News from VisitNJ.org
As spring blooms across the Garden State, more than 460 species of waterfowl and birds make their migratory seasonal return to New Jersey. With habitats ranging from mountains to pineland forests and wetlands, the state’s bountiful natural resources contribute to the diversity of species found per square mile, making New Jersey a national standout among bird watchers this spring. “Long considered the ‘Birding Capital of North America,’ the Cape May peninsula in our state has earned the coveted reputation as one of the top 10 worldwide destinations for birdwatching within the Atlantic flyway,” said New Jersey Travel and Tourism Executive Director Jeff Vasser. “We welcome all vernal birders and competitors, hoping to catch a glimpse of this year’s migration, to any one of New Jersey’s top birding spots.”
SPRING BIRDING COMPETITION AND FESTIVAL
New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding (May 14 -15)
About: The 39th Annual World Series of Birding takes place on May 14 (rain or shine), hosted by New Jersey Audubon. State teams from across the U.S. will assemble in New Jersey and compete in the prestigious competition to see how many birds they can identify by sight or sound in a 24-hour period (midnight to midnight), while raising funds and awareness for conservation causes and migrating birds’ habitat needs. The series is capped off with an awards brunch held on May 15 at The Grand Hotel in Cape May.
45th Annual Cape May Spring Festival (May 19-22)
Location: Cape May County
About: Each year, more than 470,000 tourists visit Cape May County, specifically to be “in the right place, at the right time” for birding season in New Jersey. Timed to coincide with the height of the spring migration, participants at the 45th Annual Cape May Spring Festival will enjoy field trips, boat and trolley journeys, great indoor programs and speakers, hosted by New Jersey Audubon.
10 BIRDING DESTINATIONS WITH SUGGESTED ACCOMODATIONS
(Listed from south to north)
The Wetlands Institute
Location: Stone Harbor, Cape May County
About: On May 21, the Wetlands Institute hosts the 9th Annual Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival. Tens of thousands of shorebirds flock north to the beaches of the Delaware Bay for two weeks. The shorebirds feed on the horseshoe crabs’ energy-packed eggs before making the last migratory push north. From 10,000 miles end to end, the shorebird migration is one of nature’s most exciting journeys.
Where to Stay: The Reeds at Shelter Haven (three-minute drive)
Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary
Location: Stone Harbor, Cape May County
About: Spread across 21.5 acres, the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary features three paths:
- The Heron Overlook Path leads adventurers through saltwater wetlands, a popular setting for heron and egret. Neotropical songbirds, as well as other larger migratory visitors, are also occasional guests.
- At the Meadow Walk Path, visitors might catch a glimpse of great egret and great blue herons stalking minnows and fiddler crabs in the creeks. The path ends with a view of Paul’s Pond, a freshwater, spring-fed pond where glossy ibis, black-crowned night heron, yellow-crowned night heron, green heron and osprey are often spotted.
- The Egret Espy Path and Maritime Forest, lush with pine trees and white spruce trees, are common spots for migrating songbirds, green herons and colonial wading birds.
- Where to Stay: ICONA Avalon Resort – Jersey Shore Resort (six-minute drive)
- Heislerville Wildlife Management Area
Location: Heislerville, Cumberland County
About: New Jersey’s coast along the Delaware Bay is rich with marshes and other wetlands, many protected as natural areas. In May, explorers can look for common shorebirds, such as semipalmated plover, greater yellowlegs, willet, lesser yellowlegs, least sandpiper, semipalmated sandpiper and short-billed dowitcher. Birders who keep regular watch here may be lucky enough to catch a rare sighting of a ruff or curlew sandpiper.
Where to Stay: Congress Hall (40-minute drive)
- Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
Location: Oceanville, Atlantic and Ocean Counties
About: Ten miles north of Atlantic City, more than three quarters of the area’s 47,000 acres is salt marsh, creating a perfect habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, gulls and terns. Along the eight-mile wildlife drive, over 300 species of birds have been spotted, including 30 species of geese, swans and ducks, which have been recorded here. Birdwatchers may also spot 16 species of herons, egrets, ibises, roseate spoonbill, least bittern, osprey, bald eagle, chuck-will’s-widow, peregrine falcon, saltmarsh sparrow and seaside sparrow.
- Where to Stay: Hotel LBI (30-minute drive)
- Island Beach State Park
Location: Berkeley, Ocean County
About: Encompassing 3,000 acres of nearly undeveloped barrier island, the park includes over 10 miles of dunes, woodlands and marshes. Shorebirds feed on its beaches and marshes, and seabirds, such as scoters, loons, northern gannet and great cormorant, can be spotted in and over the Atlantic. Visitors should look out for migrating birds, including raptors and songbirds as they travel along the coastline, while waterfowl and wading birds frequent the wetlands and coastal marsh.
Where to Stay: Beach Club Hotel (eight-minute drive)
- Gateway National Recreation Area
Location: Sandy Hook, Monmouth County
About: Gateway National Recreation Area, which encompasses Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay, and Staten Island, has over 325 species of birds, most of them migrating along the Atlantic Flyway. Specific to New Jersey, Sandy Hook’s maritime forest and salt marshes are ideal habitats for shorebirds, such as piping plover, hawks and American oystercatcher.
Where to Stay: Ocean Place Resort & Spa (15-minute drive)
- Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Location: Morris, Morris County
About: Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,800-acre forest home to a vast range of wildlife. Nesting birds found here include wood duck, wild turkey, least bittern, king rail, Virginia rail, sora, American woodcock, barred owl, willow flycatcher, marsh wren, ovenbird, blue-winged warbler, black-and-white warbler, swamp sparrow, scarlet tanager, indigo bunting, orchard oriole and Baltimore oriole. Nearly all birding here is done on foot throughout a series of guided trails.
Where to Stay: The Madison Hotel (15-minute drive)
- Institute Woods
Location: Princeton, Mercer County
About: Encompassing 400 acres of woodland, Institute Woods is a popular destination for migrating warblers. Jumping from an average of 42 species year-round, the springtime brings in over 200 warblers in a multitude of colors: blue, yellow, brown and more. Closed in by gray birch areas that were farmed as recently as 1940, and trees dating from the 1720s, this distinct birding destination comes to life in full effect during spring.
Where to Stay: The Nassau Inn (six-minute drive)
- Garret Mountain Reservation
Location: Woodland Park, Passaic County
About: Stretched across 568 acres with multiple access points and far-reaching views, this birdwatching location features birds such as flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, sparrows, orioles and miscellaneous other species, such as scarlet tanager and rose-breasted grosbeak.
Where to Stay: The Wilshire Grand Hotel (20-minute drive)
- High Point State Park and Stokes State Forest
Location: Sussex, Sussex County
About: These areas in the northwestern corner of New Jersey are noted for beautiful forests, scenic views, a section of the Appalachian Trail, and of course: the highest point of elevation in the state at 1,803 feet. A popular trail for some of High Point’s notable birds is the Cedar Swamp Trail, looping around a high-elevation bog where Atlantic white cedar grows rapidly. Breeding birds here include ruffed grouse, yellow-bellied sapsucker, blue-headed vireo, common raven, winter wren, hermit thrush, Louisiana waterthrush, northern waterthrush, golden-winged warbler, hooded warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, black-throated blue warbler, prairie warbler and Canadian warbler.
Where to Stay: Grand Cascades Lodge (30-minute drive)
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