Cape May Birding - Fall Migration Extravaganza


September 22 - 26 2021
$1,750 | ($500 deposit due upon registration)
$375 single supplement
Includes all lodging, transportation, and food
7 participants max
Guide: Chip Darmstadt


xplore this extraordinary birdwatching paradise during one of its most exciting times to visit. With over 430 total species observed, and over 330 species seen this time of year, Cape May is home to some of the greatest avian biodiversity in the northeast. September in Cape May offers a bit of everything: migratory songbirds in the shrubs and forests, birds of prey cruising overhead, and southbound shorebirds along the beaches and backwaters. Wading birds stalk the saltmarshes, while waterfowl and seldom-seen pelagic birds float on the open ocean. Though less than a day’s drive from NBNC, Cape May is a whole new and exciting world of birds rarely if ever encountered in Vermont!

Itinerary and Focal Species

We'll depart early in the morning on September 22 for an eight-hour drive down to Cape May, NJ, in a comfortable van, with rest stops along the way for stretching our legs and doing a little birding. We'll arrive in Cape May with time to visit some evening birding hotspots in town.

For the next several days, mornings and evenings will be spent at hotspots like Higbee Beach and Villas Wildlife Management Area searching for fall migratory songbirds like Blue Grosbeak, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-Throated Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Hooded Warbler.

In the sunny afternoons, we’ll head to places like the Cape May Point State Park hawkwatching platform and turn our attention skyward in search of uncommon raptors like Mississippi Kite, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle, and Red-shouldered Hawk.

We’ll then explore Heislerville Wildlife Management Area and The Wetlands Institute looking for shorebirds like Marbled Godwit, Black-necked Stilt, Red Knot, Piping Plover, Willet, Whimbrel, and Western Sandpiper, among many others.

In the marsh grass and shrubs of Cape May Meadows, we’ll watch for Saltmarsh Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, and Clay-colored Sparrow. In the nearby channels and lagoons, we’ll look for unusual wading birds like Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, White-faced Ibis, and maybe even a Clapper Rail or King Rail.

We’ll hop on the Lewes Ferry for a crossing of Delaware Bay in search of pelagic species like Parasitic Jaeger, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Shearwater, and Brown Pelican. The ferry crossing will bring us to Cape Henlopen State Park for the afternoon, a stronghold for the world’s northernmost population of Brown-headed Nuthatch. After ferrying back to the Cape May side of the bay, we’ll stop in to The Ripps or the Avalon Seawatch Station to enjoy species like American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmer, Royal Tern, Forster’s Tern, and Gull-billed Tern.

We'll head back home on the 26th after one last morning of birdwatching, returning to Vermont around dinnertime.

Additional Information

We’ll leave the hotel to begin our search each morning at sunrise to encounter songbirds when they are at their most active. We’ll travel from place to place throughout the day, with plenty of stops for refreshments and restrooms along the way, and return to our lodging with time to freshen up before dinner in town. While we don’t include mid-day siestas on this action-packed trip, we will be within 10 minutes of our lodging most of the time, so we can easily swing by the hotel for those needing a couple hours of downtime.

While we will spend the entire day birdwatching each day, we will not be “rushing” from place to place. Our goal is to enjoy spending time with these amazing animals. We are searching for rich experiences and astonishing biodiversity, and not necessarily the longest species list.

We’ll be staying at the Seacrest Inn right in Cape May. We selected our lodging to ensure clean and comfortable accommodations situated right in the heart of the birding hotspots we’ll be visiting – right on the shore, and less than a block from the edge of the Cape May Wetlands State Natural Area.

We will typically have picnic breakfasts (including coffee) and lunches in the field each day, and we provide a range of options to accommodate preferences and dietary restrictions. Our dinners will typically be at restaurants in the town of Cape May.

Chip Darmstadt is the executive director of the North Branch Nature Center and an avid birder and naturalist. Chip has led birding trips in the US and across the world with NBNC for the last two decades, observing over 2,000 bird species along the way. Cape May has become an annual pilgrimage for Chip, who has brought NBNC youth and adult teams to participate in the World Series of Birding event that takes place each spring in Cape May. When not occupied with his varied NBNC duties, Chip works on extending his streak of over 1,000 consecutive days of eBird checklists!


  • All lodging.
  • All meals.
  • All transportation (including from NBNC to Cape May) in a comfortable van.
  • Expert bird guide.
  • Park entrance fees.
  • Pre-departure group briefing before the trip.
  • Use of high quality spotting scopes and binoculars.
  • Use of field guides.

Not included:

  • Incidentals and snacks.

Ready to go to Cape May?
Email [email protected] to get signed up.

Here’s an eBird Checklist of species seen in September in the Cape May area over the last five years.

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7