The Fall Migration has Started.

As the late summer days arrive, so to do the first southbound migrants. Birds that nest in the far north have been arriving on 7 Mile Island since late July. The first arrivals tend to be the females after they hatch their eggs usually leaving dad to tend the chicks. Fathers follow soon after. For other birds, the first indication of the migration is the staging of huge flocks of birds. Most commonly seen among the swallows, shortly after the baby birds fledge, these groups form up to feed and gain strength in preparation for their southbound migration. You might see the small iridescent Tree Swallows lining power lines or in huge numbers in the dunes. They are eating insects and preparing to leave – usually in mid-September. Young birds are abundant in the Sanctuary and the gardens are in their glory. Butterflies abound and the Monarchs are becoming abundant. Take some time to enjoy the Sanctuary as late summer arrives followed by the first crisp fall days.

Sanctuary Tours will end at the end of August. You can take guided walks at The Wetlands Institute and also experience the fall migration in its full splendor at the Fall Migration Festival on September 17-18 at the Institute. Check out their webpage for more details.


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Exploring the Sanctuary

There are three paths in the Sanctuary that are open all year round:

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.

Holly Path

zzGreatEgret7D 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 March 1st thru October 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.