Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Herring takes the cake!

After driving through pouring rains, wind swept soggy roads and blurry fogs, Cape May was finally in sight after midnight. Bright sunshine, brisk blustery winds and biting cold welcomed us the following morning. We combed ebird alerts and hourly updates for any snowy owl sightings over hot tea and oatmeal. There had been sightings in recent days at Nummy Island, Stone Harbor and Forsyth, so off we drove, hoping this would be the day.

Between the toll and the free bridges on Nummy island, we trained our binoculars on the landscape: a person carrying a rifle at 2:00, a white bucket at 5:00, a large flock of Brants in the bay, diving ducks on the right, but no owl.

Despite spending 2 days of scouring the tidal bays and meadows from the car, visiting Nummy Island twice and driving through the Forsyth Wildlife Drive and chatting with other birders, we didn't catch a glimpse of a snowy owl, but we did enjoy many other amazing sights, including:

soaring birds

beautiful ice creations

ice filled landscapes

and numerous birds,
including an immature common loon, long tailed ducks in winter plumage, american black ducks, 100's of brant geese, a northern harrier, a peregrine falcon, northern pintails,

common merganser and even a bufflehead. 

But the bird who took the cake and a show bird at that, was 
a Herring Gull. 

As we drove along Forsyth Wildlife Drive, a gull suddenly landed abruptly right in front of our car. 

We stopped in the nick of time and then he began his show.  

He had a large oyster and 

flew up above us about 6 to 8 feet 

 then dropped it onto the road, over and over.

After just 3 times, success!

After gobbling it down, off he flew, 
leaving us in wonder and delight to take in the late afternoon rays
 for a memorable weekend, after all.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Southbound Butterflies and Moths

Everywhere I looked, butterflies and moths were busy moving from flower to flower, jiggling, flapping, and sipping nectar and headed south fast.

The first I spotted, near the ponds at Cape May Point State Park, was this beautiful 
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris Thysbe
with it's bright blue antennae dancing around a swamp milkweed.

A male Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes
was pounding and vigorously shaking the flowers, 
as it searched aggressively for nectar.

This handsome and flashy Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) caught my eye with his striped antennae and brown checkered compound eyes.

This gorgeous American Lady Butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) was a beauty to behold as she twirled around in all her glory, with beautiful blue eyespots on the hind underwings, bright pinkish orange red on the upperside, a little perky upturned snout and gold tipped antennae. 

 As I walked on towards the beach, more and more flitted by and these are 
just a few I was able to capture:

 Even though very tattered, this Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) whizzed by, frequenting many 
flowers as he coursed south.

This dandy, a Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia), 
delicately perched as it gathered needed supplies.

Spinning down and around on this low lying yellow flower, an American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) finds her way.

I look forward to seeing more butterflies and moths pass through as they make their amazing migrations south.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bees and Bunnies

Walking through Cape May Point State Park one afternoon, a young naive bunny was resting in the shade, at one of my favorite spots, under an old cedar tree.

 I got closer and closer and he didn't budge. 

 Having enough of me, he dashed off into the bushes. 

Just beyond, making homes in the hard packed sandy soil, the Rose Mallow bees were hard at work again. (See blog entry from August 17, 2016). 

This time I noticed, that the bees actually carry water to help loosen the soil, so they can dig holes. 

I also saw a large bearded insect positioned between the holes 

and I wondered if it was a predator, and sure enough, he zoomed and zagged trying to grab the bees as they worked, provisioning their nests.

Here is the result of Rose Mallow Bees' hard work -

thousands and thousands of beautiful rose mallows for as far as the eye can see.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


During a recent sunset in early July at the Point,  a fellow sunset watcher, asked if we had ever seen a moonset. 

A moonset? 

Never thought about it. 

A moonset is best, of course, seen during a full moon and lucky us, there was one that weekend. 

So, we set our clocks early for Saturday morning, July 8 at 4:45 a.m. The alarm rang and looking outside, we saw a mist and likely not good viewing for the moonset. Back to bed, we went.

The next night, we went to set the alarm for the same time, but I thought we should double check the time. So glad we did, as we could get up even later, 5:45 a.m. The alarm went off, the skies were clear and we could see stars from the window. 

Off we dashed to the beach and we made it just in the nick of time,

  as the moon was starting to set and 
was slowly descending into a mist or fog over the bay.

It would have been better to have seen in at an earlier time in the morning, like the day before, as the sky would have been darker and it would have more dramatic. 
That darn mist!

So, as we were watching the moonset at 6:00 a.m., the sun had already started breaking at 5:42 a.m. behind us, well before the moonset. 

 It was a memorable start for a great day. 

We then made our way to 
The Blue Pig at Congress Hall for some delicious waffles with strawberries and cream. 
We were the first ones there.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cape May's Best Cupcakes

For a recent celebration, we bought some amazingly, delicious, moist cupcakes 

from Pretty Tasty Cupcake Boutique,

 located in the Carpenter's Square Mall.

I highly recommend them. Go early, as they sell out fast.

Be careful, as they are rather addictive. 

Here is a link to their Facebook page:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rose Mallow Season and Their Special Bee!

In Pavilion Park in Cape May Point, there is a simple dirt basketball court.

The ground is compacted, but loose and sandy enough for ground nesting bees to dig down and make homes for themselves.

And that is exactly what has happened! 

There are 50 - 100 holes, with bees flying, circling, 
digging and diving down.

Who are these bees? 

Why are they here?

After several calls, in an attempt to preserve their nesting site, I spoke with the naturalist from Cape May Point State Park, and he informed me that they are Rose Mallow Bees or Ptilothrix bombiformis.

They are solitary females, each creating their own nest, but in aggregate. The nests are not connected. Each bee provisions her own nest with pollen and nectar from just ONE type of plant, the Hibiscus, as they are specialist bees.

They are lazy bees and are cleptolectic, attempting to steal nesting sites of neighboring bees, which are typical of their Tribe Emphorini as mentioned in a published paper from Brazil:

Here are 2 fighting over a hole:

They look like bumble bees, but they are not. They have a stout body, dense black hair, a yellow thorax and dark black abdomen with large folded wings, when not in flight. They also have prominent longer, hairier legs. Importantly, they do NOT sting!

They have a short life cycle, lasting about as long as the rose mallows' blooming period, from July to September. Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), a native species to NJ, is a wetlands plant, with a 5 petaled colorful flower head and a spectacular sight to see in bloom.

I'm curious if this bee, also will feed from other Hibiscus varieties, such as Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and other Mallow varieties as listed here: ( in the Cape May Point area or beyond?

For more information about these curious bees, visit the site:

I hope the site will be protected, during their active season. I spoke with the Commissioner of Public Works at the Point, Robert Mullock, who knew about them, and who was happy to know I wasn't calling to ask to have them exterminated. I hope the area will be roped off and some signage will be installed to inform curious onlookers of this interesting bee.