USA

NEW JERSEY | Cape May In Autumn

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

Limosa’s birdwatching tour to Cape May, New Jersey in late September will open your eyes to North America's premier spot for bird migration in autumn... We visit at a time when masses of wildfowl, waders, warblers and other migrants crowd the coastal woods and marshes - and the Cape is also a key staging post for southbound birds of prey. Based at one good and comfortable seaside hotel throughout, this splendid tour will show you everything from flocks of Northern Flickers, Blue Jays and Cedar Waxwings on the move to the tagging of Monarch butterflies on their remarkable southward migration to Mexico. Join us for our 24th Cape May birding tour!

Tour Dates & Prices

Sat 26th September 2020

Sun 4th October 2020

  • Spaces

5 Spaces Available

Sat 25th September 2021

Sun 3rd October 2021

  • Spaces

Tour Cost: 9 Days from £2795 inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £400Single Supp: £395Land Only: £2445Group Size: 7Leaders:  Brian Small

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Heathrow-Newark (New Jersey), nonstop with British Airways
  • 7 nights accommodation in New Jersey, at a comfortable seaside hotel of good North American standard in quaint Cape May
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, permits and reserve entry fees
  • All tour-based tips (inc. restaurant gratuities) and taxes
  • Map and checklist of birds for the tour

Cost Excludes

Insurance, airport snacks/meals, drinks & other items of a personal nature. ESTA (US $14, see our Tour Info Pack for details)

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights.

Tour Cost: 9 Days from £2795* inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £400Single Supp: £395*Land Only: £2445*Group Size: 7Leaders: TBA

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Heathrow-Newark (New Jersey), nonstop with British Airways
  • 7 nights accommodation in New Jersey, at a comfortable seaside hotel of good North American standard in quaint Cape May
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, permits and reserve entry fees
  • All tour-based tips (inc. restaurant gratuities) and taxes
  • Map and checklist of birds for the tour

Cost Excludes

Insurance, airport snacks/meals, drinks & other items of a personal nature. ESTA (US $14, see our Tour Info Pack for details)

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights.

Tour Highlights

  • Cape May, New Jersey - it's the number one spot for autumn bird migration in North America!
  • Most trips produce between 140 and 170 species
  • Crowds of herons, waders, wildfowl, warblers - even woodpeckers on the move
  • Flocks of gulls, terns and Black Skimmers on the beach in front of our seaside hotel
  • A key staging post for migrant raptors, including Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks
  • See Monarch butterflies on migration to Mexico - and watch them being ‘tagged’  
  • Woods, marshes, meadows and shore - all within easy distance of our hotel
  • Single-centre, small group tour - maximum of 7 participants
  • Expertly led by Limosa's Brian Small, making his 10th visit to Cape May for us

Outline Itinerary

  • Fly London-Newark, New Jersey. Transfer south to Cape May. Night Cape May

  • With no changes of hotel to worry, we spend our time visiting the best spots for migrants around Cape May, north to Belleplain Forest for woodland birds. Six further nights Cape May

  • A last look at Cape May today, then return north to Newark, birding as we go. Fly Newark-London

  • Morning arrival London

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
b and w warbler cape may BS tabbed.jpg
Looking like animated mint humbugs, Black-and-white Warblers climb nuthatch-like and hang upside down on the trees © Brian Small, Limosa

Situated on the coast at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, Cape May is a magical place at any time of year. But from mid-September, as the annual spectacle of autumn migration along the eastern seaboard of North America starts to unfold, it is the USA’s number one birding spot. Bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by Delaware Bay, the Cape May peninsula is a natural cul-de-sac, 'trapping' an extraordinary number and variety of southbound migrants.

Here, on a bright autumn day, we might find upwards of 20 different species of warbler in the morning; marvel at hundreds of Sharp-shinned Hawks sprinkled like pepper across the skies in the afternoon; and retire for the evening with the memory of a Sora Rail venturing out of the cat-tails as the sun sets. The passage of a weather front can bring crowds of waterfowl too, along with masses of Double-crested Cormorants and flocks of Northern Flickers and passerines - all within a few hours of leisurely birding.

Brown Thrashers, Grey Catbirds, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees and Northern Cardinals are usually much in evidence and a positive rainbow of warblers could include anything in autumn - from Northern Parula and American Redstart to Common Yellowthroat, bright Magnolia, Prairie and Black-throated Blues to animated, 'upside down' Black-and-white Warblers! In the early morning and late afternoon, Tree Swallows gather in bayberry bushes in their thousands, swarming around to devour the berries as they fatten up for their southward journey.

The presence of its own ‘Hawkwatch platform’ highlights the fact that the Cape is also a key staging post for migrating birds of prey. At this time of year we may see up to a dozen different species - everything from flights of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks worrying parties of Northern Flickers as they sweep through, to Ospreys, Peregrines, Merlins, American Kestrels and Northern Harriers.

Shorebirds are another exciting aspect at Cape May in autumn. Laughing Gulls, Royal Terns and Black Skimmers gather on the waterfront close by our hotel and we could well encounter 20 or more species of wader - including the cute but endangered Piping Plover, plus many juvenile Least Sandpipers and Short-billed Dowitchers.

Birds are not the only migrants to enjoy at Cape May in autumn and this can be a good trip for butterflies and dragonflies, too. Question Mark, Horace’s Duskywing, Black Swallowtail, American Lady, Carolina Saddlebags and Halloween Pennant are among more than 40 species recorded here by our groups. And there can’t be too many places one can go to see the tagging of migrant Monarch butterflies!

With a minimum of travelling about and so many great birds and varied habitats to enjoy in and around the quaint Victorian seaside resort of Cape May, this is a terrific trip for anyone contemplating their first visit to North America - as well as for all those who enjoy the special thrill of migration and of never knowing what might turn up next. While the benefits of Limosa's small party size, comfortable lodgings and easy birding will ensure that the magic of Cape May is a memory not soon forgotten.

Our September 2020 tour will be Limosa's 20th visit to Cape May in autumn, and guide Brian Small's tenth trip there for us.

Come, join us this year - and discover a little of the Cape May magic for yourself!

egrets cape may BS tabbed.jpg
On the falling tide, fish concentrate in small pools and attract hordes of Great and Snowy Egrets to feed - while Laughing Gulls try to get a look-in, too! © Brian Small, Limosa

Day 1
TO NEWARK & CAPE MAY

Our autumn birdwatching tour to Cape May begins with a British Airways morning flight from London Heathrow to Newark (New Jersey), arriving there in the early afternoon.

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

If time permits, after checking-in at our comfortable seafront hotel for the week, we will take a short drive out to South Cape May Meadows - a substantial area of marshes and shallow pools fronting the ocean. Here we can watch for Green Heron, Sora, Royal Tern and Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls, along with a variety of shorebirds. Seemingly incongruous at rest, yet so elegant in flight, we might also see the Black Skimmer ‘skimming’ the shallows for fish. Night Cape May

Days 2 - 7
BIRDING IN & AROUND CAPE MAY

We’ll plan to visit all of the top spots in and around Cape May at least once during our stay. As the movement of autumn migrants is strongly influenced by the prevailing weather however, our precise schedule will remain flexible so that we can adapt to the conditions of the moment.  

We may well begin at Higbee Beach, an area of fields, hedgerows and dune woods along the Delaware Bayshore. Birding can be spectacular here on days when migration is heavy, with large numbers of Tree Swallows, Bobolinks, Blue Jays and Cedar Waxwings mingling with the scarcer Eastern Phoebes, Least Flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles and Eastern Towhees. And if you’d previously believed the myth that American warblers “aren’t worth looking at in autumn”, then you’re in for quite a surprise as a positive rainbow of birds flick through the trees! Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Magnolia, Prairie and Nashville Warblers, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat and more than a dozen others are regularly seen at Cape May in ‘fall’. Of course, a fair percentage of the birds seen will inevitably be in more challenging juvenile plumages, just to keep us on our toes!

At nearby Hidden Valley Ranch, warbler flocks can be common too, alongside such species as Red-bellied Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Grey Catbird, Carolina and House Wrens, Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee. Lingering Blue Grosbeaks and the smaller Indigo Bunting often feed along the field edges here, with more cautious and solitary Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos peering out from cover as the greens and golds of autumnal Scarlet Tanagers light up the woodland edge.

All the while, we should be mindful of keeping an eye on the skies, for as the day warms up Cape May’s raptor migration gets under way! The weather will again have a major influence on movements and there are no guarantees. But we will hope that the winds bring parties of buoyant Turkey and American Black Vultures, posses of Broad-winged Hawks and a sprinkling of Merlins (the latter much darker here than those we are used to seeing at home) and Peregrines our way.

We’ll spend one afternoon visiting nearby Stone Harbor. Home in summer to a large mixed heronry, we are likely to find seven or more species of heron here in autumn, including Great and Snowy Egrets, Tricoloured Heron and the stockier Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons. An immense area of tidal mudflats at Stone Harbor also shelters tens of thousands of waders. Sharp-suited American Oystercatchers ‘pipe’ along the tideline as we strive to pick out the occasional Western and long-winged White-rumped Sandpipers amidst parties of scurrying Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and ebullient Willets. Most years, one or two Piping Plovers can still be found in late September and these cute little shorebirds with their ‘teddy-bear’ looks are always a favourite with our groups.

Another day will see us travelling north for about one hour to reach the vast stretches of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, informally known to local birders simply as ‘Brigantine’. Even as we arrive, we may find new birds here as we pause to check the secluded lilyponds near the entrance for Belted Kingfisher, Wood Duck and Pied-billed Grebe. Passing through the wooded perimeter, we’ll head for the refuge’s extensive fresh, brackish and saltwater marshes.

The reserve is so big - the trail is eight miles round! - we will travel around it in our vehicle, heading out on raised bunds, which provide panoramic views. Here we will seek out Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows, and flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Boat-tailed Grackles - the latter can occasionally be tempted in by lunch left-overs! There is an outside chance that the first of the season’s Snow Geese will have arrived, the vanguard of many thousands that winter here. But Brigantine is justly famous for its hordes of waders and we can hope for the odd Stilt or Pectoral Sandpiper, Hudsonian Godwit or American Avocet amongst the large flocks of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers and Greater Yellowlegs that abound here.

Where we go and what we see and do during the week will naturally vary from year to year, depending on the birds and prevailing weather conditions at the time. But rest assured we shall visit an amazing wealth of habitats all within close proximity of our hotel – including shallow pools where Lesser Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpipers feed, mature forests for White-breasted Nuthatches and Hairy Woodpeckers, saltmarsh creeks for Clapper Rail... and much, much more. Six further nights Cape May

Day 8
CAPE MAY, FLY NEWARK TO LONDON

One of the joys of migration is that one never knows what will turn up next - or when! There should be time this morning to ‘do the rounds’ at Cape May for one last time, or perhaps to pause on our way back north for one last birding stop in Belleplain State Forest.

Returning to Newark (New Jersey) Airport by early evening, we catch the British Airways overnight flight back to London.

Day 9
ARRIVAL LONDON

Morning arrival at London Heathrow, where our autumn birding tour to Cape May concludes.

bald eagle cape may BS tabbed.jpg
Amongst the raptors, few are as majestic as the emblematic Bald Eagle - regular at Cape May in the autumn © Brian Small, Limosa

WHAT TO EXPECT
Cape May, New Jersey is North America's number one spot for bird migration in autumn! We visit at a time when masses of wildfowl, waders, warblers and other migrants crowd the coastal woods and marshes - and the Cape is also a key staging post for southbound birds of prey. Based at one good hotel throughout, this splendid tour will show you everything from flocks of Northern Flickers, Blue Jays and Cedar Waxwings on the move to the tagging of Monarch butterflies on their remarkable southward migration to Mexico.

Cape May is situated on the eastern seaboard of the USA, at the southernmost tip of New Jersey. In late September, the weather at the Cape is predominantly warm and mainly dry (16-28°C/60-82F), though it's often noticeably cooler first thing.

The passage of cold fronts can bring spells of more unsettled weather resulting in cool, cloudy and windy conditions at times, and possibly some rainfall - but with them can come the exciting falls of migrants for which Cape May is so famous!

At the time of our visit in late September, the sunrises at Cape May at approx. 6.50am and sets again at approx 6.40pm.

There are good-excellent incidental photographic opportunities on this trip, notably shorebirds and butterflies.

BIRDS
140-170 species

BUTTERFLIES & DRAGONFLIES
We typically see between 20 and 40 species of butterflies and dragonflies on this tour, including Monarch butterflies which will be on migration at the time of our tour. We may be able to watch researchers ‘tagging’ Monarchs at the Cape to monitor their incredible journey south to Mexico.

ACCOMMODATION
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.

MEALS
All main meals 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 ‘in-house’ restaurant facilities), we'll dine out in the evenings at one or two of Cape May's better local restaurants.

We provide drinking water during the day, and our tour price also includes the expected 15-20% gratuity for all meals in North America.

WALKING
Easy. Short walks over flat terrain.

Stout water-resistant walking shoes or boots recommended, perhaps with a pair of old trainers or 'flip-flops' for birding on the beach.

TRAVEL
Return flights from London Heathrow to Newark (New Jersey), nonstop with British Airways.

Ground Transport  By comfortable minibus

cape may warbler cape may BS tabbed.jpg
An autumn male Cape May Warbler at Cape May - what could be better than actually seeing one there? © Brian Small, Limosa

Tour Gallery

View a gallery of images for this tour below, click on an image to view as full size with caption

Ask About This Tour

If you have any questions about this tour or wish to be added to our Wait List, please enter your details here and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Alternatively, contact us by email or phone. We look forward to hearing from you!

Or complete the contact form and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.

* = required field