Birding Cumberland

Cumberland County, New Jersey, along the Delaware Bayshore, is arguably the least developed and most natural and scenic county in all of New Jersey, yet it remains one of the least studied by ornithologists and birders. Cumberland County may not be as well known for its bird life as its neighbor to the south, Cape May County, but Cumberland’s abundance and wide diversity of unspoiled natural habitats support a similar and remarkable variety of birds. Cumberland County’s Delaware Bay location and its proximity to the Cape May peninsula combine to make the county highly important to birds and to birders. The ornithological significance of Cumberland County is rooted in its 42 miles of Delaware Bay coastline, its vast wetlands, and over 100,000 acres of protected open space, all of which allow for an unusual combination of abundant migratory birds, healthy breeding populations, and exceptional wintering concentrations.

Ornithological study began in Cumberland County in the early 1800s, carried out by none other than Alexander Wilson, the Father of American Ornithology. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Dr. Witmer Stone and his colleagues from the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club studied extensively in Cumberland. Stone’s classic Bird Studies at Old Cape May (1937) detailed bird life of not only the Cape May peninsula, but the entire Delaware Bayshore as well. This and other studies have proven that indeed the world-famous fall migration in southern New Jersey is not confined to just the Cape, but sweeps up the Delaware Bay through Cumberland County. Bayside habitats are critical to millions of migrant birds each year as they migrate west around Delaware Bay on their ultimate route south.

Spring shorebird staging and feeding on the Delaware Bay, including Cumberland County, is a hemispherically important phenomenon, and this horseshoe crab / shorebird connection results in one of the most extraordinary migratory spectacles in the Americas.

In 2002, Birding Cumberland, by Clay Sutton, was published, a complete guide to birds and birding in one of the true jewels of New Jersey. Join Clay Sutton for this program and visual tour of many of the wonders covered in Birding Cumberland. Learn of the exciting and in some cases unique opportunities afforded when “Birding Cumberland.” From spring shorebirds to an abundance of breeding birds, from a spectacular fall migration to winters steeped in waterfowl and raptors, Cumberland County is a place for all season.

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