Cape May Bird Observatory
Some of the areas and birds you might encounter during Cape MAYgration include:
By early May, many breeding birds have come into the woodlands along the Delaware Bayshore. Birding spots in Belleplain State Forest might bring nesting Phoebes, Yellow-throated, Hooded, Prothonotary, Pine, Blue-winged, and Worm-eating Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Ovenbirds, Rufous-sided Towhee, Acadian and Great Crested Flycatchers, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, and much more!The Nature Conservancy’s Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge, known to locals as "the Meadows", is an excellent place to view gulls, terns, herons, egrets, shorebirds, bitterns, rails, and ducks. Least Bitterns and Virginia Rails nest in the marsh while Piping Plovers and Least Terns, both endangered, nest on this beach through the summer.Migrants use the shrubbery in Cape May Point extensively. Lake Lily, a freshwater lake, lies in the center of the Point and attracts migrant ducks and hunting osprey. Warblers, grosbeaks, tanagers, vireos, and other songbirds can be observed feeding in native vegetation.
Cape May Point State Park is known for its diversity of habitat: ocean and beach, large freshwater ponds and marsh, and woodlands. Terns, gulls, cormorants, and shorebirds frequently observed flying offshore. Vegetated trails can be excellent for songbirds. Herons and egrets, Least Bitterns, Pied-billed Grebes and other waterbirds use the ponds extensively.
Exploring Cumberland County will take you to little-known hotspots in eastern Cumberland County in search of migrants and breeding birds as well as wildflowers, amphibians, and more.
Managed by NJ Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife, Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area is famous for its dune forest, the last natural dune forest along the Delaware Bayshore, and the largest stand of old growth forest south of the Cape May Canal. Yellow-breasted Chats, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Prairie Warblers, and White-eyed Vireos nest here. Walk along field and forest edges.
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, also known as "Brigantine" consists of more than 46,000 acres of coastal habitat, mostly salt marsh interspersed with shallow coves and bays along a 8-mile drive through a series of fresh, brackish, and saltwater wetlands. Ducks, geese, herons, bitterns, rails, a variety of shorebirds, and other water birds use refuge ponds and marshes for feeding and resting. Northern Harrier and Peregrine Falcon both breed here.
In Cumberland County, Heislerville Wildlife Management Area encompasses varied habitats including river and tidal marsh boundary, freshwater impoundments, diked salt-hay meadows, tidal mud flats, and oak-pine uplands providing habitat for waders, shorebirds, and other waterfowl.
The Rea Farm, known by birding locals as The Beanery, is one of the last working farms on the bay side of the lower Cape May Peninsula. This private property is leased by New Jersey Audubon and may be accessed by permit only, included with current membership in New Jersey Audubon or Cape May Bird Observatory. Bordering Pond Creek Marsh, this mix of wet woods, farm fields, weedy edges, and farm ponds, is crucial habitat for millions of warblers, passerines, finches, and sparrows.
One of several places for spring shore birding for Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Laughing Gulls that are attracted to the horseshoe crab eggs being laid at the tideline along the Delaware Bay shoreline is Cooks Beach. Horseshoe Crab egg laying peaks mid-to-late May and so do the shorebird numbers. Always view from a distance so as not to disturb the shorebirds. Parking will be along roadside edges with a short walk to the viewing areas.
Birding by Boat™ is on The Osprey, an enclosed catamaran with comfortable bench seating. Cruise the back bays, harbors, and sounds of Cape May with close looks at a variety of egrets, oystercatchers, herons, rails, and osprey.
Kayak along Cape Island Creek with experienced naturalists for up close looks at Osprey, egrets, oystercatchers, possibly rails, and other marine life. Cape Island Creek is a tidal creek which winds through the back areas of Cape May.