Cape May & Delmarva Birding - Fall Migration Extravaganza


September 19 - 24 2023
$2,250 | ($500 deposit due upon registration)
$500 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 up to 200 species seen this time of year, Southern New Jersey and the Delmarva Peninsula are 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. We’ll also have 2 nights in Delaware where we can enjoy some fantastic birding at Bombay Hook NWR, Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland, Henlopen State Park and other hotspots of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Itinerary and Focal Species

We'll depart early in the morning on September 19 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. The Ocean City Welcome Center makes for a great pit stop, with its rookery of White and Glossy Ibis, Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Herons, and sometimes Tricolored Heron. We'll arrive in Cape May with time to enjoy an evening stroll on the beach on our way to dinner.

For the next several days, mornings and evenings will be spent at hotspots like Higbee Beach and Cape May Point State Park searching for migratory songbirds like Blue Grosbeak, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Cape May and Tennessee 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, Bald Eagle, and Red-shouldered Hawk.

We’ll then explore Forsythe NWR (Brig for short!) and The Wetlands Institute looking for shorebirds like Marbled Godwit, Black-necked Stilt, Red Knot, Whimbrel, Willet and Western Sandpiper, among many others.

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

After several days of birding the Cape May area, we’ll hop on the Lewes Ferry for a crossing of Delaware Bay. On route, we’ll keep our eyes out for ocean-loving species like Parasitic Jaeger, Royal Tern, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Brown Pelican. For the next two days we’ll explore the Delmarva Peninsula, including Cape Henlopen State Park, a stronghold for the world’s northernmost population of Brown-headed Nuthatch. We’ll have plenty of time to explore Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, which can host a breathtaking array of shorebirds, including Black-bellied Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin and the stunning American Avocet. We’ll also have a full day to explore Assateague Island National Seashore, which in addition to great birding, is alway home to a population of wild horses. 

We'll head back home on the 24th, 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 "emeritus" 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 1,300 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.

Payment Schedule

  • A $500 deposit is required to reserve your space on the trip.
  • 50% of the trip balance will be due 6 months before the departure date.
  • Single travelers must include the single supplement fee with this payment. Single rooms are limited on this itinerary, so please confirm with us that your request for a single room can be accommodated before sending payment.
  • The remaining trip balance will be due 3 months before the departure date.

All payments can be made via check to: NBNC, 713 Elm Street, Montpelier, VT 05602

Cancellation Policies

We understand that incidents and emergencies arise that may force you to cancel your trip. However, NBNC invests considerable time and, in many cases, non-refundable payments to lodges and local contractors to secure our rooms and programming. NBNC aims to be as flexible as possible in our refund policy, but a full refund of your payments may not be possible after the dates indicated. All cancellations must be made via email to NBNC.

  • Cancellation more than 180 days before the trip: Full refund of all payments.

  • Cancellation 90-180 days before the trip: Refund of any payments minus the $500 deposit. If your space is filled by another traveler, we will also refund your deposit.

  • Cancellation 30-90 days before the trip: No refund guaranteed. If your space is filled by another traveler, we will provide a full refund minus the $500 deposit.

  • Cancellation less than 30 days before the trip: No refunds guaranteed.

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