Cape May Natural History Hotline - 9/30/2004

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 30. 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).

A new dragonfly was discovered in Cape May County this week -- a WHITE-FACED MEADOWHAWK, seen September 29 in Cape May Point. The nearest stable populations are in MD, PA, northern NJ, and NY. Many BLUE-FACED MEADOWHAWKS, BLUE DASHERS, and E. PONDHAWKS are being seen now. TWELVE-SPOTTED SKIMMERS, COMMON GREEN DARNER, BLACK and CAROLINA SADDLEBAGS, and WANDERING GLIDERS are migrating through now too.

CMBO's Monarch Monitoring Project has been affected by this fall's "iffy" weather. Over 1,000 MONARCHS were tagged September 21-23. Uncertain weather and no migration followed. A few new Monarchs came the afternoon of September 29, but overcast skies that night and today shut down any additional movement. This fall's numbers to date are at a record low. We're all, including the Monarchs, waiting for coldfronts and their associated north and northwest winds! "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 this year.

It is an excellent fall for southern vagrants. There are more FIERY SKIPPERS here this fall than ever. If the sun is out, it's not uncommon to see dozens; they've begun to outnumber SACHEMS! There've been many OCOLA SKIPPERS too. 7 were seen on two butterfly bushes at Pavilion Circle Gardens in Cape May Point on September 24, while others were in private backyard gardens the same afternoon. LONG-TAILED SKIPPERS and COMMON CHECKERED SKIPPERS have been seen in West Cape May and Cape May Point. FIERY, OCOLA, COMMON CHECKERED, and LONG-TAILED SKIPPERS have also been seen at CMBO's Gardens in Goshen this week. If the sun is out, expect 100s of COMMON BUCKEYES and AMERICAN LADIES. Over a dozen Common Buckeye caterpillars were seen on Seaside Gerardia in "The Meadows" on September 28. Opportunities to enjoy Monarchs 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).

Migration has been "off" this fall due to the series of hurricanes that keep playing havoc with the weather. When temperatures drop and coldfronts finally come with their associated north and northwest winds, migrants should flood through! Despite the weather it has been anything but dull here in Cape May County!

3 different immature GREAT CORMORANTS have been enjoyed this week as they perch on the Concrete Ship, the Bunker, and the various jetties in Cape May Point. A PEREGRINE sits on the wires under the gray water tower along Sunset Boulevard. An immature male COMMON EIDER, with lots of white markings, can often be found in the waters between the Bunker at the State Park and the Concrete Ship at the end of Sunset Boulevard; Alexander Avenue in Cape May Point is one of its favorite haunts. The flock of BLACK SKIMMERS that gathers here every fall numbers about 260 birds now; they perch on the beach near 2nd Avenue Jetty in Cape May City. This past week they fed as a massive group, skimming the water surface of Bunker Pond, the pond in front of the Hawkwatch Platform. At dusk they can be seen heading out towards the Delaware Bay to feed. 3-5 PARASITIC JAEGERS have been hunting close to shore off Cape May Point and easily seen from the Hawkwatch, the raised picnic pavilion at the State Park, any of the dune crossovers in Cape May Point, or the Concrete Ship. They target successfully hunting terns, dive on them until they drop their fish, and then steal it. Whenever "the rips" are full of hunting terns be on the lookout for jaegers! Sizable flocks of BROWN PELICANS have entertained this week; a flock of 11 soared over the lighthouse on September 27. SORA RAILS and AMERICAN BITTERNS have been seen by patient observers in The Nature Conservancy's preserve this week, especially along the open, grassy, wet edges of the ponds.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS have really thinned out! But a few were seen September 28, including one in the CMBO Gardens in Goshen, 2 at Higbee Beach, and 1 at the State Park that was moving like a bullet as it migrated right over the Hawkwatch Platform, skimmed the parking lot, and disappeared out over the Delaware Bay! Be sure to keep your hummingbird feeders up and maintained (clean out thoroughly & refill with fresh solution each week) right through December, even though Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are all but gone. 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.

CMBO's Avalon Seawatch began September 22 and will run until December 22. Please welcome Bob Fogg our official seawatch counter! The seawatch began with fair numbers of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (870 on 9/22, 934 on 9/23, 748 on 9/27), and small numbers of COMMON LOONS (14 on 9/24) and N. GANNET (1-4 daily). Totals for the first 7 days of the count follow: 121 BROWN PELICANS, 2 GREAT CORMORANT, 11 GREAT BLUE HERONS, 103 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 341 BLACK SCOTER, 27 SURF SCOTER, and 9 PARASITIC JAEGER. Stop by the Avalon Seawatch at the north end of Avalon (7 th Street and the beach) any day or join CMBO for it's weekly "Seabird ID Mini-Workshop," held every Saturday, at 2:00 p.m. at the Avalon Seawatch at 7 th Street and the Ocean.

On September 29, during CMBO's "Twilight Watch"several flocks of high flying GREAT BLUE HERONS (one flock of 11 birds) headed out at dusk, 1-4 AMERICAN BITTERN took off just at last light, and when it was full dark several flocks of night herons and GREEN HERONS could be heard calling as they migrated over. Pat Sutton leads the "Twilight Watch for Owls, Bats, and Herons" every Wednesday, at 5:30 p.m., meeting in The Nature Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. An "All About Owls Workshop & Field Trip" with Pat Sutton on Saturday, October 23 (1:30-6:30 p.m.) at the peak of owl migration, still has room. Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register!

Over 10,000 raptors have been counted since September 1 when CMBO's "Cape May Autumn Hawkwatch" began, including 954 OSPREY, 79 BALD EAGLES, 182 N. HARRIER, 4,772 SHARP-SHINS, 1,134 COOPER'S HAWKS, 472 BROAD-WINGS, 1 SWAINSON'S HAWK, 1,625 AMERICAN KESTREL, 528 MERLIN, and 228 PEREGRINE. 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. Pete Dunne and Pat Sutton will teach a "5-day Cape May Birding Workshops on "Raptors" October 24-28 (Sunday through Thursday, just prior to NJ Audubon's "Cape May Autumn Weekend"). There is still room on this ultimate Cape May birding experience. Sparrow time is fast approaching! CMBO's "2-day Cape May Birding Workshop on Sparrows" with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis on October 23-24, has 4 spaces remaining! Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register! Call 609-861-0700, x-11, to register for either. To download a registration form for any of the Cape May Birding Workshops, go to NJ Audubon's web site at: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks04.html

CMBO's October 2 "Sunset Cruise for Fall Migrants" still has room. This trip aboard "The Skimmer" (and one other trip, October 9) will explore back bay waters from Cape May to Stone Harbor. 300 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, 3 MARBLED GODWIT (near Nummy's Island), #s of BROWN PELICANS, all the herons and egrets (TRI-COLORED, LITTLE BLUE, BLACK and YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS), newly arrived BRANT, 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 1 p.m. Call Wildlife Unlimited directly to register for the "Back Bay" trips (609-884-3100); a portion of the proceeds go to CMBO.

Cumberland County, northwest of Cape May County, is rich in bird life and quite wild. Join Pat Sutton on Sunday, October 10 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) for "Birding Cumberland," to explore East Point (a mini-Cape May with its own amazing hawk, owl, Monarch, and dragonfly migration), Heislerville WMA, Thompson's Beach, and the newly protected "Bluffs" on the Maurice River. Pat Sutton will also lead the "Cape May NWR Field Trip" to explore the Delaware Bay Division on Sunday, November 7 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Mark Garland will lead a 2-day "Weekend Field Trip to Assateague Island," on November 13-14, and a "Cape Henlopen and Broadkill Marsh" field trip in Delaware on December 4 (9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 to register for any of these special field trips while spaces remain!

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, 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.

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, including RED CEDAR, BLACK CHERRY, CORAL HONEYSUCKLE, LITTLE BLUESTEM, and others! 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

"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 7:30 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 (4:30 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 5:30 p.m. at TNC's refuge parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, (10) every Thursday, "Hidden Valley Bird Walk" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the small clamshell parking lot on the south side of New England Road, (11) Every Friday, "Higbee Beach Bird Walk" meets at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot at the end of New England Road, (12) every Friday, "Sunset Birding at the Meadows" meets at 5:00 p.m. 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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