The Ospreys have barely arrived here in Cape May - the usual first arrivals are in early-mid March.  The bulk of the birds will be back in April.  Although you shouldn't go too close to nests, you can find plenty of them in the back bays just to the north of Cape May.  From Wildwood to Stone Harbor there are lots of nests on platforms in the marshes.  There are nests on Nummy Island and on the road into North Wildwood (from Route 9 - North Wildwood Blvd), as well as some along the road into Wildwood.  You can walk a bit onto the marsh, but if you do, you will likely spook the birds off the nest, which would result in killing young or eggs once they are in the nest.  Don't approach too closely.  These same birds seek fish in the back bays and creeks, at which time they may also offer photo opps.  Best of luck and don't approach nests too closely.

April 21 is good for some of the earlier songbird migrants.  If you go to Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area you may see Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, and many other species.  If you go up to Belle Plain State Forest you may see Prothonotary Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Parula and many other songbirds.  Don't forget the ocean (loons, gannets, scoters) and marshes while you're here. 

Check out Pat and Clay Sutton's book
http://www.capemaytimes.com/birds/news-20070104suttons-book.htm

the Spring one day wonder guide page:
http://www.capemaytimes.com/birds/birding-spring.htm

and Birds by teh Month for April:
http://www.capemaytimes.com/birds/cape-may-birds-by-the-month/april.htm

The first week of may can be good for shorebirds, but the big influx of shorebirds on the Bayshore for horseshoe crab eggs (and for most shorebirds in general), occurs more in mid-May.  If you schedule toward the end of the second week of May or even a few days thereafter, you will hit the peak.  By moving your trip toward mid-May, you will also have better luck with songbird migrants as well.  For the best places to go to see all of these birds, make sure you look at the Suttons book, highlighted on Cape May Times - see the other birding pages on this site at ...  http://www.capemaytimes.com/birds/nature-of-the-cape/default.htm -   If you browse through the birding pages on this site, you'll find info on the Sutton's book as well as descriptions of the different birding sites.

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(1 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

Winter Robins.  Although robins are migratory, here in Cape May and other parts of south Jersey we have lots of them in the winter.  They eat berries as well as insects and other invertebrates they find on the ground when the ground isn't frozen.  Down here, the ground is frozen only for a few days at a time, so these birds don't have a really tough time.  As you drive the Parkway north and south above Court House, you should see lots of robins at the edges of the marshes and the brushy areas along the Parkway.  Below the Cape May Canal, there are some areas where robins roost by the hundreds.  So, robins migrate into and stay in Cape May during the winter.  Enjoy them!

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(6 replies, posted in Fishing and Boating)

Bait for spotted hake.  I've usually used cut mullet and that has usually produced - using small pieces on small hooks.   They can also be caught on clams, although I prefer cut mullet. 

Good Luck and post here if you are catching.

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(6 replies, posted in Fishing and Boating)

Tried for spotted hake/ling at the point twice during the past 10 days.  They have been quite slow.  Maybe the water temps are now too cold for them???  Was catching these tasty morsels until two nights ago.  Didn't see anyone else fishing the jetties on the west side of Cape May Point.  I'm going to try the POint once more for ling before hanging up my waders.

Anyone else getting ling, at least?

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(1 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

The second week of November is not a great time to see Black Skimmers.  However, there are usually some around.  The peak for the large flocks is early October.  If you look along the beachfront in Cape May in November, between the 2nd Ave Jetty (farthest one toward Cape May Point) and the bigger hotels, there are often some flocks perched on the beach.  They look like gulls at first, but when you get closer they look darker and ...  This can be hit or miss.  They also roost along other beaches, including Stone Harbor Point, although the beach trucks of the fishermen tend to spook them, and the beaches at the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in Wildwood Crest.  Again, its hit or miss because many have left for warmer climes.

Good luck.

Ever try Nummy Island or Stone Harbor Point?  Both are fishable from shore and they have been catching bass and small (7-16") blues.  Just heard the clam dunkers are catching up there and poppers work along the sodbanks.  Both the sandy point at the south end of Stone Harbor and Nummy can be fine fishing this time of year.  It's a beautiful area that frequently produces.  You should have waders and be careful along the edges of Nummy Island because the dropoff can be precipitous.  High tides can cover the island, except for the saltgrass.  Bass sometimes are right up in the edges of the grass.

Yesterday afternoon as the tide peaked and started to ebb, two of us took about two dozen small bluefish.  We fished behind Wildwood, using mullet as chum and bait.  Blues found the chum within 5 minutes.  We floated the mullet about 3 feet below a bobber, which worked beautifully.  Blues were only up to 16", but great fun on very light tackle.  There were some smooth dogfish and sea herring to spice things up.  Also used my flyrod in the chum slick and that worked as well.  Thought we might pick up bass, but that didn't happen.

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(1 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

The ocean will throw up lots of one thing or another.  It depends on the wind and the type of animal or plant (seaweed) that is close to the beach at the time.  We've had easterly winds for about a week, so it is likely that lots of spider crabs were near shore and simply washed up with these winds.

The larger of the holes you saw were those of ghost crabs, which can be 3" long.  Watch from a distance and if you are patient you will see the little devils emerging from their holes in search of a meal.  The smaller holes are from mole crabs, which are 1" or less in length.  The shorebirds (sandpipers like Sanderling) catch them and eat them.  You can watch them feeding and see them catching these tasty morsels.  Anglers use them as bait at times.

The 15th of September is somewhat early for migrating hawks, including Bald Eagles.  While you may have a good day, the real deluge of hawks and eagles starts after about the 20th or 25th of September.  The best flights for Sharp-shinned Hawks, Merlin, Peregrines, Coops and Ospreys comes from September 25 to about October 8 or 10.  The larger hawks like Red-tails, Red-shoulders, and Golden Eagles .

Bald Eagles are spread throughout the fall and don't have the same distinct peaks as do most other species.

If you are looking for a place to photograph, try the following places. 

Along Sunset Blvd, near the watertower is the area where the old-time gunners used to shoot hawks.  On a northwest or west wind in late Sept into early Oct you can have hawks flying so low that you can almost touch them.  Find yourself a place off the road amongst the cedars or on the hill within the fenced in area across from the thick cedar forest.  Experimenting will pay off.  There is lots of poison ivy in these areas, so watch out.

The dune trail in the Meadows (Cape May MIgratory Bird Sanctuary) can be good, as can the Cape May Point State Park dune and trails.  You will have to pick your spot each day because the migration changes depending on wind and the type of hawks you are looking to shoot.

Good Luck.

12

(2 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

The last days of August can be excellent for warbler, vireo, and other Neotrop songbird migration.  However, the weather is variable and if you don't get a coldfront during your visit, which can be separated by a week or more at that time, the pickings could be lean.  If you can, try to postpone your trip for a couple of weeks.  As summer winds down and some cool fronts push through Cape May, the chances of hitting a fallout of songbird migrants becomes better and the birding between fronts gets better because more migrants tend to stopover for longer periods of time.  Also, from mid-September to the end of the month is generally the best time for songbird migrants, and the hawks start migrating in better numbers after mid-month.

Note that the last days of August are also quite good for shorebirds in Cape May, and they continue through mid-late September.  So, those birds (and the usual Cape May birds) are always a good backup strategy.

Although shorebirds remain in Cape May through September, the best month of "fall" migration is August.  Shorebirds begin migration in big numbers in mid-July and run into September, when they begin to decrease in numbers.  I suggest that if you wish to see shorebirds, come to Cape May in mid-August.

Neotropical songbirds (thrushes and warblers) commence in mid-August, but here in Cape May the best flights are in September, with mid-month through the end of the month being best.  In mid-late August, you won't see many thrushes, but you will get some of the warblers and vireos, just not as many species or numbers as in the following month.

14

(1 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

Today should be just about the peak of Red Knot visitation in Cape May.  Perhaps your best place to see these birds is one of several beaches along the Delaware Bayshore.  Between Norbury's Landing and Reed's Beach can be productive.  To reach these locations, drive west (north) on Route 47 from Rio Grande (north of Cape May on Route 9, Exit 4 on the Garden State Parkway).  Drive west/north until you reach the first stoplight (after passing out of Rio Grande).  Turn left onto Norbury's Landing Road.  In about a mile, the road will separate...take the right split onto Millman Road and follow it to the end - Norbury's Landing.  Get out and start looking up the beach.  Or, drive farther north until you see Reeds Beach Road on your left (just after the Cape May Mosquito Commission on your left). Drive to the end of that road (swing right when you get past the marsh and into some houses) and go to the end of that road where there is a marina.  Just before the marina there is an observation area on the beach side from which Red Knots may be seen feeding on horseshoe crab eggs. 

You may also see flocks of Red Knots in the evening at Stone Harbor Point.  From the parking lot at the southern end of Stone Harbor, walk right along the beach to the end of the Point.  The Red Knots sometimes rest on the beach there at night, so go just before sunset.  (This can be great birding for many species.)

By about June 3 or so, these birds will be winging their way north to their arctic nesting sites.

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(2 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

The butterfly of the year is shaping up to be the red admiral.  For the past couple of weeks they have been building in numbers.  This morning we had 10 each on two of our lavender plants and there were perhaps 20-40 more in different parts of our garden-yard.  We've noticed them for more than a month now, seemingly in larger numbers than usual, but within the past two weeks ... 

Unlike the "invasion" of 5 years ago, these butterflies don't seem to be migrating, or at least we haven't seen the steady stream going north (or south).  In that year it happened in late May!  These butteflies are feeding and it looks like they may be mating.

Are others seeing this incredible event?

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(0 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

Two Mississippi Kites were soaring over New England Road this afternoon.  One headed north, the other may have gone south, but it certainly seemed undecided because it flew back and forth near the canal before disappearing back toward the Beanery.

This morning the flood tide pushed all the shorebirds up to within 10-30 m of the road across Nummy Island, permitting excellent and easy viewing - even from the car.  Visible were Dunlin, dowitchers, Semi-palm sandpiper and plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover, Red Knot (1), Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Willet, and some others.

While watching shorebirds, Clapper Rails were also coming to the high ground and we got good looks.  One hapless rail was captured by a Great Black-backed Gull, taken to 20+ feet and unceremoniously dropped.  It was then pounced upon, pecked twice, and picked up again.  After dropping the rail one more time, the gull gave up.  We couldn't tell if the rail was alive or not.  This shows how vulnerable some of these marsh birds are to predators when the tide is this high!

Michael McCabe et al. watched a Parasitic Jaeger chasing terns from the Saint Mary's jetty area early this morning.  It put on a good show as it chased terns up and down the beach.

A Solitary Sandpiper was at the alpaca farm on New England Road this morning.  Neotrops are arriving in big numbers with Prairie Warblers all over the place below the canal, along with Indigo Buntings.  Hummers have been showing up at quite a few locations, as well.

19

(0 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

A few dolphins showed up off the Cape May Coast Guard base yesterday.  Don't know if this is the first sighting, but it is a harbinger of spring.  This means that the herring, weakfish, and, or other forage fish are in...  Ocean temps are still only 45-46 degrees F, so we can't seem to shake the cold.  Should be an avalanche of migrants as the weather gets much warmer this weekend and into early next week.

Karen - To followup on your Blue-gray Gnatcatcher post, they were at a couple of other places in the past two days.  There was one in the Cape May Point State Park this afternoon and Chris Vogel reports at least one or two more from another nearby location.  So, they are coming in nicely now.

Also, thought I saw a pair of Blue-winged Teal flying away from us on the trail at the Park this afternoon.  It's about time, so ...

21

(1 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

Saw my first Ibis of the year on March 19 on Shunpike Road.  Are there others out there now?

There are many places to go crabbing.  The best locations are the creeks and narrower passes between land and islands or between two marshes.  The creek need not be deep to have crabs.  I suggest you do some scouting to find a creek that is accessible.  Look for a place where there is a few feet of water and tidal movement.  You need to drop your crab trap or bait into at least 3 feet of water.  Some people crab the  creeks between Cape May and Wildwood Crest.  Watch out for cars.  Anywhere you can get access to a creek that has a couple of feet of water, there will be crabs.  There are a couple of small bridges that have some access, although traffic can be a problem.  Be careful.

Good Luck.

You are in no way an idiot.  Many families make similar inquiries (or wish they had the information they needed).  First, no license is needed in NJ to fish in saltwater.  Second, the ages of your kids suggest that it might be difficult to take them on a boat.  With hooks, spiny creatures, etc. ...  However, if you feel that your kids have the attention span to fish for a couple of hours, there are some 4 hour party fishing boats.  These boats provide bait for free and for a nominal fee you can rent rods.  You might try two rods so that you and your husband can supervise each child.  See the Wildwood Party boat section of this website - Starlight Fishing Fleet.  Give them a call and ask about taking kids that age out.  The mates on these boats take great care of people.

Another possibility, which might be better, is to charter a boat (see the Cape May Charter Boat Section on this website).  By chartering, you will have the boat to yourselves, with the exception that a captain will be there to help.  Charters will have rods and reels for you to use.  Again, try calling a captain to get a price, ask about the ages of your kids and whether they can handle that type of fishing.  Most captains are very obliging and good with kids.

Take a look at the fishing pages for an article entitled "Take Your Kid Fishing"  That article may help you get started.  And, don't be afraid to ask questions.

Best of Luck

About 200-300 Bonaparte's Gulls were feeding in the surf along the Nature Conservancy beach between the Bunker and Cape May on Sunday.  Great show with some resting on the beach and others in and out of the water with the waves.  The storm washed up a half-mile of seaweed in which the gulls were feeding.  Also present were about 40 Greater Scaup, 30 scoter, 2 Horned Grebe, and perhaps 200 shorebirds (Sanderling, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone, and 2 Red Knot).   The latter were feeding in the same seaweed that attracted the Bonaparte's Gulls.

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(1 replies, posted in Birding and Nature)

I'm not sure if pheasants lose their tails like Mourning Doves, but ...  Mourning Doves basically autotomize (that's a fancy way of saying they let go of) their tails when a Cooper's Hawk or other predator grabs it.  I guess its better for a dove to let a predator have the tail rather than not lose the tail and the predator gets the rest of the dove.  A predator could have grabbed the pheasants tail and ... Too bad pheasants can't talk.