01692 580623/4

USA | New Jersey Cape May in Spring

A 9-day, single-centre, small group birdwatching tour to Cape May, New Jersey

Limosa’s Cape May birding tours bring you all the excitement of birdwatching on the New Jersey coast in spring! In May, flocks of passage waders gather to feast on the Horseshoe Crab spawning and flights of colourful American warblers arrive to breed, or pause to feed before continuing northwards. Birds of prey are also on the move - and can include overshooting Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites - along with many herons, terns and skimmers. With so many great habitats within such a small area, you’ll also find our Cape May bird tour offers a minimum of travelling around and maximum time in the field to help you get the most from this very special place for bird migration. Join us for our 23rd birdwatching tour to Cape May.

Tour Dates



Mike Crewe

Max Group Size: 7
Duration: 9 Days

Ask About Tour

Cost: £2795

inc return flights from London Heathrow-Newark (New Jersey), nonstop with British Airways

Deposit: £400

Single Supp: £395
Land Only: £2445

Book This Tour

Ask About Tour

If you have any questions about our tours or require further information, we are always happy to hear from you.
Feel free to contact us by email, fax or telephone to discuss any aspect of our tours. We look forward to hearing from you!

  • Click here to read our Privacy Policy


magnolia warbler cape may 0516 copy resized

The beautiful Magnolia Warbler is one of many delightful warbler treats in store on a spring visit to Cape May, where this bird was photographed © Brian Small, Limosa

Cape May in springtime! ... There is something wonderful about watching bird migration, not just the thrill of seeing birds large and small that have travelled hundreds or thousands of miles (and with more to go), but also a hint of the world beyond and the time-scale over which they have evolved the practise of moving north and south during the seasons. Situated at the southernmost tip of the state of New Jersey, Cape May is rightly famous as a fantastic centre to study bird migration - and in spring it offers the chance to observe the passage of many fabulous species of bird, alongside others that have chosen to breed there.

Our spring birding tour to Cape May is based at a single seafront hotel - within easy distance of the surrounding woods, fields, beaches and marshes, and perfect for enjoying the amazing variety of birds that stream northwards through Cape May at this season. Many of northern US and Canadian songbirds pass this way, alongside raptors and waders, whilst local breeding species will be settled by mid-May and in full plumage.  

Spring actually begins at Cape May in early March, when the continent’s ducks and divers begin to move... but it isn't until May that things really begin to hot up! Then, the passage of a warm front can produce pulses of migrants, when the tree-lined streets can be filled with gaudy warblers and dainty song. We will explore some of the special sites in the area, not just for birds but for plants, butterflies and dragonflies.

Our Cape May days might well begin with a visit to Higbee Beach. Famous for the autumn movement of birds, ‘Higbees’ on an early spring morning can also be excellent. If the weather conditions are right, on a good day, when the oaks are in full bloom and attractive to many insects, a fall of brightly coloured spring warblers, grosbeaks and buntings can make the trees sparkle like Christmas trees! As well as the immense Bald Eagles that are becoming a feature of the Cape May landscape, we can dream of striking lucky with 'overshooting' Mississippi or Swallow-tailed Kites – as we have done before! Breeding Prothonotary Warblers, with their amazing ‘egg yolk’ yellow heads, can also be found in the area, and the northward movement of migrants often brings Yellow-billed Cuckoos, too.

Slightly further afield, the stands of large oaks at Cox Hall Creek can hold many warblers, with sizeable mixed flocks possible, plus the chance of the stunning Red-headed Woodpecker. Within 30 miles, a visit (or two!) to Belleplain State Forest should reward us with an array of breeding woodland birds, including Louisiana Waterthrush, while Yellow-throated, Hooded and Worm-eating Warblers declare their territories with their distinctive songs. Flocks of Carolina Chickadees, “Disneyesque” Tufted Titmice and other small birds can abound here.

A spring visit to Cape May is not all about passerines, however. The shores of Delaware Bay are world famous for the congregations of shorebirds that arrive in May to ‘participate’ in the mass annual spawning of Horseshoe Crabs. Red Knot are currently threatened by rapidly declining numbers, but there are also many Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitchers and Semipalmated Sandpipers to enjoy – the latter three species can number in thousands. In the nearby creeks and saltmarsh we may find breeding Marsh Wrens, Boat-tailed Grackles and Seaside Sparrows, whilst Northern Harriers float across the swathes of green.

Seldom having to drive more than 25 miles in a day, our spring birdwatching tour to Cape May offers the chance to explore the wonderful and varied habitats of the region, as well as to witness and enjoy the migration of some really special and colourful eastern North American birds. And if our spring 2020 tour proves to be anywhere near as good as our last two visits here in May, then you will not be disappointed!

Guide Mike Crewe is a man who knows Cape May like no other, having spent six years working at the famous bird observatory and guiding visitors there. An excellent all-round naturalist, Mike also knows the Cape's plants, butterflies and dragonflies superbly well, too. Join us this year and let a little Cape May magic rub off on you!

piping plover 2 cape may 0516 copy resized

Cape May is a great place to catch up with the scarce and declining Piping Plover © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

Day 1            
Our spring birdwatching tour to Cape May begins with British Airways morning flight from London Heathrow to Newark (New Jersey), arriving in the afternoon.

A southerly drive of about two hours through pleasant rural landscapes will bring us to the quaint Victorian seaside town of Cape May. For more than a century, this pretty resort has been attracting both beach-goers and birders - though originally the visitors were more interested in shooting the birds than watching them! Night at Cape May

Days 2-7                     
The area around Cape May is quite ‘self-contained’ and with most of the best sites within a 40-mile radius, we will not have to travel far during our stay. We will visit all of the main reserves (some perhaps more than once), focusing on the specialities and passage migrants, and aiming to get great views of birds at all times. Our itinerary will remain flexible however, so that we can act upon local information as to what is around at the time and go where migration is at its best. But an outline itinerary might proceed as follows:

Most days will begin with an early start, and a visit to Wawas to pick up a picnic breakfast, which we often eat at the tables at the State Park or Higbees, as this allows us to be where “the action is”. Although many locally breeding passerines, like Hooded Warbler or Louisiana Waterthrush, are already “on territory”, many more will still be heading north at this time. Given the right weather conditions there can be significant movements of birds first thing in the  morning and getting out early will afford us the best chance to see and enjoy them.

While small groups of warblers can occur throughout Cape May county, 'Higbees' makes a great place to start. At the Beanery or in the wet woods of Hidden Valley, grassland and scrub is attractive to hungry sparrows and Bobolinks, and we will discover that blue is most definitely the colour when it comes to watching the lovely Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings!

Not far away, Cape May Point State Park is another site we will make a number of visits to. As migrant songbirds move through the bushes and trees here, the range of species and number of birds changes constantly. A walk along one of the several trails can produce exciting species such as Yellow and Yellow-throated Warblers, while Bunker Pond attracts waterbirds and waders such as Least and American Bitterns, and delicate Solitary Sandpipers. A view from the beach here, out towards ‘The Rips’, is likely to produce large numbers of feeding gulls and terns, including Forster’s Tern, and is a good place to search for Roseate Tern and passing pelicans. In fine weather, butterflies and dragonflies can be a real delight around the park.

In spring, the ‘bayshore area’ of Delaware Bay is famous for its Horseshoe Crab spectacle, when hundreds of thousands of these primitive sea creatures gather to beach and spawn. The mass spawning of crabs attracts many migrant shorebirds and, although the number of birds has declined in recent years, it is still a major event in the Cape May birding calendar.

Once, Red Knot were the main species, with numbers estimated at around 100,000 birds during the 1980s; sadly, numbers have fallen precipitously to fewer than 20,000 Knot today. Fortunately, other key species involved in the spectacle - Semipalmated Sandpiper, Dunlin, Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone - have not experienced such a drastic decline and many thousands could be present when we visit in May. The timing of the crab spectacle is governed by the tide and the moon, but takes place annually around mid-May. We will make several visits to the bayshore area during our stay.

There are a number of good woodlands to visit in and around Cape May, the best known of which is Belleplain State Forest. In May, a morning visit finds the woods echoing with the songs of forest birds and it is said that 16 species of warbler regularly breed within the varied habitats of the park. Northern Parula, Worm-eating, Blue-winged, Prothonotary, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Vireo and Summer Tanager are among key species we shall be looking for. The list is large - and so is the area - so we will perhaps make a couple of trips here!

To the north of Cape May is a large tidal system of creeks and islands, attractive to a host of migrant wader and heron species. At Nummy’s Island (named after Chief Nummy of the Lenni Lenape tribe), Clapper Rails may be seen on a rising or falling tide, and furtive Marsh Wrens and Seaside Sparrows will do their best to elude us. Here we have chances of seeing Great Blue, Little Blue and Tricoloured Herons, and both Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night Herons. Migratory and breeding waders also enjoy the mudflats, which in mid-May hold American Oystercatcher and Eastern Willet, as well as transient Greater Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers and Grey Plover. Nearby, Stone Harbor Point offers our best chance of the dapper and declining Piping Plover.

At Brigantine, there are not only huge numbers of waders, but the creeks and marshes hold Black Duck, Glossy Ibis and large numbers of breeding Ospreys. We may come across a tardy pale-bellied Brent Goose, or a pair of Peregrine Falcons, which often hang around all year.

At Cape May Point itself, in the State Park and Meadows, and at Cove Pool, in spring there should be a mix of yet more passage and breeding birds. Most important are the American Oystercatchers and Least Terns that nest on the beach, offering super views as they display – often at close range. And if the fancy takes us, seawatching from the beach can produce some great congregations of birds feeding in the rich waters at the mouth of Delaware Bay.

However, we will not just be looking down for our birds, as there are several species to be seen in the sky! Purple Martins breed commonly in the county, using nest boxes provided for them, and we will listen for their chuckling call. The martin ‘condominiums’ at Cape May State Park look especially spacious! Alongside the local American Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures and Bald Eagles (we have seen as many as 15 of the latter here in one day!), hundreds of raptors pass through on their way to their northern breeding grounds. A May visit can produce numbers of Broad-winged Hawks and, if we are lucky, maybe an overshooting Swallow-tailed Kite or Mississippi Kite will turn up and linger just long enough for us to catch up with it! Six further nights at Cape May

Day 8             
One of the great joys of bird migration is that one never knows what will turn up next - or when! There may be time this morning to ‘do the rounds’ at Cape May for one last time, or perhaps to drop in again at Belleplain Forest as we make our way back north to Newark.

Afternoon return to Newark, where we catch the British Airways overnight flight back to London.

Day 9                               
Morning arrival at London Heathrow, where our spring birding tour to Cape May concludes.

blue grosbeak cape may 0516 copy resized

He's getting there... this first-summer male Blue Grosbeak was photographed on our last May tour to New Jersey © Brian Small, Limosa

What To Expect

Limosa’s Cape May birding tours bring you all the excitement of birdwatching on the New Jersey coast in spring!

In May, flocks of passage waders gather to feast on the Horseshoe Crab spawning and flights of colourful American warblers arrive to breed, or pause to feed before continuing northwards. Birds of prey are also on the move - and can include overshooting Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites - along with many herons, terns and skimmers.

With so many great habitats within such a small area, you’ll also find our?Cape May bird tour offers a minimum of travelling around and maximum time in the field to help you get the most from this very special place for bird migration.

Cape May is situated on the eastern seaboard of the USA, at the southernmost tip of New Jersey. In May the weather is predominantly warm, averaging 11-16°C (52-62°F) but with highs in the mid-20sC (80+F). The passage of fronts bring spells of more unsettled weather resulting in warm, cloudy and windy conditions at times, and possibly some rainfall - but with the wetaher fronts come the falls of migrants for which Cape May is so famous!

At the time of our visit in mid-May, sunrise at Cape May is at ca. 5.45am and sunset at 8.00pm.

Good incidental opportunities for bird photography on this trip.


145-190 species

We typically see between 20 and 40 species of butterflies and dragonflies on this tour. Black, Spicebush and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Clouded, Cloudless and Orange Sulphurs, Carolina Saddlebags, Common Sanddragon and Ebony Jewelwing are among those we have recorded before.


7 nights accommodation in New Jersey, based at a comfortable hotel of good North American standard and overlooking the beach in the ‘upmarket’ seaside resort of Cape May. All rooms have private facilities.  


All main meals and restaurant gratuities are included in the tour price, commencing with dinner at Cape May on the evening of Day 1 and concluding with lunch in New Jersey on Day 8. Food is good, varied and plentiful.

Our meal plan will remain flexible to take best advantage of the migration at Cape May. With fresh falls of migrants overnight, on some days we may take a picnic breakfast in the field or have ‘coffee and donuts’ to get us started, followed by a later breakfast after we’ve checked the Cape for migrants. Lunches may be a corresponding mix of picnics or sit-down meals, according to the morning’s events. As is the norm in the USA (where many hotels lack their own ‘in-house’ restaurant facilities), we'll dine out in the evenings at one or two of Cape May's better local restaurants.

[Our tour price includes the expected 15-20% gratuity for all meals in North America.]


Easy. Short walks over flat terrain. Stout water-resistant walking shoes or lightweight boots recommended, perhaps with a pair of old trainers or 'flip-flops' (beware: the American term for these - “thongs” - might result in inappropriate dress!) for birding along the beach.


Our tour price includes return flights from London Heathrow to Newark, nonstop with British Airways.

Ground Transport   By comfortable minibus

5NAM butterfly Spicebush Swallowtail New Jersey Brian Small 150513

The exquisite Spicebush Swallowtail, photographed on our May tour to Cape May © Brian Small, Limosa

1 PML, Cape May, New Jersey tour ... I was impressed with the way Brian organised the days so that some could start later or finish earlier but without preventing the others from birding the whole day. Very extensive choice of food in the evening, room very spacious... [empty string]
2 PD Cape May, New Jersey tour ...Brian is possibly the best leader that I have encountered... So many memorable moments, from skimmers on the beach to the incredible numbers of waterbirds at Brigantine ... [empty string]
CACHED false
SQL SELECT Testimonial.TestIntro, Testimonial.Author, Testimonial.Title FROM Testimonial Left JOIN TestimonialTour ON Testimonial.TestID = TestimonialTour.TestID Where DeletedAt is NULL AND TestimonialTour.TourID = ? Order By TestimonialTour.ID, Testimonial.createdAt
1 573
Request Tour Information Pack


Cookies on the Limosa Holidays Website

Our website uses cookies so that you can book tours with us and we can provide you with a better service. If you're happy with this, please continue to use the site as normal. Find out how the Limosa website uses cookies.

Accept Cookies