December 07, 2023    
7:15 pm - 9:30 pm


Academy of Natural Sciences
1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Event Type

The meeting will be held at the Academy of Natural Sciences, BEES classroom and on-line.

Meeting timing: 7:15PM Zoom opens; 7:30-8PM club business; 8PM presentation followed by questions. Please register for the meeting whether you will be attending in person or via Zoom. Then watch for the meeting link in your email. Disregard the meeting link if you will be attending in person.


35 YEARS ON THE MAURICE RIVER:  Facts and Figures, Findings and Reflections, Questions and Concerns
Long-term Winter Raptor and Waterfowl Monitoring on the New Jersey Delaware Bayshore’s Maurice River

Cumberland County, on New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore, is arguably the least developed and most natural and scenic county in all of New Jersey, yet even today it remains one of the least studied by ornithologists and birders.  Cumberland County may not be as well known for its bird life as its neighbor to the south, Cape May County, but Cumberland’s abundance and wide diversity of unspoiled natural habitats support a remarkable variety of birds.  The ornithological significance of Cumberland County is rooted in its proximity to the Cape May peninsula, its 42 miles of Delaware Bay coastline, its vast wetlands, and over 100,000 acres of protected open space, all of which allow for an unusual combination of abundant migratory birds, healthy breeding bird populations, and exceptional avian wintering concentrations. 

The Maurice River is one of Cumberland County’s key bird use areas.  The tidal Maurice stretches 14 miles from Millville to East Point, and is a destination for bird study at all seasons.  The Maurice is particularly known for its winter raptor and waterfowl concentrations, an abundance that is regionally significant on both the Bayshore and in the wider Delaware Valley Region.  Under the auspices of Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries, Inc., Clay Sutton has carried out systematic long-term wintering raptor and waterfowl monitoring for over 35 years.  In this summary program on his studies, Clay will relate observed status and trends over time, how some declines have been balanced by increases, and explain the many changes seen over time in both habitat as well as the phenology of birds found on the Maurice.  Clay will also discuss the very real impacts of climate change and sea level rise on the Maurice River; some findings are surprising, and some are indeed disturbing.

Clay Sutton is a life-long resident of Cape May County, New Jersey, where he has worked as an environmental planner, environmental program administrator, vice-president of an environmental consulting firm specializing in threatened and endangered species, and for the past nearly three decades as a self-employed environmental consultant, field biologist, and naturalist.  Mostly retired today, Clay has been a free-lance writer, lecturer, tour leader, and was a long-time instructor for the Institute for Field Ornithology.  The science and wonder of bird migration has remained his captivating interest.

Clay is a co-author, with Pete Dunne and David Sibley, of the classic Hawks in Flight (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1988; Second Edition, 2012), a complete and holistic guide to raptor identification.  Clay and his wife Pat Sutton co-authored How to Spot Butterflies (1999), How to Spot Hawks & Eagles (1996), and How to Spot an Owl (1994), all published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Their acclaimed book, Birds and Birding at Cape May (Stackpole Books, 2006, 568 pages), is the in-depth result of their efforts over many years documenting and protecting the migration and the area that they so love.  This landmark book is a complete guide to birds and birding for Cape May and the entire southern New Jersey region, covering what to see, when, where, and how to go, as well as chronicling the unique and storied ornithological history of the Jersey Cape.  Lastly, in 2002 Clay authored Birding Cumberland, published by CU Maurice River, a complete guide to birds and birding in Cumberland County.

Clay Sutton joined the DVOC in 1978, was elected a Fellow in 1979, and has been a frequent contributor to Cassinia.  He was the recipient of the Witmer Stone Award in 1982 and the Julian Potter Award in 1987.  He and his wife Pat Sutton, also a DVOC member, were awarded the Witmer Stone Award in 2008 in recognition of their book Birds and Birding at Cape May. Clay and Pat proudly spoke to the DVOC at the festive 125th Anniversary Gala in 2015.



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