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Cape May Bird Observatory
Young Birders Resources - Spring: Part 1 - Introduction

Spring in Cape May: A Whole Different Kind of Migration
Birding in Cape May during the spring is very different than birding in the fall—but it can be just as rewarding! Unlike the fall, when southbound birds are concentrated into the Cape May peninsula, spring migration is more dispersed, and migrants are likely to be encountered just about anywhere—not just on Cape Island. One of the major upsides of spring migration is that most birds are in their breeding plumages, adding a colorful splash to a spring outing.

Principles of Spring Migration
In the fall, cold fronts and northwest winds bring migrating birds as they are pushed to the coast and thus, “funneled” to Cape May. The exact opposite occurs in the spring: warm fronts, with their associated southerly winds, assist northbound birds to their breeding grounds. However, as in the fall, it is possible to see migrating birds any day during the spring, especially since many birds are racing north to secure preferable breeding territories and may be more likely to ignore “perfect” flying conditions.

What to Expect & How to Prepare
Weather:  The spring weather in Cape May tends to become more stable as the season progresses. Early-spring weather can shift wildly from day-to-day: 70 degrees and sunny one day can be followed by 35 degrees and stormy the next, especially in March. Also keep in mind that inland areas, such as Belleplain State Forest, will often be warmer than coastal locations like Nummy Island. A late-afternoon sea breeze will often develop during the spring, which can keep coastal areas 10-15 degrees cooler than the adjacent mainland. Always keep an eye on the latest forecast before heading out. With that being said, be sure to bring clothing that will cover a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. Check out the weather for Cape May here.

Accommodations: 
Many Cape May area motels, hotels and inns now stay open year-round, in part because of the large number of birders who visit the area. Many of these are supporters of CMBO. Please see our guide to “Places to Eat, Shop, Stay and Play” for a list of accommodations.

Biting Insects/Ticks:  As the season progresses, gnats, mosquitoes and several species of flies will be looking to feed on you. Always wear long pants and sleeves if headed into a “buggy” area. Ticks are a major problem in South Jersey. Always perform a periodic “tick-check” whenever you roam through a forest or a field, or any patch of grass higher than ankle-height, regardless of how big that patch may be. The smallest tick species here, the Deer Tick, is a primary carrier of Lyme Disease.

A light-weight pair of pants tucked into light-colored socks or tall boots and a long-sleeved light-weight top can help to keep your skin covered and not exposed to insect bites.

Birding Etiquette:  While in Cape May, you’ll likely come across many other birders, as well as numerous non-birders. Cape May attracts music & art lovers, Victorian enthusiasts, and general vacationers, in addition to birders! Always be courteous to everyone you meet.

You never want to become a traffic hazard while looking at a bird so always make sure your car is completely pulled off to the side of a road. Be careful of fast-moving traffic. Especially near residential areas, try to refrain from making too much noise before 9:00am, and never trespass on private property. Likewise, if you’re around other birders, try not to disturb a bird someone else is viewing, and always be mindful of the interests of other birders around you. Set a good example for young birders everywhere.

Additional Cape May Pointers:

  • Make sure that you or your driver follows all posted speed limits in the Cape May area. Local police strictly enforce speed limits on the Cape Island.
  • Remember the entrance fee/pass requirement at The Nature Conservancy’s Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge (available on site).
  • As well as, the sticker required for entry into The Beanery/Rea Farm (available at either CMBO center—free for members; non-members can purchase a daily or weekly pass.) NJ Audubon/CMBO has leased the “birding rights” to the property, in what is a unique partnership between the agricultural and birding communities in Cape May.