SNOWBERRY CLEARWINGS (the Hummingbird Moth that looks like a bumblebee) are on the wing now & were reported this week from a number of locations. A small butterfly migration was noticed on May 8 by observers on the Delaware Bay side of the Cape May Peninsula, involving several ladies, several anglewings, and a Red Admiral. A MONARCH was seen at Kimbel's Beach on May 8. And right on time, since Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed are all UP and ready to be used by female Monarchs for egg laying. CMBO's "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk" meets every Wednesday (through May 29) at 10 a.m. (till Noon) at the end of Jakes Landing Road (no preregistration needed ... just come!).

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.

Black Cherry trees have come into full bloom this week. This native tree bears fruits in the early fall that over 52 species of birds feed on. When in bloom it rivals any ornamental! Black Locust trees are beginning to bloom and seriously fragrant! American Holly trees are about to bloom. When they do, treat yourself to their delicious smelling blooms, all too often overlooked. Tulip Trees are about to bloom and already drawing in numbers of bees, wasps, and orioles. Female Red Cedar trees are gauzy blue now as their load of blue berries develop.

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 is taking registrations for our very popular, annual CAPE MAY SPRING WEEKEND (May 17-19), a 3-day event with walks beginning as early as Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. and running straight through Sunday at 5 p.m. An incredible opportunity to savor spring to the fullest with bird, butterfly, dragonfly, and botany walks running all weekend long at a variety of famous hotspots, back bay boat trips, special programs and workshops, book signings by local authors, special evening programs (Friday's program is by Clay & Pat Sutton on the Galapagos and Saturday's program is by Pete Dunne) and more. And the entire weekend has multiple opportunities for the full range of expertise: beginners, intermediates, and experts alike. Call CMBO to get a brochure (609-861-0700 or 609-884-2736). NJ Audubon's web site has some details about the weekend: http://www.njaudubon.org/centers/cmbo/springweekend.html

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 a field trip to witness "Clapper Rail Madness" on May 10, the "Cape May Century Run Team" (an official team in NJ Audubon's World Series of Birding -- with ONLY 1 place left) with Pat Sutton on May 11, "Shorebirds & Horseshoe Crabs Galore" on May 16 (also offered on May 23, 24, & 25), "Horseshoe Crabs Up Close" on May 20, "A Close Look at Shorebirds" on May 22 (and again on May 26), 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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