Cape May Natural History Hotline - 6/5/2004

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 Saturday, June 5, and will be updated next on Thursday, June 17. 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 warm spring has resulted in butterflies emerging 3 weeks ahead of schedule according to Dale Schweitzer. 30 species were enjoyed in late May in Cumberland County in Buckshutem WMA. On June 3, 26 species were tallied on the Maurice River, including: AMERICAN COPPER (100), RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK, PEARL CRESCENT, QUESTION MARK, MOURNING CLOAK, AMERICAN LADY, COMMON BUCKEYE, RED-SPOTTED PURPLE, SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER, S. CLOUDYWING, SWARTHY (6), LEAST, EUROPEAN, TAWNY-EDGED, DELAWARE (8), ZABULON (6), AARON'S (150), and DUN SKIPPER. A HAYHURST'S SCALLOWPWING was seen May 27 at Bivalve and one on June 4 in CMBO's gardens in Goshen. PICKERELWEED is in full bloom in CMBO's dragonfly pond at the center in Goshen and full of AARON'S SKIPPERS (24+) and SWARTHY SKIPPERS (3) on June 2. AMERICAN SNOUT are active where HACKBERRY TREES grow. BLACK SWALLOWTAILS are laying eggs on the Bronze Fennel in CMBO's gardens in Goshen, and sizable caterpillars can be seen now as a result of eggs laid a week or two ago. PIPEVINE SWALLOWTAILS (3 different individuals) have been frequenting a garden in Villas since May 30 and have been laying eggs on Pipevine.

CALICO PENNANTS were thick at Hibee Beach on June 4. A TWELVE-SPOTTED SKIMMER patrolled CMBO's dragonfly pond on June 4. CAROLINA and BLACK SADDLEBAGS were also enjoyed this week. Lots of dragonflies are emerging from CMBO's dragonfly pond in Goshen and their exuviae can be found clinging to upright emergent pond vegetation. Pat Sutton will lead a dragonfly walk around CMBO's wildlife pond and share what makes a pond successful for tham during "Dragons & Damsels in CMBO's Gardens (in Goshen)" on Saturday, June 19 (11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.). No need to preregister, just come!

The native pink wild roses are in bloom now and very fragrant, PASTURE or CAROLINA ROSE with its straight thorns and SWAMP ROSE with its curved thorns. Don't miss Mark Garland's "Introduction to Wildflower Identification" on Saturday, June 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. A special driving tour of 40 of Cape May County's Giant Trees on Friday, June 18 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) still has room. Three different Tuesday morning Kayak trips are scheduled to explore Pickle Factory Pond & East Creek Lake (June 22 and July 27) and Bidwell's Creek (August 17). For more information or to register, call 609-861-0700, x-11.

The first BALD EAGLETS fledged (flew from their nests) on June 3 at three different nest sites in New Jersey. Other young are quite huge, busy flapping their wings from the nest edge, and will soon follow. OSPREY are everywhere this spring and seem to be having a very good nesting season, always overhead with a fish flying back to a nest.

HORSESHOE CRABS came up in good numbers during the evening high tide to lay their eggs on the Delaware Bay beaches leading up to and since the Full Moon on June 3rd. The tideline at Gandy's Beach in Cumberland County was awash in green crab eggs. June 3 the tideline at Kimbel's Beach was full of two-week old eggs: swollen and transparent, where the young crabs could be seen swimming around inside the egg! They're about the size of a pin head. A number of shed shells (@ 7/8" across) from recently molted Horseshoe Crabs were also in the tideline. These treasures might still be found and studied at various beaches along the Delaware Bay. Horseshoe Crabs will continue to journey up onto the sandy beaches along the Delaware Bay to mate & lay eggs through June (each female comes ashore 20 times to lay a nest of eggs in the two-month period). DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN are still coming out of the Delaware Bay waters and up onto the beaches and heading into the high ground in the dunes to lay their eggs.

Fair numbers of shorebirds were still on the beaches feeding the morning of June 3 and may linger a few more days, but then they'll be gone as if a switch was thrown. State biologist, Kathy Clark, reports that many RED KNOT have left, but @ 7,000 were still here on June 1 during the bay-wide (NJ & DE) aerial survey. Last week's peak count (13,300 Red Knot) is an all-time low for the Bayshore survey. Turnstone numbers declined also from last week's peak count of 45,400 (which was below average too). The June 1 survey also tallied: 31,700 RUDDY TURNSTONES, 68,200 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, 4,000 SANDERLING, and 5 DUNLIN. The last aerial survey of the spring will be conducted on June 8.

Biologists from the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program and other concerned agencies have made annual expeditions to the Canadian Arctic in search of breeding Red Knot since 2000 and are gearing up for this year's trip. To learn of information gathered during past trips and to follow this year's trip go to: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensphome.htm

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

The same high tides that triggered another excellent egg laying for Horseshoe Crabs also "hit" many of the coastal beach nesting bird colonies and flooded nests with eggs on June 1, including Stone Harbor Point. Young shorebirds are precocious and can run around as soon as they're born, so those that had already hatched survived, including some PIPING PLOVER chicks and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER chicks that have been seen since the high tides. Many beach-nesting birds that lost their eggs to the tides will renest. As of May 26 the Stone Harbor Point nesting colony contained 400-800 BLACK SKIMMERS (this is the largest skimmer colony in NJ), 1,000 COMMON TERNS, 2 pairs of GULL-BILLED TERNS, 40 pairs of LEAST TERNS, 6 pairs of AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (several of which are already on their second nesting attempt after having lost nests during an earlier high tide), and 9 pairs of PIPING PLOVER (with the first young due to hatch May 28). To see first hand the power to survive, be sure to accompany CMBO naturalists during the "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point" walks every Tuesday (6:00 p.m. till dusk), meeting in the Stone Harbor Point parking lot at the south end of Stone Harbor.

Two very special "Cruisin' for Chicks" trips aboard the Skimmer are scheduled for Saturday, June 12 (3-6 p.m.), and Thursday, June 17 (5-8 p.m.). With the recent high tides, it will be a real education to see how many (if any) nests survived in the colonies of Forster's and Common Terns, Laughing Gulls, American Oystercatcher, Osprey, and Clapper Rails! Heron rookeries are well along and will be a highlight of these trips! Make a day of it on June 12, and also consider signing up for the "Tidal Marsh Exploration" with marine biologist Karen Williams (8:30 a.m. till Noon). Spaces are limited on each (call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register).

The intense gull and tern activity pulls in rarities like those mentioned above. At the peak time to study terns CMBO is offering it's next Cape May Birding Workshop: on "Terns" July 28 (last year 10 species were studied side-by-side in late July). Additional "Cape May Birding Workshops" include: "Butterflies" August 11, "Shorebirds" August 24-25, "Fall Warblers, Empid Flycatchers, Vireos, and other landbirds" September 1-2, "Fall Migration" September 18-22, "Raptors" September 25-26, 27-28, "Raptor Migration" October 24-28, "Sparrows" October 23-24, "Waterfowl" November 20-21, and "Wintering Owls, Hawks, & Eagles" January 21-24. To learn more & download a registration form for the 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.

Female RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are busy feeding young now. If you have one regularly coming to your feeders and gardens, consider sitting quietly and watching to see the direction she flies off to. Chances are her nest is within sight of your feeder and gardens. Be apprised that the female raises the young all on her own. If you have feeders hung, be sure to maintain them properly especially when it's hot, by cleaning them thoroughly every 3-5 days and refilling with fresh solution. Be sure to compliment feeders with a wildlife garden. Learn how by going to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Index.html

Pat Sutton will teach an indoor / outdoor "Backyard Habitat for Wildlife: The Basics" workshop on Saturday, June 19 (1-3 p.m.) at the CMBO Center in Goshen. No need to preregister, just come! A terrific selection of hard to find wildlife plants is on sale at CMBO's center in Goshen. Selection changes weekly, so stop by often! Each week's selection is posted on the "Backyard Habitat" pages on NJ Audubon's website. 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 (except May 21), 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. One CMBO regular garden volunteer writes: I am a very enthusiastic gardener. Since 2001, after taking CMBO courses with Karen Williams and Pat Sutton about gardening for butterflies, hummingbirds and birds, I have created 5 new garden beds for wildlife. I thought I had more than enough to do in my own gardens, but found I had many questions and no one to ask so I regularly volunteer at the CMBO gardens in Goshen. A friend and an active garden volunteer shared that while volunteering I would get my questions answered and learn tons of important stuff about gardening. And I have. I now recognize some weeds as they emerge instead of having to let them grow 2 feet tall before deciding to pull them. I know when and how to prune shrubs to encourage strong growth. Our front, back, and side yards are alive with birds and butterflies thanks to what I have learned at the CMBO Gardens. The socializing and friendships garnered during these times is a superb extra bonus!

The first PURPLE MARTIN chick hatched on June 2 at the Cape May Point State Park. Purple Martin landlord, Dave Thomas, maintains this colony and also counted 148 eggs in the two houses.

Breeding birds at Higbee Beach on May 29 were very active and included: BLUE GROSBEAK, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, INDIGO BUNTING, PRAIRIE WARBLER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, FIELD SPARROW, RED-EYED and WHITE-EYED VIREO, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, and E. WOOD PEWEE. Enjoy summer birds by joining one of CMBO weekly walks with local experts. Walks in the vicinity of Cape May include: (1) every Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" meets at 7:30 a.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (2) every Wednesday, " Birding Cape May Point" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the "South Shelter" raised pavilion at the Cape May Point State Park, (3) every Friday, "Sunset Birding at the Meadows" meets at 6:30 p.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, and (4) every Sunday, "Welcome to Cape May" with Senior Naturalist Mark Garland meets at 2:00 p.m. at the CMBO Northwood Center. If you're a beginner, join Judy Lukens Sunday, June 13 & 27, for "Birding for First Timers" (2-4 p.m.), meeting on the Wildlife Viewing Platform in Cape May Point State Park. Sunday and Monday "Back Bay Birding By Boat" trips (10:00 a.m. til Noon) aboard the Skimmer are sponsored by CMBO.

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers many, many other programs than those briefly mentioned here. CMBO's SUMMER (June-August 2004) Program Schedule is posted on NJ Audubon's web site: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html . The Summer program schedule 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" will be on display at CMBO's Center in Goshen (open daily: 9-4:30) through mid-June featuring works by John Sill, Sophie Webb, Julie Zickefoose, Keith Hansen, Jonathan Alderfer, Mimi Hoppe Wolf, and Cynthia House to name a few!

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!

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