Birdwatching, Cape May
When moving to New Jersey, we learned that our state is located on the migratory route of countless bird species, so it was no surprise to hear that Cape May County is one of the top bird watching locales in the state. It is also a gathering spot for monarch butterflies in the Fall before their departure for Mexico.
Spring and Fall bird migrations bring carloads of people to Cape May to observe all types of birds. Cape May Bird Observatory includes The Northwood Center ( 2001) and The Center for Research and Education (1997).
The Northwood Center on Cape May Point is a nature resource center which promotes all birding activities. It offers travel, nature and birding information. A nature shop is on the premises. The center is open daily from 9 am-4:30 pm. (609-884-2726)
The Center for Research and Education focuses on backyard habitats and backyard birdwatching. The 8,600 square feet center is on twenty-six acres of marsh and upland on New Jersey's Delaware Bayshore where it is stragically placed for peak observation. The hours of operationg are 9 am-4:30 daily. (609-861-0700)
For directions and additional information about their programs see their website below.
As often as we visited Cape May when living in New Jersey, we never took a birding cruise. Birding reigns supreme in this area, that is after the historic Victorian homes!
Cape May is nicely situated on a bird migration route, so a wide variety of species appear at different times of the year.
On our 10am two hour narrated cruise, we headed to the salt marsh where we received a very interesting eco-tour. After motoring passed a few jetskis and several large ships at dock, we began seeing many types of gulls. Soon osprey nests appeared, then great egrets and herons.
pic #2 osprey nest
pic #3 great egret
pic #4 laughing gull
The captain knew his birds! That's more than I can say for myself. Most of my photos were of laughing gulls and I missed a photo of a rare type of gull highlighted during our cruise.
Spending time on the water is 'time well spent' indeed and the cruise was both relaxing and informative. My husband and I left with an appreciation of the varied number of bird species which can be found along the shores of southern New Jersey.
FYI: cost for the cruise is $28 for adults, $15 for kids 7-12. Age 6 and under is free. Seniors get a break on the 1:30pm tour on Mondays, when its $15 for those 55 and over. See the website for additional tour times. $5 off on tickets when purchasing online.
This park is a key site on the NJ Coastal Heritage Trail, with an environmental center that houses a classroom for interpretive programs and a museum on the area's natural and historic features. Although we came to visit the lighthouse, we also went into the museum that is part of the state park, and I took my scooter up the ramp to look at the beach. From there I saw people with binoculars observing birds in what I assume was a salt marsh pond (The Red Trail). From there I also saw the World War II Bunker which was built as part of the Harbor Defense Project of 1942. The park was once a Military base, of which the Bunker was a part. At low tide you can still see the gun turrets at the front of the bunker. The Bunker was once 900 feet inland, surrounded by earth and covered by sod, it once looked as if it were a hill from the sea or air.
Museum Hours: Open Wednesday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m
The Red Trail is .5 miles, and is wheel chair accessible. This trail offers hikers access to both the lighthouse pond west and east. Each pond has a blind or platform at the water's edge to view wading birds, ducks, swans, as well as the occasional osprey, which come to rely on these freshwater ponds for food and habitat for breeding.
The Yellow Trail is 1.5 miles long. This trail offers hikers the opportunity to see different habitats, including wetland marsh, coastal dune and the beach.
The Blue Trail is 2.0 miles long. Just as the yellow trail, this trail offers hikers a myriad of habitats in which to view flora and fauna found here at the park. The blue trail offers a longer hike along the beach and coastal dune. Both the yellow and blue trails allow hikers the opportunity to view shore birds, as well as view other wildlife along the shore.
Bring your binoculars. Many beach nesting bird habitats all along the shore, with nice access platforms that make it easy for you.
Advise: if you want to trail along these habitats...leave your pooch at home.
Bird watching year round. Winter birds seen in January, Painted Bunting, Razorbill, Harlequin Duck, Common Eider, Great Cormorant, American Woodcocks,