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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Cape May, New Jersey: the Glory of October

Monday 23 October to Sunday 29 October 2017
with Evan Obercian as leader

Price: $2,250

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An under-appreciated Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker passes overhead, one of hundreds if not thousands we’ll see. Photo: Chris Wood

There is no better place to see the fall migration of birds in eastern North America than Cape May.  A remarkable number of species are found here with a regularity and in numbers that are simply astonishing when compared with nearly any other location.  This late autumn tour is timed to visit the wondrous peninsula after the majority of Neotropical birds have passed through though lingerers are almost commonplace (again, only in Cape May!).  Instead, our visit will coincide with the massive later movements of mostly short-distance migrants.  This is Cape May at its most spectacular season.  Recent late fall flights have produced mornings with hundreds of thousands (not a misprint) of American Robins, blackbirds, Northern Flickers, Hermit Thrushes, finches, bluebirds, American Woodcocks, kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and sparrows of many species.  Such mornings often give way to brisk days of passing clouds in blue skies full of hawks and falcons, and we’ll hope for Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle to be among them.  This is the magic of Cape May!  When birds are seemingly everywhere, in constant motion, in the frenzy of migration. 

Late October is getting into prime rarity season in Cape May, so amongst the commotion of these abundant pilgrims we will always be on the lookout for something truly unexpected, literally from any point on the compass. Our tour also coincides with some of the peak numbers of migrating seabirds, best viewed from the famous Avalon Seawatch just to the north.  On the right winds, flock after flock of scoters, with numbers of just about any other duck in the book mixed in. Layers of migrating loons by the thousands, skeins of geese and cormorants, and a procession of gulls and terns pass by the beach here, making for some of the most fascinating birding anywhere.  We’ll also explore the vast saltmarshes of southern New Jersey, at a time when they are teeming with migrant waterfowl and later passages of shorebirds.  We’ll spend a lot of time talking about what we’re seeing, what we’re hearing, and ways to more adeptly identify and better understand the birds we encounter. 

Day 1: The tour begins at 6 p.m. in the lobby of our hotel near the Philadelphia airport, with a brief introductory meeting to exchange greetings and to go over some of the relevant details of the coming days’ itineraries and procedures, followed by dinner together at a local restaurant.  Night near Philadelphia Airport.

Day 2: We’ll start out early after breakfast.  Unless weather or other circumstances dictate otherwise, we’ll most likely head straight for Cape May, about a two hour drive, to get some birding in before lunch.  After lunch we’ll check into our comfortable beachside hotel, before heading out for more birding.

Day 3-6:  Based at a single hotel, within minutes from anywhere on Cape Island (the area south of the Cape May canal) and its major birding sites, including Cape May Point, Higbees Beach, and the South Cape May Meadows, our day-to-day itinerary will be almost entirely influenced by weather conditions, bird happenings, and the like.  A typical day may start with an early breakfast, followed by a leisurely morning walk wherever the birds are, probably ending up hawkwatching at the Point before (and after or even during) lunch.  Depending on the day’s migration, we may well decide to stay on Cape Island to further explore what birds are about.  Otherwise, the afternoons are a good time to venture a bit farther abroad, perhaps to look for shorebirds in the marshes to the north, or along the Delaware Bayshore to the west, or perhaps to catch the spectacular afternoon light over the Atlantic Ocean at the Avalon Seawatch, where late-day flights of ducks and other waterbirds can be staggering.  Flexibility will be the name of the game, and with a centrally-located home base in seemingly the epicenter of bird migration, we’ll do our very best to coordinate our maneuvers as to not miss a thing!

Day 7: We’ll spend a final early morning in Cape May, perhaps visiting a place we didn’t find time for, or looking for something we may have missed, before heading back to Philadelphia where the tour concludes in early afternoon.  

Created: 16 March 2017


  • 2017 Tour Price : $2,250
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $550
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* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

Maximum group size seven with one leader