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The Wetlands Institute is pleased to announce our 8th Annual Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival, a weekend packed with conservation-based, interactive activities and wildlife encounters for all ages.

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. There is no better 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. Guests of all ages can enjoy a variety of conservation-based activities including guided shorebird viewings; horseshoe crab workshops; horseshoe crab spawning survey demonstrations and reTURN the Favor walks; aquarium teaching tanks and creature features; and other hands-on education and conservation-based activities.

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 for special festival programs occurring around Seven Mile Island 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, and registrations are limited.

Click for a full schedule of activities
Friday, May 21
Time Activity Location
7pm – 9pm Horseshoe Crab Spawning Talk and ReTURN the Favor Walk
Join us for an evening on the Delaware Bay to see firsthand the phenomenon of horseshoe crab spawning. We will show you the techniques used to census these animals, and how the reTURN the Favor program helps to protect them. You may even have the chance to join in!
Limited to 14 participants.
Villas Beach
Saturday, May 22
Time Activity Location
8:30am – 10am Salt Marsh Safari Tour and Guided Marsh Bird Viewing 
Join us for an interpretive marsh walk along our elevated walkway and onto the dock overlooking Scotch Bonnet creek! We’ll be discussing what makes a salt marsh such important habitat, as well as learning about and viewing some of the birds that spend time there. Bring your binoculars, youth and beginner birders encouraged!
Limited to 25 participants.
Wetlands Institute
11:30am – 12:30pm Beginner Birders Shorebird Walk
New to birding and love a good walk on a beautiful beach? Join our guide to learn the basics of shorebird identification, and why Stone Harbor Point and other beaches like it are so important. You never know what you’ll see, but you know you’ll be glad you went.
Limited to 25 participants.
Stone Harbor Point
2pm – 3pm Shorebird Identification
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!
Limited to 25 participants.
Cooks Beach
7pm – 9pm Horseshoe Crab Spawning Talk and ReTURN the Favor Walk
Join us for an evening on the Delaware Bay to see firsthand the phenomenon of horseshoe crab spawning. We will show you the techniques used to census these animals, and how the reTURN the Favor program helps to protect them. You may even have the chance to join in!
Limited to 14 participants.
Villas Beach
Sunday, May 23
Time Activity Location
8:30am – 10am Morning Birding from the Upper Deck
Do you hear that call? What is that small bird in the distance? How long have those Osprey nested here? Get all of your questions answered by your guide on our upper deck with a stellar view of the marsh. You will impress and amaze your friends with your new knowledge.
Limited to 25 participants.
Wetlands Institute
11:30am – 12:30pm Advanced Birders Shorebird Walk
Nesting and migratory shorebirds, offshore seabirds, osprey overhead – you can see it all at Stone Harbor Point. Join us at this gem of a site to delve into the details with your experienced guide. Be sure to bring your binoculars, scope, and camera, and be ready for unforgettable walk.
Limited to 25 participants.
Stone Harbor Point
1pm – 2pm Shorebird Identification
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!
Limited to 25 participants.
Cooks Beach
3pm – 4 pm Horseshoe Crab Workshop
The anatomy of these amazing creatures has helped them survive for millions of years as the earth has changed and countless wildlife have come into and out of existence. What is it about this amazing “living fossil” that has brought them so far and has them in the center of an intricate web with so many species, including ourselves? Get ready for a close up examination of these spider cousins.
Limited to 25 participants.
Wetlands Institute
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 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 Feeding
Watch our Virtual Aquarium Feeding and then head on over to see the animals eat live in person. We will open up feeding time so you can see the box turtles munching tomato, the terrapins chasing fiddler crabs and the horseshoe crab gobbling shrimp.
Wetlands Institute
2pm – 3pm Turtle Creature Feature and Craft
Watch our Virtual Creature Feature online and then pop in for a visit to get up close and personal with a host of live animals including turtles, crabs, mollusks, horseshoe crabs, or the popular animals of Finding Nemo. After the presentation, grab your very own take-and-make craft for home!
Wetlands Institute
Sunday, May 23
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
Before you come, learn all you can from our Aquarist at our Virtual Bitmoji Aquarium Teaching and Watch Tank, and then view all the animals live including whelk, sea urchins, sea stars, mud snails, and more! You’ll even get some hold some from our touch tank.

Wetlands Institute
2pm – 3pm Nemo Creature Feature and Craft
Watch our Virtual Creature Feature online and then pop in for a visit to get up close and personal with a host of live animals including turtles, crabs, mollusks, horseshoe crabs, or the popular animals of Finding Nemo. After the presentation, grab your very own take-and-make craft for home!
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
Friday, May 21 Saturday, May 22 Sunday, May 23
6pm – 8pm 10am – 12pm 10am – 12pm
1pm – 3pm
4pm – 6pm (based on demand)

Please note: Skimmer Tours will be following all of the state of NJ and US Coast Guard regulations regarding COVID precautions. This includes limiting passenger count to 19 (so there can be social distancing), requiring masks for everyone on board, and sanitizing between trips. They will not be offering snacks for sale, binoculars for use, or the cheese, crackers, and fruit for the 6 pm trip on Friday, May 21. They will have bottled water for sale and of course amazing views of the marsh and its wildlife.

Special COVID Considerations

As you prepare for your visit, just a few quick rules and procedures to ensure your visit is safe for your family and ours.

    • Whenever 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 and at all off-site festival program locations.
    • We require everyone aged 2 years and older, who is physically able without inhibiting their health, to wear a face covering in all indoor spaces, and while on the decking and lawn areas surrounding the building.
    • We strongly recommend face coverings be worn outdoors on the Salt Marsh Trail, elevated walkway, and dock, and require face coverings be worn in these areas, and all off-site festival program locations, when social distancing is not possible and/or when interacting with The Wetlands Institute Staff and/or other participating group members. For your safety, our staff will also be wearing face coverings during any interaction and in all public spaces and at all off-site program locations.
    • For the safety of others, please do not visit The Wetlands Institute if you are feeling ill or running a fever.
    • The Tower is closed at this time.
    • The physical Tidepool Shop is open during our regular hours, Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30-4:30. For your convenience, you can still order online and either pick up your order here or have it shipped to your door. Check out our online shop for shipping and curbside pickup.
    • We will also be limiting entry into our Secrets of the Salt Marsh Aquarium and Terrapin Station to avoid crowding in indoor spaces during General Admissions Programs. Upon arrival, you will be given an entry time to these locations from either 10-12, 12-2, or 2-4. Additionally, we are limiting capacity during our off-site festival programs. We want to make sure everyone can enjoy the exhibits safely and responsibly.
    • Due to capacity limitations, and the possibility of overcrowding during inclement weather, The Wetlands Institute may modify program schedules and/or close without advanced notice.
    • We prefer the use of credit or debit cards for transactions. If you would prefer a contactless option, you may prepay on the day of your visit by giving us a call at 609-368-1211. We will take your information over the phone, confirm your entry time to our exhibits, and upon your arrival issue you your admission stickers.

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