The wooden hawkwatch platform at Cape May Point State Park is a prized destination for birdwatchers at this time of year. The platform, which ranks among the best hawkwatching spots in the world, is home base for Cape May’s three-month-long annual hawk count, which began on September 1. With a maximum capacity of 200 people, the platform is frequently filled — often with birders from around the world.
The hawkwatch is run by the Cape May Bird Observatory whose biologists tally 18 species of migrating hawks from dawn to dusk. Other CMBO naturalists educate the public.
New Jersey’s peninsular configuration causes birds traveling south along the coast to be funnelled to the tip of the state; that’s what makes Cape May such a great place for birdwatching. Thirty years ago, a good season could bring a tally of 180,000 to 190,000 hawks. Nowadays it’s a good season if the tally reaches between 40,000 and 50,000.
Hawkwatching means big business for the area. According to the Cape May County Department of Tourism, eco-tourism in general brings $639 million to the county each year. Twenty-five percent of visitors participate in nature-based activities, with 11 percent focusing on birding. Last year more than 20,000 people visited Cape May Point State Park for the hawkwatch.
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