Cape May Natural History Hotline - 9/30/2005

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 Friday, September 30. NJ Audubon's three hotlines can be read in full on our website (http://www.njaudubon.org), by clicking on "Sightings" (top of any page).

It is the peak of the fall migration! And CMBOs sighting sheets are lengthy for each and every day as observers share all their wonderful sightings. Fifteen different weekly bird walks (requiring no preregistration) are offered now, each at a different birding hotspot! Be sure to go with the experts on one, several, or all of these walks to learn the areas and savor the fall unfolding. For details on each walk as well as CMBOs many preregistration programs go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/calcmbo.html

The Meadows reopened this evening, September 30!

MONARCH migration has stolen the show this week! The coldfront that came through on September 27 brought strong winds in the morning and light north winds in the afternoon, perfect for Monarch migration. Many thousands poured south down the beach, over the marshes, along the Parkway, inland, ALL OVER the Cape May Peninsula. 2 migrating MOURNING CLOAKS were seen amidst all the Monarchs. By the evening of September 27 vegetated backyards and dunes in Cape May Point filled up with roosting Monarchs. 5,000-6,000 were counted at dozens of roost sites. The following morning, conditions were excellent for continuing their migration and as the sun warmed them, they lifted off and continued across the Delaware Bay. Sadly, the strong northwest winds on the morning of the 27th blew some Monarchs offshore and into the ocean. Dozens washed up dead on beaches. MONARCH numbers continue to swell! Every patch of Milkweed (whether it is Swamp, Common, Orange, or Tropical Milkweed) still has eggs and caterpillars on it, so the population is still growing. One garden in Cape May on September 28 had 20 chrysalises, 15 newly emerged Monarchs, and at least 5 sizable caterpillars exploring for just the right spot to go into a chrysalis. CMBOs Monarch Tagging Demos are offered every day of the week except Tuesdays and Thursdays (weather permitting) at 2 p.m. at the Cape May Point State Park in the picnic shelter next to the Hawk Watch / Wildlife Viewing Platform. To learn of the history of the Monarch migration through Cape May go to: http://www.njaudubon.org then click on Research and then on Monarch Monitoring Project.

An immature RUFOUS / ALLENS HUMMINGBIRD is frequenting CMBOs Gardens in Goshen. First discovered September 29, it continued today, the 30th, until at least 6:30 p.m. and seems to favor the feeders on the back deck and the stand of Viburnum bushes at the base of the amphitheater as a perch site. When not in the Viburnums it perches in the meadow in a dead tree top to the right of the right hand Purple Martin house. The best vantage point to view all these spots is by the stand of River Birches and lone bench just past the Dragonfly Pond. It interacted with a RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD today and at one point both birds perched near each other. Most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have migrated through, but one or two are still being seen in backyard habitats all over Cape May County. Most South Jersey gardeners leave their feeders up long after Ruby-throats leave, having learned that rarities appear late in the fall after most Ruby- throats are gone. Continue to maintain your feeders (scrub and refill with fresh solution at least once each week) and dont assume that a hummingbird is a Ruby-throat. Give us a call if you see a hummingbird, especially if it doesnt look quite right for a Ruby- throat. Fall is a great time to plant a butterfly and hummingbird garden. Many native perennials that will attract both butterflies & hummingbirds are available for sale at the CMBO Center in Goshen. For a list of these plants and extensive information about gardening for hummingbirds, butterflies and wildlife in general, visit the World of Backyard Habitat pages on NJ Audubons website: http: http://www.njaudubon.org/Education/BackyardHabitat

Over 8,500 raptors have been counted at the Cape May Hawkwatch since September 1. The most recent coldfront on September 27 triggered a 1,346 raptor day with 12 species including 50 OSPREY, 5 BALD EAGLES, 16 N. HARRIER, 745 SHARPSHINS, 146 COOPERS HAWKS, 1 RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, 7 BROADWINGS, 4 REDTAILS, 325 AMERICAN KESTREL, 45 MERLIN, and 1 PEREGRINE. This next coldfront should flood the area with many more raptors. On September 28, over a 3-hour period a PEREGRINE caught, killed, plucked, and ate an ill juvenile BLACK SKIMMER in front of the Cape May Hawkwatch Platform. Life and death at the heart of migration. Spend some time on the hawkwatch learning ID with CMBOs seasonal naturalists and fellow hawkwatchers. Also be sure to attend one or several of the Hawk ID Mini-Workshops, offered each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October 23 (except October 1-2) from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Cape May Point State Park, meeting in the classroom. Or dive in with both feet and attend the CMBO Raptor Workshop taught by Pete Dunne and Pat Sutton (mentioned above).

The CMBO Avalon Seawatch began September 22. Due to construction at 7th Street, this years watch and Seabird ID Mini-Workshops are being conducted at 8th Street. Some highlights at the Seawatch include: LITTLE GULL (9/24 at 3 p.m.) and 3 PARASITIC JAEGERS (9/25).

Butterfly gardens in Cape May are still in full bloom. Some gardens to the north are beginning to wane probably due to the month-long stretch with 0" rain. New England Aster and Seaside Goldenrod are just coming into full bloom and, along with Butterfly Bushes, are the hot nectar plants right now. Cape May Point, buffered by the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay, is still warm and will be for some time. Gardens at Cape May Point continue to host lots of BLACK SWALLOWTAIL caterpillars on Fennel and Monarch caterpillars on Milkweed. But gardens even 15 miles north of Cape May are seeing a decided drop in butterfly eggs and caterpillars. CLOUDLESS SULPHURS are still moving through in good numbers as they wander north. GRAY & RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAKS and E. TAILED BLUES are still flying. PAINTED LADIES are having their best year in 10 years and being seen by the dozens, along with far fewer AMERICAN LADIES. A VARIEGATED FRITILLARY was seen September 28 in Cape May Point, 3 VICEROYS near the Rea Farm on September 26, and a HACKBERRY EMPEROR September 24 at Higbee Beach. RED ADMIRAL have been sparse this year but one was in the fruit dish at CMBOs Gardens in Goshen on September 30 along with a stunning MOURNING CLOAK. A MOURNING CLOAK was seen in Avalon on September 28 and 2 migrated over the marshes behind Avalon on September 27. SACHEMS are still the most common skipper and the most common butterfly being seen now. There is such variation that many observers are easily confused. Tattered SILVER- SPOTTED SKIPPERS are still being seen (9/28/05). A FIERY SKIPPER was at Cape May Point (9/28). OCOLA SKIPPERS continue (2 on 9/28 in Cape May Point, 1 on 9/25 in Goshen, and 1 on 9/23 at Higbee Beach). LONG- TAILED SKIPPERS are being enjoyed (1 in Avalon on 9/27, 2 in West Cape May on 9/26, and 1 at Higbee Beach on 9/23). One garden in West Cape May had a LONG-TAILED SKIPPER lay eggs on garden beans.

Three great opportunities to learn butterflies include: Butterfly & Dragonfly Walk with Louise Zemaitis every Sunday at 10 a.m., Butterfly Walk at Cape May Point with Pat Sutton every Wednesday at 10 a.m. (both the Sunday and Wednesday walk meet at Pavilion Circle Gardens in Cape May Point), and Butterfly Walk in the Goshen Gardens with Pat Sutton every Thursday at 10 a.m. (meeting at the CMBO Center in Goshen, 600 Rt. 47 North). At the same location, learn about wildlife gardening while helping Pat Sutton maintain the CMBO Gardens in Goshen during a Garden Maintenance Workshop every Friday morning (except September 9 & 16), from 9 a.m. till Noon.

Enormous flocks of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS are feasting on Wild Rice on the Maurice River now. BLACK SKIMMERS are staging on Cape Mays beachfront near 2nd Avenue Jetty and a huge flock can still be found at Stone Harbor Point (400+). 19 MARBLED GODWIT were at Stone Harbor Point on September 23 and 18 on the 24th. The Stone Harbor Point Walk is offered every Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. until sunset in September (4:30 p.m. in October) and meets in the parking lot at the south end of Stone Harbor. Sunset Cruises for Fall Migrants are another way to experience shorebirds feeding and raptors hunting. There is still room: October 1 (2-6 p.m.) and October 8 (2-6 p.m.). These trips explore the back bays and tidal flats for shorebirds, waterbirds, raptors, and more! Call 609-861-0700, x-11 for more information and to register! Back Bay Boat Cruises, are offered every Sunday and Monday (10 a.m. till 1 p.m.) and sponsored by CMBO. To register for the cruises call The Skimmer at 609-884-3100.

A LITTLE GULL was seen September 27 on the State Park beach near St. Marys and flying by the Concrete Ship at 5 p.m. A WESTERN KINGBIRD was at the Rea Farm on September 25. An adult WHITE IBIS was a flyover at the Hidden Valley at 8:30 a.m. and later the Hawkwatch on September 28. On September 24 the Cape May Point State Park beachfront hosted 3 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS (adult, 3rd cycle, and 2nd cycle), juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER, LITTLE GULL, adult GULL- BILLED TERN, 3 SANDWICH TERNS, and 2-3 BLACK TERNS. On September 24, 3 adult PARASITIC JAEGERS were seen at 6:30-7 p.m. over the Rips from Cape May Point. A TUNDRA SWAN and a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL were at Bivalve in Cumberland County on September 24. Good numbers of BLUE-WINGED TEAL persist, and AMERICAN WIGEON, N. PINTAIL, and SHOVELER numbers increase.

GREAT HORNED OWLS are tuning up at dusk. They being the earliest nesting bird, are already on territory and dueting to one another.

Some very special CMBO field trips still have room: Giants Among Us: Cape May Countys Biggest Trees on October 8 (10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), Birding Cumberland (with Pat and possibly Clay Sutton) on October 9 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Great Egg Harbor River Cruise (with Pat and possibly Clay Sutton & Karen Johnson) on October 15 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), All About Owls Workshop & Field Trip on October 22 (1:30 to 6:30 p.m.), Cape May NWR Field Trip: Delaware Bay Division on November 12 (8 to 11 a.m.). Call 609-861-0700, x-11 for more information or to register.

Several GREAT workshops are coming up. October 1 & 2, Advanced Birding By Ear will be taught by Michael OBrien, coauthor of the multimedia CD-Rom, Flight Calls of Migratory Birds. Pete Dunne and Pat Sutton will teach a raptor workshop Raptors II: Buteos, Eagles, and Great Diversity on October 26-27. Waterfowl with Michael OBrien & Louise Zemaitis on November 25 & 26. CMBOs 2005 Workshops are ideal ways to learn. To register call 609-861-0700. For more information go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Calendar/Cmboworks05.html

The Twilight Watch for Migrating Owls, Bats, and Herons, offered every Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. meets at The Meadows. This is an excellent opportunity to savor the beginning of nocturnal migration! Coldfronts are the key and nights with clear skies and gentle winds are best. See you there!

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. All are detailed in the Kestrel Express. To receive a copy of the Fall Kestrel Express (September through November) stop at either CMBO Center, call the office during business hours at 609-861-0700, or go to New Jersey Audubon's web site: 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 Cape May, 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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