Fall is a Beautiful Time to Explore The Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary
As the air gets crisp, and the humidity falls, it’s a wonderful time to explore the Sanctuary. Fall is a time of great change, and change is everywhere in the Sanctuary. It’s also a time for the great migration through Cape May. Songbirds, warblers, raptors, and wading birds are all moving through the Sanctuary on their south bound migration. Our resident wildlife are busy preparing for winter and caching food. They can be seen in the maritime forest on 2nd Ave and in the successional meadow next to Egret Espy trail. Monarch butterflies have started their migration and can be seen in large numbers, along with migratory dragonflies especially in the gardens on 3rd Ave.
Exploring the Sanctuary
There are three paths in the Sanctuary that are open all year round: Heron Overlook and Meadow Walk off 3rd Avenue and Egret Espy located on 2nd Avenue. The Holly Path is closed to the public from March 1st until October 1st because there is a growing nesting bird population along the path we do not want to disturb. On weekends, during the summer months, naturalists from The Wetlands Institute lead Sanctuary tours. Tours depart from the Egret Espy Path. Check the Tour Schedule for times.
If you would like to explore paths on your own, we invite you to click links on this site and use your mobile device to access Sanctuary apps for helpful information. Also, you can go to the YouTube links on this site for virtual tours of the Sanctuary. Each of these sources is supplemented by signs on the paths. For your convenience, the map below shows you where the paths are located and the descriptions which follow provide just a hint of the treasures you might discover on each path:
Heron Overlook Path
Located off 3rd Avenue and surrounded by beautiful gardens donated by Friends of the Sanctuary, Heron Overlook will allow you to view the saltwater wetlands which are a popular heron and egret feeding area. In the spring and fall, you might see and hear Neotropical songbirds as well as other larger migratory visitors. Take a moment, sit on a bench, enjoy the views and listen to the birds.
In the fall, monarch butterflies have been known to swarm the flower gardens on their way south. The Heron Overlook Path was made possible through the generous support of Julian and Betsy Miraglia as well as Phil Barber and Tony Millcarsky.
Please stop at the Pump House, open the brown stand and tell us who you are, where you are from and any birds you have seen!
Meadow Walk Path
The Meadow Walk Path is surprisingly unique because it straddles fresh water meadows on your left and salt water marsh on your right. In the spring and summer, you might see Great Egret and Great Blue Herons stalking minnows and fiddler crabs in the tributaries. In the fall, various types of ducks can be seen swimming in the fresh water marsh to the left.
The Meadow Walk path ends with a view of Paul’s Pond, a fresh water spring-fed pond where you might see Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Green Heron and Osprey roosting in the trees in front of you.
The Meadow Walk was created by the Cape May County Department of Mosquito Control with help from the Friends of the Sanctuary.
Egret Espy Path
The entrance to the Egret Espy Path is located off 2nd Avenue and 114th Street. You are greeted at the beginning of the path by a stand of whispering pine trees planted by local Boy Scouts after the 1962 storm. Take a moment and sit on one of the teak benches, breathe in the soft pine scent and enjoy the beautiful gardens donated by Friends of the Sanctuary. As you walk along the path, you will cross a footbridge dedicated in honor of long-time resident, George Walters. Once across the bridge, you enter Maritime forest that is hundreds of years old. To your right and left you will see intricate, artistic remnants of old white spruce. Watch out, you might step on an Eastern Box Turtle!
At the end of the path, sit on one of the benches, listen but keep your eyes open because you are likely to see migrating songbirds, Green Herons, colonial wading birds, and large, colorful dragon flies. The path is alive with activity.
The Holly Path is a tribute to the success of the Sanctuary Rehabilitation Program started in 2006. In recent years, growing populations of Night Herons have been spending considerable time roosting and nesting around Paul’s Pond. To encourage continued growth of these magnificent birds, we are trying to minimize disturbance by closing the Holly Path from November 1st thru Otober 1st. Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience. Should you wish to view these Night Heron, you might see them from the fence at 2nd near 111th Street or better yet, click the Heron Cam link on this site.
Between November first and March first, you are invited to enter the Holly Path which is located off 2nd Avenue and 112th Street. The Holly Path meanders across century-old sand dunes, through an ancient Maritime Forest with stands of sassafras reminiscent of a Harry Potter movie scene, past a 300 year old holly tree perched on a 15’ dune, and ends at Paul’s Pond. The pond is named in honor of Paul McConnell, a former member of the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary Committee.