Cape May: A Birding Workshop: Sep 18—24, 2016

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Departs: Philadelphia
Tour Limit: 14
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (89.4 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Louise Zemaitis

Louise Zemaitis is an artist and naturalist living in Cape May, New Jersey where she is a po...


Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape M...

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk— Photo: Michael O’Brien

A birding workshop in a fall migration hotspot; emphasis on the dynamics of migration and identification of various challenging species groups.

At Cape May, southbound hawks find themselves in a quandary. They have been moving along the coastline, but here the land ends, and they are surrounded by water on three sides. This causes an avian traffic jam, and birders are its greatest beneficiaries. Songbirds, also heading south, are forced to stop in Cape May. The morning sky is often filled with warblers, vireos, flickers, buntings, and other species as they seek a place to rest and refuel after their nocturnal flight. As the day heats up, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Broad-winged hawks, along with Northern Harriers, Ospreys, American Kestrels, and Merlins are on the move. Even Peregrine Falcons may number in the dozens.

But there are more than just hawks and songbirds in Cape May. In the “rips” off Cape May Point, feeding flocks of gulls and terns attract migrating Parasitic Jaegers, while the first southbound scoters, loons, and Northern Gannets pass by. Area marshes and ponds harbor an interesting seasonal mix of shorebirds and waterfowl. A leisurely cruise through the back bays aboard a pontoon boat will be a particularly enjoyable way to explore these habitats. Fall is also the best time of year to witness insect migration in Cape May. The often spectacular movements of Monarchs are particularly well-known, but movements of dragonflies can be equally impressive, and usually accompanied by Merlins and American Kestrels that prey on them.

There is no better classroom in the United States to learn about migration and migratory birds than Cape May. Our visit to this magical place will focus on studying the fascinating dynamics of migration, while also learning about various groups of birds. Although we should see a wonderful diversity of species, accumulating a large bird list is not our goal. Field sessions will include time in the unique habitats that promise exposure to different families of birds—shorebirds, terns, hawks, warblers, etc.—while working on improving our birding skills through the use of field guides, field marks, and vocalizations. If conditions allow, we’ll have the privilege to see raptors and songbirds in-hand during banding demonstrations by local researchers. We’ll also learn about the amazing Monarch butterfly during a tagging demonstration presented by our own Louise Zemaitis, who coordinates the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May.

Good to very good accommodations and food; easy to moderate terrain; warm to cool climate, potentially rainy.