NEW! Cape May for birders

Some of the best migration birding on the planet!

Destinations
Focus
2022 Dates
  • 24 Sep - 03 Oct 2022
Duration10 Days
2022 Price
Price TBC
2024 Dates
  • 21 Sep - 30 Sep 2024
Duration10 Days
2024 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size12

Listed by National Geographic as a World’s Best destination for birding, Cape May is an iconic location for the migration enthusiast. The narrow peninsula is a natural bird funnel, bringing in songbirds during their spring and autumn (fall) migrations. As such, large numbers may occur in the right conditions and birding can be especially varied and enjoyable.

This is very much a location for the migration enthusiast, concentrating on autumn movement on the eastern Atlantic seaboard. Our time will be well spent, as we seek, find and identify dozens of warblers, vireos, thrushes, flickers, kingbirds, tanagers, orioles, raptors, seabirds and shorebirds. There are many possibilities, and we expect to see around 150 species, an impressive tally for such a small area!

Over twenty species of attractive American Wood-warbler are possible, including Pine, Blackpoll, Magnolia, Myrtle, Black and White, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, American Yellow, Prairie, Connecticut, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Tennessee and Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat to name but some. Often it is the sheer volume of birds which stand out, perhaps of just a single species. The good days are spectacular, while the exceptional days can be thrilling and defy belief.

The Cape May Hawkwatch platform is legendary, and here at the raptor capital of North America we might record Coopers, Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, and Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Turkey and American Black Vulture, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine.

Waterbirds might include Semi-palmated and Grey Plover, Pectoral, Western, White-rumped, Semi-palmated and Least Sandpiper, Willet, Marbled Godwit, (Hudsonian) Whimbrel, Short and Long-billed Dowitcher and American Oystercatcher. On the beaches a few post-breeding Piping Plovers may be present, as might American Avocet, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary and Spotted Sandpiper, Tricolored, Little Blue, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned and Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Great White and Snowy Egret.

Seawatching may produce Canada and Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Surf, Black and White-winged Scoter, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Brown Pelican, Double Crested Cormorant, Black Skimmer, Royal, Caspian and Forster’s Tern, Pomarine and Arctic Skua, Laughing, Ring-billed and American Herring Gull and storm-driven species in recent years have included Cory’s, Great and Manx Shearwater, Brown Booby and American Black Tern.

Other birds might include Sora and Clapper Rail, Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Blue Jay, Carolina and House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Swamp, Savannah, Saltmarsh and Chipping Sparrow, and scarce Song, White-crowned and Field Sparrow.

This really is a classic holiday in perhaps the world's most iconic destination to observe bird migration. For those who have poured over North American field guides and dreamt of finding these species, this is the perfect trip.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Sat 24 September 2022 - UK – Newark/Philadelphia - Cape May
We take the morning flight to Newark or Philadelphia, board our vehicle and travel towards the birding hotspot of Cape May. Arriving at our accommodation late-afternoon, an evening stroll may be offered especially if we hear it's been a good day for migration!

Days 2 and 3: Sun 25 and Mon 26 September - The Cape May Peninsula
With a range of birding options and sites in close proximity to our base, our itinerary will be especially flexible. The daily options are given only as a rough guide and we are likely to visit the most productive sites several times. If migration is slower around the Point itself we can branch out a short distance to explore other great birding locations. Early morning visits to the fields, scrub and coastal woodlands of Higbee Beach, Hidden Valley Ranch and the South Cape Meadows are likely to be the most productive for migrant passerines. Our time will always be well spent in these areas, searching for and identify dozens of warblers, vireos, thrushes, flickers, kingbirds, tanagers, orioles and more. No two days are the same and there is always something new to see – that’s why local birders love Cape May!

Over twenty species of American Wood-warbler are possible on this tour. Likely are Pine, Blackpoll, Magnolia, Myrtle, Black and White, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat. Just about any of the others are also possible, and exactly which of the scarcer species make landfall is down to luck and the weather. Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, American Yellow, Prairie, Connecticut, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Tennessee and Cape May Warbler are but a few. The latter is an appropriate species to have on our checklists, but not always easy to see at Cape May!

Other dream species high on the agenda for UK rarity seekers include Black and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Mourning Dove, Cedar and Bohemian Waxwing, Grey Catbird, American Robin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Bobolink and Scarlet Tanager. The Catharus thrushes (Swainson’s, Hermit, Grey-cheeked, Wood or Veery) tend to pass later but we may see one or two. We should also see Red-eyed, White-eyed and Philadelphia Vireo, Eastern Pheobe, Brown Thrasher, Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglet. Migrant flocks of Tree Swallow draw our attention away from the vegetation, and we may also be faced with the surreal sight of a Northern Flicker or Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flying out over the sea! There are so many possibilities, and often it can be the sheer number of ‘fall’ migrants which amaze rather than the variety!

If the excitement in the bushes isn’t enough, as the air temperature rises we find ourselves drawn more and more to the skies. The Cape May Hawkwatch platform is legendary, and we plan to join the counting team several times during the tour. Recent season totals may be viewed at https://njaudubon.org/watches/cape-may-hawkwatch, and while the variety isn’t huge, Cape May is dubbed the raptor capital of North America for one reason - the sheer numbers! In the right conditions, literally hundreds of birds may fill the skies at one time and we brush up our identification skills for Coopers, Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, and Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Turkey and American Black Vulture, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine.

Day 4: Tue 27 September - Stone Harbor Wetlands and Avalon Point
In a change of scenery, we have the option to head north along the coast to explore the Wetlands Management Zone at Stone Harbor or perhaps continuing to Ludlam Bay beyond. Surrounded by mudflats and rich estuarine habitat, roosting waders can number into the thousands with a range of species possible. These include Semi-palmated and Grey Plover, Pectoral, Western, White-rumped, Semi-palmated and Least Sandpiper, Willet, Marbled Godwit, (Hudsonian) Whimbrel, Short and Long-billed Dowitcher, and American Oystercatcher. On the beaches a few post-breeding Piping Plovers may still be present, and the saltmarsh creeks around Nummy Island and Thorofore can be good for American Avocet, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary and Spotted Sandpiper. Also attracted may be Tricolored, Little Blue, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned and Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Great White and Snowy Egret.

We also plan to sea-watch from Avalon Point and your guide will be on the lookout for favourable onshore winds which can push birds closer to land. Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, there is no better place on the eastern seaboard for observing migrant seabirds and the Observatory team annually records passage from late-September through to November. Likely species on the move include Canada and Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Surf, Black and White-winged Scoter, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Brown Pelican, Double Crested Cormorant, Black Skimmer, Royal, Caspian and Forster’s Tern, Pomarine and Arctic Skua. Offshore we should find Laughing, Ring-billed and American Herring Gull, while rarer storm driven species in recent years have included Cory’s, Great and Manx Shearwater, Brown Booby and American Black Tern. Recent totals can be viewed at https://njaudubon.org/watches/avalon-seawatch, while a selection of herons, waders, raptors and even migrant passerines may also be seen on the move.

Day 5: Wed 28 September - Cape May Peninsula
Birding around Cape May rarely disappoints and changes daily. Repeated effort in already visited locations nearly always yields newcomers. As well as checking the point, valleys and fields, time today may be devoted to staking out a series of small pools for Sora and Clapper Rail, Green Heron and Belted Kingfisher or searching for local species such as Blue Jay, Carolina and House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee. Roaming flocks of Swamp, Savannah, Saltmarsh and Chipping Sparrow are also worth checking through for scarcer Song, White-crowned and Field Sparrow.

Day 6: Thu 29 September - Delaware Bay boat trip and Cape Henlopen State Park
We catch the morning ferry across Delaware Bay, from Cape May to Lewes near Delaware. The 18 mile journey across the open water gives new opportunities for close encounters with seabirds, perhaps including Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Gannet, Arctic and Pomarine Skua, Royal, Common and Forster’s Tern, perhaps a Wilson’s Storm Petrel or something even rarer. By taking our vehicle, we have the opportunity to visit some of Delware’s excellent reserves too. At Cape Henlopen State Park, walking the Maritime forest trails we seek resident Hairy, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatch, plus a range of migrant wood-warblers, flycatchers, finches and sparrows. We prioritise what we haven't already seen, with other options if time allows including Rehoboth Bay, Great Marsh Preserve or Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge for wetland and coastal birds. We seawatch again from the return ferry back to Cape May. A great day out!

Day 7: Fri 30 September - Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
Another destination is the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, or to use its local name ‘Brigantine’. Located an hour north of Cape May, this vast and sensational site offers great birdwatching any time of year, and large numbers of wildfowl and waders pause here in autumn. American Black Duck, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal may be seen dabbling in the wet meadows with Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser and Greater Scaup joining Pied-billed Grebe in deeper water. Wader numbers and diversity are similar to other coastal sites, though may also include Killdeer and American Golden Plover in the fields. Such an abundance of prey in turn attracts hunting raptors with Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawk, occasional Golden Eagle and Rough-legged Hawk, Peregrine and Merlin (of their respective Nearctic races) possible. Belted Kingfisher fish the creeks and pools with flocks of Boat-tailed Grackle and several species of sparrow frequenting the fields and scrub. 

Day 8: Sat 1 October - Cape May Peninsula
Our last full day at Cape May, so we’ll be keen to stake out any Nearctic specialities we haven’t yet seen. Just imagine the celebrations on our final night if a Prothonotary or Chestnut-sided Warbler turned up!

Day 9: Sun 2 October - Final birding and departure
We may have some time for some early-morning birding around the point, before transferring to Philadelphia/Newark for our return, overnight flight to the UK arriving on Mon 3 October.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return scheduled flight from London – Newark or Philadelphia. Airport taxes, transfers from and to airports (where appropriate).
  • ground transportation as outlined in a modern and spacious air-conditioned vehicle.
  • any ferry or boat trips.
  • accommodation and all meals (as specified), including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • the services of your leaders.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more.

Free Field Guide! ‘by David Allen Sibley is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, esta costs where necessary, optional tips to the local guide, hotel/restaurant staff, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.

More holiday information

Accommodation is in hotels with all rooms en suite. All have en-suite facilities, and are comfortable to a good standard.
Food full-board accommodation at hotels (as specified) including picnic lunches and some meals at diners. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking A reasonable level of fitness is required for this tour, as we may be on our feet all day with much our birdwatching around Cape May point itself. Most of this will be on good paths or tracks on level ground, and we can expect to be covering a distance of up to 5 miles daily.
Weather can be variable and you should bring clothing for all conditions. Autumn temperatures at Cape May range from 10-25 degrees C, with rain, wind and sunshine all possible on the same day!
Insects There may be biting insects near marshy ground, though not usually as a major problem.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights return scheduled flights from London – Newark or Philadelphia (to be decided closer to departure date) - London. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights should you wish. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Visa Travellers are required to obtain authorisation (known as ESTA) before arriving at the airport and can apply online. The application process should take around 20 minutes, and authorisation is normally granted immediately but may take up to 72 hours. Once granted, authorisation is valid for two years. At the time of writing the Esta application charge is $14.

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Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in the Americas?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

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