A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Fall for Cape May I 2021

September 18-24, 2021 with Doug Gochfeld guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
We were privy to a beautiful sunrise over the salt marsh at the Wetlands Institute. Photo by participant Russ Cole.

Fall in Cape May is always interesting, and this tour at the end of September was no exception! For this particular week, there were a lot of southerly and easterly winds, which aren't the winds idealized by many of those coming here in the fall- but that didn't stop us from witnessing a good array of migration events here. During our first evening walk at the Meadows, while we were looking at a good mix of shorebirds, we were also right under a constant flow of migrant Ospreys heading west. Many of these Ospreys were packing a snack procured from the ocean, and all the snacks which we were able to identify were Atlantic Menhaden (colloquially known as Bunker). We even got to watch a Bald Eagle relieve one of the Ospreys of its Bunker, though the fish ultimately fell into the marsh unclaimed- seemingly a waste of energy for all parties involved!

Our very first morning of the tour coincided with the passage of a weak cold front the day prior, and so during our very first picnic breakfast we were able to partake in a classic migration of passerines and raptors on light northerly winds. After we were satiated by both food and visible migrants, we went over to Higbee Beach WMA. At this point, the sun was already blazing, and there weren't any songbirds on the edges, but a stroll down a wooded path led us into a collection of migrants who were still feeding. This batch of birds included a heard only Swainson's Thrush chupping away from an impenetrable tangle, and a flock of Red-eyed Vireos which included a scarce-for-the-area Philadelphia Vireo! That alone would have been a really worthwhile haul, but it got better. We were surprised when a large yellow warbler flew towards us from down the path and landed in a tangle- and as we looked at it we realized it was a Connecticut Warbler! It dropped out of sight, but with some patience, we were eventually able to a have a couple of encounters with stellar looks at this notoriously secretive species, as it walked around in the tall grasses and weeds at the edge of the forest path. Incredible!

The migration for the rest of the week was characterized not by songbirds, but by shorebirds! While easterlies push landbird migrants back inland, they push some of our biggest champion migrants into land from out over the ocean. Many migrant shorebirds in this region set off on flights from New England, Long Island, or the north Jersey coast and go directly to South America, without coming back to shore. The strong headwinds they encountered with the southerlies and easterlies meant that we were in a good position to see a lot of these birds as they either continued their migration along the coast rather than off shore, or decided to land and wait for more favorable winds. We ended with 24 taxa of shorebirds on the tour, including the peep sweep (all 5 "possible" species!), both forms of Willets, a high number of Long-billed Dowitchers, a good variety of beachfront migrants, and Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Red Knot. It was a real pleasure to have repeated encounters with many of these, and be able to really get into the nitty gritty of shorebird identification in a variety of contexts and conditions.

Of course, migrants weren't our only quarry, we also got to sample the birds that spend their breeding seasons in the rich habitats around southern New Jersey, with a special focus on the beautiful Atlantic salt marsh. Saltmarsh Sparrow was perhaps the most wanted bird for folks out of this habitat, and we got some excellent views of multiple birds along the wildlife drive at Edwin B. Forsythe (formerly known as Brigantine) NWR. We also found the salt marsh obligate Seaside Sparrow here, and back in Cape May we were treated to a delightful bathing display from an uncharacteristically immodest Clapper Rail, much to the surprise and delight of our entire group.

It really was a wonderful week spent in the USA's mecca of fall bird migration. Every day of our exploration of one of my favorite American birding areas was great fun, and I'm glad each and every one of you were able to be part of the group. Good birding, and may we meet again in the field!


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

SNOW GOOSE (Anser caerulescens)

Two adults were at the species' winter stronghold at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, apparently having been present all summer after being too injured to migrate with the rest of their brethren in the spring.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We got even better views than this, as it strutted around on the trail in front of us, but there's not a view much more more evocative of a fall Connecticut Warbler sighting than a bold white eyering staring out from the groundcover! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

Common and widespread, though their migration had not quite yet started in earnest yet. Most of the birds we saw have for some reason or another acclimated to year-round life in the area.

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) [I]

Always a gaggle on Bunker Pond.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

We had a surprising concentration of 30+individuals on a pond at Forsythe, but our best views were of the immaculate adult male at Lighthouse Pond in CMPSP.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

We encountered these shovelers with a teal name at quite a few locations, with particularly excellent identification studies at Lighthouse Pond.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

A few distant ones at Forsythe, and then a female and young male at the Meadows, where we got to see the difference in eye color between the two sexes, and see how the young male was juuuust beginning to molt into its pretty winter and spring plumage.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

Just a couple here and there. Surprisingly thin on the ground during our birding exploits.

EURASIAN WIGEON (Mareca penelope)

A nice surprise was an early male that we saw both at the Meadows with Mallards on our first evening, and at Lighthouse Pond with a couple of its American congeners two days later.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

These have just started to come into Cape May, and there were a handful around, mostly on Lighthouse Pond.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

The most widespread of our ducks on the tour, and we even had a couple of hybrids between this and the next species on the list.


A few nice crisp individuals at Lighthouse Pond and Forsythe, plus some interesting hybrids with Mallards that made us really scrutinize all the apparent American Black Ducks we saw!


A handful of these elegantly proportioned ducks were around the dogleg on the wildlife drive at Forsythe- they've just started to show up at this date.


Common and often mixed in with other species, such as Blue-winged Teal.

BLACK SCOTER (Melanitta americana)

They hadn't started migrating off shore in numbers yet, but we still got to see a female in the Cape May Harbor as we headed out on our marine expedition to the back bays.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

A nice spot by Terry as we were heading away from the Cape May County airport during our rainy afternoon birding!

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

The best views were one that we saw on Bunker Pond on a couple of mornings. There was also a distant bird at Forsythe.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Not too common on this tour route, but we did manage to see some.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Common and widespread.

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

Still a few of these out and about, just about solely on our first morning at CMPSP.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

These were coming into the feeders at the hawkwatch at CMPSP, where we saw them on a couple of occasions. At this date, it's just about all young birds.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

CLAPPER RAIL (ATLANTIC COAST) (Rallus crepitans crepitans)

It's difficult to adequately put this encounter into words, as it was just so cool! One happened to be bathing in the creek as the tide dropped at Two Mile Landing, and as we just happened to have pulled in there thinking about perhaps getting lucky with Clapper Rail in the saltmarsh there. We didn't expect to have such a phenomenal experience with it though, and it was in view bathing right beside the van for more than a minute! This ended up being voted the bird of the tour, even appearing on a strong majority of top 3 lists!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here, our beloved Clapper Rail (which was voted bird of the trip!) begins to exit stage left, after taking its bath in the salty channel. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

In several spots along the coast through the week, with an especially large aggregation of over a hundred individuals at Hereford Inlet, between Nummy Island and Stone Harbor Point.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

A few around, including a striking bird which Mike picked out during our windy visit to Hereford Inlet, still retaining much of its smart breeding plumage.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

Highest numbers were at Stone Harbor Point

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

A small group in the dunes at Coral Ave. on our first full day was the most satisfying experience we had with these plovers, whose numbers had mostly departed to the south by this time.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

One of these largest of Limosas was a nice treat amongst the shorebird aggregation between Stone Harbor Point and Nummy Island.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

Good views of a bunch up close on the breakwall in Cape May Harbor.

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)

We had some distant ones that were very difficult to pick out at Hereford Inlet, but then we had a much better look at a juvenile at Forsythe, in with some peeps for a good size comparison.

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

A couple at Forsythe, but then even better looks at several, both in flight and perched close by, during our shorebird vigil at the Meadows platform. It was especially nice to see them side-by-side with the similar-looking Lesser Yellowlegs.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

Good numbers at several points along the outer beaches.

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

One with a mixed flock at Forsythe made for a nice comparative study.

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii)

Another shorebird surprise was this juvenile mixed in with Semipalmated Sandpipers at Forsythe. It stayed put despite some falcon passes, allowing for a long and leisurely study of it, in comparison to both Semipalmated Sandpipers and the Dunlin.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

Several spots, including very good views at the Meadows and at Nummy Island.

WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis)

A couple of birds at Forsythe, and then very good comparative views the next morning at the Meadows.

PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)

Both of our visits to the Meadows featured these long-distance migrant calidrids.


Still plenty of juveniles around, and even a couple of lingering adults. Good side-by-side studies between these and other small calidrids at the Meadows, Forsythe, and the beach at Stone Harbor Point.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

A huge number of these on the beach out at Stone Harbor Point, and we were able to compare these with the handful of Semipalmated Sandpipers at our leisure.

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

Some in the distance on our first visit to Nummy Island, but then we ran into a bunch of them in the saltmarsh during our back bay excursion.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

These are much more tied to freshwater and brackish habitats than Short-billed are in this region, and also migrate through a bit later than most Short-billeds. They were the dominant dowitcher along the wildlife drive at Forsythe, and we had several dozen of them early on in our circuit!

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

A couple of these were in the back bay salt marsh.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

One at the Shunpike Pond during our afternoon rain birding.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

In the salt-marshes of Cape May and then along the wildlife drive at Forsythe.

WILLET (EASTERN) (Tringa semipalmata semipalmata)

A juvenile still lingering in the salt marsh was the biggest surprise on our boat trip, as it was several weeks later than its peers in departing to its tropical wintering grounds.

WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata)

We saw the large high tide roost at the Wetlands Institute twice, with 70 birds the first time, and up to 85 on the second visit.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

Plenty of these around the Meadows, and we even had great views of them mixed with the very similar Stilt Sandpiper.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

The dominant gull in Cape May at this season, and we had them every day of the tour.

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Here's most of the group as we get ready to head back out for an afternoon of birding as the rainy frontal boundary approached from the west. Photo by John Cooke.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

Just a couple around at this point, including at Forsythe.

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)

Common around the beaches of Cape Island.


The change in distribution of this species over the past couple of decades is truly staggering. It used to be a rare and chase-worthy bird, but now it is one of the more common gulls on the Atlantic-facing beaches. We had an especially high number at Stone Harbor Point.


Common along all beaches.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

They tend to stick to back bays and marshes more than Royals, but being the biggest terns in the world, they can do whatever they want, so we did see them over the ocean a few times as well.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

A few here and there, including from the boat in Cape May Harbor, and on the beach in Cape May City.

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

At this date the commoner of the medium-sized Sterna terns around.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

Common around the coast, and we even counted over 190 (including a couple of banded birds!) in the flock loafing on the beach off the hotel.

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

Largest numbers in the roosting flock adjacent to the hotel.

Ciconiidae (Storks)

WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)

How's this for a surprise on a tour to the northeast! There was a Wood Stork seen by a couple of birders going to roost one evening, so the next morning we were anticipating the possibility of seeing it getting up from its roost and looking to migrate. Sure enough, just as we were finishing our walk around the trails at the state park we got a call that it was being seen from the hawkwatch. Being under a hundred meters from the hawkwatch, we hustled over towards the nearest dune crossing and were able to find it circling around with dark striking dark clouds as a background. We all watched it in the scope as it circled higher and higher and drifted west. Eventually it set its wings and glided due west, over the bay and out of sight, migrating to Delaware with a strong Eastern tailwind. Timing is everything!

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)

All over the place, including some migrant flocks.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

One of these was standing on the Cold Spring Inlet jetty along the north side of the Coast Guard Base during our bay excursion.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

A handful around appropriate wetlands here and there.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)


SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

Very common, especially at Brigantine.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

A few around Nummy Island and the Wetlands Institute, including a juvenile perched in a tree amidst a bunch of other white egrets, making for a nice comparison.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

Several of these, and nice scope views to boot, at the Wetlands Institute.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

We had a couple of these- one during our first visit to the Shunpike Pond, and another in the scope on the back edge of Bunker Pond.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Common in the salt marshes, with many seen from the boat, and a few in other marshy spots.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

Also present in reasonable numbers in the saltmarsh, with good studies on the boat and at the Wetlands Institute.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

Shortly after the Wood Stork disappeared, a big ol' flock of White Ibis appeared over the state park and started flying laps this way and that over the parking lot and Bunker Pond. We had to pinch ourselves to make sure we hadn't been transported to Florida!

Field Guides Birding Tours
We had a fun week of coming to grips with brown duck identification, but luckily we got repeated excellent views of most of the species we encountered, including this Green-winged Teal coming in for a landing at the Meadows. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)

We had around a dozen on our circuit around Forsythe.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Good and plenty.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Also widespread in good numbers.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Very common at this date, and one of our every-day birds. Many were in active migration, and also carrying fish. We got to watch a couple of Bald Eagle-on-Osprey pursuits where the Osprey eventually dropped its fish, though in neither case did the Bald Eagle come away with said fish.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

A couple of distant migrants, including some high in the sky- a context that many people don't often associate with this species. We did also catch up to them coursing low over marshlands at Forsythe, a much more familiar context for most in terms of viewing these artists formerly known as Marsh Hawks.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

Just a couple of these this week, given the unfavorable winds for hawk migration.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

Several good flight views, including excellent looks at two juveniles aerially sparring on our first afternoon/evening at the Meadows.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Plenty around, including a couple of instances of young birds bullying Ospreys out of fish, only to see the fish fall to the ground/water/mash and go unclaimed by said eagle.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Stevens Street and Forsythe. Surprisingly scarce, given how common they are as breeders in the areas we went- this could have been related to the weather being suboptimal for soaring birds for most of our days.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

A good week for them, with perched conspicuously on Osprey platforms all across Cape May County, and also on some other perches as well. We even saw some fly bys which were apparently actively migrating.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

Just a couple, at Cox Hall Creek and CMPSP.

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

A couple seen well, with best looks coming during our Higbee walk.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus) [*]

One was calling loudly at Cox Hall Creek, and we only saw it briefly flying away.

NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)

We had a dozen or more of these one morning at the state park, but saw relatively few of these.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

Several seen on each of the first four days.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

One of the more common raptor migrants, they're so powerful (despite their small size) that they will migrate in most any weather.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

Several through the week, including a few migrants and a few local birds, one of which was standing on an Osprey platform in the saltmarsh, devouring some kind of prey item.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

One of these graced us with its presence just as we finished eating at Forsythe.

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)

Two on the fence line at Magnesite Plant on our final morning were the first that the entire group was able to get on for the week. They were just starting to show up during our dates, and so were still very thin on the ground.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus) [*]

Singing its head off from the dense shrubbery along the Meadows west path on our afternoon visit there.

PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)

Our first of two rapid-fire surprise encounters at Higbee. This was among the very first passerines we saw when we poked into the active, shady trail. It gave us looks for a minute or so, before being peer-pressured into flying off with its larger Red-eyed Vireo cousins.

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

Very common during the first couple of days of the tour, but tapering off as the week wore on.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

One even sat still preening in an Oak at Cox Hall for all of us to ogle up close through the scope.

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This Philadelphia Vireo was a welcome surprise at Higbee, though it was quickly overshadowed by the Connecticut Warbler just a minute or two later! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

These were around on most of our visits to the state park, and also at Forsythe and a couple of other miscellaneous locations.

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)

The more widespread and numerous of the two Corvus during our week, and we had a big flock in classic Fish Crow habitat: the strip mall at Rio Grande.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)

Confiding at Cox Hall Creek, and also encountered at CMPSP and Higbee.

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

Very vociferous at Cox Hall Creek.

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

We went up to the airport to see if there were any storm-downed waifs during our final afternoon, and while we didn't find any shorebirds, we found a bird that the Brits call Shore Lark- three Horned Larks obligingly foraging out in the mowed grass areas between runways.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

Including a strong spectacle of many many hundreds over the state park on our first morning.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

A few flew over while we breakfasted on our first morning.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)

A couple of the earliest autumn arrivers were at Cox Hall Creek.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

Very nice views at CMPSP.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

A few of these around. Best views at the hawkwatch.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

We heard one singing at Forsythe, but it evaded our eyeballs. Then on our final morning, at Magnesite Plant, we found a curious one bopping about in a nearby stand of Phragmites, and most folks got very reasonable views, especially considering the species!

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Common in appropriate tangly habitats.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]


Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

Common and widespread in brushy, scrubby habitat.

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)

We had one thrashing the underbrush along the entrance road at Forsythe just after we finished up with the wildlife drive.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Seen on all days except for our first evening stroll around the Meadows.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus) [*]

We heard one pipping from the understory at the Connecticut Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo spot.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

A handful around here and there, though not yet in the numbers that will be present from late fall through winter.

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

A few flyovers, but a couple perched up very nicely for good scope views around Lily Lake and at Two-Mile Beach.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]


Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [I]

Most of these were flyovers or wire perchers during our morning breakfast at the Wetlands Institute, and then we barely encountered any others!


Just a couple of encounters, including at CMPSP.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla)

Several views around Cape Island, especially at Coral Ave. and the Magnesite Plant.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Mark Garland gave us a wonderful Monarch tagging demonstration on a cloudy afternoon over at the Coral Avenue dune crossing. Photo by participant Mike Boss.

SEASIDE SPARROW (Ammospiza maritima)

It took a couple of tries, but we eventually got some good views of this big, smoky salt marsh obligate sparrow at Forsythe.

SALTMARSH SPARROW (Ammospiza caudacuta)

Phenomenal views of a couple of these Atlantic coast breeding endemics along the wildlife drive at Forsythe. This made it onto several folks' lists in the discussion of best birds of the trip, and justifiably so, given its specialized habits, and with its future conservation status unclear as sea levels inexorably rise.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

The wildlife drive at Forsythe was really the place for these short-tailed sparrows!

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Best views were of the small flock foraging on the lawn at the Wetlands Institute.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

This species, while a common migrant through the airspace of Cape May, can be devilishly frustrating to get a proper perched view of, and so it proved this time around. We saw several flyovers and flybys, including small groups of migrants, but the only one that perched was on the windy walk in the Meadows, and it dove into the reeds and was not about to come out any time soon.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

Nice views of a small group on our final morning at the Magnesite Plant.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Plenty on that first full day of birding with NW winds, but we also had good numbers at the Meadows, and a big flock flying around the wildlife drive at Forsythe.

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

Just a few of these around.

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)

In the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, this is truly the saltmarsh icterid. We had some fun encounters with them at Nummy Island and out and about on our tour of the back bays.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

One of these was producing loud call notes from deep in the shaded recesses of the pine grove at the state park, but Mike may have been the only one to get a good look at the bird.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

Surprisingly few around. In fact, our only real encounter was one that was loudly chipping along the Meadows west path, and which at least a couple of folks eventually glimpsed at close range, after some patient waiting.


We encountered the treecreeper warbler fairly frequently, and it was always fun to watch their branch and trunk-crawling antics.

CONNECTICUT WARBLER (Oporornis agilis)

Woo doggie! Certainly one of the top avian highlights of the week. We encountered one along a shaded trail adjacent to the Higbee Beach WMA fields on our very first morning of birding, after a good overnight flight. Most folks eventually got great looks as it walked around in the footpath and along the low grassy margins of the path. It was super cool to watch this often cryptic warbler do its thing, and it was a lifer for several folks!!

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

Common, though often skulky. Some nice views in the end, including of some fully-masked males.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

A handful of these were still around during our visit, including a smokin' Halloween-colored male in the neighborhood along Lily Lake.

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)

Spectacular views of Cape May's namesake warbler on a couple of occasions at CMPSP- once at the edge of the dunes, and once in the junipers by the exit road and picnic pavilion.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

We had them in multiple locations, but always just in ones and twos. Our best views were probably at CMPSP.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)

Our best looks at this striking species were at Cox Hall Creek WMA, with a little mixed species group that included Chestnut-sided Warbler.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

We had around twenty in the junipers at the state park, a number that is higher than usual for the end of September.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)

Good views of one of these at Cox Hall Creek. This is the epitome of confusing fall warblers, but not because it's dull with lots of lookalikes (it's actually quite distinctive in the fall), but because in autumn they look nothing like they do in the spring!

BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)

A couple of these were in the CMPSP junipers, playing nice and allowing us to see every little detail, right down to its brightly colored legs.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)

Wow! A stellar look at a gorgeous and cooperative male in full morning sunlight at the Magnesite Plant on our final morning was a wonderful way to cap off our warbler experience for the week.

PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum)

A few of these around, especially in the dunes at Coral Avenue.

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

We had three or four of these during our great afternoon warblering session at the state park's junipers, including one male which was repeatedly singing- nobody told him it's not spring anymore!

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (Setophaga coronata)

They were just starting to trickle in during our week in Cape May, and we got brief looks at just a couple of individuals.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Common, especially at eh hawkwatch and Higbee.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Cape May Point State Park beach with the World War II bunker that gives the famous Bunker Pond its name. Photo by participant Martha Vandervoort.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

A female or immature perched out in the open over one of the shady trails adjacent to the Higbee Beach fields during our first morning of birding.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

In one of the shady trails adjacent to the Higbee Beach fields late in our first morning of birding.

DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)

We had prepared to identify these by their distinctive, buzzy, almost flatulent, flight call, and just a few minutes after that preparation, one flew by calling its head off!


VIRGINIA OPOSSUM (Didelphis virginianus)

We had one motoring (or the Opossum equivalent) across the street as we drove back from dinner in Cape May City one evening.

RED BAT (Lasiurus borealis)

Several folks saw one of these on our first morning, heading north at CMPSP. It was apparently re-orienting and coming back in to shore after being blown over the ocean by the overnight north winds.

EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

We had quite a few bunnies at various locales.

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

A few of these here and there.

MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethica)

Most or all of the group was able to get on the one swimming across the water at Lighthouse Pond.

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)

A couple of encounters with pods of Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins around the southern shoreline of Cape Island, between Coral Ave. and the Meadows.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

We only had two, and they were fawns bouncing through the underbrush on the north side of the wildlife drive dike along the southern side of the impoundments. A big surprise out there, closer to salt marsh than to forest!


GREEN FROG (Lithobates clamitans)

Hiding in the dark recesses of the woods in a vernal pool was one of these neon green-lipped frogs, counting on the fact that we couldn't see it. We got excellent scope views though!

RED-EARED SLIDER (Trachemys scripta elegans)

One or two of these were at Lighthouse Pond.

EASTERN BOX TURTLE (Terrapene carolina)

This was the first species in our three turtle day at Forsythe, crossing the road surprisingly rapidly as we approached the refuge early in the morning.

PAINTED TURTLE (Chrysemys picta)

The three turtles hauled out on the small body of water at the end of the wildlife drive at Forsythe.

NORTHERN RED-BELLIED TURTLE (Pseudemys rubriventris)

The large turtle that was hauled out on a mostly submerged stump at Forsythe was this species.

COMMON SNAPPING TURTLE (Chelydra serpentina)

A behemoth of a snapper was making its way across Lighthouse Pond like the Loch Ness Monster.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Sunrise at Bunker Pond. Photo by participant Russ Cole.


In addition to the above, we had a lot of fun insects on the tour. A list of species which we noted as a group at some point are below. The moth caterpillars were all at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR. The mantis was in the path on our second trip to the Meadows, and is one of the two widespread introduced species of mantises in North America (separated from the other one by the orange spot on the underparts between their front legs). Our most memorable insect species, thanks to Mark Garland's excellent talk and their general abundance during the week, was of course the Monarch.

Narrow-winged Mantis

Yellow Garden Spider


Common Green Darner

Black Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

Great Blue Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk

Common Whitetail



Black Swallowtail

Common Buckeye

Cabbage White

Orange Sulphur

Ocola Skipper


Milkweed Tussock Moth (Caterpillar)

Isabela Tiger Moth (Caterpillar)

Ruby Tiger Moth (Caterpillar)


Large Milkweed Bug

False Milkweed Bug

Totals for the tour: 142 bird taxa and 7 mammal taxa