With sparse crowds and mild temperatures, fall is a prime time to enjoy south Jersey's great outdoors. Why not take advantage of the last few months before winter and get some fresh air? Here is some advice from some people who spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying all the area has to offer this season.

Cape May's geography makes it a great location for birdwatching, especially during the autumn months. Visitors can expect to see massive flocks of birds as they make their way over Cape May every fall, according to Pete Dunne, director of the Cape May Bird Observatory.

"This is the epicenter of fall migration," he said. "Cape May offers more mass spectacles than any place on the planet."

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One spot for birding Dunne recommends is the hawk-watch platform located at Cape May Point State Park.

"Just show up and look up," Dunne said. "You are virtually guaranteed to see birds of prey, and I almost assure you that you will see lots of them." Naturalists participating in research programs are stationed at the platform to answer visitors' questions.

For a real spectacle, Dunne recommends visitors plan trips for the last week in October.

"If people are looking for a migratory fallout of birds, the last week of October is their best bet," he said.

The Bird Observatory also offers events and programs for novices and seasoned birders. A full calendar is available at

Joel Fogel, co-chair of Eco Tourism for the Greater Atlantic City Region Tour-ism Council and president of WATERWATCH Interna-tional, recommends ex-ploring lesser-known places in the fall.

"I tend to like places that are kind of off the beaten track," he said.

Fogel recommends Estell Manor Park on Route 50 for an outdoor destination that has a lot to offer. In addition to trails, picnic areas, and playgrounds, the park features re-creations of Native American settlements and ruins of an early 19th-century glassworks.

The park's nature center also runs a loaner program. Visitors can borrow bicycles, helmets, volleyballs and other recreational equipment for free.

"You don't have to bring a bike.You can go up there, grab a bike and go for a ride," said Fogel.

Some of Fogel's favorite spots to explore by canoe or kayak are the rivers that flow through Wharton State Forest, including the Mullica River and some of its tributaries, the Oswego and Wading rivers.

"I really enjoy that because of it's rich history and its beauty," he said.

Fogel recommends Mick's Canoe Rental in Chatsworth, Woodland Township, Burlington County, for those who wish to explore the area.

"They will rent you a boat, put you in the water, and pick you up when you're done," he said.

Brian Harman, an employee of Paddle Shack in Mays Landing, also enjoys kayaking in the fall.

"I think it's the best time of year, truthfully, because there's less boat traffic out there," he said.

Water in the area lakes and streams as well as the saltwater back bays remain warm enough for comfortable paddling in the fall, as long as paddlers have proper gear to keep warm, he said. Harman recommends neoprene tops for protection from cold water.

"Safety is always the No. 1 thing," he said. "Wear a life vest if you're going out paddling, and you have to be prepared for whatever could happen." Another important safety precaution for the fall is to bring extra warm clothing in a watertight bag, he said.

One spot for kayaking Harman enjoys is the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge in Oceanville, Galloway Township.

"Once it gets colder in the late fall and winter, you really see a lot of migratory birds that make a pit stop there," he said.

The Great Egg Harbor River is another nice location to paddle, he said. "You can see bald eagles, otters, and also great fishing, if you're comfortable fishing in a kayak," he said.

Wade Hess, a salesperson at Beacon Cycling and Fitness in Northfield, takes advantage of the end of the tourist season to bicycle near the ocean. He enjoys taking a route from his home in Ocean View, Dennis Township, through the Wildwoods and down to Cape May and back.

"Now that most of the tourist season is over, it's much safer to ride through the islands," he said.

Hess also cycles in the Bridgeton area for a change of terrain. The smooth roads in that area feature more rolling hills, he said.

Rural and forested areas in and around Cumberland County make for a nice view in the fall, he said.

"It's nice out that way," he said.

Hess said cyclists should make sure to dress to stay warm in the cooler, windier weather.

Worth a visit

Have only a limited time to enjoy the outdoors, or just looking to explore someplace new? Here are some recommendations

Joel Fogel's

Top Five Places to Visit

1. Fogel recommends visiting the Absecon Island seashore during the fall, as he considers it some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

2. Fogel enjoys the Wharton Forest Tract, and all of the rivers that run through it, including the Oswego, Batsto, Wading and Mullica.

3. Another favorite fall destination of Fogel's is Estell Manor Park. "Not just because of the beauty and the environment there, but also because of the serenity of the area."

4. Fogel recommends the Cape May Bird Observatory. "You're almost sure to see birds all times of the year."

5. Renault Winery in Galloway Township and Leaming's Run Gardens in Cape May Court House tie for Fogel's fifth favorite. "You can close your eyes, and you almost feel like you're in Merona County (California)," he said of the winery.

Wade Hess'

Top Five Places to Cycle

1. Hess enjoys cycling along the bayside and oceanside of Cape May County.

2. Another favorite route of Hess' runs through Belleplain State Forest.

3. Hess also enjoys cycling in Cumberland County, heading west to Salem County. "It's really nice and desolate out there."

4. Hess recommends cycling through the Wildwoods during the tourist off-season. "It's very nice, especially in the fall and winter."

5. Another favorite spot to cycle in the fall for Hess is Cape May Point.

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