From songbirds to shorebirds, waterfowl to raptors and seabirds, Cape May in the fall is one of the most famous places in the United States to see resident and migrating birds.
If you look at a map of New Jersey, you’ll notice that the southern tip of the state ends in a peninsula, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. For many birds and insects flying south in the fall along the northeast coast, this area of New Jersey becomes a bit of a challenge - one of many they will encounter during their journeys. Birds are funneled to Cape May, and they must figure out how to proceed. Should they attempt the water route - a direct flight to the south and west over 15 miles of Delaware Bay? Or should they stay over land and head northwest, many miles out of their way, and move into northern Delaware before resuming their southerly travel route?
Whichever route an individual bird, butterfly or dragonfly chooses, the result for wildlife watchers is usually very favorable and predictable, making Cape May one of the best places for birding on the Atlantic Coast. And the several units that make up Cape May National Wildlife Refuge are right in the thick of all the activity.
Located just south of Wildwood Crest, the Two Mile Beach Unit of the refuge is one of the largest remaining tracts of undeveloped maritime forest in New Jersey. While the actual beach is closed to all public access from April 1 to September 30, the trail and boardwalk section behind the dunes are open year round. The interior trail hosts large numbers of songbirds (and the raptors who prey on them), butterflies and dragonflies in the spring and fall. On Saturday mornings from May through October, the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refugeoffers free, family-friendly bird walks at the Two Mile Beach Unit, including loaner binoculars and field guides.
Cape May National Wildlife Refuge
24 Kimbles Beach Road
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210