Thursday, December 21, 2017


Every bird is new today - try seeing them anew with Program Director Brett Ewald and CMBO's naturalists on this Special Field Trip beginning in Cape May Point and ending who knows where. Recent years have produced over 70 species, including many seasonal highlights and rarities. We'll walk and carpool to multiple locations breaking for an hour or so for lunch and to warm up. A fun and exciting way to start the 2018 Birding Year!! Preregistration required.

Monday, January 1
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM 
$24 members, $32 nonmembers

Register now at: CMBO Programs

Thursday, December 14, 2017


As winter settles in, we'll help you learn where to go to find birds and how to identify them. Discover how to get the most out of field guides and optics. For absolute beginners, backyard birders, and any birder who wants to improve their skills. Join Associate Naturalist Chuck Slugg at the Northwood Center in Cape May Point. Numbers limited, so please all 609.400.3864 to reserve a space. Family-friendly (recommended for age 12 and up).

Saturday, December 16
1:00 - 3:00 PM
Cost: $15 members, $25 nonmembers (includes a $10 certificate towards membership)

Monday, December 4, 2017


Looking for a spring getaway that provides an incredible array of fantastic birds? New Jersey Audubon has just what you're looking for - a tour to avian rich South Texas!

Experience an amazing blend of Mexican specialties, spring migration, coastal treasures, and endangered species at one of the continent’s most popular birding destinations. We’ll be there at the peak time for diversity, when an overwhelming abundance of migrants mix with the many tropical species found nowhere else in the United States. Over 200 species are likely on this trip through diverse habitats like barrier beaches, tall-grass savannah, native palm trees and hill country. And to top it off, one or more incredible Mexican rarities show up almost every year.

We’ll start off along the Gulf Coast, an area that hosts the rare Whooping Crane and the largest raptor migration in the United States, involving hundreds of thousands of birds. A wide selection of waterfowl, shorebirds, and waders will also add to the excitement, with incredible views of Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, and much more. Migrant traps along the coast may also turn up songbirds whose movements are already underway. Our passage inland on the way south to the Valley will provide an opportunity for a variety of different species and for the study of unique raptors like Crested Caracara. We will keep our eyes open for the breathtaking beauty of a Vermillion Flycatcher or a hard-to-find Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, the unbelievable sight of hundreds of American White Pelicans wheeling through the sky, and common migrants like the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Entering the Lower Rio Grande Valley is like stepping into another birding world, with tropical species at many locations. We will be greeted by Plain Chachalacas, Green Jays, Chihuahuan Ravens, and Great Kiskadees while searching for gems like Hook-billed Kite, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Ringed Kingfisher, Least Grebe, Aplomado Falcon, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Tropical Parula, White-collared Seedeater, Olive Sparrow, and so many more!! And the number of Mexican rarities to grace this region is phenomenal, with unbelievable sightings such as Crane Hawk, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and White-throated Robin, and the likes of Blue Mockingbird, Green-breasted Mango, Slate-throated Redstart, and Golden-crowned Warbler recorded in recent years.

We’ll finish our trek in the Texas Hill Country, a unique habitat that hosts the endangered Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler – the only place in the world this species nests. While here, where East meets West, we’ll encounter another suite of species, including Yellow-throated Vireo, Painted Bunting, Canyon Wren, and more, and may have a chance to witness millions of Mexican Free-tailed bats as they exit a cave.  This is a trip that a birder will treasure for a lifetime!

You can find more detailed information and how to register at NJA Eco-Travel, along with our full schedule of upcoming tours. Hope you'll join us!

Great Kiskadee

Friday, December 1, 2017


With December on our doorstep, its time to think about all those beautiful winter birds that will be around in the coming months. To help you enjoy them, we have an exciting schedule of walks and workshops planned - check it out at our online calendar or through the digital version of the Winter Kestrel Express. From our relaxed weekly walks (Cape May to Cumberland County) and Special Field Trips (Coastal Birding at Two Mile, Kick of Your Year List, Winter Wanderings, Brigantine and Mott's Creek, Long-tails in Love) to our more in-depth Cape May School of Birding Workshops (Wintering Hawks, Eagles, and Owls, Techniques of Field Observation, Gulls Simplified), you're sure to find the perfect outing. You will need to preregister for the Special Field Trips and Workshops at CMBO Programs, while our weekly walks are drive-up ready. And don't forget, our Seawatch at Avalon (sponsored by Swarovski Optik and the Borough of Avalon) continues until Dec. 22nd, with lots more seabirds to be counted. Hope you'll join us in making the most of what winter has to offer!!

Thanks to Michael Kilpatrick for the photo of the Long-tailed Duck!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Join CMBO Naturalists on this Special Field Trip at the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge's Two Mile Beach Unit for some exciting late fall birding. We'll see shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl as we walk the beach to the Cold Spring Jetty, where we'll look for Great Cormorant and Purple Sandpiper. We'll go to the duck blind overlooking the salt ponds, and if there's time, we'll visit a nearby back bay location for other wintering waterfowl.
Saturday, December 9
1:00 - 4:00 PM
Cost: $15 members, $20 nonmembers

Register now at: CMBO Programs

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Brigantine & Mott's Creek - November 25

Ducks and other waterfowl are massing, Northern Harriers, and perhaps Short-eared Owls, will be hunting. Eagles and Rough-legged Hawks are also possible. Join Janet Crawford, Karen Johnson, and other CMBO naturalists on this Special Field Trip at Brigantine, a.k.a. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. After birding the refuge the group will head to nearby Mott's Creek for raptor watching. A refuge pass ($4; can be purchased that day), Golden Age Pass, or federal duck stamp will be required for each vehicle to enter the NWR.

Saturday, November 25
12:00 - 5:00 PM
$24 members, $32 non-members.

Register now at: CMBO Programs

Friday, November 3, 2017


Join us as we explore the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge's Two Mile Beach Unit.  Formerly a part of the Coast Guard base, just south of Wildwood Crest, the Two Mile Beach Unit contains barrier island (with beachfront) habitat, tidal ponds, and some of the last remnants of maritime forest habitats in southern New Jersey. As we walk the beach to the Cold Spring jetty, we'll see shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl, as well as offshore migrants such as Northern Gannett and scoters. We'll also visit the duck blind to view the salt ponds for wintering ducks and raptors. If time allows, we'll visit a nearby back bay location for additional wintering waterfowl.

Friday, November 10
1:00 - 4:00 PM
$15 members, $20 nonmembers

Register now at: CMBO Programs

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Come with us on a wonderful exploration of the very best birding sites in Cumberland County. The final route will depend on the latest bird news, but our search for an array of ducks, raptors, and much more could include any of the following hotspots: East Point for migrant raptors and other birds; the "Bluffs" on the Maurice river; the Natural Lands Trust's Peek Preserve and other little-known spots in Cumberland County.

Sunday, November 5
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
$24 members, $32 nonmembers

Register now at: CMBO Programs

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CAPE MAY WITH EVERYTHING ON IT with Louise Zemaitis and Michael O'Brien - October 23-25, 2017

There are just a few spots remaining on this all-encompassing School of Birding Workshop. Late October is the time the local birders wait for; crowds have diminished and the most massive fallouts of the season commonly occur NOW!  Sparrows, kinglets, bluebirds, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, and literally who knows what else, since this week starts the season for vagrants in Cape May.  It's also a great time for big raptors like buteos and Golden Eagle, while large seabird flights pass Avalon and Cape May Point nearly every day. Join local experts Louise Zemaitis and Michael O'Brien in experiencing all that Cape May has to offer.

Monday, October 23 to Wednesday, October 25
$225 members/$300 nonmembers

Reserve your spot now: CMBO School of Birding

Friday, October 6, 2017

HAWKS IN FLIGHT with Pete Dunne - October 18 & 19

At fifteen raptor species, this is the time of peak raptor diversity in Cape May, with a chance at bonus birds like Golden Eagles and Swainson's Hawk!  It is a rare moment during late October in Cape May when something raptorial is not in view. Learn how to tell buteos from accipiters from falcons from eagles at the very edge of eyesight.  Pete Dunne co-wrote the book that is the title of this workshop, and the only thing he enjoys more than watching hawks is imparting the knowledge he has accumulated during his 15,000 hawk watching hours. Join us for this exciting School of Birding Workshop!

Wednesday, October 18 & Thursday, October 19
$150 members/$200 nonmembers

Reserve your spot - CMBO School of Birding

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

SPARROW SAMPLER with Michael O'Brien - October 14 & 15

A workshop celebrating the ‘LBJs’ (little brown jobs). Subtle and cryptic they might be; difficult to identify they are not, providing you have the right instructor, the right place and the right time. A time when lots of sparrows and lots of species abound. Common species like Swamp, Field, Savannah and Chipping. Uncommon ones like Clay-colored, Vesper, Lincoln’s, Nelson’s and Saltmarsh. Learn the basics of size, shape and behavior first, then practice examining plumage patterns to discover how stunning sparrows can be. Join us on this exciting School of Birding Workshop!

Saturday, October 14 & Sunday, October 15.
$150 members, $200 nonmembers.

Reserve you spot now! - CMBO School of Birding

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

MONARCH MIGRATION with Mark Garland - October 3

The fascinating beauty and biology of Monarchs will be on display for this School of Birding Workshop. Spend a day in the field with the Director of the CMBO Monarch Monitoring Project,  visiting gardens and other natural areas around Cape May Point to watch monarch behavior and see the principles of butterfly gardening in action.  Learn how to safely handle and tag monarchs, and also learn methods for conducting field research into these migratory insects.  Visit the CMBO Northwood Center to see the terraria where monarch caterpillars and chrysalides are on display, and learn about the proper husbandry of such displays.  We will take time to identify many other butterflies that can be found at this season in Cape May Point, and we’ll identify a few of the migrant birds that are sure to be around, but the primary focus will be on monarch biology all day.  There will be a short indoor illustrated talk on monarch biology, but most of the day will be in the field in Cape May Point.

Tuesday, October 3
9:30 - 5:30
Cost: $90 members/$120 nonmembers

Reserve your spot today - CMBO School of Birding

Saturday, September 16, 2017

THINGS THAT GO SEEP IN THE NIGHT with Michael O'Brien, Sept. 30 - Oct. 1

Experience the cutting edge of birding! Birds don't sing much in the fall - but they sure do call. Chip notes, flight notes, and critical listening are the primary subjects of this workshop, led by the man who wrote the book (well, maybe the CD-ROM) on flight calls. Two hours with Michael equals years of struggle on your own! Includes optional night-time listening for nocturnal migrants. Learn to dissect a single note, determining whether it rises or falls, is clear or burry. You will never listen the same way again. This workshop is spread over two half-days to allow us to be in the field at the best time of day; it includes an evening session to study nocturnal migrants, followed by an early morning listening session the next day - the perfect way to learn the subject! Hope you'll join us for this exciting School of Birding Workshop.

September 30: 2 - 4 pm, 10 pm - 12 am.
October 1: 5 - 6:30 am.

Cost: $90 members, $120 nonmembers

Reserve you spot today - CMBO School of Birding

Saturday, September 9, 2017

FALL MIGRATION AT CAPE MAY with Louise Zemaitis, Sept. 14-16

September straddles the migratory timetable; you're not too late for shorebirds, not too early for hawks, and right on time for warblers and other neotropical migrants. Indeed, it is the great variety of songbirds heading south during early September that will be the main target of this three-day birding workshop and we shall have ample opportunity to learn these birds both by sight and sound. Join accomplished local guide and artist Louise Zemaitis for a wonderful birding experience on this School of Birding Workshop! September 14-16, 7:00 am - 4 pm. $225 members, $300 nonmembers.

Register now or get more details at: CMBO School of Birding

Saturday, September 2, 2017

2017 Seasonal Counters and Naturalists

Each fall, as birds and butterflies pour through Cape May on their way to winter haunts, CMBO keeps its fingers on the pulse of migration. To accomplish this, we have gathered a stellar group of counters and naturalists for our four count sites and Monarch monitoring. Along with the George Myers Naturalist (9 month position that starts is April), they are the face of the organization in reaching out to the multitude of visitors and performing the research to back up our conservation efforts. With the Morning Flight, Cape May Hawkwatch, Monarch tagging and census, and Montclair Hawkwatch underway, they are already hard at work (Avalon Seawatch starts September 22). Please welcome them to Cape May!!!!!
Stephanie Augustine – Monarch Field Naturalist

Stephanie Augustine has been surrounded by nature ever since she was two years old watching the cicadas emerge and fanning their wings to dry them. Every summer, she raised and released monarch butterflies, sketching life cycle stages and charting the caterpillars' progress through their instars. A childhood spent watching David Attenborough documentaries fostered a passion for wildlife, conservation, and education, and after finishing her B.S., became a Conservation Educator at a zoo, where she worked with animals of all shapes and sizes and taught educational programs. Her thirst for adventures led to a field technician position in Costa Rica banding birds (including the Turquoise-browed Motmot in her photo). And now, joining the team in Cape May as a Monarch Naturalist is a new adventure, combining her childhood love of butterflies with her desire to contribute to conservation research and continuing to work outdoors. She looks forward to the upcoming days spent chasing monarchs and learning more about these beautiful and incredibly tough creatures. 

Erik Bruhnke – Cape May Hawk Counter

Erik Bruhnke has had a love for birds since he was a child. He graduated from Northland College in Wisconsin with a Natural Resources degree in 2008. Erik taught field ornithology various times at Northland College. Following his first six fall seasons following college, Erik worked as an interpreter at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, Minnesota and was a board member of the Duluth Audubon Society. He has counted migrating raptors at the Corpus Christi HawkWatch in Texas. Erik’s wildlife photography has won national awards, and his writings have been featured in Birder’s Guide via the American Birding Association, BirdWatching, and Birdwatcher’s Digest. Erik leads tours for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours as well as his own business, Naturally Avian Birding Tours. He loves to cook and bake in his free time, often while sipping bird-friendly coffee.  Erik is thrilled to return to Cape May for his second consecutive year of counting the raptor migration!

Glen Davis – Morning Flight Counter

Glen hails from Brooklyn, NY, but has called Cape May home for more than 17 years. Simply put, he loves living and birding here! Working for CMBO in the fall of 1999 (and subsequently in 2007, and 2014-present) made the biggest of impacts on him. Glen has/has had lots of jobs: professional tour leader, biological consultant, start-up-tech-company tech, grad student, bartender, musician, school teacher, garbage man, veterinary technician to name a few. He has traveled, explored, and birded in 47 states and over 20 countries. Glen has worked seasonally for CMBO as a researcher, naturalist, and salesperson and is very excited to be returning for a third consecutive year as the 2016 fall season's official songbird counter with the Morning Flight Project. He resides and engages in BBQ in Cape May Point with his wife, Christina "Kashi" Davis. 

Andrew Dreelin – Interpretive Naturalist

Andrew Dreelin fell in love with birds, birding, and ornithology during his sophomore year in high school, and shortly thereafter fell down the rabbit hole (or should it be petrel burrow?) of birding passion, leaving his humid hometown of Columbus, Georgia to pursue an education in ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University in frigid upstate New York. He is now freshly finished with his undergraduate education, and eager to get back into the real world and help connect people to biodiversity with a positive spirit.

Andrew is equally happy to put you on a bird, point out key field marks, or talk your ear off about any aspect of ornithology or ecology and evolution. At the end of the day, he has a passion for all of the biodiversity that we share this planet with, and looks forward to sharing and experiencing all of the magic that Cape May has to offer, together with everyone who comes to visit!

Christopher Payne – Montclair Hawk Counter

Chris Payne was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and began birding with his parents as soon as he was old enough to hold his own binoculars. He graduated with a biology degree from West Virginia University in 2015. Since then, he has worked with horseshoe crabs in Maryland, Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers in New Jersey, and was a member of the Florida Keys Hawkwatch last fall. He’s now looking forward to manning the Montclair Hawkwatch this season!

Erin Rawls – George Myers Naturalist

Erin was born and raised in sunny Florida just ten minutes away from the beach, and has actually seen an alligator crawl out of a storm drain.  While attending college at the University of Florida (go Gators!), Erin began working with local nesting Northern Mockingbirds, and she hasn’t looked back since. Since graduating college Erin has worked in Florida, New Jersey, Costa Rica, Texas, and Georgia, working with birds and as an environmental educator. Erin is excited to come back for another fall in Cape May after working as an Interpretive Naturalist in 2015.

Melissa Roach – Migration Count Coordinator

Melissa has been an avid birder and field biologist since 2008 and has been fortunate to travel and work throughout the country, including four falls right here in Cape May (first as a naturalist then two seasons as the Hawk Counter). A Virginia native, she’s contributed to various projects involving threatened and endangered songbirds, Saw-whet Owl migration, and most recently, the effects of environmental lead (Pb) in breeding birds. After completing her Master’s degree from the University of Missouri this past December, Melissa is very excited to return to beautiful Cape May this fall as the Migration Count Coordinator. 

Carolyn Rubinfeld – Interpretive Naturalist

Carolyn Rubinfeld received her Bachelor's of Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2013 and Master's of Biology from Montclair State in 2016. At FDU, she studied the effects of human trail traffic on tree leaf damage, insect abundance, and bird abundance. During the course of this study, she learned to bird by ear and eye at the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary. In the last two years, Carolyn has traveled all over the tri-state and beyond to admire birds while completing her degree and a term of service as an AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassador. Her favorite places to bird include the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, DeKorte Park, Duke Farms, Garret Mountain, and "Brig" or Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Beyond birding, she also enjoys watching "herps" (reptiles and amphibians), hiking, singing, and volunteering as a pet therapy club 4-H leader. 

David Weber – Avalon Seawatch Counter

David is a Cornell graduate and South Jersey birder from Newfield, NJ.  He has worked a variety of other jobs, from behavioral observations of Acorn Woodpeckers and Red-backed Fairywrens, to breeding bird transects in NH, and as a naturalist and tour guide at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  He is most interested in bird migration, abundance, and status and distribution over time and space.  David was the Montclair hawkwatcher last fall and is excited to return to CMBO as the Avalon seawatcher and experience the spectacular migration along the Cape May coast.

Benjamin West – Interpretive Naturalist

Benjamin West is an Iowa native, and graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 2016, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology. Since graduating, he has served as an avian field technician in Newfoundland, Arizona, and Wyoming. He’s been birding for about 16 years, and his favorite bird is the Pileated Woodpecker. In addition to birding, Ben enjoys foraging, cooking, photography, and improving his plant identification skills.

Rebecca Zerlin – Monarch Field Naturalist

Rebecca Zerlin graduated from Unity College (in Maine) with a double major in Wildlife and Ecology. Since graduating, She has held a few seasonal jobs in the conservation field.  Her favorites so far have been working on prescribed burns and monarch tagging, so she is very excited to be joining the monarch team at Cape May! 

Growing up, Rebecca remembers learning about metamorphosis, with the Monarch being used as the model. Since then, she has always been so excited to see one flying around. It takes her right back to being a kid again, a feeling she thinks is shared by a lot of people. She loves how passionate people are about Monarchs and can't think of anything better than seeing that excitement from people as they learn about them. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

TECHNIQUES OF BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY with Scott Whittle - September 8 & 9

Join Warbler Guide author and professional photographer Scott Whittle and take your bird and wildlife photography to the next level. This intermediate workshop will analyze each participants needs, and then focus on developing the skills that will make them better photographers. Composition, being in the right place and right time, stalking, using the right equipment for the job, creative choices and other critical techniques will be discussed and practiced. This School of Birding Workshop is the perfect complement to your outdoor pursuits.

Friday and Saturday, September 8 & 9
8:00-4:30 pm
$150 members/$200 nonmembers

Save your spot now at: CMBO School of Birding

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Emil Lundahl - Falsterbo Bird Observatory

We are pleased to welcome and introduce Emil Lundahl to CMBO and the birding community. He is currently taking part in the naturalist orientation provided to our incoming seasonal staff, and will be experiencing all that Cape May has to offer. When you see him in the field, please make him feel at home. In his own words:

My name is Emil Lundahl and I'm visiting Cape May through the newly established youth exchange program of Cape May, Falsterbo and Spurn bird observatories (part of the Friendship Agreement). I will represent the Falsterbo Bird Observatory for three weeks, taking part in all the activities that are taking place here. I'm 20 years old and am at the moment taking two years off from studies doing all kinds of trips, and work mostly connected to birds. Looking forward to this time in Cape May and all there is to learn from each other!  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A presentation and two events you won't want to miss!

Dear friends, members, and supporters, 

In 2014 I travelled to Falsterbo, Sweden, to participate in the first International Bird Observatory Conference (IBOC) hosted by the Falsterbo Bird Observatory and Lund University. It was a fantastic event with over 129 representatives from 40 bird observatories, and it helped solidify my thoughts on bird observatories as a global sensor network to keep our fingers on the pulse of migration, disseminate the most important findings, and ultimately work to conserve our global natural heritage. 

Since then, Cape May Bird Observatory has joined Falsterbo Bird Observatory and Spurn Bird Observatory in an official Friendship Agreement, whereby we exchange information on a monthly basis, co-publish summaries of our seasons, and just this fall have initiated a young professional exchange. On Saturday October 21 Falsterbo’s Björn Malmhagen and Spurn’s Nick Whitehouse will be the keynote speakers at our Cape May Fall Festival: So.Many.Birds. (October 19 - 22). Their presentation, titled “A Tale of Three Peninsulas”, will provide a window into the spectacular birding, research and outreach happening at their respective migration hotspots, as well as an update on our collaborative efforts thus far. I can tell you from working with these two gentlemen over the last three years that you will not want to miss this entertaining and informative presentation! 
L to R: David La Puma, Björn Malmhagen, Andy Clements, Nick Whitehouse (back), Deb Lee, & Michael Lanzone (front)

Registration for the festival and their presentation (available a-al-carte, or at a discount with Saturday daily registration) can be found here:

Also of note, is that New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory will be hosting the 2nd International Bird Observatory Conference October 26 - 30, in Cape May. If you are affiliated with a bird observatory, or interested in learning more about bird observatory operations, registration is open here: 

Looking forward to seeing you here this fall!

Good Birding,

David A. La Puma
Director, New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MORNING FLIGHT starts tomorrow!

It's hard to believe that another fall is fast approaching - a sure sign is the silhouette of birders on the dike or platform at Higbee WMA, counting the passage of migrant songbirds. Tomorrow is the first day of the count, and we're happy to welcome back Glen Davis as the official counter and introduce Melissa Roach as the Migration Count Coordinator. Glen will be manning the count at sunrise, kicking off the 15th year of this exciting project. Warblers, kingbirds, and orioles have already been moving, and we're excited to see what shows up. Come out and join him in the fun, or check out how he's doing online, as Trektellen will once again be the platform we use to tabulate and live stream the count totals - go to our website ( and click on Live Data. Migration is underway: So.Many.Birds!!!

Saturday, August 12, 2017


When the chorus of spring and summer songs start to diminish, the late-summer mix of sounds from the migratory and local birds of Cape May continues on. The calls of many neotropical and long-distance migrants fill the skies, fields, marshes, beaches, and woods of the Cape May area. Many of the early fall migrants are at their peak in late August and their vocality provides a great opportunity to hone your ears and thoughts toward the particularly exciting soundscape at this time of year. This workshop will help you learn to focus on, describe, and identify these sounds. Warblers, vireos, flycatchers, thrushes, terns, shorebirds and many more groups of birds, in a variety of habitats, will be sought out and given all-ears!

Join Glen Davis on this exciting half-day School of Birding Workshop - sure to take your birding to the next level!!
August 26: 7:00-11:00 AM
Cost: $48 members, $64 nonmembers

Reserve your spot now at: CMBO School of Birding

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

THE WORLD OF BUTTERFLIES with Pat Sutton - August 22

This is your chance to experience these beautiful and varied creatures from a local expert. Learn about butterfly life cycles, their relationships to the plant world, odd behaviors, survival in a world filled with hungry predators, the spectacular migration of some species and the restricted range of others, and tips for easy identification. There will be an indoor illustrated presentation on butterfly biology, resources, and ID, but most of the day will be spent in the field. Pollinator gardening principals will be seen in action as the group visits private wildlife gardens (including Sutton’s) and natural areas near Cape May Court House and Goshen. Cape May County hosts 107 species of butterflies. If it is a good year for Monarchs, they may be plentiful.
Tuesday, August 22 
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Cost: $90 members, $120 nonmembers

Reserve your spot now at: CMBO School of Birding

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Field Notes from National Moth Week: The secret life of the Ailanthus webworm moth

Last night we rigged and ran the insect light for the first time at Cape May Bird Observatory's Northwood Center. What we found throughout the night was nothing short of fascinating, but I'm going to focus on one species that caught my attention almost immediately after turning on the light. First, though, I need to back up a few years, to October of 2004.

My wife and I had just moved to Somerset, New Jersey, to begin my PhD research at Rutgers University (she would decide to begin hers the following year). We had just become caretakers of Rutgers's Hutcheson Memorial Forest, a 560 acre research forest with a 64 acre old growth oak-hickory forest fragment. We were provided with a two bedroom house at reduced rent in exchange for caretaker duties including trail maintenance and providing guided tours of the property. It was a sweet deal, and a highlight of my graduate career for sure. I recall a large Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven (Inga, my wife, would commonly refer to it as the Tree of Hell), on the main path through the old gowth section, which struck me because of its immense size. "That tree has been there since we began studying forest succession, at least back into the 50s and likely before" I remember being told by one of the retired professors who frequented the site. This noxious species, superficially similar to Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) but easily separated by the presence of leaf glands at the bases of its leaflets, was present throughout the site wherever disturbance had left an opening, ranging in age from this old vanguard to young seedlings no more than a year old.

Within the same year I can also recall seeing what I mistook for Eastern Tent Caterpillars on a young Ailanthus. A mass of squirming caterpillars in a web fortress mounted between a skinny trunk and a lateral branch of a sapling only few feet tall. There it was; something that would eat Ailanthus! But why? where did it come from? this was a tropical species from on earth could this be a host plant for a caterpillar in North America? I admit, I never pursued the question; just pondered it one day, and let it slip into the mental file drawer full of interesting questions that may or may not ever get answered. Until today.

Last night, at roughly 10:30pm, I checked the bug sheet at Northwood to find an assortment of little micro-moths, some beetles, a spider with a freshly caught dragonfly, some interesting wasps, a few larger moths, and this peculiar thing...

Atteva aurea (Ailanthus webworm moth)

...which turns out to be Atteva aurea, commonly referred to as the Ailanthus webworm moth. This is what those caterpillars I had seen over a decade ago metamorphose into; wow! It was gorgeous!! So with the name attached to the beast my mind raced back through my file of interesting-but-yet-to-be-pursued-questions, leading me to do some research on this little bugger. A 2009 paper titled A review of the New World Atteva Walker moths (Yponomeutidae, Attevinae) shed some light on the situation which I will share here (but you can read the entire article here if you'd like). Before I do, I just want to take a moment to note how exciting a time it is to be a naturalist. So many resources are now at our fingertips, and with a little training we can access more information than every before, almost instantaneously. Identifying this bug was done using the iNaturalist app for the iPhone (there are also Desktop and Android versions), literally snapping a photo, uploading it, and checking it against computer-generated suggestions. The app immediately identified the species correctly! Finding the primary literature was done by simply searching the scientific name in Of course, if you are interested in learning more about this and all bugs, come out to the Northwood Center on Saturday night from 8:30pm - 10:00pm when we'll be running the insect light for the public to commemorate National Moth Week. More info can be found on our Facebook page:

Now, here's the answer from the 2009 paper, to my burning question from October 2004:

The presence of aurea in the eastern United States and Canada and its association with Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) (Simaroubaceae) is an interesting subject to be investigated. This plant is an ornamental introduced from Asia and now considered one of the most serious weeds in the United States. It was first planted near the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 1784 (W. Thomas, pers. comm.) and from there it spread over the entire country. Once it reached southern Texas, where presumably aurea was already present, the moth started to move north. By 1856 it had reached Georgia, as indicated by the material described by Fitch (1856: 486). Riley (1869: 151) found it common in Missouri, feeding on ailanthus. These records indicate that this showy and common moth was absent in the region before the introduction of ailanthus, and the approximately 70-year gap between the introduction of the host, to the first record of the moth by Fitch, is the time it took the plant to move south and the moth to move north. 
Apart from the hosp-plant records mentioned above, the larvae have been reared on the following Simaroubaceae: Castela peninsularis, C. polyandra and C. emory in the United States (Powell et al. 1973: 177), Simarouba amara in Costa Rica (Janzen, pers. com.) and S. glauca in México (by the present author).

So there is is! The larvae can use other species in the same family as Ailanthus, and the spread of the moth is directly related to the spread of Ailanthus across the US and Canada...very cool!

You can view more of the little critters from our foray last night on our iNaturalist project page here:

Good Birding (and bugging!),

David La Puma
Director, NJ Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory

Friday, July 21, 2017

Come Celebrate NATIONAL MOTH WEEK With Us! July 29: 8:30-10:00 PM

We will be hosting a special event at the Northwood Center in Cape May Point on July 29th, in celebration of National Moth Week - July 22-30, 2017. This is your chance to experience and learn about some of these beautiful and underappreciated creatures. We will have a sheet and buglight set up behind the center to see what we can find. The program will take place 8:30 - 10:00 PM, as sunset will be around 8:15. The Northwood Center is located at 701 East Lake Rd., Cape May Point. Hope you'll join us!!!

Friday, June 30, 2017

HERE BE DRAGONS with Glen Davis - July 8

Dragonflies and Damselflies are a common part of our local wildlife, yet they can be confusing at first glance. With a mixture of indoor theory and outdoor practice, come and learn how to identify many of the 100 or so species that occur in Cape May County. We'll visit a variety of habitats around Cape May County that will allow us to see a good cross-section of species, from the tiny sprites to the mighty darners. Join Glen Davis on this in-depth School of Birding Workshop and learn to appreciate the incredible beauty and variety of the dragonflies all around us! Saturday, July 8: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. Cost: $90 members, $120 non-members.

Register now at CMBO School of Birding

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Wednesdays, 2:00-4:00
June 14, 21, 28

Join us for anther fun afternoon and learn the basics of birdwatching from an enthusiastic expert. You’ll discover how to get the most out of your field guide and optics, and learn where to go to find birds and how to identify them using all the hints and clues birds are offering you. It’s a class for absolute beginners, backyard birders who want to expand their horizon, and birders whose skills have grown a bit rusty. Meet at the Northwood Center in Cape May Point. Numbers limited so please call 609.400.3864 in advance to reserve a place, then pay on the day.
Family-friendly (recommended for age 12 and up).
Fees:$15 members, $25 nonmembers (includes a $10 certificate towards membership)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

CAPE MAY'S WILD SIDE Trolley Tour - Wednesdays 8:30-10:30

Wednesday was the inaugural Cape May's Wild Side trolley tour and we had a great time. We passed through the best birding places around Cape May, from Higbee Beach to the South Cape May Meadows, including exiting stops at the Hawkwatch Platform in Cape May Point State Park and the Northwood Center - and even enjoyed a Cedar Waxwing nest from the platform. Join our Associate Naturalist next week (or throughout the summer season) for another chance to learn about the phenomenon of migration and the millions of birds and Monarchs that pass through Cape May, little known facts about lands that have been preserved and natural history of the area, and why Cape May is known as the Raptor Capital of North America! This tour, a partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), will run every Wednesday until October 11 - 8:30-10:30 AM.

$20 adults, $15 children (ages 3-12). Tickets may be purchased at the Washington Street Mall Information Booth at Ocean St. or at the Physick Estate.

For more information, call (609) 884-5404 or visit

Thursday, June 8, 2017


Summertime is when Butterflies and Dragonflies are at their peak, showing flashes of brilliant colors and shapes! Southern New Jersey is fortunate to host a wide variety of each, and is a great area to learn to identify the many species. Meet Brian Johnson for this Special Field Trip at CMBO’s Center for Research and Education on Rt. 47, mile marker 15.8 in Goshen. We will travel from there to locations to be determined, including some lesser-known habitats looking mostly for Butterflies. We will also spending some time enjoying Dragonflies and Damselflies. 9:00 - 12:00 PM. $15 member, $20 non-members.

Register now at CMBO Programs

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer Kestrel Express - June, July, and August programs

The Summer Kestrel Express is online here. Printed copies will be available soon!

Check out our new programs this summer (click the link above for details):

Cape May's Wildside Trolley Tour - Wednesdays starting June 7

reTURN the Favor - Horseshoe Crab rescue walks - June 9 & 16

Butterflies and Dragonflies: The Jewels of Summer - June 13, July 11 & August 15

The World of Butterflies - workshop with Pat Sutton - August 22

Friday, May 26, 2017

BIRDS AND BREWS CRUISE on The Skimmer - Saturday Nights starting May 27

Saturdays: 4:30-7 PM

Join us on a 2 ½ hour Birding Cruise aboard the 40 foot Eco-tour boat The Skimmer - a partnership between Skimmer Tours and the Cape May Bird Observatory. While you enjoy your craft beer of choice (BYO Brew), we will explore the Cape May Coastal Wetlands Wildlife Management Area in the back bays of Cape May and Wildwood, which is one of the most amazing natural areas in New Jersey. You’ll see dozens of nesting ospreys, a number of heron and egret species, a variety of terns, gulls, and a large variety of migrating shorebirds. The elusive Clapper Rail is also a regularly seen species from our boat.

A portion of the trip is dedicated to bird and wildlife research so, if you like, you’ll assist our Naturalist/Research Associate in identification and data collection at an area of interest in the marsh.
As mentioned, this is a BYOB event. We offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks for sale on the boat and will provide light snacks (pretzels and/or nuts). Although we highly recommend you partake in a craft beer from one of a number of local breweries, feel free to enjoy your brew of choice or a glass of wine. No hard liquor please.

New Jersey Audubon and CMBO members receive a $3 discount

Cost: $28 members, $31 non-members

You can register at: Birds & Brews Cruise

For more information, contact Skimmer Tours at 609-884-3100 or

Red-breasted Merganser - © Sam Galick

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

APPALACHIAN BIRDING BY EAR with Glen Davis, May 26 & 27

With forests, hemlock glens, marshes, streams, and bogs, there is no better place than High Point State Park and Stokes State Forest in northern New Jersey to hear a diversity of bird songs in a concentrated area, from Cerulean and Blackburnian Warblers to Ruffed Grouse and Barred Owls. Plan to begin early for dawn chorus and lunch in the field, ending by early afternoon each day. This workshop is entirely in the field and, yes, we will look at birds like Cerulean and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and over 100 others there to be heard or seen. Join Glen Davis on this exciting Cape May School of Birding Workshop.

Register now at Cape May School of Birding

Saturday, May 13, 2017

CMBO Century Run Team Report - World Series of Birding 2017 by Todd Klein


The CMBO Century Run Team - © Clay Taylor

The World Series of Birding is an annual competition and fund-raiser for nature and environmental organizations in which teams try to see or hear as many bird species as possible inside a 24 hour period (midnight to midnight) and inside the state of New Jersey. It’s held on a Saturday in the first half of May, May 6th this year. It was begun in 1984 by Pete Dunne and others, and the first year there were thirteen teams. This year there were 71 teams and hundreds of participants. Since its inception, the event has raised more than ten million dollars for the organizations involved. Our team, the Cape May Bird Observatory Century Run began in 1987, I believe. My first year was 1988, and though I’ve missed a few years, I’ve participated about 25 times. The event is a mixture of exciting (when you find good things), frustrating (when you don’t), a cool nature adventure, an exhausting experience, and usually lots of fun. Every year a core group of fans and supporters help me contribute to the cause of the Cape May Bird Observatory’s mission of conservation, education and preservation, and I’m glad they were there for me again this year. I could always use additional pledges and support - more about that at the end of the article.

Our 2017 team had 15 members. I can’t identify all of them by name, but I will point out this year’s team leader, Brett Ewald, center, in the black jacket. Brett is the new CMBO program director and an expert birder. The two people to the right of him in black and magenta, respectively, are Kathy and Roger Horn, the team planners, along with Patti Domm. Patti works on logistics and with sponsors. Roger and Kathy plan the route, do most of the scouting, and keep everyone on point. To the right of Roger, second from the right, is Karl Lukens, a long-time CMBO Associate Naturalist and co-leader. At far right is Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik, a team sponsor and the one with all the newest high-tech toys and gear. He’s been kind enough to give me some of his photos for this article, which will greatly improve it. That’s me on the far left.

Early Morning at Cox Hall Creek - © Todd Klein
Our day began at 5 AM at the Cape May Meadows near the southern tip of New Jersey. The top WSB teams go from midnight to midnight and cover the entire state, but you can also cover a single county, as we do with Cape May County. Our group has a little more relaxed schedule, and generally birds from 5 AM to about 9 or 9:30 PM. Last year our total of species identified by sight or sound was 134. The day before the area was swamped with heavy rain, so we didn’t know what to expect on Word Series day, Saturday, but we knew there wouldn’t be many new migrating birds coming to the area overnight, so our goal was to find all the ones already here that we could. After hearing a few birds calling at the Meadows, including American Woodcock, we drove to the Cape May County Airport. There, still in darkness, we gathered the calls of Chuck-Will’s-Widow and Horned Lark with a few others. Then we drove to Cox Hall Creek Wildlife Management Area, where we walked and listened to the dawn chorus of songbirds in growing light, identifying birds like Osprey, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Tree Swallow. We left there at 6:15 AM with a tally of 38 species. The rain held off, it was cool and cloudy and somewhat windy, but pretty good birding.

Laughing Gulls at Reeds Beach - © Todd Klein

Seawatching at Norbury's Landing - © Todd Klein
We stopped at Norbury’s Landing and Reed’s Beach, above, where we added many more species like Double-Crested and Great Cormorant, Common Tern and House Sparrow. Every species counts, even the common ones! In the first few hours of our Big Birding Day, it’s easy to pile on the species heard or seen, and fun to see the totals grow quickly. We left Reed’s Beach with 68 species at 7:30 AM, then stopped at CMBO’s Goshen center for bathrooms and a few more birds like Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Next we headed north and west up the Delaware Bayshore (note our bus in the background). We had two drivers, one for each half of our day. This was the best WSB vehicle we’ve had in a long time.

Jake's Landing - © Todd Klein

The next stop was Jake’s Landing, also on the bayshore, where we were delighted to see the sun! It came and went over the next few hours, and as the air was cool, in the low to mid 60s, it was welcome. The wind also continued all day, but did not interfere with our birding until much later.

Seaside Sparrow - © Clay Taylor
At Jake’s we added species like Northern Harrier, Marsh Wren, Seaside Sparrow (above) and Nelson’s Sparrow, one I rarely see. We left Jake’s Landing at 9 AM with 83 species.

Listening for Songbirds in Belleplain - © Todd Klein
Then we went a short distance inland to Belleplain State Forest, not far from where I live, and one of my favorite places. Last year I did extensive scouting here. This year I did some, but not as much as I would have liked, as we were away on vacation for a week not long before. Belleplain is a great place for nesting songbirds that aren’t found in other areas of our county.

Scarlet Tanager - © Clay Taylor
Summer Tanager - © Clay Taylor
At one stop I’d scouted, near a Boy Scout Camp, we found a first year male Scarlet Tanager not yet in full breeding plumage, above. He was a mix of red and yellow instead of all red (except for black wings). A Summer Tanager came in to chase him away. We saw and heard lots more great birds including Eastern Meadowlark, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Warbler and many more. We left Belleplain at 11 AM with 104 species. At that point in the day, with so much of our goal accomplished and many hours remaining, it seems like it will be no problem to set a new team record, but we know from experience that the first 100 species are the easy part. Now it would get much harder.

Higbee Beach WMA - © Todd Klein

We headed back to Cape May and the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area next, where the wind-sheltered, sunny fields got pretty warm. We were in the midday lull, a time when birds get quiet and often nap, not good for our numbers.

Prairie Warbler - © Clay Taylor

We did enjoy a few more cool birds like this Prairie Warbler, but we’d already counted that one in Belleplain. After walking around for over an hour with only a few new species to add to our tally, it was time for our own midday break.

We ate our packed lunches at the picnic pavilion in the Cape May Point State Park, used the bathrooms, and rested up a bit before going out at it again. We don’t stop to buy food or drink usually, so you have to bring it all with you. I pack a large cooler filled with food and drink that gets me through the day. Afterwards we spent a short amount of time looking for new species there, but the leaders kept getting alerts about good things being seen at the Cape May Meadows. That’s a new aspect of birding these days: cell phones, texting, social media and birding informational sites like eBird are changing the way things are done. For the World Series of Birding, there are some things that aren’t allowed, but there’s also a message service between all the leaders to give tips on what’s being seen where. Karl Lukens’ phone was giving out his Black Rail call ringtone all day with those messages. Sometimes they were very helpful, more often we were far away from the sightings and not going there anyway.

Among other teams at the Meadows - © Todd Klein

As new cloud banks rolled in, we walked the trails at the Cape May Meadows, where we’d begun our day hours earlier, and found lots of new things for our list, some of them rare.

Stilt Sandpiper - © Clay Taylor
This Stilt Sandpiper, is a shorebird we don’t see often in Cape May. There were also Common Gallinule, Red-throated Loon, White-rumped Sandpiper and others. We lingered about two hours at this location, and considered it time well spent.

Singing Prothonotary Warbler - © Clay Taylor
One more stop a nearby nature area called The Beanery gave us great looks at Prothonotary Warbler, but nothing else new. At 4 PM we left the Cape May area again with 123 species on our list, headed for the Atlantic Coast.

Scanning Nummy Island - © Todd Klein
Our next stop was Nummy Island, between Stone Harbor and North Wildwood, where we added a few more species. It was beginning to rain a little now, but not enough to dampen our spirits. Birds don’t mind a little rain. A Red-winged Blackbird was singing loudly as we added birds like Whimbrel, Black-bellied Plover and Tricolored Heron to our list.

Dunlin - © Todd Klein
Some of the shorebirds here, like these Dunlin, we’d already seen on the Delaware Bayshore, but had better and closer looks at them on Nummy Island.

Stone Harbor - © Todd Klein
At nearby Stone Harbor Point, we walked down the trail to find a rare Piping Plover, the same spot as last year. A faint rainbow appeared in the clouds over the ocean.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - © Todd Klein
A drive north along the coast to Avalon allowed us to add Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, always elusive, but easy to find if you know the right hiding place. We also stopped at The Wetlands Institute, where we added Peregrine Falcon. As we left the Atlantic Shore at about 6:30 PM, we tallied our species and found we’d reached 137, three more than last year’s total! We celebrated in an exhausted sort of way, and headed back to the northwest part of Cape May County for a last few hours of searching.
Listening for a Waterthrush - © Todd Klein
The rain let up, but it was still cloudy and now getting more windy as we returned to Belleplain State Forest, and the bridge on Sunset Road. We spent another hour here, but added only one more species, Louisiana Waterthrush. The birds were quiet, and we missed a few we’d been hoping for, like Whip-poor-will.
Nearing the End: Jake's Landing - © Todd Klein
We made one last stop at Jake’s Landing and stood out in the cold wind listening for owls and such, as our bus waited patiently, but to no avail. After some minutes of that, we called it a day and headed back to Cape May at about 9 PM to get our cars from the Meadows, and for some of us, to go to the World Series of Birding Finish Line at the State Park. As the leaders went through our official tally sheet (now in digital form) to be turned in at the finish line, we found one species, Yellow Warbler, that was heard by leader Roger Horn, but no one else, so that one was removed. It left us with a total of 137 species, still quite good for our team, above our average of 130, and three more than last year’s total of 134, in worse weather conditions. We all felt we’d done well, and it had been a satisfying day.

On Sunday, a brunch was held for those participants who wanted to attend. I never do that, as I’d rather be home working on this report and whatever else I need to do. After the awards are given at the brunch, the official results of the World Series of Birding are posted on their WEBSITE.

Thanks to my supporters and my own donation, I’ll be able to contribute pledges of several hundred dollars to the Cape May Bird Observatory for our team. It will take time for all the pledges and donations to be turned in and counted, but you can follow that on the main website page, and if you’re interested in our own team’s fundraising efforts, you can follow those HERE.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our birding adventures. No doubt I’ll be doing this again next year, and will blog about it then.

Captain's Note - Thanks to Todd for taking the time to write this summary of a wonderful day, the team members that make it happen, Clay Taylor and Swarovski Optik for gear, equipment and camaraderie, and all the support, both financial and logistical, that make this such a great event for Conservation!