We’re planning to deliver four days of amazing birding with world-class guides in one of the planet’s most famous birding hotspots. Who could resist?
Cape May, at the southern tip of New Jersey, is one of North America’s most famous birding hotspots. National Geographic recently included Cape May in its list of the World’s Best Destinations for Bird-Watching, the only one of its 10 listed locations that’s in the US. During fall migration, birds concentrate at the bottom of the New Jersey peninsula, which is bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other by Delaware Bay, creating a funnel for migrants—especially in fall.
This legendary hotspot has been visited by—or has been home to—some legendary birders and ornithologists, drawn to the region’s well-known birdiness. Among the visitors: John James Audubon, Alexander Wilson, and Roger Tory Peterson. Among the residents over the years: Witmer Stone, Ernest Choate, David Sibley, Pete Dunne, and many others.
Our final domestic Reader Rendezvous of 2018 will be four days of birding around the southern tip of New Jersey during the peak of fall raptor and songbird migration. Renowned naturalist-birder Mark Garland, who writes the Birders Question Mark column for Bird Watcher’s Digest, will be our local guide for what is sure to be an astounding experience. Our other guides will be Bill Thompson, III, Ben Lizdas, and Emily Jones from the BWD staff, augmented by other local birding luminaries. Pete Dunne, longtime director of Cape May Bird Observatory and current New Jersey Audubon birding ambassador, will stop by on Friday evening to share one of his wonderful programs.
September is the best month to catch migration in Cape May because of the sheer variety of species and the overall numbers of individual birds. Songbird migration is heavy, including thrushes, warblers, orioles, vireos, and tanagers. Hawk migration is heating up, with high counts of merlin, peregrine, kestrel, sharp-shinned, Cooper’s hawk, and osprey occurring at the Cape May Point Hawk Watch. And offshore, water bird migration is starting in earnest among the cormorants, various ducks (including scoters), and a peak time for Parasitic Jaegers while large numbers of shorebirds, terns, gulls, and wading birds gather in the bays, sloughs, marshes, and on the beaches and mudflats.
We’ll keep the itinerary flexible to take maximum advantage of weather, tide, and migration conditions. If a cool/cold front comes through, we’ll get the low-down from our network of local birding experts so we can be where the action is the next morning.
Among the local birding sites we’ll hope to visit at least once are:
- Cape May Point State Park and the Cape May Hawk Watch
- South Cape May Meadows
- Sunset Beach
- Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area
- The Beanery
- The Garrett Family Preserve
- Stone Harbor Point
We also hope to be able to arrange a salt marsh boat tour.
Wednesday, September 26
Afternoon arrivals and registration in the hotel lobby, followed by Happy Birders’ Hour to introduce or reacquaint ourselves. Dinner at the Grand Hotel followed by “An Intro to Birding Cape May” presentation by Mark Garland.
Thursday, September 27
Grab-and-go breakfast for early morning birding. Return to Grand for full breakfast. More birding till lunch (either box lunch or local restaurant), then afternoon birding, with a 4 p.m. return to the hotel for rest. Dinner will be provided by us, off site, this evening.
Friday, September 28
Same as Thursday, but with earlier return to the hotel in the afternoon for rest break. Then Happy Birders’ Hour and presentation by Pete Dunne. Dinner this evening is on your own in the Cape May restaurant of your choice.
Saturday, September 29
Same as Thursday, but evening program will include final checklist, prizes, etc.
Sunday, September 30
Half-day of birding, followed by lunch and return to hotel for farewells/departures.
Headquarters for the Legendary Cape May Rendezvous will be the Grand Hotel on Beach Avenue, along the Cape May strand. This grande dame has been hosting guests for decades and is ideally suited for our birding outings, evening gatherings, and general enjoyment of this Victorian seaside town. We’ve arranged for special rates with the Grand Hotel—weekdays rates are reasonable, but weekend rates reflect Cape May’s popularity as a beach destination. So be prepared!
Transportation & Mobility
We’ll be birding from 15-passenger vans and spending between an hour and three hours at each birding spot. We use stepstools for ease of loading/unloading vans, so please be prepared to take your turn in the back row of seats. Participants in the Legendary Cape May Reader Rendezvous must be able to walk up to a mile over sandy, uneven trails/paths. You must be able to stand for an hour or more while birding—though we won’t be timing your endurance. Because most of our birding destinations are just a few miles from the Grand Hotel and from each other, we won’t be driving long distances, so bathroom breaks will be regular (you know what we mean…). If you have mobility challenges, please contact us to discuss the viability of this event for you.