Saturday, April 22, 2017


It's the time of year when birds are back on breeding territory or making their way further north, and singing along the way!! Want to learn who's doing the singing? Join Michael O'Brien in discovering the songs of warblers, vireos, sparrows, and more on this Cape May School of  Birding Workshop!!

Register online today at Cape May School of Birding

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

RETURN THE FAVOR: Rescue Stranded Horseshoe Crabs

CMBO is once again taking part in the ReTURN The Favor partnership of conservation groups in rescuing stranded Horseshoe Crabs on beaches in Southern New Jersey. We have accepted responsibility for three beaches on the Delaware Bayshore - Cook's Beach, Pierce's Point Beach, and High's Beach - and are inviting you to join us in monitoring and assisting the crabs on these beaches.

The Delaware Bay has long been the home to the largest concentration of spawning horseshoe crabs in the world, but this population has declined by 90% over the last 15 years because of overharvesting and degraded habitat. This trend is not only an issue for the horseshoe crab population itself, but also for migrating shorebird species that depend on the horseshoe crab for survival. In May and June each year horseshoe crabs use the Delaware Bay beaches to lay their eggs. At the same time shorebirds are migrating from South America to Arctic breeding grounds. To complete this journey - up to 9,000 miles long - shorebirds stop over in the Delaware Bay region to refuel on the high-calorie horseshoe crab eggs. As the horseshoe crab population struggles, the shorebirds are unable to fatten on crab eggs to continue to the Arctic. And now many of these shorebird populations - including Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Dunlins - are also struggling. In fact, the Red Knot was recently listed as 'threatened' under the federal Endangered Species Act. You can help rescue horseshoe crabs in New Jersey through our reTURN the Favor program, keeping horseshoe crabs and shorebirds in the Delaware Bay for many years to come.

The Issue: While coming ashore many of these harmless animals accidentally become overturned by waves, or become trapped in jetties or behind bulkheads. Horseshoe crabs are vulnerable when their soft undersides are exposed to the sun and are easy targets for predators. Thousands of horseshoe crabs die each season due to stranding on beaches.

Please let us know if you are interested in this inspiring venture. By helping us to actively return Horseshoe Crabs to their proper side and assess the numbers on the beaches, you will be help the ecosystem as a whole. It's a great chance to make a difference! More information is available at or by contacting us directly. New volunteers should plan to take part in one of two training sessions being offered: April 20 at the Wetlands Institute (6-8 pm) or April 29 at the Bayshore Center in Bivalve (10 am -12 pm). Our beaches are closed beaches, meaning no access during daylight hours between May 7 - June 7, to accommodate the feeding shorebirds. Monitoring during this period will require late evening/night walks. We will also host two public walks on June 9 (1-3 pm) and June 16 (9-11 am), starting with a short training session at the Center for Research and Education (CRE) along Rt. 47 in Goshen, before proceeding to one of our three beaches. RSVP to the CMBO registrar your intent to volunteer - Hope you'll join us!!

Brett Ewald
Program Director
Cape May Bird Observatory
New Jersey Audubon

Friday, April 7, 2017


Would you like to see a Northern Gannet? How about 8,000 in one day?!! That's what went by the Springwatch site in Cape May today (April 7th), along with 1500+ Red-throated Loons, 2300+ Black Scoters, 1500+ Surf Scoters and so much more!! Join Tom Reed, Cape May's seawatch expert, for this Cape May School of Birding Workshop and a chance to learn how to identify and understand the amazing migration past Cape May Point.

Many birders are aware of the significant autumn waterbird migration visible at the Avalon Seawatch, but far fewer know about the spring spectacle that occurs at the mouth of Delaware Bay. Northern Gannets, scoters, loons, and dozens of other species stage and migrate through the bay during their northward journeys. Tom Reed, CMBO's Migration Count Coordinator, has led efforts to monitor these happenings at Cape May Point in recent years. Join Tom for a morning session of seawatching, a great opportunity for beginners to dip their toes in this challenging but exciting birding activity! We’ll follow with an afternoon session that will reinforce identification tips while also introducing the history and goals of the “Springwatch” monitoring program.

Register online today at: Cape May School of Birding

Northern Gannet at the Springwatch

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Join the CMBO CENTURY RUN World Series of Birding Team!!!

It's that time again  - the 34th annual World Series of Birding! Soon, teams from all over the world will be scouring the marshes, forests, and meadows of New Jersey to count birds - and raising money for New Jersey Audubon's conservation efforts!

At CMBO, we're once again hosting a team with open registration. This is your chance to join in the fun and camaraderie of a birding event, along with team captain Brett Ewald, CMBO Associate Naturalists, and Swarovski Optik’s Clay Taylor. We'll have a full and rewarding day of birding around Cape May County. We will start around 5:00am, with a later start for those who are not early birds. We generally bird until around 10:00pm, with a few breaks in between.

The CMBO Century Run team is a level II team, so there is no registration fee required.  However, by joining our team, you commit to raise $1 per bird species counted. Last year, our team tallied 134 species, and this year our goal is 140!.

Thanks to your generous hard work and donations last year, our team raised over $7000. Help us to reach this year's goal of $7500, through a contribution or joining us in the field. We can make a difference together!!!!!

For more information, to make a donation, or to register for the CMBO Century Run team, go to our team page at

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Bald Eagle Cruises on the Maurice River start this weekend!

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It's a beautiful weekend for a river cruise! The Osprey is back in Millville for the annual weekend Bald Eagle Cruises on the Maurice River. Today's cruise is sold out, but you can buy tickets for tomorrow and the next two weekends here -

Friday, March 31, 2017

INTRODUCTION TO BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY with Scott Whittle - April 7 & 8

Whether you’re looking to accelerate your identification skills, or show the world how you see the birds around you, the camera is a perfect tool. In this two-day workshop, professional photographer Scott Whittle will help you work with the equipment you have to achieve your photographic goals. The course will include an overview of gear and how to use it, shooting sessions in the field, and how to develop a digital workflow that gets you the best possible image. Participants are encouraged to bring their laptops for post-photo capture learning.

Register online today at: CMBO School of Birding

Saturday, March 25, 2017

FIELD SKETCHING FOR BEGINNERS with Michael O'Brien, Saturday, April 1

This School of Birding Workshop will help take your appreciation of birds and birdwatching to the next level!

There is no better way to learn the details of a bird’s structure and plumage than to draw it, and many expert birders, like Michael and Louise, are also artists. Learn tips and tricks for quickly sketching birds in the field when there may not be time for painstaking observation. Drawing birds brings advantages to non-artists, too, simply from the need to look at a bird critically in order to draw it; it’s also a great way to document unusual species. No artistic talent or training needed. This workshop has been very popular - sign up early! Preregistration required.

Register online today at: CMBO School of Birding

Friday, March 24, 2017

Loons and Shorebirds Cruise on The Osprey, Saturday March 25

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The weekend forecast is for warmer weather (at last!), and Saturday afternoon should be a great time for a boat trip! The Poor Man's Pelagic trip has sold out, but there is still room aboard The Osprey for a back bay cruise. Call 609-898-3500 to reserve your spot or purchase your tickets online at

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sea Ducks, Blue Mussels, and Jetties

Article and photos by Michael Kilpatrick

It is easy to take for granted things right underfoot. Recently, while enjoying a visit to a local jetty, it became apparent that one hundred years ago I would have been drifting with water over my head in the tide. Jetties are relatively modern structures, but many of us visit these rock piles not realizing their impact. Irrespective of the pros and cons of coastal engineering, jetties provide unique opportunities for birders. Though we may love them or hate them, certain birds unequivocally love them. Blue mussels and sea ducks meet on these rock piles and produce world class opportunities for birders and photographers.

Black and Surf Scoters feeding in rough seas over submerged
rock structure at Avalon.

Long-tailed Ducks cruising along Barnegat Inlet Jetty
Just how old are our local jetties? A review of historic aerial maps and Corps of Engineer records note that the first jetties appeared around 1911 with the inception of the Cold Springs Inlet (Cape May Harbor) jetties. Structures were added to the Cape May area, Barnegat, Shark River and Manasquan between 1920 and 1940. The structures in Hereford Inlet and Townsend’s Inlet are more modern, dating to the mid and late 1960’s. These structures created a new habitat dynamic and jetties became home to numbers of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, invertebrates and vegetative growth, all food sources for birds. Also, part of the dynamic is an accessible platform for people beyond the surf line, with deep water and currents favorable for sea duck viewing. One unintended benefit of jetties is that they provide a steady food source for sea ducks – Blue Mussels.

Newer structure at Townsend's Inlet

Older structure at Stone Harbor beachfront
The Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis) lives in temperate and polar waters, colonizing both coasts of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, as well as similar areas in the Southern Hemisphere. It favors oceanic and estuarine conditions and colonizes hard substrates. Our Atlantic Coast inlets have excellent flow of nutrients, salinity, and water temperature to support Blue Mussel colonization. Even without jetties, the Blue Mussel can be found attached to eel grass and other softer substrates. But they thrive on rocks and it is on the rock jetties that it plays out to our greatest advantage, where we can walk out past the surf line.

Blue Mussels colonized on local jetty.

Surf Scoter with catch of Blue Mussels.
The Blue Mussel is the most consumed mollusk in the world and consumption extends beyond the plates served in favorite restaurants. Through more than a half century of research and analysis of stomach content, the Blue Mussel has been, and still is, a predominant and important food source for sea ducks. 

Greater Scaup with meal of Blue Mussels.

Surf Scoter with mouthful of Blue Mussels.

For scoters in oceanic environments, the Blue Mussel dominates diet selection, comprising up to 50% of their collective diet. Common Eiders rely on Blue Mussels and no other duck depends to such an extent upon a single food source. Long-tailed Ducks, scaup, and Harlequin Ducks have a much more diverse diet, yet the mussel is still an important winter food source. More simply stated, if sea ducks dined in seafood restaurants, we may not get a seat. The colonization of the Blue Mussel on jetties helps bring these mostly distant feeders to the edge of the shore and often within very close distances.

Common Eiders feeding over submerged jetty
structure at Barnegat

Long-tailed Duck feeding on a Blue Mussel.
The Harlequin Duck’s presence in Barnegat Inlet every year could be attributed to the Blue Mussel colonies on the jetty. Charles Urner conducted weekly counts of ducks on and around Barnegat for twelve years between June of 1923 and June of 1935. These counts are reported by Witmer Stone in Bird Studies at Old Cape May.  During those 12 years, he notes numbers of Brant, American Black Ducks, and diving ducks, but only four sightings of Harlequin Duck. The Barnegat Jetty was constructed between 1934 and 1940. Is it possible that today’s regular appearance of the Harlequin Duck in Barnegat Inlet is due to the Blue Mussel’s presence on the jetty?

Harlequin prying mussels with bill.

Eye to eye with a preening Harlequin Duck.
Jetties, Blue Mussels, and sea ducks have become a winter tradition, but it is worth noting a shorebird species that is part of this tradition. The Purple Sandpiper was rarely recorded in New Jersey until the construction of the Cold Springs Inlet (Cape May Harbor) jetty. Again, referring to Bird Studies at Old Cape May, Stone notes: “Until the winter of 1924-25, there was, so far as I am aware, only two definite records of the Purple Sandpiper on the New Jersey coast…….With the construction of the stone jetty at the mouth of the Cape May Harbor, a few of these birds are to be found, probably every winter, feeding among the rocks…”. This prompts the same question: is it possible today’s regular appearance of the Purple Sandpiper is due to the presence of the jetties and sea walls?

Purple Sandpiper foraging in Blue Mussels
Through winters, summers and migration, our jetties are used by many species, but for the avian enthusiast, winters on our jetties are special and the sea ducks steal the show. This was all summed up for me by a UK visitor met at the Barnegat Inlet Jetty, who repeated several times: “You are so fortunate to have such opportunities here….and the ducks are so close….we never have such opportunities at home and came here to see them….it is amazing!”. For those that brave the cold and visit our local jetties, do not take them for granted, as they represent an opportunity that does not exist for all and was not available to those in the past. And never take for granted what is unde foot….a slip and fall on granite can be very unforgiving!

Black Scoter landing in feeding flock.

Greater Scaup with Blue Mussel in corner of bill.

Note: all photos were taken from jetties and sea walls located from Cape May Inlet to Barnegat Inlet.

Surf Scoter with catch of Blue Mussels.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


We have a couple fantastic Special Field Trips coming up in the second half of March, from the cuteness of a displaying  "timberdoodles" (Woodcock Dance) to the majestic flight of passing Northern Gannets (Poor Man's Pelagic) from the vantage of the ferry. Let our experienced naturalists show you the way! Save your spot today - you can register at CMBO Preregistration Programs or visit  for more information.

Or join us in exploring the fields of Hidden Valley for early migrants. This free walk is sponsored by the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Online Registration is Here!!!!!

CMBO is making it even easier to save your spot on our popular preregistration programs. You can now sign up and manage your registrations for Cape May School of Birding Workshops and Special Field Trips through the corresponding pages on our website. Just click on the Registration link in the middle of the page and away you go! As always, New Jersey Audubon and Cape May Bird Observatory members receive a 25% savings on all preregistration programs. See you in the field!!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Coming Up: GULLS SIMPLIFIED with Michael O'Brien - March 4

From the brown and mottled to the clean and gray, you either love gulls or you don't. Whatever camp you're in, join Michael O'Brien on this fun Cape May School of Birding Workshop. You'll spend the morning in the field learning the easy way to separate the four common winter gulls and sifting flocks of gulls for something rare - perhaps an Iceland Gull or other species. We'll also cut through the fancy terminology around age and molt. After lunch, we'll head indoors for a review of gull plumages, aging, and rarer species.

Sign up today!

We now have online registration available through our website for all our preregistration programs, including the School of Birding workshops - CMBO Program Registration. You may also reserve your spot by calling the Program Registrar at (609) 400-3864 or by email at New Jersey Audubon and Cape May Bird Observatory members receive a 25% savings on all preregistration programs.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Great Backyard Bird Count Event

Northwood Center
Saturday, February 18, 2017 - 10:00 - 4:00 PM
Join us for a special, free, family-friendly event this weekend at the Northwood Center in Cape May Point, in celebration of the Great Backyard Bird Count. With your help, we will conduct hourly counts of the many different types of birds at our feeders and surrounding habitat, with walks along the Ryan De Witt Memorial Path led by our Associate Naturalists. Learn how to identify and attract birds t...o your home. Hourly counts/walks will be held at 10:00, 11:00, 1:00, 2:00, & 3:00, with the data being posted on a tally board in the center and entered into the national database. Join in the fun and help us enjoy the beauty of backyard birds!!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Coming Up: Register today for Longtails in Love!

Join Chuck and Mary Jane Slugg and other CMBO Naturalists tomorrow for their annual "Longtails in Love" outing for up close looks at Longtail Ducks, scoters, mergansers, and other waterfowl along the barrier islands of Cape May County.

Call 609-400-3864 by 4 pm today register for tomorrow's event!
Click picture to enlarge
And, if you're up early on Sunday, join us at the Northwood Center on Lake Lily in Cape May Point. No need to register for this walk.

Finish off the long weekend by coming on our Bird Walk for Beginners on Monday at 10 am at Cape May Point State Park (meet near the Hawkwatch Platform). No need to register for this walk.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Coming Up: Brigantine & Mott's Creek, Sunday, January 29th

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Register now for this Sunday's trip to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR (aka Brigantine). After birding the refuge, the group will head to nearby Mott's Creek for raptor watching. Join Janet Crawford and other CMBO Naturalists by contacting our Program Registrar at (609) 400-3864 or by email to

Friday, January 20, 2017

Wintering Hawks, Eagles & Owls with Pete Dunne

Gray Ghost Hunting

January 14 & 15, 2017
Pete Dunne and Brett Ewald
Our first School of Birding workshop of the year was very rewarding, as a nice mix of raptors and other birds were studied and appreciated. A fun group of 15 participants made the workshop even more enjoyable, totaling 57 species (summary below).
The morning of the first day was spent surveying several bayshore locations, searching the extensive marshes for winter visitors and those that are already starting courtship for the upcoming breeding season. Stops included Thompson’s Beach, East Point Lighthouse, and Jake’s Landing. We were treated to the various ages and plumages of Northern Harrier, including an actively hunting adult male – Gray Ghost – a beautiful example of a species adapted for that habitat. Bald Eagles were very prominent, with numbers of adults and a few immatures seen. One presumably local pair was constantly escorted out of one area by a diligent pair of resident Red-tailed Hawks. At least five Short-eared Owls were patrolling the distant marshes, resulting in several inter-species interactions, as well as passes made at Northern Harriers and Bald Eagles. A lounging Peregrine Falcon on one of the platforms took it all in stride. Vultures, mostly Turkey, were always rocking back and forth over the surrounding landscape. The flashing past of a Sharp-shinned Hawk helped to conclude the morning’s sightings.

Mott's Creek
Some showers in the afternoon gave us a chance to get acquainted and go over the morning’s checklist at the Observatory’s Center for Research and Education. A presentation on the wintering raptors of New Jersey allowed for a comprehensive review of identification features and discussion on behavior, seasonality, and habitat.

The second day found us exploring coastal areas, this time on the Atlantic Ocean side. Our first stop was the famous Brigantine section of the Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where dikes though the tidal marshes allow for an immersion within the habitat. Renowned as a waterfowl stopover location, we were surrounded by many geese, ducks, and swans, with an occasional Great Blue Heron thrown in. The vocal flocks of Snow Geese were especially notable. Of course, where there is a prey base, there will be raptors. Bald Eagles were constantly perusing the area, often putting up flocks of birds as they passed. Northern Harriers also seemed to be coursing everywhere on the refuge. At least two Peregrine Falcons were present – one adult loafing on a post. A Northern Harrier made quite a show of expressing its displeasure at having the Peregrine around.

Bald Eagle on Nest

The environs of Mott’s Creek proved a relaxing environment to observe raptors in the afternoon, with Northern Harriers once again providing almost constant motion. The highlight here was our only Rough-legged Hawk of the workshop – a northern breeder that is only present in very small numbers in New Jersey. A Common loon drifting by and a Belted Kingfisher also caught our attention while scanning for raptors. All in all, a perfect setting and ending to another fantastic workshop.

For more information about upcoming School of Birding Workshops, Special Field Trips, or Weekly Walks, click here – CMBO Programs

Snow Goose – 750+
Brant – 100+
Canada Goose – 100+
Mute Swan – 4
Tundra Swan – 2
Gadwall – 25+
Gray Ghost
American Black Duck – 100+

Mallard – 50+
Northern Pintail – 50+
Greater Scaup – 10+
Long-tailed Duck – 3
Bufflehead – 25+
Common Goldeneye – 6
Hooded Merganser – 10+
Red-breasted Merganser – 10+
Ruddy Duck – 6
Common Loon – 1
Pied-billed Grebe – 1
Great Blue Heron – 10+

Black Vulture – 6
Turkey Vulture – 50+
Northern Harrier – 25
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Bald Eagle – 15
Red-tailed Hawk – 7
Owl Watching at Jake's Landing
Rough-legged Hawk – 1
Black-bellied Plover -3
Dunlin – 10+
Ring-billed Gull – 10+
Herring Gull – 100+
Great Black-backed Gull – 3
Rock Pigeon – 10+
Mourning Dove – 10+
Short-eared Owl – 5
Belted Kingfisher – 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 1
Northern Flicker – 2
Peregrine Falcon – 3
Blue Jay – 3
American Crow – 10+
Carolina Chickadee – 3
Tufted Titmouse – 1
Eastern Bluebird – 2
American Robin – 250+
Northern Mockingbird – 1
European Starling – 50+
Fox Sparrow – 1
White-throated Sparrow – 3
Savannah Sparrow – 2
Song Sparrow – 2
Eastern Towhee – 1
Northern Cardinal – 3
Red-winged Blackbird – 10+
Eastern Meadowlark – 1
Common Grackle – 25+
Boat-tailed Grackle – 25+
American Goldfinch - 3

Thursday, January 5, 2017

It's a New Year, and a great time to come birding in Cape May!

Now that the New Year is underway, it's time to sign-up with CMBO for winter birding workshops and field trips!
Coming up next week, Pete Dunne's Wintering Hawks, Eagles, and Owls two-day workshop and a new field trip, Coastal Birding at Two Mile. 
To register, call our Program Registrar at (609) 400-3864 or email her at