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Skye Haas: So Many Birds at Cape May!

October 20: Skye Haas: So Many Birds at Cape May!

Talk about a place that never disappoints, Cape May is always a winner of a tour due to its epically renowned volume of migrating birds. Add in Cape May is a charming tourist town full of great eats, and this being a short in length tour, one really gets a bang for their bird-bucks! After leaving our gathering place in Philadelphia, we headed down to Cape May and settled into our seaside motel for the duration of the trip we got cracking to start seeing all the marvels Cape May had for us. The main attraction at Cape May is often the Hawk Deck near the famous Cape May Lighthouse. Nearly our entire time there, a constant volley of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks punctuated by Merlins and American Kestrels really gave the tour participants a chance to work on their raptors in flight skills. Several Northern Harriers, Broad-winged Hawks and Peregrine Falcons were also often observed much to our delight! And it’s not just raptors here- we had great looks at a number of dabbling ducks including a great look at a Eurasian Wigeon. And intermingling with the hawks overhead were truly stunning amounts of Tree Swallows swirling around. One of the real treats of this tour is a morning trek into the salt marshes via a flat-bottomed boat that can get right up into the reed bank. This feature gave us particularly fantastic looks at Seaside and Nelson’s Sparrows. Point blank looks at American Oystercatchers, Clapper Rails and our only Brant of the tour were also highlights. To break up our Cape May time, we spent one day taking the ferry to Delaware where we spent the morning combing the coastal pine forest for migrant warblers as well as the adorable Brown-headed Nuthatch. We then headed up to Bombay Hook NWR were the shorebird numbers were just off the hook with hundreds and hundreds of Avocets, Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpipers and Short-billed Dowitchers. A number of stately Marbled and Hudsonian Godwits were sprinkled throughout the flocks and we were glad to have made it to the refuge. But no trip to Cape May would be complete without talking about the amazing warbler migration that occurs here. We spent a couple mornings at Higbee Dike where CMBO conducts their songbird Morning Flight counts. Participants were stunned at the river of warblers, flycatchers and Northern Flickers that shot past. As the flight would slow down we would poke around some of the migrant traps as Northern Parulas, Bay-breasted, Palm, Black-throated Blues AND Greens, Redstart, Blackpoll and of course, Cape May Warblers furiously foraged to refuel for their next leg of their migrations. And on our last full day of birding, a stunning rarity had fallen out of the skies- a critically endangered Kirtland’s Warbler had been discovered! We hustled over to the dunes it was foraging in and after a quick search were treated to a great look at this first state record for New Jersey! For a complete list of birds observed and additional photos check out our eBird Trip Report

American Oystercatcher

Black Skimmers

Broad-winged Hawk

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Clapper Rail

Cooper's Hawk

Eurasian Wigeon

Hudsonian Godwit

Kirtland's Warbler

Mixed Shorebirds

Monarch Roost

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Red Fox

Seaside Sparrow

Posted: October 20, 2022