A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Fall for Cape May I 2022

September 17-23, 2022 with Doug Gochfeld guiding

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!


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)

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

Most places

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) [I]

Unfortunately abundant

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)

Cape Island

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

Cape Island

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

Most days


A handful at Forsythe - surprisingly scarce during our travels


Two females at Tuckahoe


A few good flocks, Cape Island and Tuckahoe

SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)

One flying SW past Coral Ave. in the distance

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

A couple of fun turkey experiences during the week, both during walks and while we were driving

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Every day

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Every day

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

Migrant flybys at Coral Avenue

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

Encountered a couple of times on Cape Island, including at feeders

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

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.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

We saw four of these southern and southwestern birds at Forsythe

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

Abundant during our boat trip, and also seen in several other locations

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

Several locations

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

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

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


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

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)


RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

Just a few here and there

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)



On beaches, with 20+ at Stone Harbor


Widespread and common around the coast

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

Meadows, Forsythe

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.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

Very common

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Concrete Ship, flying over CMPSP, and on the Coast Guard jetty.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

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)

Very common

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)

CMPSP trails

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

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

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

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Three of six days

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Most days

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Every day

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

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.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Seen in several places on four of the tour days

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

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.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

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

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

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


One bird perched high in trees at CMPSP

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

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.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

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

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)

Every day

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

Most days of the tour

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

Cape May airport

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

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.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

One in trees just outside the Northwood Center

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

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.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

A couple of birds seen very nicely at Coral Avenue

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

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

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]


Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

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

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

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

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Flyovers at Higbee, and nice perched views at CMPSP

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]


Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [I]

Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary


Seen at several locations

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

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

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

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)

Every day


Two at Cape May Airport, mixed with starlings

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

Most days

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)

Best views were at Forsythe and Nummy Island

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

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.


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)

Every day

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


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.


The final visit to CMPSP

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

Day 5 on the back trails at CMPSP

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

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 Buckeye

American Lady

Black Swallowtail

Fiery Skipper

Cabbage White

Cloudless Sulphur

Common Green Darner

Swamp Darner

Black Saddlebags

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Blue Dasher

Totals for the tour: 153 bird taxa and 3 mammal taxa