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Cape May Natural History Hotline - 9/23/2004
CAPE MAY NATURAL HISTORY AND EVENTS HOTLINE, September 23, 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 hotline was prepared on Thursday, September 23. For bird news call the Cape May Birding Hotline at (609) 898-2473. NJ Audubon's three hotline can be read in full on our web site (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (top of any page).

At last! On Saturday, September 18, at @ 3:15 p.m. a coldfront went through Cape May County. The two-week stretch of balmy, hot, sticky weather with little to no migration ended abruptly at 3:15 as cold winds began to come out of the north. Fall officially arrived! With the switch in weather hawks, songbirds, Monarchs, and dragonflies all appeared!

September 21, 22, and 23 have all been MONARCH-filled! On September 21, 300 were tagged by CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project crew at Cape May Point. By the 23rd 1,000 had been tagged. Gardens all over the Cape May Peninsula have attracted nectaring Monarchs! "Monarch Tagging Demos" (weather permitting) are offered daily (except Tuesdays & Thursdays) at 2:00 p.m. at the Cape May Point State Park in the East Shelter (which is next to the Hawkwatch Platform). Go to NJ Audubon's website (http://www.njaudubon.org), click on "Research," then click on "Monarch Monitoring Project" to see the history of CMBO's research project, including results from this year's work. Other opportunities to enjoy Monarch and other butterflies abound! Every Thursday (10 a.m. to Noon) Pat Sutton leads a "Butterfly Walk in the Goshen Gardens" at CMBO (600 Rt. 47 N). A "Butterfly Walk at Cape May Point," meeting at the Pavilion Circle Gardens, is offered from 10 a.m. to Noon every Wednesday (led by Pat Sutton) and every Sunday (led by Louise Zemaitis). See the end of this hotline for news of all the other butterflies being seen!

The coldfront also triggered a big push of migrating dragonflies, 1000s of COMMON GREEN DARNERS, BLACK SADDLEBAGS, CAROLINA SADDLEBAGS, and WANDERING GLIDERS. These dragonflies are part of the aerial plankton as you scan for raptors! The Black Saddlebags have black pouches in the wings, the Carolina Saddlebags have red pouches in the wings, and the Wandering Gliders are golden in color. If you arrive at one of the birding sites early in the morning and dragonflies begin flushing out of the tall vegetation ahead of you, stop and scan ahead to find them perched (a rare treat, since these dragonflies are "flyers" and always on the move!).

The coldfront filled the sky with TREE SWALLOWS, 1,000s upon 1,000s. As the coldfront passed on Saturday, September 18, they filled the horizon from Cape May City to Cape May Point.

On September 19, at the Rea Farm the very first field on the left (planted in Sorghum) had 100+ BOBOLINKS feeding in it. This same field and nearby areas has lots of blooming blue Morning-Glory and Small Red Morning-Glory. At least 5 RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS were attracted to these large blue and tiny red blooms.

Songbirds are migrating through each night with favorable winds (gentle winds from the north). The Morning Flight at Higbee Beach on September 19 tallied 800 songbirds, including 18 species of warblers (1 NASHVILLE, 113 N. PARULA, 2 YELLOW, 2 CHESTNUT-SIDED, 1 MAGNOLIA, 2 CAPE MAY, 22 BLACK-THROATED BLUE, 4 BLACK-THROATED GREEN, 3 BLACKBURNIAN, 2 PRAIRIE, 79 PALM, 1 BAY-BREASTED, 42 BLACKPOLL, 4 BLACK-AND-WHITE, 81 AM. REDSTARTS, 27 N. WATERTHRUSH, and 1 WILSON'S WARBLER), 33 N. FLICKER, 164 CEDAR WAXWINGS, 12 ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, 13 INDIGO BUNTING, 1 PURPLE FINCH! Many N. Flicker were seen from the tower at Higbee Beach on September 23 at dawn!

On September 23 high drama was witnessed by a fisherman at Strathmere. At dawn an E. PHOEBE flew towards land from offshore (having been blown out over the ocean during its nocturnal migration). It was obviously exhausted, flying weakly, and landed on the waves. It weakly flew from the waves and landed on a piling with waves crashing all around it. It then weakly flew to a jetty and hopefully survived.

CMBO's "Cape May Autumn Hawkwatch" began September 1. As of September 22, 7,421 raptors have been tallied at the Hawkwatch with this last coldfront triggering some very nice flights (1,005 on September 19, 2,170 on September 22). To date there have been 706 OSPREY (73 on 9/22), 66 BALD EAGLES (seen daily, 13 on 9/19), 143 N. HARRIER (45 on 9/22), 3,331 SHARP-SHINS (1,502 on 9/22), 779 COOPER'S HAWKS (157 on 9/22), 411 BROAD-WINGS (111 on 9/19), SWAINSON'S HAWK (seen 9/21 & 9/22), 1,387 AMERICAN KESTREL (260 on 9/22), 382 MERLIN (53 on 9/19, 41 on 9/22), 83 PEREGRINE (33 on 9/22).

Three different Cape May Birding Workshops on "Raptors" still have room: "2-day workshops" on September 25 & 26 (Saturday & Sunday), September 27 & 28 (Monday & Tuesday), and a "5-day workshop" October 24-28 (Sunday through Thursday, just prior to NJ Audubon's "Cape May Autumn Weekend"). Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register while spaces remain. To download a registration form for this or any of the other Cape May Birding Workshop, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html

Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. (except October 2 & 3) 2-hour "Hawk ID Mini-Workshops" are offered by CMBO's seasonal naturalists, meeting in the Cape May Point State Park's Environmental Education Building.

1,000s of shorebirds are here now. CMBO's September 25 "Sunset Cruise for Fall Migrants" still has room. This trip aboard "The Skimmer" (and two others: October 2 and 9) will explore back bay waters from Cape May to Stone Harbor. 300 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, 1-2 MARBLED GODWIT (near Nummy's Island), 2 HUDSONIAN GODWIT (just north of Cape May behind the Two Mile Island Restaurant on Ocean Drive on 9/22), #s of BROWN PELICANS, BLACK and YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS, hunting MERLIN and PEREGRINE, and 1000s of shorebirds can all be expected. To register, call 609-861-0700, x-11. CMBO sponsored "Back Bay Birding By Boat" tours aboard "The Skimmer," are offered every Sunday & Monday from 10 a.m. to Noon. Call Wildlife Unlimited directly to register for the "Back Bay" trips (609-884-3100); a portion of the proceeds go to CMBO.

Several 100 BLACK SKIMMERS are putting on a show as they perch in a group on the beach in front of the Jetty Hotel at the south end of Beach Drive in Cape May City. They lift off in unison, float over the waves and beach and settle back down as a group. It's like a ballet. Each fall skimmers stage on this beach, numbers growing, and can be enjoyed for a month or more. 2 male COMMON EIDERS (one with quite a bit of white and one with a little white) have been frequenting the jetties between St. Mary's (near the State Park) and Alexander Avenue at the far end of Cape May Point, and sometimes the Concrete Ship. On September 22 they near St. Mary's and drifting west with the tide. The first migrant owl has been reported, a SHORT-EARED OWL, seen on September 16 at Higbee Beach at 6 a.m. Two BARRED OWLS were seen and heard at Higbee Beach on September 15.

The coldfront on September 18 brought MONARCHS, COMMON BUCKEYES (100+ in CMBO's Gardens in Goshen), AMERICAN LADIES (50+ in CMBO's gardens), a trickle of RED ADMIRALS , and a flood of southern vagrants! OCOLA SKIPPER (9/17 at Higbee, 2-6 at Pavilion Circle Gardens in Cape May Point 9/22 & 9/23, and others in private gardens in and near Cape May Point). LONG-TAILED SKIPPER (9/22 in Cape May Point in private garden and at Pavilion Circle Gardens). 6 FIERY SKIPPERS were in CMBO's Gardens in Goshen on 9/21, and dozens on 9/23 there and in gardens throughout Cape May Point. CLOUDLESS SULPHURS are still abundant and dashing through. A PIPEVINE SWALLOWTAIL was seen at Higbee Beach 9/23.

Resident butterflies being enjoyed now include: TAWNY EMPEROR in Cape May Point (9/17) and in CMBO's Gardens in Goshen (9/23), VICEROYS in Cape May Point and at the Rea Farm, a WHITE M HAIRSTREAK in CMBO's Gardens in Goshen (9/23), PEARL CRESCENT, GRAY HAIRSTREAK, and many, many BLACK SWALLOWTAIL caterpillars! A full grown PANDORA SPHINX caterpillar was seen September 20 in Goshen. GARDEN SPIDERS (or ZIG ZAG SPIDERS) have been busy mating and laying egg sacks for the last two months. One can be found in her web over a window with 4 nearby egg sacks, on the back deck at CMBO's Center in Goshen. These gardens also have many PREYING MANTIDS. SPRING PEEPERS are peeping! Yes, they often call in the fall as the temperatures drop.

I am often asked when to take down Hummingbird Feeders! NOT YET!! Continue to maintain your hummingbird feeders weekly (clean out thoroughly & refill with fresh solution) right through December, even though Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have mostly cleared out, moved south. The rare, western hummingbirds show up late! Question any hummingbird you see in October, November, or December. Most will be immatures, so not easily identified. Be sure to call CMBO if you have a late hummingbird at your feeders or lingering flowers.

Consider complimenting feeders with a wildlife garden. Lots of shared knowledge and advice about creating a "Backyard Habitat," including an article on "How to Create a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden," is featured on NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Index.html

A terrific selection of hard to find hummingbird, butterfly & general wildlife plants are on sale at CMBO's center in Goshen. Selection changes weekly, so stop by often! The current selection is posted on the "Backyard Habitat" pages on NJ Audubon's website: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat/Index.html

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 any Friday (except September 3), 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.

"Hawks & Owls," an exhibit by prominent North American bird artists, is on display at CMBO's Center in Goshen (600 Rt. 47 North). Stop by and be dazzled.

Enjoy fall migrants by joining one of CMBO weekly walks with local experts, including walks already mentioned and these additional walks : (1) every Saturday, "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm" meets at 7:00 a.m. in the parking lot on Bayshore Road (not at the Rea Farm produce stand on Stevens Street), (2) every Saturday, "The Nature of Cape May Point" with Mark Garland, meeting at 2 p.m. at CMBO's Northwood Center, (3) every Sunday, "Birding Two Mile Beach" meets at 7:30 a.m. at the Two Mile Beach Unit of the Cape May NWR (in the last parking area on the left in the refuge, which lies east of Ocean Drive just south of Wildwood Crest), (4) every Monday, "Mondays at The Meadows" meets at 7:30 a.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (5) every Monday, "Life on the Beach" with marine biologist Karen Williams, meets at 4:00 p.m. at the Wildlife Viewing Platform in the Cape May Point State Park for a 2 hour beach walk and seining adventure, (6) every Tuesday, "Birding for First Timers" meets at 10:30 a.m. in the Cape May Point State Park under the "North Shelter" (the shelter along the exit road out of the park, (7) every Tuesday (5:00 p.m. till dusk) the "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point" walk (with CMBO naturalists who know the area intimately) is a great way to enjoy this unique area (meet in the Stone Harbor Point parking lot at the south end of Stone Harbor), (8) 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, (9) every Wednesday, "Twilight Watch for Migrating Owls, Bats, & Herons" with Pat Sutton meets at 6:00 p.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (10) every Thursday, "Hidden Valley Bird Walk" meets at 7:00 a.m. in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England Road, (11) Every Friday (Sept. 24 at 7 a.m., Oct 1 at 7:30 a.m.), "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" meets in the parking lot at the end of New England Road, (12) every Friday (Sept. 24 at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 1 at 5 p.m.), "Sunset Birding at the Meadows" meets at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard.

The Cape May Bird Observatory offers an extensive series of regular bird 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 (the Kestrel Express), 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 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. Please report your natural history sightings to CMBO's Center in Goshen at 609-861-0700. Thanks for calling and ENJOY THE NATURAL WORLD!

 
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