We finally did it! Dave and I took a trip to Cape May, NJ to go birding.
Birding is a big deal in Cape May. New Jersey is part of what is called the Atlantic Flyway, which is a migration route use by birds on the Atlantic Coast. There are 4 flyways in the United States; the other 3 are Pacific, Central, and Mississippi. Due to its location, Cape May experiences hundreds of thousands of birds during spring and fall migrations. New Jersey Audubon headquarters and the Cape May Bird Observatory are stationed here, and there are tons of “birding hotspots”. Cape May is the host of The World Series of Birding and two annual migration festivals (fall and spring). It’s a birder’s paradise. People flock (pun intended) to Cape May for birds. Dave and I visited 3 different locations .
Our first stop was Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area.We were right in time to watch the Cape May-Lewes Ferry take off, which shuttles people from New Jersey to Delaware. It was a pretty quiet day at the beach. We spotted some gulls, terns, and cormorants flying across the bay. On the beach was a flock of Sanderlings with some Semipalmated Plovers mixed in. It’s fun to watch them scurrying around the sand trying to avoid the waves. There was a trail that went through the forest nearby, but we didn’t hike long since it was overgrown.
Our second stop was the Cape May Bird Observatory Northwood Branch. There are two branches of the CMBO, but this one was a store. You can pretty much find any birding supply or accessory there: binoculars, spotting scopes, books, feeders, nest boxes, clothing, and artwork. The staff was knowledgeable about great birding locations and they were watching the Cornell Lab’s Texas Hummers. I ended up buying myself a print by artist David Kiehm of a Pileated Woopecker (longtime readers know about my love for Pileateds) called “Lunch Counter”. You can check out his amazing artwork at Dead Drift Studio at this link.
Our last stop of the day was South Cape May Meadow, which is run by The Nature Conservancy. The trails take you through marsh meadows with small ponds interspersed and leads to the beach. The first section of the trail featured Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, American Black Ducks, Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Tree Swallows, and some Ospreys. The Mute Swans were very close to us and beautiful to watch.
Farther down the trail we came to a second pond. There were more Mute Swans, but then we had some surprises. A Pied-billed Grebe was popping in an out of the water. Then four American Oystercatchers arrived. I was thrilled to see them. They are one of my favorites, and I haven’t seen them since June. A small flock of Snowy Egrets arrived. One of them continued to hover and it seems like he wasn’t sure where to land. He was quite a sight to watch. I was glad that I was able to get some clear pictures of him.
Other birds we saw at this pond were Black Skimmers, more Osprey, Glossy Ibis, and Seimpalmated Sandpipers. We also had a great view of the Cape May Lighthouse, which is at a park down the street. There were more trails to explore, but unfortunately we had to head home at one point since we live an hour and a half away.
We will certainly return to Cape May (especially The Meadows) during fall migration. There is so much to see and do there. Next time I would like to explore the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.
I’ve been to Cape May in the past for other reasons, but this was my first birding specific trip. Have you been birding in Cape May, NJ? If you have tell us about your experience in the comments! Don’t forget, if you have a specific bird or topic you want me to write about I would love to hear your suggestions.