Cape May Natural History Hotline - 8/21/2003

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, August 21. 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.

Dave Githens shared sightings from one of the whale watching boats out of Cape May that there is finally lots of menhaden in the waters, as well as other bait fish. They've been seeing several Humpback Whales off and on in the waters between Cape Henlopen, Cape May and Ocean City, NJ. One 30 foot youngster was sighted every day this week . . . and on several days it breached repeatedly. Huge schools of brown rays (dozens and dozens at a time) are being seen during these trips, swimming rights below the surface.

CMBO's 30 young PURPLE MARTINS at Goshen all fledged by August 4 . Right now Purple Martins are staging by the thousands at the Maurice River before heading to their wintering grounds in South America. Be sure to attend Cumberland County's 2nd Annual Purple Martin Festival on Saturday, August 23, with registration beginning at 2:00 p.m. at the Maurice River Township School on Route 47 in Port Elizabeth. CMBO naturalists will be volunteering on boat trips and at the evening viewing site during this event! Call 856-453-2180 for additional information.

Ron Kegel reports from the middle of Gloucester County that his backyard wildlife garden is a flurry of activity with Chimney Swifts, swallows, Purple Martins, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, dragonflies, and butterflies. He's had 150-200 dragonflies flying around his backyard feasting on little "Ganatty" things. Butterfly activity has been great in his gardens with many swallowtails, American Ladies, Common Buckeye, hairstreaks, Hummingbird Moths, Silver-spotted Skippers, and occasional Question Marks. Monarchs have grown more abundant recently too, including some Monarch caterpillars feeding on his Swamp Milkweed.

If you are keen on learning how to attract wildlife to your own backyard, consider these three special preregistration programs. On Saturday, August 23, Pat Sutton will lead an in-the-field "Wildlife Food Plants Workshop," from 1:00-4:00 p.m., at the CMBO Center in Goshen and nearby areas to teach how to recognize important native trees, shrubs, and vines that are early survival foods for our warblers and other migrants moving through in late August. TWO very special "Tours of Private Butterfly Gardens" will be led by Pat Sutton: (1) a tour on Friday, September 12, will visit gardens in Cape May County from Villas to Woodbine, and (2) a tour on Saturday, September 13, will visit gardens in and near Cape May and Cape May Point. Each tour is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Expect to learn of new plants, savor great garden designs, and meet kindred spirits who are generously welcoming us into their private gardens. Call 609-861-0700 to register. Another way to learn (and HELP at the same time) is by joining Karen Williams every Friday (9:30 a.m.-Noon) for a "Garden Maintenance Workshop" at the CMBO center in Goshen. Plant divisions are often delightful payment for your labor and having a chance to learn so much from Karen as you work.

CMBO's wildlife gardens in Goshen (600 Route 47 North) continue to amaze .. . . clouds of butterflies and busy, buzzing hummingbirds everywhere you look. There are easily hundreds of butterflies in the gardens and we continue to easily see 25-30 different species on a daily basis. Highlights include: lots swallowtails and their caterpillars (Black, E. Tiger, and Spicebush), AMERICAN COPPER, OLIVE JUNIPER HAIRSTREAK (a worn individual on August 19), WHITE M HAIRSTREAK (Aug. 15), GRAY and RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK, SUMMER AZURES, VARIEGATED FRITILLARY (and a caterpillar on Violet and a chrysalis on the building), AMERICAN SNOUT, PEARL CRESCENT, QUESTION MARKS, 25 AMERICAN LADY (and their caterpillars on Sweet Everlasting), lone PAINTED LADIES, RED ADMIRALS, COMMON BUCKEYE, RED-SPOTTED PURPLE (coming to rotten fruit), HACKBERRY EMPEROR, a dozen plus MONARCHS (and eggs and caterpillars on our Common Milkweed), 15 SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPERS, HAYHURST'S SCALLOPWING (still reported on August 18), COMMON SOOTYWING, SWARTHY SKIPPER, SACHEM, ZABULON SKIPPERS, freshly emerged AARON'S SKIPPERS, 100+ BROAD-WINGED SKIPPER, DUN SKIPPER, and 25 SALTMARSH SKIPPERS. Moths too are being drawn to the gardens. Two different Hummingbird Moths can be easily seen, the SNOWBERRY CLEARWINGS (the one that resembles a bumblebee) and the HUMMINGBIRD CLEARWING.

Other species of butterflies enjoyed this week include a CLOUDLESS SULPHUR at Bivalve (August 15) and E. COMMA and APPALACHIAN BROWN (fresh!) in Goshen. Observers in a private backyard garden in Goshen studied a flurry of HACKBERRY EMPERORS (7), QUESTION MARKS (8), RED ADMIRALS, and RED-SPOTTED PURPLES all coming to a sap flow on an old Red Maple tree. The Hackberry Emperors wouldn't have been noticed if the sap flow hadn't been discovered, but the next day they were all seen perched in the early morning near the eves of the house in the full sun. Since then the gardeners have noticed that the sunlit front of the house in the early part of the day is THE place to look for Hackberry Emperors, and later on the sap flow, and not in the garden.

Higbee Beach WMA this week hosted AMERICAN SNOUT, HACKBERRY EMPEROR, HAYHURST'S SCALLOPWING, and ZABULON SKIPPER, and the Butterfly Bushes next to the parking lot are pulling in lots of swallowtails, MONARCHS, and BROAD-WINGED SKIPPER. On August 21 in Cape May Point, the Pavilion Circle Gardens and backyard garden butterfly bushes held 20 QUESTION MARKS, 4 AMERICAN LADIES, 2 PAINTED LADIES, 3 RED ADMIRAL, 9 COMMON BUCKEYE, and 20 MONARCHS.

The first southbound MONARCHS were seen by lots of observers in backyard gardens, at Cape May Point, and in CMBO's gardens in Goshen. This first wave of migrants is from New England and southern Canada. YES, it's not too early.

Be alert for BLACK WITCH moths. These normally tropical moths might be found by keen observers. One was seen in Columbia, Maryland, on August 10, and during a recent hurricane hundreds were seen in Port O'Connor, Texas, which is on the Gulf of Mexico just north of Corpus Christie. In a good year keen observers might see 3-4 on the Texas Coast in that area, not hundreds!

Millions of dragonflies were reported on Thursday, August 14, coming in off the ocean in Strathmere and Ocean City, by observers who knew they were dragonflies but not what kind(s). Beach goers are still talking about it. Tom Reed, a keen dragonfly (& bird and butterfly observer) noted dragonflies moving over Reeds Beach along the Delaware Bay on both August 14 and 15 made up of CAROLINA SADDLEBAGS, BLACK SADDLEBAGS, SPOT-WINGED GLIDERS, WANDERING GLIDERS, TWELVE-SPOTTED SKIMMER, SWAMP DARNER, and COMMON GREEN DARNER. At The Nature Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge on Sunset Boulevard 2 FOUR-SPOTTED PENNANTS were seen on August 18. This southern species is rare in Cape May County and possibly sporadic or cyclic, so be looking for them and be sure to let us know. SLATY SKIMMERS and 12-SPOTTED SKIMMERS are being enjoyed at the Rea Farm ("the Beanery"). On August 17, at Higbee Beach a WIDOW SKIMMER was seen. This is the 4th sighting this summer in Cape May County for this normally rare dragonfly in our area. A COMET DARNER was enjoyed at Higbee Beach on August 21. CMBO's dragonfly pond in Goshen is alive with BLUE DASHERS, plus TWELVE-SPOTTED SKIMMER, EASTERN AMBERWING, COMMON GREEN DARNER, BLACK SADDLEBAGS AND CAROLINA SADDLEBAGS.

If you're anxious to learn butterflies (and a bit about gardening too), join Pat Sutton each Wednesday, through mid-October (10:00 a.m. to Noon), at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center in Goshen (600 Rt. 47 North) for a "Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk in CMBO's Gardens" and each Thursday, through mid-October (10:00 a.m. to Noon), at Pavilion Circle Gardens in Cape May Point for a "Butterfly Walk at Cape May Point." There is still room on CMBO's "3-Day Bullet Workshop: Butterflies, Dragonflies, and Wildlife Gardens" Friday through Sunday, September 5-7, with Pat Sutton and Jim Dowdell. Call 609-861-0700 to register.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS continue in mind-boggling numbers at the Cape May Bird Observatory's gardens & feeders in Goshen. Each feeder seems to have at least 3 birds competing to feed from it. Our 6 feeders are being emptied daily and the birds are busy at flowers too: CORAL HONEYSUCKLE, CARDINAL CLIMBER, TRUMPET CREEPER, BUTTERFLY BUSH, TROPICAL SALVIA / SAGE, BLUE & BLACK SALVIA, and ROSE OF SHARON. August migrants from the north are arriving in waves and added to the mix of resident adult males, adult females, and young that fledged from the first nest. Treat yourself to good looks and lots of learning about hummingbirds by attending one of CMBO's "The Buzz About Hummingbirds," every Wednesday and Friday (through August 29) from 2:00-3:30 PM at CMBO's Center in Goshen (600 Route 47 North). Be sure to thoroughly wash & refill your hummingbird feeders every 2-3 days during this hot stretch of summer. CMBO carries HummZinger feeders, which are one of the easiest feeders to clean, very well-thought out, and even educational (including directions for the correct feeding solution). Stop by & check them out.

Gardeners, be sure to check out CMBO's selection of special hummingbird and butterfly garden plants FOR SALE this week at the CMBO Center in Goshen. The selection includes the following perennials: New England Aster, Boltonia, Pine Barrens Blazing Star or Gayfeather, Cardinal Flower, Wild Columbine, Nodding Onion, Catmint, Joe-pye-weed, Common Milkweed (while supply lasts!!! -- Monarchs readily lay their eggs on this plant), Sweet Everlasting; vines: Coral Honeysuckle (a hummingbird magnet!); the following shrubs: Buttonbush, Elderberry, Arrowwood Viburnum, and Spicebush, and the following trees: Red Cedar, Tulip Tree.

Early warbler migrants are on the move in small numbers. A CERULEAN WARBLER was enjoyed August 20 at Higbee Beach, and on August 18 at the Rea Farm (the Beanery) 1 BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, 5 BLACK AND WHITE WARBLERS, 2 PROTHONOTARY WARBLERS, 1 WORM-EATING WARBLER, and many AMERICAN REDSTARTS were enjoyed. Each coldfront, no matter how subtle, will bring new and bigger waves of migrant songbirds.

The Stone Harbor Point beach nesting colony continues to dazzle and includes thousands of COMMON TERNS and BLACK SKIMMERS, a handful of LEAST TERNS (due to predation and flooding), PIPING PLOVER (including some migrants), and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS and their growing chicks. So, if you haven't treated yourself, be dazzled and visit Stone Harbor Point!

Every Monday, marine biologist Karen Williams will lead CMBO's 2-hour (no preregistration required) "Life on the Beach" walk, meeting on the Wildlife Viewing Platform ("Hawkwatch") at 5:00 p.m. and exploring the tidal strand at the Cape May Point State Park to examine the great variety of life found there, from crustaceans and fishes to birds overhead. There will be some seining; wear a swim suit if you want to help with the net!

Treat yourself to MARS! This month and next Earth is catching up with Mars, an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The encounter will culminate next week on August 27th. Mars is now rising at nightfall and reaching its highest point in the sky at 12:30 a.m. It is growing progressively brighter and brighter. Astronomers share that no one alive today will ever see this again.

Shorebirds are migrating through in big numbers now, they being our earliest migrants. And heron and egret colonies are still busy places. A great way to savor the normally inaccessible back bay marshes is to join Captain Bob Carlough on one of the CMBO sponsored "Back Bay Birding By Boat" cruises aboard "The Skimmer," every Sunday and Monday (10:00 a.m. to Noon). Call Wildlife Unlimited (609-884-3100) to register for these CMBO-sponsored trips.

CMBO's regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration are terrific opportunities to witness migration unfolding. In addition to the previously mentioned walks, others follow. EVERY FRIDAY -- "Sunset Birding at the Meadows," 5:30-dusk, and "Higbee Beach Bird Walk," 7-9 a.m. EVERY SATURDAY -- "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY SUNDAY -- "Birding Two Mile Beach," 7:30-9:30 a.m., "Welcome to Cape May" 2-3 p.m.. EVERY MONDAY -- "Mondays at the Meadows," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY WEDNESDAY -- " Birding Cape May Point," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY THURSDAY -- "Hidden Valley Bird Walk," 7:30-9:30 a.m. and "Start Birding Today!" with Judy Lukens, 10-11 a.m., perfect for newcomers to birding and nature. .

Some special programs that do require preregistration because spaces are limited follow: (2) "2-Day Bullet Workshop for (Those $#!%) SHOREBIRDS" with Michael O'Brien and Richard Crossley will be taught Tuesday and Wednesday, August 26 & 27. (3) "Late Summer Birding in Cape May" with Mark Garland on Saturday, August 30, 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. will introduce participants to Cape May's top birding sites and visit those that have drawn in recent migrants! To learn more about any of these programs or to register, 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 CMBO's Program Schedule, stop at one of the two centers, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site where a full listing of the remainder of our SUMMER 2003 PROGRAMS (through August) and our FALL 2003 PROGRAMS (September - November) is posted at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

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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