A week in Cape May in the fall is always a delightful proposition. This year's fall tour to this magical mecca of migration was no exception. From the outer dunes of Cape May Point, to drives and boat rides through the unique saltmarsh habitat, and vigils atop the legendary Cape May hawkwatch platform, we sampled a broad array of the avian fun that Cape May has to offer.
And it wasn't only about field birding- with so much research into migration going on here, we absolutely had to dip a toe into some of these cool projects. We had a Monarch Butterfly information session and tagging demonstration with one of the fall Monarch naturalists, as well as a hawk banding demonstration by the director of the Cape May Raptor Banding Project.
After several iterations of good examples of morning flight songbird migration, raptors moving south and west through the peninsula, a sprinkling of rarities and unexpected birds, and plenty of saltmarsh, we were satisfied with the wonderful week, but Cape May being Cape May, just as we were set to finish up, we had a final day eleventh hour warbler event at trees near the entrance to Cape May Point State Park (CMPSP), and this was a fantastic cap to the week.
Until next time!
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
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
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) [I]
WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)
Drake standing out from drab teal at Lighthouse Pond
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
Plenty around Cape Island wetlands
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
Meadows, Forsythe, etc.
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
AMERICAN BLACK DUCK (Anas rubripes)
A handful at Forsythe - surprisingly scarce during our travels
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)
Two females at Tuckahoe
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca)
A few good flocks, Cape Island and Tuckahoe
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)
One flying SW past Coral Ave. in the distance
WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)
A couple of fun turkey experiences during the week, both during walks and while we were driving
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)
Migrant flybys at Coral Avenue
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)
Encountered a couple of times on Cape Island, including at feeders
CLAPPER RAIL (ATLANTIC COAST) (Rallus crepitans crepitans)
Jarvis Sound, seen from the boat
SORA (Porzana carolina)
We had a lovely viewing experience with an adult and two to three young birds on our final evening visit to the Meadows.
AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)
We saw four of these southern and southwestern birds at Forsythe
AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)
Abundant during our boat trip, and also seen in several other locations
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis dominica)
A couple of these scarce migrants at Tuckahoe, and then another at the Meadows
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Including many on the runways at Cape May Airport
WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)
A couple in the salt marsh during the boat trip
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
Cape May Harbor from the boat
RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)
A couple of places around Hereford Inlet
STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)
A couple of molting juveniles at the Meadows provided a very nice study
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
Along the coast
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
One of the more widespread peeps
WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis)
A couple around Tuckahoe
PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)
Cape May Airport, Tuckahoe, and the Meadows
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
Mostly at Forsythe and the Meadows
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)
A whopping total of 160 were roosting on the jetty at Stone Harbor
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)
Good views at the Wetlands Institute
WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)
Two flyovers at the Meadows gave good views as they circled us, calling
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
Coral Avenue and Jarvis Sound
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)
Migrant flyovers at Coral Avenue and the Hawkwatch, then nice views of a perched bird at the Meadows
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
Every day of the tour
WILLET (EASTERN) (Tringa semipalmata semipalmata)
One late lingerer in the salt marsh
WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata)
The common Willet in Cape May at this time of year, with especially high numbers at Wetlands Institute
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
Several locations through the week, including at the Meadows
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)
Just a few here and there
HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (Larus fuscus)
On beaches, with 20+ at Stone Harbor
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL (Larus marinus)
Widespread and common around the coast
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
Cold Spring Inlet
FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)
Common in the back bays
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
Very common around the coast
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
A nice surprise! One was in the Royal Tern flock just north of the jetty on the north side of Cold Spring Inlet while we were on our boat trip.
BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)
Cape May Meadows beach, then a couple of other times around the coast.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Concrete Ship, flying over CMPSP, and on the Coast Guard jetty.
AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)
Excellent point blank views of a bird that Laura spotted standing motionless in the late afternoon shadows of the reeds at the Meadows. Spectacular!
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
Wetlands Institute and Nummy Island
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
One from the boat in Jarvis Sound, and then a good collection in beautiful light at the Wetlands Institute.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Adult on the boat trip
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
One adult on the boat trip, and three juveniles hunting for fiddler crabs and the like at Forsythe
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)
Encountered at least thrice, including a flock of over a hundred at CMPSP one morning
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
A couple of places, with best views being of a juvenile at Forsythe
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)
Three of six days
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)
CMPSP, Forsythe, Meadows
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)
Quite a few migrants around
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
Migrants here and there
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Seen several times, as both migrants and residents.
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)
Nice views of several migrants on our final visit to CMPSP
SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)
We found a young dark morph bird circling to the SE of us shortly after our arrival at the Beanery, and got to watch it as it slid off to the NE. A nice rarity, and one of only a couple seen at Cape May this autumn. Several local birders were even able to follow up on our find and see it for themselves.
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
We saw several of these during the second half of the trip.
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
Seen in several places on four of the tour days
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
We had a beautiful adult perched up high on some snags in a flooded salt marsh along the Delaware Bayshore.
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)
CHC, CMPSP, Forsythe
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)
Every full birding day of the tour.
NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)
Every day migrants, including a great showing on the final morning at Del Haven.
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
Common, and we had good numbers migrating throughout the week.
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
Migrants here and there throughout
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
Flybys in a few places, including hunting shorebirds at Forsythe and harassing terns off shore of Cape May Point
EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)
ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)
Nice views of a crisply plumaged bird at CMPSP
LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)
EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)
Two at Forsythe, and then they really hit on the final morning, with several migrants
GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus crinitus)
One bird perched high in trees at CMPSP
WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)
Nice views of one of these chatterers in the wet woods at the Beanery
RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)
Five of the six days of the tour, and every day where we were in appropriate woodland habitat.
BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)
Seen on all the full birding days
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Half the days of the tour
FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)
Seen (and more importantly heard) on most days, including a flock of 30+ along Beach Ave. one morning
CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)
TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)
Most days of the tour
HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)
Cape May airport
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)
We had a nice spectacle of 1,500-2,000 over the salt marsh at Forsythe. What biomass!
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
Two flew over the Hawkwatch during our midday vigil there.
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)
One in trees just outside the Northwood Center
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
Several run-ins with this adorable songbird, both in trees and as active migrants flying by. The species was undergoing a moderate irruption this fall.
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis) [*]
Heard only at CHC.
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
A couple of birds seen very nicely at Coral Avenue
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)
Beanery was our best for these talkative wrens
CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
These bubbly personalities were seen on every full birding day
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)
Common, and encountered on every full day of the tour
BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)
One at the fruiting tree at CHC
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
Common, seen on every full day of the tour
VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)
Two at CHC
SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)
CHC, and then excellent views of a cooperative bird on the trail at Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
Seen here and there - they arrive in Cape May in numbers later on in the autumn
CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Flyovers at Higbee, and nice perched views at CMPSP
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [I]
Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (Spinus tristis)
Seen at several locations
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)
At least 15 of these at the Cape May Airport
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)
A lot around the wildlife drive at Forsythe
EASTERN TOWHEE (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
One in the bayberries along the dunes at Stone Harbor Point
BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
Nice numbers flying over on one of the northerly wind days. We tallied 200 or more moving south, making their distinctive "bink" calls.
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater)
Two at Cape May Airport, mixed with starlings
COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)
Best views were at Forsythe and Nummy Island
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)
Two at CHC, and brief views in the path at SHBS
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
Seen most days, though it took a few days to finally get some good views of them.
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
Several views of these delightful creeper-like warblers.
TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)
Excellent views in CMPSP at our very last stop of the tour.
NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)
One individual at our final very warblery stop at CMPSP
CONNECTICUT WARBLER (Oporornis agilis)
We had a three brief views over the course of half an hour of this notorious skulker along one of the back trails at CMPSP, and some folks ended up with good views.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
One of the most common, and certainly most conspicuous, warblers we encountered during the week.
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
Finally connected with Cape May Warbler on the final day of the tour, and boy did we ever get some good views - there was a veritable fallout in the juniper trees near the entrance to CMPSP.
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
Here and there through the week.
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
Northwood Center, Sea Grove Avenue
BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (Setophaga fusca)
Brief but close views of a young male at CMPSP
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
A few here and there, including CMPSP and Forsythe
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)
One in the trees at Forsythe
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)
Parking lot trees at Forsythe
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
A male at the Beanery, and then a female in the woods at Tuckahoe
PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum)
We had these throughout the week, including a good passage low through the dunes of over 150 of them one of our mornings at Coral Avenue!
PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)
Two of our visits to pines at CMPSP
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)
Just a couple early in the week, then the first migratory wave of them on our final morning watching morning flight.
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
One male at CMPSP early in the week, then one or two more on our final warbler-palooza afternoon.
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Setophaga virens)
The final visit to CMPSP
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)
Day 5 on the back trails at CMPSP
SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)
Female at Tuckahoe
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Every full birding day of the tour
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
A couple in morning flight on the final day
BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)
Margaret spotted one female perched up atop a tree along the back trails at CMPSP.
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)
Brief views on at least three days, but they never stayed long.
EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Every day, including absurdly close and confiding ones on our final visit to the Meadows.
EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)
Seen a couple of times from the beach
AMERICAN BULLFROG (Lithobates catesbeianus)
Cox Hall Creek
GREEN FROG (Lithobates clamitans)
NORTHERN RED-BELLIED TURTLE (Pseudemys rubriventris)
DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN (Malaclemys terrapin)
A few in Jarvis Sound, and lots at Forsythe
COMMON SNAPPING TURTLE (Chelydra serpentina)
We also had a good variety of butterflies and dragonflies, only some of which we scrutinized and identified, and a selection of those were as follows:
Common Green Darner
Totals for the tour: 153 bird taxa and 3 mammal taxa