Cape May, N.J., is a magnet for birders seeking the birds migrating along the Atlantic Coast of the United States in spring or fall. This wild and watery place is a geographic icon of birding — a place for close-up experiences with flocks of ducks and large groups of shorebirds, including Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, sandpipers, plovers, dowitchers and more.
Warblers streaming south from New England in the fall are funneled with other birds to New Jersey’s narrow southern peninsula with the Delaware Bay on the west and the Atlantic to the east. It’s a nutritious stopover for birds, a place laced with estuaries and wetlands, parks, state forests, refuges and wildlife management areas.
Cape May: a top spring and fall birding destination
“Tops in the ‘Wow!’ category was a super bright Prothonotary Warbler that preened on an open branch long enough for us all to get multiple scope views,” wrote Field Guides Birding Tours guides Megan Edwards Crewe and Tom Johnson after a Spring in Cape May tour in May 2014.
The sudden spring and fall glut of birds is sometimes an opportunity to talk to top ornithologists who study the area’s wildlife.
Dr. David Mizrahi, New Jersey Audubon’s Research Director, show participants of a Victor Emanuel Nature Tours the Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers that he and his fellow researchers were studying in May 2014. Louise Zemaitis, an artist and naturalist native of Cape May, led the Victor Emanuel group and helped explained why Mizrahi’s work is important to understanding how to help conserve the long-distance migrants.
There is so much to see and appreciate, from hawks and Ospreys to flycatchers and vireos to locally breeding Clapper Rails. Cape May is a rewarding venue for spring birding, and don’t forget the fall birding, too. It’s just as enjoyable.