Hawk Migration at Cape May Point State Park

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) on migration
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) on migration

href=”http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/capemay.html”>Cape May Point State Park to watch the myriad of hawks that pass by this part of the peninsula.

Cape May Point State Park is at the very tip of New Jersey. It is the last land stop before the birds either fly across the Atlantic Ocean or the Delaware Bay.

It is a natural funnel. Many species of birds fly overhead or land in Cape May County. Birds are studied here all year around but the fall migration is a spectacular time. Over 300 birds species have been spotted in Cape May.

We arrived late, a little after 10 am. The directions I used were confusing. We arrived as the regular Saturday morning, hawk banding demonstration was going on. I got some really good photos of the hawks.

Sharp-shinned or Cooper's?
Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s?

After the demo we went to the Raptor ID Workshop given by the Cape May Bird Observatory and learned even more.

bird watch platform
bird watch platform

Finally, we made it to the hawk watching platform. It was full of birding enthusiasts. There are always spotters who call out the birds flying toward us. This was very helpful. Sometimes I think the “spotters” have the most extraordinary vision to see the birds so far off in the distance. One day I would like to be good enough that I can be a spotter and call out the birds.

After watching the hawks for a while we walked along the beach and behind the dunes.

migrating Monarch on Seaside Goldenrod
migrating Monarch on Seaside Goldenrod

The dunes are where the migrating Monarch butterflies tend to rest. The strong winds had caused them to stop and rest on the few remaining plants with nectar.

The beach had few people on it. The sand was clean and smooth. A few shorebirds walked along the surf.


It was a good day.

Raptor species spotted: Osprey, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel, Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Butterflies: Monarchs, Common Buckeyes, and numerous tiny dark butterflies too small to see clearly.

In bloom: Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) and New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

To read: Birds and Birding at Cape May: What to See and When and Where to Go by Clay and Pat Sutton. I bought this book at the Park shop and can’t wait to dig into it. The Suttons have included a wealth of information about Cape May. It is a thick book, 568 pages, and each one full of information.


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