Birding & Butterflies
One of the Jersey Cape’s most celebrated natural treasures is its bird life.
Each year tens of thousands of people from all over the world come to the Jersey Cape specifically to experience the region’s great wealth of wintering, breeding, and especially migrating birds.
Cape May County with its peninsular geography, westerly winds and diverse habitats, creates a hospitable environment for birds and butterflies to rest, feed and gather strength before continuing their migration, and the region is ranked among the greatest eco-tourist destinations in the country. Early spring starts the migration of birds along the Delaware Bay and continues well into winter. Perfectly situated along the Atlantic Flyway, Cape May County offers a refuge for migrating birds and butterflies.
Horseshoe crabs begin laying eggs along the bay beaches in May, bringing millions of ruddy terns and red knots to the area to feed on the eggs before their long journey to the Antarctic. Shore birds are a common sight along the beaches and wetlands in include sandpipers, laughing gulls, osprey, herons, ibis and egrets. From September through November, Cape May County hosts hundreds of different species of birds, dragonflies, butterflies and the visitors who enjoy watching them.
For both amateur and serious eco-tourists, fall is the perfect time to visit Cape May County. Binoculars replace bikinis, cameras are more important than beach chairs. Visitors to the Cape May and Cape May Point area can spot scores of birds and butterflies and add to their life list throughout the fall as they migrate south. The Monarch butterfly migration usually begins in late September and continues through mid October. If you have not witnessed this phenomenon, it is something you need to add to you bucket list. Information regarding the monarch butterfly migration can be found on the New Jersey Audubon website.
Cape May is considered North America’s greatest bird watching locations. More than 400 different species have been seen on the peninsula during the fall migration and the area is known for spectacular flights of peregrines, merlins, ospreys and sharp-shinned hawks. The Cape May Bird Observatory located in Cape May Point and is one of the hosts of the World Series of Birding. The event held annually in mid-May challenges birders to count as many species as possible in a 24-hour period.
Cape May Point is probably the premier area for both bird and butterfly watchers but there are plenty of other spots around the county where eco-tourists of every age can marvel in the diverse wildlife of the Jersey Cape. The hawk viewing platform at Cape May Point State Park regularly hosts 100,000 visitors each season and the meadows between Cape May and Cape May Point is a prime place to see dozens of egrets gathered there during their annual migration. Cape May Point is one of the premier places with marked, easy-to-follow trails to help even the novice birder spot ducks, swans, osprey and other shore birds and wildlife along the way.
Egrets remain in the Cape May County area from March to September although some will winter over in mild weather and the meadow area is a popular living and feeding spot for the beautiful birds.
Along the bay side of the County, birders can enjoy more than a million migrating birds each spring, the second-largest assembled shorebird population in the Western Hemisphere.