CAPE MAY – What can people expect when New Jersey’s oldest conservation organization hosts its annual celebration in North America’s most famous migratory junction? A convention center filled with vendors and exhibitors, live animals and family activities; presenters and field trip leaders who are the best in the field; plus all the birds of a Cape May Autumn.
It was 1946, the year after World War II ended, that New Jersey Audubon began hosting their first festival in the resort town of Cape May. Originally limited to members, the organization later opened the event to residents and visitors from across North America and abroad. Today, there are over 100 bird festivals in North America, but still only one Cape May Autumn Birding Festival.
Much of the three-day weekend’s success is directly linked to Cape May’s extraordinary concentrations of migrating birds. Typically fine October weather, and the close proximity of natural areas to Cape May’s fine dining and lodging, ensured the event’s success and was made even better last year by the return of The Bird Show to Cape May’s new convention center.
This year, The Bird Show at the Cape May Convention Hall will be open to the public all three days (admission: $5, $2 for children ages 6 to 12, under age 6 admitted free). Live hawks and owls courtesy of Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge will be featured along with exhibits from the Jersey Cape Beekeepers Association and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May will have live animals, and a variety of hands-on and interactive nature discovery activities, scavenger hunt, story time, and much more. Vendors include leading optics companies, international tour companies, wildlife artists, and field guide publishers among others.
For many attendees, the Cape May Autumn Birding Festival is an annual tradition, timed to coincide with the peak of bird migration. When migratory conditions are right (following the passage of a cold front), festival attendees are treated to the sight of tens of thousands of birds including 16 species of raptors including Bald and Golden Eagles. A good vantage point to view migrating hawks is Cape May Point State Park, where an official hawk count, sponsored by Swarovski Optik operates daily; admission is free.
Typically 200 bird species are recorded during the event, but it is the great massed spectacle of birds, not the diversity, that most people marvel at, and return for, in hopes of being so fortunate again. Festival attendees can count on North America’s most famous bird watching location to host lots of birds and the experts at New Jersey Audubon to help see and appreciate them.
This year’s keynote speakers include naturalist Scott Weidensaul, author of “Living on the Wind” (Pulitzer Prize finalist) about bird migration; and Cape May Bird Observatory’s new director, David La Puma, Ph.D., with evening entertainment by the R. Bruce Reunion Tour.
Oct. 25, Zeiss Optics, Inc. will host a NJ Young Birders Event for ages 10-17 (advanced registration is required and space is limited).
Register on-line for Cape May Autumn Birding Festival and take advantage of the full slate of programs, field trips, and evening events at www.birdcapemay.org