Cape May Natural History Hotline - 9/4/2003
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, September 4. 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 from the Cape May Whale Watcher reports they had a RIGHT WHALE on September 1 and a HUMPBACK WHALE 6 miles off Cape May. Observers got to see several complete breaches before the RIGHT WHALE moved out of the area.

VIRGIN'S BOWER or YAM-LEAVED CLEMATIS is in bloom all over Cape May Point. It's the vine covered with tiny, white and very fragrant flowers, hence the name "Virgin's Bower." It is highly invasive, so enjoy but don't plant more! MISTFLOWER or BLUE BONESET is beginning to bloom and a favorite with butterflies. TALL or GIANT SUNFLOWERS are in bloom along the State Park trails and elsewhere. WINGED SUMAC has bloomed and the female bushes are developing fruit now, a favorite food with fall migrants. Has anyone noticed that WILD CHERRY trees have NO FRUIT this fall. Scary, since this is an important food to 52 birds found in New Jersey. The lack of fruit is probably due to the cold and wet spring and the fact that the flowers might have been beat off the trees with one of the rainy stretches this spring. VIBURNUM bushes are heavy with fruit, an important food to migrants.

PREYING MANTIDS are huge now. They've been growing all summer and are now nearly full size. They'll mate, lay their Styrofoam-like egg mass and die. It's the eggs that survive the winter and are responsible for next year's population. ZIG-ZAG (or GARDEN) SPIDERS are growing large now too and their webs are quite noticeable now in butterfly gardens. This week butterfly gardens filled up with hundreds of PENNSYLVANIA LEATHER-WINGS (or SOLDIER BEETLES) on flowers like Sedum; they look a bit like fireflies. They feed on nectar, pollen, and small insects. Their larvae devour grasshopper eggs, small caterpillars, and beetles.

Butterflies continue to fill the Cape May Bird Observatory's gardens in Goshen. Be sure to stop by and enjoy them and the wild butterflies and other visitors attracted to them. In these gardens and elsewhere in the county this week: SWALLOWTAILS are plentiful (Black, E. Tiger, and Spicebush) still. CLOUDLESS SULPHUR sightings are coming in almost daily (may be a good fall for this southern vagrant). AMERICAN COPPER numbers are growing. 2 OLIVE' JUNIPER HAIRSTREAKS were in CMBO's gardens in Goshen on August 30, both were very worn. RED-BANDED HAIRSTREAK numbers may be peaking now (17 were in the CMBO gardens on September 3 and 22 in another garden in Goshen on August 31, almost all on Mountain Mint). SUMMER AZURES are still flying. AMERICAN SNOUT are still being seen where HACKBERRY trees grow. PEARL CRESCENTS are plentiful. QUESTION MARKS are abundant around Cape May Point, and CMBO's gardens in Goshen has a number of chrysalides under the deck. Another garden in Goshen had 8 Question Marks and an E. COMMA on a sap flow and at a dish of fruit on September 1. AMERICAN LADIES are abundant and a few PAINTED LADIES are being seen (but we can't help but wonder if the Painted Ladies are "real" or released by teachers and students). COMMON BUCKEYE numbers continue to grow. A VICEROY was seen at Higbee Beach and Pavilion Circle Gardens this week. RED-SPOTTED PURPLES, HACKBERRY EMPEROR, and TAWNY EMPEROR are being drawn to rotting fruit and sap flows now. An APPALACHIAN BROWN was seen August 31 and COMMON WOOD NYMPHS can be found near sap flows or rotting fruit. MONARCHS continue to be fairly common in gardens. Migrants have begun to come through from New England and Canada. Yet our local Monarchs are still mating, laying eggs on Common Milkweed in CMBO's garden and many other sites, and dying. Their eggs may become the final generation that migrates. Skipper diversity is still good. CMBO's gardens this week held 12 skipper species. SACHEM numbers are building as southern vagrants wander north. SALT MARSH SKIPPERS are still flying in fair numbers. OCOLA SKIPPER, another southern vagrant, was seen this week on August 27 in Eldora. The two different hummingbird moths can easily be seen in the CMBO gardens in Goshen and elsewhere (SNOWBERRY CLEARWINGS resembles a bumblebee and the HUMMINGBIRD CLEARWING is larger and more red and green).

Learn your butterflies (and a bit about gardening and dragonflies if they are in evidence) with 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."

If you are keen on butterflies and gardens that successfully attract them consider signing up for TWO very special "Tours of Private Butterfly Gardens" that 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. Butterfly & hummingbird gardeners, be sure to check out CMBO's selection of plants FOR SALE. They include logs of normally hard to find goodies like Cardinal Flower, Joe-pye-weed, Common Milkweed (while supply lasts!!! -- Monarchs readily lay their eggs on this plant), Coral Honeysuckle (a hummingbird magnet!), and many native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs

On the dragonfly front, E. AMBERWING, E. PONDHAWK, BLUE DASHER, SLATY SKIMMER, BLUE-FACED MEADOWHAWK, CAROLINA SADDLEBAGS, BLACK SADDLEBAGS, SWAMP DARNER, COMMON GREEN DARNER, and gliders have all been enjoyed this week at sites like CMBO's gardens in Goshen, Higbee Beach, the "Meadows, and the Rea Farm.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are still thick at the CMBO Center in Goshen, but come savor them now, since they'll soon be gone. When it's time to go, they feed heavily until full dark & take off. The next day is very quiet and from then on the numbers are far less! They are coming to the CORAL HONEYSUCKLE, CARDINAL CLIMBER on the pergola, BUTTERFLY BUSHES, TROPICAL SAGE planted around the pergola, BLUE & BLACK SALVIA in pots on the back deck, and of course to the feeders too, all 6 of them are being emptied daily! Remember to keep your feeders fresh! Clean, wash, and refill at least every 2-3 days in this heat! Even when the Ruby-throats go, keep your feeders maintained, since later in the fall is when the rare western hummingbirds occur. 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.

CMBO's "Cape May Morning Flight Project," sponsored by Carl Zeiss Optical, began September 1. This new project is documenting migrant songbirds during the first 4 hours of the day beginning at dawn, from September 1 to October 31. To witness this amazing flight, walk the gravel road to the right just before the final parking lot at Higbee Beach. Follow the road to "the dike" and join observers on the small observation tower just before the parking lot at the end of this road by the jetty. Michael O'Brien is CMBO's Morning Flight counter and Chris Vogel is the project's Interpretive Naturalist. Chris or another naturalist can be found every morning at the viewing tower to help visitors understand and enjoy the morning flight. Highlights of this project over the last two weeks follow: On August 31, 13 species of warblers, 219 AMERICAN REDSTART, 150 N. WATERTHRUSH, and 1,665 BOBOLINK. On August 24, 78 BALTIMORE ORIOLE, 1,231 E. KINGBIRD, 93 BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER. 20 species of warblers were tallied from the "Morning Flight Project" last week.

The Bobolink migration is very auditory! Listen for their calls "Bob-o-link, Bob-o-link," often sounding more like "blink," "blink," "blink." DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS are moving now, flock after flock through the day. Their sloppy "V" formation is often mistaken for Canada Geese, but the geese don't migrate till much later in the fall.

The Cape May Hawkwatch, again sponsored by Swarovski Optik, officially began September 1! CMBO's 2003 crew includes Jason Guerard, back for his 2nd fall as our hawk counter, and Bob Diebold and two Interpretive Naturalists, Joshua Lawrey and Julie Tilden. Please welcome them when you visit the hawkwatch! OSPREY, BALD EAGLES (10 in 2 days), N. HARRIER, COOPER'S HAWKS, BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, RED-TAILED HAWKS, AMERICAN KESTREL, and a PEREGRINE were all migrating through this week. Cold fronts are the key.

CMBO's regularly scheduled walks that require no preregistration are terrific opportunities to witness the fall migration unfolding. EVERY FRIDAY -- "Higbee Beach Bird Walk," 7-9 a.m., "Sunset Birding at the Meadows," 5:30-dusk. EVERY SATURDAY -- "Fall Migrants at the Rea Farm," 7:30-9:30 a.m. , "Morning Flight" 8-8:30 a.m. EVERY SUNDAY -- "Birding Two Mile Beach," 7:30-9:30 a.m., "Morning Flight" 8-8:30 a.m. EVERY MONDAY -- "Mondays at the Meadows," 7:30-9:30 a.m. EVERY TUESDAY -- "Sunset Birding at Stone Harbor Point & Nummy's Island," 5:00 p.m. to Sunset, where this summer's very successful beach nesting colony is still active with thousands of COMMON TERNS and BLACK SKIMMERS. EVERY WEDNESDAY -- " Birding Cape May Point," 7:30-9:30 a.m., "Twilight Watch for Migrating Owls, Bats, Herons," 6-8 p.m. EVERY THURSDAY -- "Hidden Valley Bird Walk," 7:30-9:30 a.m. and "Birding For First Timers," 1-3 p.m., perfect for newcomers to birding.

Shorebirds are migrating through in big numbers now. 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.

Some special programs (in addition to those already mentioned) that do require preregistration because spaces are limited follow: (1) "Birding Slowly" on Sunday, September 14 (7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), (2) "Optics Workshop" at CMBO Center in Goshen, Sunday, September 21 (1-3 p.m.), and (3) a number of "Sunset Cruises for Fall Migrants" on 4 different dates in September and October.

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 CMBO's 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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