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The Wetlands Institute is pleased to announce our 9th Annual Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival.

Located between the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape May Peninsula plays host to one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles. Moving to the pulse of ancient rhythms, tens of thousands of shorebirds leave their winter homes in South America and fly north, dropping down onto the beaches of Delaware Bay just as horseshoe crabs climb out of the water to lay millions of eggs in the sand. For two weeks, the hungry shorebirds feed on these energy-packed eggs, doubling their weight before making their last migratory push north to breeding grounds on the Arctic tundra. Our shores host the largest concentration of spawning horseshoe crabs in the world, and the shorebird migration – nearly 10,000 miles end to end – is one Nature’s most epic journeys. This is the only place on Earth to witness this incredible drama.

Come join The Wetlands Institute for a festival that celebrates this great wonder – the shorebird migration and horseshoe crab spawning season. Proceeds from the event help support our critical research, conservation, and education programs focused on shorebirds and horseshoe crabs.

Festival Tickets

Non-Member:  $25 Adult, $20 Child
Member:  $20 Adult, $15 Child

Purchase tickets online or call us at 609-368-1211.

Ticket prices include your choice of two festival programs* plus general admission to The Wetlands Institute on both Saturday and Sunday.

* Please note: Skimmer birding cruises are not included in the festival ticket price.

Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival Programs

Join us Saturday, May 21 for special festival programs occurring around Seven Mile Island and on the Delaware Bayshore that highlight the natural wonder of the spring shorebird migration and horseshoe crab spawning. All programs are guided by The Wetlands Institute’s staff or volunteers.

Pre-registration is required for all Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival Programs. Registration for the reTURN the Favor walk is limited.

Click for a full schedule of activities
Saturday, May 21
Time Activity Location
9am – 10:30am Migratory Bird Walk at Stone Harbor Point
Enjoy our feathered friends? Love a good walk on a beautiful beach? Join our guide for an enjoyable morning exploring the wonders of Stone Harbor Point, and learn why beaches like it are so important. The Point offers the chance to see shorebirds, songbirds, and other migrants. You never know what you’ll see, but you’ll be glad you went.
Stone Harbor Point
11am – 12:30pm Shorebird Viewing at Cooks Beach
View the masses of migrating shorebirds from one the best spots on Delaware Bay. There will be so much to see, and hear, and learn, with guides available to assist. Bring your binoculars, scopes, and cameras! Staff will also have spotting scopes to enhance your experience.
This is an open event, so come and go as you please!
Cooks Beach
12:30pm – 1:30pm Horseshoe Crab Workshop
Come see a special program dedicated to everyone’s favorite arthropod, the enigmatic horseshoe crab! You’ll take a deeper dive into the horseshoe crab to learn the adaptations and survival strategies that have allowed these remarkable creatures to exist virtually unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. You’ll even get a chance to meet one up-close!
Wetlands Institute
2pm – 4pm Horseshoe Crab Spawning Talk and ReTURN the Favor Walk – TRIP FULL
Join us for an afternoon on the Delaware Bay to see where horseshoe crabs spawn. Learn all about these amazing creatures, look for tagged crabs and join a reTURN the Favor program walk to help protect them.
Limited to 14 participants.
Villas Beach
6pm – 7:30pm Sunset Birding on the Beach
What’s better than a sunset walk on a beautiful beach? A sunset walk with birds! Join our guide for an evening stroll down the beach at Stone Harbor Point as we search for shorebirds and whatever other delights the beach might hold – then take in a spectacular sunset! We may even find Red Knots and other migratory shorebirds as they flock back to the safety of SHP.

Stone Harbor Point

Schedule is subject to change

General Admission Schedule

Join us at The Wetlands Institute anytime Saturday and Sunday between 9:30-4:30 to enjoy our elevated walkway, exhibit space, and naturalist-led visitor programs.

General admission is included in the festival ticket price, so feel free to join us as frequently as you like throughout the weekend.

Click for a full schedule of activities
Saturday, May 21
Time Activity Location
10am – 4pm Seasonal Science Activities
Each month we will offer a new self-guided science activity related to seasonal changes in nature. We provide the supplies and you create the learning!
Wetlands Institute
11am – 12pm Aquarium Feeding
Help us feed the local marine life! We will open up feeding each week so you can see the burrfish eating crabs and the horseshoe crab gobbling shrimp. Not all animals are fed every day.
Wetlands Institute
2pm – 3pm Turtle Creature Feature and Craft
During this live animal presentation, we will highlight a different live animal or group of animals each day! Get up close with terrapins, fish, crabs, sea stars and urchins, mollusks, horseshoe crabs and the animals of Finding Nemo. After the presentation, create your very own take-home craft!
Wetlands Institute
Sunday, May 22
Time Activity Location
10am – 4pm Seasonal Science Activities
Each month we will offer a new self-guided science activity related to seasonal changes in nature. We provide the supplies and you create the learning!
Wetlands Institute
11am – 12pm Aquarium Teaching and Touch Tank
There is no better way to learn about the local creatures found in the salty waters of the ocean or New Jersey back-bays than to experience them firsthand!  Come join a Wetlands Institute educator for a unique, interactive learning experience as they teach about whelk, skates, sea urchins, sea stars, mud snails, and more!
Wetlands Institute
2pm – 3pm Osprey Science Feature
Each Sunday we will focus on a different conservation issue including Bat Conservation, Marine Debris, Osprey Conservation, Dredging, Climate Change, Sustainable Energy, Horseshoe Crab Conservation, Terrapin Conservation and the world of Plankton. (Presentation recommended for ages 8 and up, but younger children are welcome to attend.)
Wetlands Institute

Special Birding Cruises on the Back Bay

Skimmer Tours again offers their highly acclaimed eco-cruises on board The Skimmer to view wildlife in the beautiful back bays of Stone Harbor. Highlights include birds and wildlife of the salt marsh and marine life touch tanks. Trips depart from The Wetlands Institute.

Pre-registration and an additional program fee are required. Call 609-884-3100 or visit skimmer.com for reservations.

Click for Skimmer schedule
Saturday, May 21 Sunday, May 22
10am – 12pm 10am – 12pm
1pm – 3pm
4pm – 6pm

Special COVID Considerations

As you prepare for your visit, just a little guidance to ensure your visit is safe for your family and ours. We continue to follow CDC and state COVID-19 recommendations and guidelines to set policies for the safety and protection of our visitors, volunteers, and employees.

    • Masking is optional at The Wetlands Institute and we respect individual choice related to mask wearing.
    • To the extent possible, please adhere to social distancing guidelines (6 feet apart or more for The Wetlands Institute staff and/or other program participants) in all areas of The Wetlands Institute both inside and outside.
    • We recommend face coverings be worn when social distancing is not possible and/or when interacting with The Wetlands Institute staff and/or other visitors.
    • For the safety of others, please do not visit The Wetlands Institute if you are feeling ill or running a fever.