The Cape May Peninsula by FWSdocs


									                                          U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

                                          THE CAPE MAY PENINSULA
                                          Is Not Like the
                                          Rest of New Jersey

                                                                                                                                    Photographs: USFWS
                                                                                          Fall migration of monarch butterflies

Unique Ecosystems                              Key Migratory Corridor
If you have noticed something                  The Cape May Peninsula is well-known
“different” about the Cape May                 as a migratory route for raptors such
Peninsula, particularly in regard to           as the sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter
its vegetation types, of course you            striatus), osprey (Pandion haliaetus),
are right! The Cape May Peninsula              and northern harrier (Circus cyaneus),
is not like the rest of New Jersey. The        as well as owl species in great numbers.
primary reason is climatic: nestled at         The peninsula’s western beaches within                  Piping plover chick
low elevation between the Atlantic             Delaware Bay provide the largest
Ocean and the Delaware Bay, the                spawning area for horseshoe crabs
peninsula enjoys approximately 225             (Limulus polyphemus) in the world
frost-free days at its southern tip            and, as a result, sustain a remarkable
compared to 158 days at its northern           portion of the second largest spring
end. The vegetation, showing strong            concentration of migrating shorebirds
characteristics of the Pinelands flora in      in North America. The increasingly
the northern portion of the peninsula,         rare red knot (Calidris canutus; a
displays closer affinities to the mixed        candidate for federal listing) as well
hardwood forest of our country’s               as the sanderling (C. alba), least
southern Coastal Plain. Southern tree          sandpiper (C. minutilla), dowitcher
species such as the swamp chestnut oak         (Limnodromus spp.), and ruddy
(Quercus michauxii) and loblolly pine          turnstone (Arenaria interpres) are
(Pinus taeda) reach their northernmost         some of the many bird species that
distribution in Cape May County, while         feed on horseshoe crab eggs to gain
the common Pinelands trees such as             weight for migration to their summer           Swamp pink
pitch pine (P. rigida) and short-leaf pine     breeding grounds in the arctic. The
(P. echinata) are less evident in the          peninsula is also renowned for the
southern portion of the County.                early fall migration of thousands
                                               of monarch butterflies (Danaus
                                                                                                               Least tern

                                                                                                                       Box turtle
                               Red knot                                  Black skimmer
                                             Cape May National Wildlife                diversity and for sustaining human
                                             Refuge                                    life through the ecological and
                                             The Cape May National Wildlife            hydrological functions they perform.
                                             Refuge consists of 11,683 acres with      Refuge lands are also included in
                                             4,583 acres in the Delaware Bay           the North American Waterfowl
                                             Division, 6,576 acres in the Great        Management Plan and are recognized
                                             Cedar Swamp Division, 514 acres           by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird
                                             in the Two-Mile Beach Unit, and an        Reserve Network, and the American
                                             authorized acquisition boundary of        Bird Conservancy, which support
                                             an additional 21,191 acres. The refuge    partnership approaches to conserving
                                             is actively involved in protecting the    waterfowl throughout North, Central,
                                             ecology of the Cape May Peninsula,        and South America. Finally, the
        American oyster catcher with chick
                                             providing necessary habitat to 317        Cape May Peninsula and the Cape
Habitats for Endangered,                     bird species, 42 mammal species, and      May National Wildlife Refuge are
Threatened, and Rare Species                 55 reptile and amphibian species. The     designated on the New Jersey Coastal
Profound changes have occurred in            Delaware Bay Division protects salt       Heritage Trail Route, which extends
the peninsula’s environment since the        marsh, forested uplands, forested         south for nearly 300 miles from Perth
first European colony was established        wetlands, vernal pools, shrub/scrub,      Amboy to Cape May and westward
in 1640. The expansive Atlantic white-       and grasslands. The Delaware Bay          along the Delaware Bay to the
cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) and           Division attracts large numbers of        Delaware Memorial Bridge.
red maple (Acer rubrum) swamps were          shorebirds, waterfowl, and other
cut, in some cases three times, by the       migratory birds. The Great Cedar          Fishery Resources
1850s. Current stands are recovering         Swamp Division has the largest            All of Cape May Peninsula’s marshes
but are fragmented. Further, the             contiguous forest on the refuge and       and tidal creeks provide important
Cape May Peninsula is home to a              is part of the Pinelands National         nursery areas for sport fish such as
large number of rare species (27 bird        Reserve and the Great Egg Harbor          summer flounder (Paralichthyus
species, 2 mammals, 3 amphibians,            National Scenic and Recreational          dentatus) and bluefish (Pomatomus
4 reptiles, 30 invertebrates, and 147        River. This division protects hardwood    saltatrix), American eel (Anguilla
species of plants). A few of these           swamps, salt marshes, bogs, forested      rostrata) and blue crab (Callinectes
species are federally listed (the bald       uplands, and grasslands. Unique           sapidus). Seventy percent of the
eagle [Haliaeetus leucocephalus],            viewing opportunities exist for           species sought by recreational and
piping plover [Charadrius melodus],          Atlantic white-cedar stands, a variety    commercial fishermen depend on
swamp pink [Helonias bullata], and           of warblers and other songbirds, bald     shallow water habitats for at least
seabeach amaranth [Amaranthus                eagle, wintering owls, and northern       part of their life cycle.
pumilus]), and many are State-               diamondback terrapin. The Great
listed as threatened or endangered.          Cedar Swamp Division also supports        The Service is a committed conservation
The killing of thousands of northern         large numbers of marsh and water          partner in protecting the Cape May
diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys            birds, songbirds, raptors, reptiles,      Peninsula and invites you to visit, study,
terrapin terrapin) by vehicular traffic      and amphibians. The Two-Mile              and enjoy the unique resources that
every nesting season (June-July) has         Beach Unit along the Atlantic Ocean       are sustained and safeguarded for your
prompted efforts by Richard Stockton         offers opportunities to view barrier      benefit, and for future generations.
State College and The Wetlands               islands, maritime forests, tidal ponds,
Institute in Stone Harbor to salvage         and beaches used by beach-nesting
and incubate eggs from carcasses. The        birds and thousands of migrating
Cape May Peninsula also supports             shorebirds. The piping plover, least
nesting colonies of the State-               tern, and American oystercatcher
listed (endangered) black skimmer            (Haematopus palliatus) nest on
                                                                                       U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
(Rynchops niger) and least tern (Sterna      adjacent property and feed and rest       Ecological Services
antillarum); however, these beach-           onsite during the seasonal beach          New Jersey Field Office
nesting species are highly vulnerable to     closure from April 1 to September 30.     927 North Main Street, Building D
predation by invasive species such as                                                  Pleasantville, New Jersey 08232
feral cats and Norway rats, and to the       Cape May National Wildlife Refuge
use of recreational vehicles on beaches.     is on the Ramsar List of Wetlands         P: 609/646 9310
Foresight by the State of New Jersey         of International Importance as “of        F: 609/646 0352
                                             significant value not only for the        E:
has put aside considerable areas of the
peninsula as public lands, including         country . . . in which it is located,
thousands of acres as State forest           but for humanity as a whole.” The
(Belleplain) and wildlife management         Convention on Wetlands signed in          Federal Relay Service for the deaf
areas (Tuckahoe, Peaslee, Beaver             Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 developed and       and hard-of-hearing
Swamp, Cape May Wetlands, Dennis             maintained an international network       800/877 8339
Creek, Highbee Beach, Heislerville,          of wetlands which are important for
and Cape Island).                            the conservation of global biological     Novemberr 2006

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