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Cape May Natural History Hotline - 6/5/2003
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 5. 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 this spring fell NOT in the middle of May (as in many years), but at the end of May during the high tides leading up to, during, and after the New Moon on May 31. Hundreds began coming ashore May 28 and have done so since during each high tide, including today's (June 5).

The shorebirds that feast on Horseshoe Crab eggs came late too this year. The Endangered and Nongame Species Program's weekly aerial surveys of the entire Delaware Bay shoreline had their highest shorebird counts on June 3, the first time the peak was in June and not in May. On June 3 on NJ's Delaware Bay beaches this aerial survey counted: 9,800 RED KNOT, 19,800 RUDDY TURNSTONE, 18,800 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, and 7,800 SANDERLING. DUNLIN peaked May 14 (8,400) and now are all but gone. Baywide shorebird numbers (Delaware beaches & NJ beaches) totaled 100,855 shorebirds on June 3. One more aerial survey is scheduled for the week of June 10; it will be interesting to see how many birds are still here and if they've gained enough weight to continue their migration. Normally the birds depart the first few days of June and head north to the Canadian Arctic tundra where many of them breed. This year their weight gain has been abysmal, since there have not been many crab eggs to feed on up until now.

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. During a normal year this closure would have been a safe period, but with the crabs coming up to breed so late, the harvest will occur during the peak of their breeding season. Horseshoe Crab harvest will be capped at 150,000 in NJ (half the number taken in 2002).

Sadly Delaware was to have the very same restrictions, but fishermen there overturned them and have been harvesting crabs all spring. One concerned homeowner at Slaughter Beach, DE, relayed how grim the harvest there is with this account: "At the public boat ramp at Slaughter Beach, Delaware, I watched eeler and conch fisherman use fork lifts to fill their U Hauler trucks with thousands of live crabs without caring what they are doing. I was even there when a member of the wildlife department, studying the shore bird migrations, begged them to wait a few more days until the Horseshoe Crab eggs were laid. The eelers laughed at him. The residents are very upset about the state of Delaware NOT taking more of an interest in this problem. If something isn't done, I know I will see the end for them in my lifetime. Millions of years of life gone because of the mighty dollar."

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

On a brighter note, the Stone Harbor Point LEAST TERN & COMMON TERN nesting colony 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.).

This past winter NJ Audubon Society & the American Littoral Society worked with state and federal agencies to protect Piping Plover habitat at Stone Harbor Point, resulting in a settlement where the town of Stone Harbor created 4.4 additional acres of plover nesting habitat. Many beach nesting birds are benefiting! CMBO Associate Naturalist, Mike Fritz, and biologist Chris Kisiel with the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program shared the following highlights for the STONE HARBOR POINT BEACH NESTING COLONY:

Full Moon high tides on May 16 (coupled with a Nor'easter) spelled disaster for the earliest of the beach-nesting birds, PIPING PLOVER. 5-6 pairs all lost their nests that weekend to flooding, but have all renested and are on eggs now that will hatch in another few weeks. The terns and skimmers were not yet nesting. The BLACK SKIMMERS arrived @ May 13 and are just now (early June) beginning to court and nest; they always seem to wait for the Common Terns to start things (since the Common Terns are the skimmer's air defense), they then nest around the terns. There are @ 200-300 now, but about 100-200 more will probably join them soon (expect about 200 nesting pairs at least). The LEAST TERNS seemed to arrive overnight! There were only 15-20 pairs May 27 (and their nests were apparently flooded out during the New Moon high tides the weekend of May 31). On June 3, there were at least 60 pairs, some even on eggs already! They are very quick to move in and nest; they have to be. This year's high sandy area (created due to the settlement noted above), will give the LEAST TERNS a better chance of getting through additional high tides and avoid flooding of their nests. On June 1 there were @ 200 COMMON TERNS and only 4 pairs on nests (so the Full Moon high tides of late May did not affect them). By June 3, 70-80 pairs of COMMON TERNS were on nests and many other pairs were courting and copulating. Their nests are in the prime spots on the high sand areas (where the beach grass is). 2 pairs of GULL-BILLED TERNS are on nests in the grassy high sandy stretch at the south end of the tern colony; they were among the first birds to nest there this year and are in the best spot to avoid flooding. 4 ROYAL TERNS have been coming into the colony and courting (one presented a fish to the other), showing off their crests & posturing like mad. Three weeks ago the colony attracted ROSEATE TERNS, but they have not been seen since. About 6 pairs of AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER can be found at Stone Harbor Point this year. Two pairs successfully hatched young on Memorial Day Weekend and two of their young are growing in size (the other two disappeared . .. . cats or other ground predators?). A third pair is incubating eggs that should hatch any day. A fourth pair is renesting, and hopefully the other two pairs will follow suit!!

A special "Cruisin' for Chicks" trip still has room (Saturday, June 14: 5-8 p.m.). OSPREY chicks are hatching and LAUGHING GULL chicks are due to hatch any day. Many of the other marsh nesting birds lost their nests to flooding during super high tides and northeasters, but many of these birds are resilient and have already renest, so the activity is still at a peak for FORSTER'S TERNS, AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS, CLAPPER RAILS, and more! Sign up by calling (609) 861-0700, x-11. "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).

PURPLE MARTINS arrived mid-April but didn't began working on their nests until May 29 at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen. This is pretty typical. First they place fresh green leaves in the nest cavity, a sure sign that they plan to nest in that cavity. As of June 5, six cavities have green leaves and each day brings new surprises. The Purple Martins and swallows, strictly insect feeders, have had an extremely rough time this spring with the numerous, lengthy stretches of insect-less, cold, wet weather. Many starved elsewhere in the state, but thankfully CMBO's colony has survived. 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" every Friday (thru August 1) from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. (weather permitting: canceled on rainy days) at the CMBO Center in Goshen.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS (here since mid-April) are on nests now at the CMBO Center in Goshen. The CORAL HONEYSUCKLE, a beautiful native honeysuckle, is in full bloom and attracting them as well as CMBO's well-maintained hummingbird feeders. 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.

Any day with sunshine is a day with butterflies and dragonflies! We've had so much cold, wet weather this spring that many species have been scarce. On June 2, southerly breezes aided a MONARCH moving north at Stone Harbor Point and another at Norbury's Landing. Twelve species of butterfly were seen June 3 not far from Goshen during a break in the rainy weather: 4 FROSTED ELFIN, 1 E. PINE ELFIN, RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK, E. TAILED BLUE, SUMMER AZURE, QUESTION MARK, RED ADMIRAL, RED-SPOTTED PURPLE, LITTLE WOOD SATYR, JUVENAL'S DUSKYWING, and COBWEB SKIPPER. 10 species were seen on May 29 along the Dennisville RR tracks: BLACK SWALLOWTAIL, TIGER SWALLOWTAIL, RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK, E. TAILED BLUE, SPRING AZURE, PEARL CRESCENT, PAINTED LADY, HORACE'S DUSKYWING, JUVENAL'S DUSKYWING, and COBWEB SKIPPER. Other butterflies reported locally this week include GRAY HAIRSTREAK at CMBO in Goshen on May 31 and MOURNING CLOAK at Stone Harbor Point on June 2. Also this week a LUNA MOTH emerged from its cocoon. On the dragonfly front EBONY JEWELWING, MANTLED BASKETTAIL, and BLUE CORPORAL were all enjoyed May 31 in Belleplain State Forest. 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. Pat Sutton will teach a "Dragonfly Workshop & Walk" on Saturday, June 7 (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.

BLACK (or HONEY) LOCUST trees are blooming though recent rains knocked some of the flowers to the ground. MOUNTAIN LAUREL is blooming in Belleplain State Forest, at Jakes Landing Road, and elsewhere. Buds are bright pink, but once the flowers fully open they are almost white. The lovely white blossoms on ARROWWOOD (VIBURNUM DENTATUM) adorn roadsides now. 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. Enjoy all elements of the natural world 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.

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 4 chicks can now be enjoyed. WILSON'S STORM PETREL are being seen regularly on walks here 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.

Additional regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration and will help you witness spring unfolding include: "Spring Migrants at the Rea Farm" Saturday, June 7 (7:30-9:30 a.m.),"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)
pat_sutton@njaudubon.org
http://www.njaudubon.org

 
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