Nummy Island

By Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Columnist

A birding trip to Stone Harbor wouldn’t be complete without visiting nearby Nummy Island. Located only about a mile from Stone Harbor Point, Nummy can be accessed by a road that extends south-westward to North Wildwood. Once you cross the bridge from Stone Harbor, you are on the island. Presumably named for King Nummy, a native American chief, Nummy Island is actually a salt marsh with some patches of cedars, bayberries, and Phragmites (common reed). There is also a dredge spoil island to the north-west of the island, which shouldn’t be ignored.

Nummy is one of the better places in South Jersey for seeing herons and egrets. Cruising across Nummy at almost any time of day from April through September is likely to yield Great and Snowy Egrets in good numbers, along with a smattering of Little Blue and Tri-colored Herons. If the latter aren’t there when you arrive, be patient and scan around. These four species can usually be seen from the road between the “free” (no toll) and toll bridges. Simply cruise slowly or pull over and scan.

Also present on Nummy, but not as visible are both Black and Yellow-crowned Night Herons. The cedar forest near the Stone Harbor bridge is often used as a roosting and, or nesting area by herons and egrets. After parking near the bridge, walk along the narrow dry area to the north of the bridge along the channel. You will round a point with some pilings and as you do so you will be confronted by a neat little inlet and harbor. Herons and egrets often can be seen from the mouth of this inlet. Not infrequently, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons perch along the inside of this tiny harbor. Dusk can be great if you are patient and stay until dark. Roosting flights of dozens of herons and egrets sometimes occur at the cedar patch and the night herons come out to feed at dusk. Ospreys perch on the pilings and Peregrines occasional perch there to rest.

During the nesting season (April through September), you will also be able to see Seaside Sparrows with relative ease. Sharp-tailed Sparrows are present, but they require more work. Osprey nests are also present and these birds are present from late March through October. Although common on the island, Clapper Rails are not easy to see. You will definitely hear them during spring, summer, and fall, but to see them you will have to take some time. Find a creek at low tide and watch along the Spartina (marsh grass) edge. In late summer you will also see young clappers scampering in and out of the marsh grass. Also present will be several pairs of nesting Oystercatchers and Willet. Try the creek on the ocean side, but that will require a five minute walk along the large channel that separates Nummy from Stone Harbor.

An immense colony of more than 10,000 Laughing Gulls nests just across the water to the north of the island. They can be observed from the mouth of the inlet/harbor on Nummy.

Migration at Nummy can be excellent for shorebirds. From the road, you will see numerous salt pans and pools. Simply pull off and start scanning. At the peak of migration season, dowitcher, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellow-legs, Black-bellied Plover, Semi-palmated Plover, and other shorebirds can be present in the hundreds. Peregrines and Merlins, along with harriers are attracted by the shorebirds, so keep an eye out for them, especially if the shorebirds look jittery or fly up in tight groups.

Although things get quite in winter, Snowy Owls have been spotted there on several occasions. Check out the Osprey platforms on the island, which are often used as perches by these birds. Harriers are present through the winter, and waterfowl are plentiful surrounding the island. Brant are very common, followed by Black Duck, Bufflehead, and some others.

Notes: Bring a spotting scope and be prepared for flies in the summer, not to mention no-see-ums during late spring and early summer.

Safety. Auto traffic on Nummy Island can be dangerous. Pull off the road to stop and make sure you don’t walk out into 50 mph traffic. Also, be careful if you walk out onto the marsh as there are mushy spots that will virtually suck your leg in up to the thigh (or higher).


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