Birdwatching North America with Birdingpaltours

  • If you are you an independent birdwatcher, who does not care for large group tours, then Birdingpaltours is for you
  • Our tours are flexible, safe and the use of a local guide lets you participate in the planning
  • A local guide knows all the hotspots and you get the most out of your trip
  • You select the date and length for a trip to suit youself
  • If your time is limited, we’ll design a tour to fit your needs
  • A professional Birdingpal guide can customize your tour, and you will see the birds you want.
  • Your guide is also your travel companion, who will make sure you experience the native people, scenery, culture, history and food, first hand.
  • You will enjoy the advantage of all the attention you get in a small group, for the same price or perhaps even less, than you will pay if you travel with the large tour groups from other countries
  • Remember, the next time you travel, you do not have to miss the birdwatching if your partner or travel companions are non birders; a local guide is flexible, and will easily accommodate other needs too
  • Hiring a Birdingpal guide will boost the local economy and help protect birds other wildlife and their habitat

Birdwatching tours in New Jersey and New York City area.

The number of bird species that can be found in the New York and New Jersey metro area is surprisingly vast despite the fact that it is a relatively small area. Due to a unique combination of factors, this locale can be the ideal place to discover many of our neo-tropic migrant species. The large tracts of deciduous forest, mountain ridges, and shoreline within close proximity all increase the chances of finding diverse and unusual migrant species. This area is a migration hot-spot and over the three months of spring migration, it is common to identify 100 species per day.

"Panoramic view from Garret Mountain, NJ looking east"

After the spring migration window closes and summer begins we can also find some rare and unusual breeding bird species in this fantastic area. This is especially true of the warblers and sandpipers with Piping plover the standout peep and Golden-winged and Worm-eating warbler probably the most sought after specialist nesting species in the eastern region. We can also find overlapping northerly and southern species with Louisiana and Northern Waterthrush nesting on either side of a forest track while Hermit thrush and Veery sing close by. So summer far from being a period of quiet birding has in fact many species that can be found within one hours drive of the Hudson river crossings. There are so many exciting and varied day trips available it’s impossible to show every possibility so these trips below should be considered as examples. We will always be flexible and tailor a trip to where-ever your target species can be found.

Tour I

New York city, day trip.

We can spend a good day right in the city of Manhattan in Central Park as it can have some surprisingly great migration for a park in the most populated city in the USA. We can meet as close to dawn as possible and either bird all day here or travel out to Jamaica Bay wildlife refuge in the afternoon to see some shore birds.

"Green Heron"
by Kevin Bolton

Either way we should easily be able to reach 100 species during a good spring migration. Central park however is not as productive during the summer months as virtually all the species move outside the city to breed. It has a revival again in the fall as species move south. Winter also can be unexpectedly fine with sometimes 3 or 4 species of owl found within this area.

Tour II

Northern New Jersey, day trip.

My favorite trips always consist of a short drive and long days of birding in the field because when its daylight I want to be birding and not sitting in a car going somewhere to bird. I often arrange to meet people in New York City or as I have found is usually quicker and easiest for everyone is if they take a train from Penn Station to Secaucus train junction it’s a short 9 min ride and only one stop, this gets us out of the city quickly and on to the highway and moving early enough to reach a good spot before dawn. This is way more relaxing than sitting in traffic in Manhattan and trying to get through the tunnels in rush hour.

"Baltimore Oriole"
by Kevin Bolton"

Spring with the avian butterflies of Dendroica warblers is what most people have heard about the northeast of the USA.
So we will begin with spring.

"Rose-breasted Grosbeak"
by Kevin Bolton"

Therefore one of my favorites places of all, is a day’s birding in Garret Mountain in West Patterson, NJ.
This park without doubt is one of the best migrant traps on the whole of the east coast in spring and fall. It is possible to see 20+ warblers species in one day during May or June. Add that to the many other species of flycatchers, sparrows, thrush and small peeps and you have a first class birding spot.

"Wood Thrush"
by Kevin Bolton"

There is a vantage point on the top of the mountain looking east towards the horizon and New York City. Where you can comfortably stand near a sheer cliff face that catches the morning warmth and wakens the early insects that attract the migrants. I would watch warblers as they came in off the Atlantic coast and drifted towards Garret Mountain in the rising sunlight. I unfortunately long ago let this particular cat out the bag and now several other birders will make their way here, to witness the annual movements of migrants as they come searching for a suitable landing spot away from the city and suburbia below. This is one of the few spots I know where you can stand and look down on the tree tops that have Blackpolls, Black-throated blue, Blackburnian, Black-throated green, Bay-breasted and on occasion Cape May warblers happily feeding below your footing.

"Black-throated Blue Warbler
by Kevin Bolton"

This usually lasts for an hour or more as wave after wave come up from the depths below, flutter above your head and invariably land on the short cliff top trees and then move on down the hill to the west which is Garret Mountain proper. This is also a great spot for Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Orioles, Cuckoo’s plus Great Crested and Olive-sided flycatchers. During a thrush, warbler migration event, birds are everywhere, below, above, beside and around you so much so that it can be helpful to have someone knowledgeable close by to allow you to concentrate on the enjoyment of looking, without the distraction of trying to ID everything. You could spend the day here but of course birders are always thinking, what am I missing so you wander off to other areas to discover what you have not yet seen. This can be exciting also with many birds now scattered through-out the park. The main birding area for those on a first visit is generally around the lake and this can afford fantastic views of many species including both Waterthrush’s and many Baltimore and Orchard oriole. This is also the main spot to find singing Warbling Vireo and the only place in the park to see peeps such as the solitary and spotted sandpipers.

"American Redstart"
by Kevin Bolton"

One day Summer alternative.
The breeding birds are in most areas so either highlands, grassland, swamp or sea-shore and timing of target species would dictate trips we should take. A nice trip is starting at Hackensack meadowlands traveling up to Highpoint State Park and returning through Ringwood. This could take 4 hrs or as long as 10hrs depending on what your preferences are. With the added attraction of possible Black Bear.
One day Fall alternative.
Fall we also have some great areas with an almost exact replica of the spring flight through many of the aforementioned sites though with many more species of sandpipers. Pectoral, Solitary, Spotted, Least, Semi-palmated, White-rumped, Buff-breasted and more can be expected. Sparrows numbers also peak with Fox, White-throated, Song, Savanna, Swamp, Chipping, White-crowned and Vesper that are all regularly seen. There are several historic Hawk watches in this area with the second week of September being the usual time for the main Broad-winged hawk migration.
One day Winter alternative.
Winter can produce some exceptional species with a trip down to Barnegat lighthouse NJ or Jones Beach NY. to see Snowy, Short-eared Owls , Eider, Surf, White-Winged and Black Scoter or Harlequin Ducks. Alternatively take a drive upriver to Bear Mountain, NY and see the winter congregations of Bald Eagle.
Check the NJ sites here and plan a day trip
Two Day trip Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter. If a two day trip is planned then we would take the Garden State Parkway south to Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge approx 2.5hr drive from Northern NJ
It is possible to travel here and back in one day though five hours of driving can be tiring so it is much better to finish day one at this fine reserve and be in position for day two. This reserve with its large 47,000 wildlife acreage and large wildlife drive could easily take the rest of the day to complete.
Depending on the needs of a particular group we can find modest or 5 star accommodations in the Atlantic City area. Second day we drive down to Cape May and outlying areas. Cape May has so many attractions you could easily spend several days here and still find new birds in the same spots day after day. I personally think Cape May in the fall is one of the world’s best birding spots with huge numbers of raptors and passerines moving through each day dependent on the prevailing winds. The spring in Cape May is not as exciting for passage birds but the local spectacle of Piping plover breeding on the beach and the chance of almost anything unusual turning up makes this town a must to visit.  www.capemay
In the afternoon we will drive north/west on the Delaware bayside and visit Thomson Beach, Heislerville or Fortescue beach areas for migrating Red Knot and many other species of sandpipers and watch as they feed on the abundant horseshoe crab eggs. On the way we will call into the Belleplain State Forest and see Yellow-throated warblers singing in the low trees beside the lake. This is also a excellent area to find Summer Tanager and we should be able to find this more southerly cousin of the more abundant Scarlet tanager.

"Scarlet Tanager"
by Don Christian"

This nice collection of important bird areas can be found at
If something unusual is reported we have good options from here. From Fortescue it is a 3.5 hr drive north and back to the starting point of Secuacus train station. If another day it planned we can take the Cape May ferry to Lewes (Brown-headed nuthatch) and bird northwards along the Delaware bayshore visiting Slaughter Beach, Port Mahon, Little Creek Wildlife Area and Bombay Hook NWR searching through huge numbers of sandpipers as we gradually move northwards. Check
From here it is 2hrs to Philadelphia and 5hrs to Secuacus.
I will tailor make a trip for any number of participants and can book hotels and such dependent on time of year and group members accommodation needs, however this can vary wildly from week to week during the high season so a quote for such items is difficult to show here.
I am happy to drive, but it is usually wise to rent a vehicle and list your guide as an additional driver.
I prefer keeping the group to a low number so everyone can get good advice and get onto the birds we find. Larger groups we can obtain a second guide if required.

Tour cost:
One person for the whole day $285.00
$13.00/hr per extra person after first birder.
Plus gas and tolls and incidentals.
$20/day gas and tolls probably $10/day not including Hudson river crossings
Food is readily available in this area with many restaurants and delicatessen along the routes.

Convert your tour cost into your currency of choice.

For more details please send a message to Bill.   

Birding guide Bill Elrick, your local Birdingpal guide
I have 20 years experience as a bird guide in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Georgia leading bird walks for bird clubs or organizations. I have traveled and birded in Europe, Costa Rica, Belize and Canada. I have birded since I was very young and have 40 years of birding experience.
I have a Masters banding permit issued by the United States Geological Survey and earned a British Trust for Ornithology Society "A" ringing permit before emigrating to the USA. I have personally banded over 25,000 birds on my own permits. I have worked with the New Jersey Audubon Society during their spring banding of Semi and Least sandpiper migration studies. I volunteered with the Delaware Red Knot study group for three years as they researched the connection between horseshoe crab eggs and Red Knot survival. I have contributed for over 30 years to the British Trust for Ornithology society or the New Jersey Audubon Society's surveys.

Electronic map of New Jersey

Guide books and CD’s recommended:

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America
Field Guide to the Birds of North AmericaNational Geographic

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Last update 20/02/2014