Cape May Natural History Hotline - 6/19/2003

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, June 19. 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 with great sadness that we share the sad news of the sudden passing on June 10 of Sandra (Sandy) L. Sherman, age 54, Associate Naturalist with the Cape May Bird Observatory, former president of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, and vice president of the Bird Club of Delaware County. Her contributions to these organizations were innumerable! The birding community was really Sandy's extended family. She will be sorely missed. A Celebration of Sandy's life will be hosted by the Cape May Bird Observatory and a number of other groups on Sunday, June 29, at 1:00 p.m. at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North); 609-861-0700. ALL ARE WELCOME! If you have photos of Sandy that you'd like to share to be used in displays for the June 29th celebration, send them ASAP to Pat Sutton, CMBO, 600 Route 47 North, CMCH, NJ 08210. If you're unable to attend, but would like to share something written, send it to Pat Sutton's attention. Desert and coffee will be available. In Sandy's honor, we'll have some chocolate-y deserts, her favorite. If you would like to bring a desert, go right ahead!

At Cape May the last spring migrants depart in early June and the first fall migrants might appear at the end of the month or in early July. So June, after the shorebirds leave, is our one month of true summer. That's not to say that birding is dull now, actually it's thrilling beyond belief as tern and skimmer colonies dot secluded beaches, as gull colonies cover tidal saltmarshes, and as the woodland birds raise their young.

Natural areas look like lush green jungles with all the rain we've had this spring. This wet spring has also been very helpful to wildlife gardens! The CMBO Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North) has plants for sale for butterfly & hummingbird gardens and wildlife gardens. The center is open daily 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and selection changes weekly as different plants are ready. This week the selection includes the following. For butterflies (perennials): New England Aster, Boltonia, Nodding Onion, Sedum, Blazing Star (Liatris), Pine Barrens Blazing Star, Joe-Pye-weed, Bee Balm, and Buttonbush (a shrub). For hummingbirds (perennials): Hummingbird Mint, Eastern Columbine, Bee Balm. For butterfly caterpillars: Sweet Everlasting (a perennial, American Lady), Elderberry (a shrub, Cecropia Moth), Viburnum (a shrub, Snowberry Clearwing, one of the Hummingbird Moths), Red Cedar (a tree, for Olive' Juniper Hairstreak), Spicebush (a shrub, for Spicebush Swallowtail), Crabapple (a tree, for Red-spotted Purple & Viceroy), Tulip Tree (a tree, for Tiger Swallowtail). Trees, Shrubs, & Vines for bird food (berries, fruits): Crabapple, various Viburnums, Red Cedar, Black Chokeberry, Elderberry, Sour Gum (a tree), Virginia Creeper (a vine). In addition SEEDS are available for sale for Brazilian Verbena (irrestible to butterflies summer through frost), Tropical or Texas Salvia (hummingbirds can't resist), and Cardinal Climber (another hummingbird magnet, great for arbors, trellises, fences!).

ORCHARD ORIOLES are frequenting CMBO's gardens in Goshen and drinking from the TORCH LILY, also known as RED HOT POKER. PICKERELWEED is coming into full bloom in CMBO's dragonfly pond and attracting dozens of AARON'S SKIPPERS. If you've noticed that the RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are absent from your feeders, don't be alarmed. They haven't left. JAPANESE HONEYSUCKLE is in bloom and they ignore everything else. Continue to maintain your feeders, the hummingbirds WILL be back! Thoroughly wash & refill 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. A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird continues to frequent CMBO's feeders in Goshen despite an abundance of honeysuckle. After cool, damp evenings treat yourself to the early morning scents, including an intoxicating heavy fragrance from Japanese Honeysuckle.

PURPLE MARTINS are laying eggs like mad now, almost two weeks later than normal. On June 18, one of the Martin houses at the Cape May Point State Park had 47 eggs according to Martin Mentor, Dave Thomas. Also on June 18, CMBO's Martin houses at the Center in Goshen had 18 eggs. Each day will bring more at a rapid rate. Let's hope for some sunshine breaks so the martins can find enough insects to feed on. Learn all about Purple Martins, how to attract them, what their habitat needs are, proper housing, precautions, and maintenance needed to ensure a successful colony by joining Pat Sutton during the "Purple Martin Nest Check" Friday, June 20, 27, and July 11 thru August 1, from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. (weather permitting: canceled on rainy days) at the CMBO Center in Goshen. The house will be lowered, nests checked, eggs counted, hatching dates predicted, and fledging dates predicted. With so many nests at different stages it will be a terrific learning opportunity.

The HORSESHOE CRAB harvest is underway and trucks are so full that live crabs are being found on road shoulders as they tumble off trucks. Join NJ Audubon's grass roots campaign asking for the Governor of NJ to enact an immediate moratorium on harvest of horseshoe crabs. Details on how you can help can be found at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Conservation/HScrabalert.html

It's the peak of the egg-laying season for DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN. Over 100 could be seen in the waters of the Delaware Bay just off Reeds Beach on June 18 and many were crossing roads in search of high ground for egg laying. Sadly a number had been run over. Be alert for them as you're driving coastal areas.

2 RIVER OTTER were seen on the dike at Beaver Swamp WMA on June 15 along with a number of AARON'S SKIPPER (a skipper found only near the coast, since it's host plant grows in the marshes) and dragonflies (SLATY SKIMMER, BLUE DASHER, E. PONDHAWK, BLUE CORPORAL). Other butterflies enjoyed this week include: TIGER SWALLOWTAIL, BLACK SWALLOWTAIL (caterpillar on Bronze Fennel in CMBO's gardens in Goshen), zillions of CABBAGE WHITES, E. TAILED BLUE, QUESTION MARK, COMMON BUCKEYE, LITTLE WOOD SATYR, SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER, JUVENAL'S DUSKYWING, ZABULON SKIPPER, and LEAST SKIPPER. CECROPIA MOTH caterpillars (tiny still) have been found on Wild Cherry tree leaves. 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. Join Pat Sutton at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen (600 Rt. 47 North) each Wednesday, July 9 through mid-October (10:00 a.m. to Noon) for a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk in CMBO's Gardens." There's still room in the CMBO "Skipper ID Workshop" on June 21 (1-5 p.m.) and on the "Bog Copper Bog Stomp" on June 28 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Sign up by calling (609) 861-0700, x-11.

Sadly a 35' HUMPBACK WHALE (a baby) washed up dead on the Ocean City beach. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center is looking into the cause of death. No reports of live whales have come into this office, but with the weather maybe the "Whale Watching" boats have not been getting out.

This wet and cold spring has proven quite tough on nesting birds. The OSPREY are not doing well at all. Jane Galetto reports from the Maurice River that some of their chicks have died and some of their eggs have not hatched, while other chicks are thriving. She feels that with the cold weather the fish are deeper and adults need to hunt longer, leaving the chicks vulnerable to cold and wet weather. Over the years Jane has observed that adults (while out hunting) leave chicks unattended once they are two weeks old. Go to http://www.cumauriceriver.org to view one of the successful nests on the Maurice River. On the Atlantic Ocean side of the Cape May Peninsula, Bob & Linda Carlough of "The Skimmer" report that of the 18 platforms they monitor between Cape May and Stone Harbor, all but 6 have failed and a few of the 6 may also have failed.

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS nesting on the saltmarsh lost their nests twice so far this spring, the first time on the Full Moon high tide in the middle of May. Most renested, but these nests were also lost during the Full Moon high tide (a perigee moon -- when it is closest to the earth in its orbit and tides are exceptionally strong & high) on June 14. Hopefully they will try for a third nesting. Nearly the entire LAUGHING GULL colony was lost to the June 14 high tides. A few of the nests on higher sections of the saltmarsh made it and have newly fledged young this week. FORSTER'S TERNS and CLAPPER RAILS are also hard hit during these high tides, many losing their nests. To see how resilient these birds are, treat yourself to one of the "Back Bay Birding By Boat" cruises, every Sunday and Monday (10:00 a.m. to Noon) as the boat travels through the saltmarsh and back bays (call Wildlife Unlimited, call 609-884-3100 to register for these CMBO-sponsored trips).

The SALTMARSH is a lush vibrant green now, almost glowing! MOUNTAIN LAUREL is in full bloom in Belleplain State Forest, at Jakes Landing Road, and elsewhere. The lovely white blossoms on ARROWWOOD (VIBURNUM DENTATUM) adorn roadsides now. The Cape May Bird Observatory's gardens are coming into their own, lush with color. If you'd like to learn as you help CMBO maintain these 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.

The Stone Harbor Point colony of nesting terns is dazzling this year! To fully drink it in, join CMBO Associate Naturalists Gail Dwyer & Dick Turner for CMBO's "Stone Harbor Point Bird Walk," every Sunday (7:30-9:30 a.m.). There are 5-6 pairs of PIPING PLOVER, @ 200-300 BLACK SKIMMERS, 60+ pairs of LEAST TERNS, 70-80+ pairs of COMMON TERNS, 2 pairs of GULL-BILLED TERNS, and 6 pairs of AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (& 4 growing chicks).

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," every Friday (6:30-8:30 p.m.). These walks are now enjoying the nesting birds that will be here all summer. The PIPING PLOVER nest here is one of the few that was not lost to flooding this spring and 3 chicks can still be enjoyed. As of June 13 there were also 20 active LEAST TERN nests and a pair of AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER on a nest. And WILSON'S STORM PETREL being seen daily!

Additional regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration and will help you enjoy birding and summer's nesting birds include: "Birding for First Timers" every Sunday (1-3 p.m.) and "Birding Cape May Point" every Wednesday (7:30-9:30 a.m.). CMBO's full listing of SUMMER 2003 PROGRAMS (June-August) is 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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