A General Birding Guide

The pursuit of birds in view appeals to lots of people for lots of reasons. Beyond the activity's obvious natural allure, "chasing" birds keeps watchers physically fit. Learning and identifying hundreds of species on the fly challenges the intellect and intensifies awareness. And for photographers and illustrators, there is no better subject. The concentration of ridges, valleys and wetlands in our area holds a fortune of interaction with the avian experience any time of year, but especially in spring.

Birding on Farms

Wildlife viewers and local farmers can now benefit from a new and innovative partnership that enhances both the ecology of Northwest New Jersey and the economies of our still-rural communities.

Butterflies

Flying jewels they are sometimes called. Butterflies come in many sizes and colors, from delicately small and hard to spot, to Monarch orange and yellow bouncing about the garden for all to see. Once the weather starts to warm up and nectar plants begin to bloom, butterflies become more and more evident from woodlands to suburban flower gardens.

Dragonflies

Did you ever notice those large insects zipping over streams and ponds all summer long, skimming the water, then shooting about in zigzag patterns that make your head spin watching them? Dragonflies and damselflies, collectively belonging to the taxonomic order Odonata, are named for their prominent biting mouthparts and predatory nature.

Duke Farms

Green Think at Duke Farms.

Eagle Nesting

In the spring of 2006, once again bald eagles nested along the Delaware River less than a mile below Portland PA. But a year has made a big difference in what this offered to eagle watchers.

Owl Spotting in Winter

Winter opens up a whole new opportunity for the nature lover. Since the canopy of leaves is gone, there is visibility for spotting owls.

Portland Eagles

Eagles generally prefer to shun civilization and distance themselves from humans, especially while raising a brood of eaglets. But last breeding season, a pair of bald eagles bent those rules, choosing a former osprey nesting platform near Warren County's western border, just south of Portland, PA, as the place to raise a family

Raccoon Ridge

For those in New Jersey that fancy the habits of our wild avian friends (such people are know as "birders"), fall is the season to head for the hills to observe the annual raptor migration. A raptor is a bird of prey--a general descriptor that includes eagles, hawks, falcons, and vultures.

Raptor Watching

As the autumnal equinox approaches, local residents and visitors to the Northwest New Jersey Skylands gather to watch the raptor migrations as they fly along the thermals created along the path of the world's oldest mountain range the Appalachian Mountains.

Raptors At Merrill Creek

Many of the migration observation sites exist along the Kittatinny Ridge along New Jersey's Northwest border with the Delaware River; places like Raccoon Ridge and Sunrise Mountain. Another popular spot is the Scott's Mountain Hawk Watch, located further south at the inlet-outlet tower parking area on the western edge of Merrill Creek Reservoir, about 4 miles northeast of Phillipsburg, NJ.

The Raptor Trust

The Raptor Trust officially "took flight" in 1983, when Len Soucy and his wife, Diane, after fifteen years of backyard bird rehab, decided to incorporate their efforts as a non-profit organization that has since become one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States.

Walkill National Wildlife Refuge

As a major watershed, wedged between the Appalachian Valley and Ridge to the west and the Highland Ridge System to the east, the Wallkill River provides migratory and nesting habitat for waterfowl, which use the valley as a conduit between eastern Canada and the Atlantic coast and between the Delaware and Hudson rivers.

Winter Bird Feeding

People have all kinds of special indicators to clue them in on the changing seasons, especially winter, like thickness of onion skins or stripes on a wooly bear caterpillar. I check out the birds at my feeders and their arrival dates.

Winter Bird Watching

Hastened by the first blanketings of snow, the shortened days of winter in the Skylands afford a chilly but unequaled opportunity to draw closer to nature and to enjoy the quiet that descends with the withdrawal of activity to the indoors. On these cold days, while local countryside vistas remain open and unshrouded by their canopy of leaves, the fields, forests, and woodlands of our region are prime for the pastime of winter birdwatching.

A Family Affair

They arrive on the earthen dam, the well-nourished female the first to climb up the ravine, nose in the air, white tail up until she feels safe enough to saunter toward the pond that remains at its summertime low. She takes a few sips, her ears twitching, hindquarters quivering from the flies and mosquitoes that will continue to plague her until the first hard frost.

Bad News Bugs

These days, enjoying life outdoors is almost a hazard to your health. But Nature in the Skylands is not to be missed despite voracious female mosquitoes seeking blood for protein and fat for her eggs, or despite deer ticks or black flies, sometimes just out to taunt. So don’t be scared. Be aware!

Black Bear

If you have yet to see a black bear up close, you're missing an exquisite example of nature's beauty and majesty. Here in the Skylands region of New Jersey some residents can catch a glimpse right in their own backyards.

Bobcats in the Skylands

The bobcat, carrying a freshly killed rabbit, slipped through some mountain laurel. Almost three feet long and twenty inches high at the shoulder, in good years she might weigh as much as twenty-five pounds. If desperate —or lucky—she could take down a small deer.

Candid Wildlife Photography

Ever wonder what critters do when you're not around? What are they up to when they're not running away from you? Do they have a night life? You may have a good idea, but how often do you get to watch? Have some fun spying on your neighbors in the wild by getting hold of something called a trail camera.

Country Veterinarians

Many veterinarians live and work in northwest Jersey's farm country, but few are solo practitioners working from home without the assistance of other vets or technicians, venturing where they must to serve their paying and non-paying clients and patients.

Coyotes: The Life of Wiley

A sharp yip travels across a dark field by Lamington Road. More yips, then howls, then yip-howls follow. People in a nearby lot freeze, car keys in their hands, as the canine version of a devil's fugue increases in tempo. The sound moves west, following a line of woods one hundred yards distant and not nearly distant enough

Kitty Fox

In the middle of a fast food parking lot, I slowly unfolded the flaps of a plain brown cardboard box. Three balls of charcoal gray fuzz were curled up inside on top of a ratty old towel. "Hi, pretty kitty," I cooed in my best loving mommy voice. I scooped her up in my hand, and she curled into a smaller ball, trying to disappear. "It's alright, baby girl," I said.

Lakota Wolf Preserve

At the Lakota Wolf Preserve, you can see wolves here in the East in a natural surrounding for the first time in over a century.

Old Friends at Lakota Wolf Perserve

It was a beautiful Fall day the first time that I saw my new wolf, Midnight. He was playing in a small enclosure with his three sisters, Willow, Cheyenne and Lakota. They were the most beautiful Timber wolves I'd ever seen, and they would be part of my family for many years to come. It was a beautiful Fall day the first time that I saw my new wolf, Midnight. He was playing in a small enclosure with his three sisters, Willow, Cheyenne and Lakota. They were the most beautiful Timber wolves I'd ever seen, and they would be part of my family for many years to come.

Promise of the Season

For weeks we have heard the gobbles and clucks of turkeys coming from the deep woods, a small flock of hens and another of immature jakes venturing into the yard to peck at the seed under our bird feeders, but lately, toms have appeared strutting onto the pond's earthen dam, the ducks unimpressed with their elaborate display.

Rattlesnakes

A rattlesnake sat on my lap recently. Wrapped in a burlap bag and placed inside an open cardboard box, it rose and swayed as it sniffed the air to determine where it was. Another timber rattler lay beside me, snug and secure in a closed box on the truck's seat between me and the driver, MacKenzie Hall, timber rattlesnake researcher.

The Raptor Trust

The Raptor Trust officially "took flight" in 1983, when Len Soucy and his wife, Diane, after fifteen years of backyard bird rehab, decided to incorporate their efforts as a non-profit organization that has since become one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States.

Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road?

Like all of our terrestrial wildlife, turtles require space to roam to do all the things creatures need to do - eat, breed, escape, shelter - and the fragmented patches of natural lands we have left are often too small in size to support those needs.

Wildlife Rescue

The common goal of wildlife rehabilitators is to work in concert with the public and to promote a responsible concern for living beings and the welfare of the environment.

Wildlife Tracking at Hoffman Park

You'll have to excuse me, but when I go for a hike in a forested park, it's probably not the same walk many of you would take. That's because I am a tracker.

Wings and a Prayer

Bats are a fascinating group of animals. They’ve been flapping through the skies for more than fifty million years and are still the only mammals on Earth that can truly fly. But they are largely misunderstood, and have had very hard times of late.

Yardology

Your backyard can be more than just an area you need to mow on Saturdays. Even on a small lot in a congested suburban area, you can grow enough food to put away dozens of quarts of delicious homegrown produce for consumption throughout the year. And it is fascinating to take note of the wide variety of wildlife with which you share your domain. You may even want to invite more!

Guide yourself across the most awesome and beautiful countenance of New Jersey’s Northwest. For your peace and pleasure, embrace the wonders of Skylands gardens and find inspiration as you would at a fine art museum. The sculptures created by astounding aesthetic combinations of plant, landscape and architecture awaken and delight every sense in an embrace with nature.
“ A garden’s mission is complex, multi-faceted and dependent on its stage of development... While plants may seem to have a low profile in our society, they are the basis of life as we know it. A garden’s real mission is to make this fact abundantly clear by serving to improve communications between the plant world and the human world.”- Shannon Smith, Why a Botanical Garden in The Public Garden, Jan 1989

Buck Garden

Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills is a garden of splendor and inspiration-- a landscape of art, sprung from a love of the beauty of plants and a reverence for nature.

Champion Trees

Dedicated arborists tend trees through ice storms, pests, fungus, and an onslaught of pollutants. With time and luck, a tree might become a legacy for generations.

Duke Gardens

In 1964, Doris Duke completed one of her life's ambitions when she opened a splendidly enchanted acre of land on her expansive Somerville estate for public visitation.

Fall Foliage

The annual fall foliage bloom is dependent primarily on moisture and the first frost, but peak leaf viewing in Northwest New Jersey normally occurs somewhere around the first full week of October.

Forest Flowers of Musconetcong Gorge

Broadly speaking, the most diverse forest ecosystems are ones with the fewest human interventions dating from modern times. Untouched land in New Jersey is rare if not non-existent. Musconetcong Gorge Reservation has a special mix of natural and human history that makes it a rewarding botanical site in the late spring months of May and June.

Historic Gardens

What could say "Spring" more than the bright yellow branches of Forsythia shooting outward like hot yellow firecrackers? Or pink tulips and yellow daffodils growing and glowing close together? How about the heady aroma of purple, pink and white lilacs, and saucer-sized pink and white magnolia flowers flouncing against blue sky?

Invasive Species

Bio invasions in Northwest New Jersey.

Jersey Grown Gardens

If toxic chemicals don't fit your vision of "green thumbness," look to the following alternatives for making your lawn and garden come alive!

Local Roots

At the Pohatcong Native Arboretum, specimens are organized by family and planted in raised beds covered with glacial stones. There are also hiking trails along the creek.

Power Plants

The forests and fields of Northwest Jersey offer a visitor much more than a walk in the park. They are a veritable garden; Nature's garden of edible and medicinal plants.

Restless Natives

Native plants are hot these days, but horticulturists suspect that most people are unaware of them and, even among those-in-the-know, "what exactly is a native" is a dilemma. Experts have reached an accord: a New Jersey native plant was living here before the colonists arrived. Here is a handful of fabulous gardens to visit with native species in their ecological mission.

Wildflower Hunting at Jenny Jump

Native perennial wildflowers bloom briefly, anywhere from one to four weeks, depending on the species. That means a regular visit to particularly robust nature preserves can reveal different wildflowers blooming each time. Jenny Jump State Forest has a magical variation in elevation and terrain that makes it a rewarding site for spring forest flowers.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers in Northwest New Jersey: The greatest show in earth!

Big Skylands Country

Warren County's Scott's Mountain, so named since at least 1885, is known locally as Montana Mountain, named for the small hamlet that sits on its scenic plateau. Nearby Merrill Creek Reservoir, with its vast open waters and network of wooded trails, is deserving of any excursion up the mountain. The trip back down into and through the Pohatcong Valley is equally rewarding for students of history and devotees of the outdoors, especially in autumn when you might even spot flying pumpkins.

Blair Creek Preserve

Under the shade of oak, hickory, maple and beech, a rutted, over-grown driveway leads to a little cabin by a lake deep in the woods in Stillwater.

Botanical Spell Along Patriot's Path

Plan to spend a day on this easy path from garden to garden. Get to know the richness and pleasures of their natural and cultivated diversity.

Duke Farms

Green Think at Duke Farms.

Duke Farms: A Thousand To One

The former one-acre Duke Gardens exhibit has been expanded to one thousand acres open for public exploration and enjoyment for the first time in one hundred years. The gardens have become Duke Farms Living Habitats, and their worldly cultural aesthetic has largely transformed into a focus on what belongs right here, right now.

Field Guide

NJ Audubon’s thirty-fifth outpost, the Wattles Stewardship Center in Port Murray, is a model for blending environmental awareness, wildlife habitat, and agriculture -- and a wonderful place to take a walk!

Gifford Pinchot and Grey Towers

Visitors to Grey Towers will come to understand the importance of the Pinchot family influence on America's conservation ethics and natural resource management policies.

Great Swamp

Nineteen years in the wilderness.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

The Great Swamp is a place where "open space" have been magic words for a long time.

Haven at St. Hubert's for Unhappy Dogdom

Of all the things that Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge left behind -- the thirty-five room mansion, hundreds of acres of prime real estate, a Fifth Avenue townhouse, enough sterling silver trophies and bronze sculptures to sink a small ship, museum quality paintings, and a forty-four carat sapphire -- St. Hubert's Giralda may have been the one she valued most.

How Green Can You Get?

A conservationist's conundrum

Hutcheson Memorial Forest

A 65-acre tract of old growth forest in Franklin Township, Somerset County, is a conundrum in time and purpose

Local Roots

At the Pohatcong Native Arboretum, specimens are organized by family and planted in raised beds covered with glacial stones. There are also hiking trails along the creek.

Merrill Creek Recreation Area

Visitors have the chance to help in environmental studies by merely carrying a turtle or lending a fish on the end of your hook.

Natirar

Natirar offers iking, horses and fishing outdoors, events, exhibitions and concerts, a museum and interpretive center.

NJ School of Conservation

The New Jersey School of Conservation is the Environmental Education Field Campus of Montclair State University. Located 57 miles from the Essex County campus, on a 240-acre tract within the boundaries of Stokes State Forest in Sussex County, it is the oldest university-operated environmental education center in the nation.

Opening Doors to the Natural World

Hoffman Center for Conservation and Environmental Education

Paths of Green, Fields of Gold

A visit to Fairview Farm, headquarters for the Raritan Headwater Association, is captivating. There are six miles of trails, a pond, butterfly garden and restored 1800’s era barn complex.

Pyramid Power

The story of one of the Northwestern New Jersey’s largest and more improbable natural treasures, a fist shaped swath of land designated in 1987 as the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area, nearly 1,500 acres of wooded terrain dotted with brooks, swamps, glacial deposits, rock outcroppings glens and vistas.

Refuge Matters

In 1959, galvanized community activists fought a proposed jetport that threatened the Great Swamp watershed. They raised enough money and support to donate thousands of acres to the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was born. The public can explore the swampy outdoors in the Refuge Wilderness Area.

Schiff Nature Preserve

The eight miles of trails at the Schiff Nature Preserve in Mendham Township are generous with beautiful vistas, challenging terrain, and a variety of natural habitats.

Skylands Botanical Gardens

Confusing (or better, enhancing) the boundaries of where the Skylands can be found, the New Jersey State Botanical Garden at Skylands is certainly quarters for some of the best of what Northwestern New Jersey represents.

Sourland Mountain Preserve

Legstretchers in New Jersey's Sourlands Mountain Preserve.

Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area

The Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA) lies in Sussex County off Route 517 and Glen Road near the Town of Sparta, and along the Highlands Trail.

The Raptor Trust

The Raptor Trust officially "took flight" in 1983, when Len Soucy and his wife, Diane, after fifteen years of backyard bird rehab, decided to incorporate their efforts as a non-profit organization that has since become one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States.

Vernal Pools

This spring, head for the woods on a special type of hunt. You won't find explicit directions, but if you log any appreciable trail time in the spring, you'll eventually come across a vernal pool.

Walkill National Wildlife Refuge

As a major watershed, wedged between the Appalachian Valley and Ridge to the west and the Highland Ridge System to the east, the Wallkill River provides migratory and nesting habitat for waterfowl, which use the valley as a conduit between eastern Canada and the Atlantic coast and between the Delaware and Hudson rivers.

Wet and Wild

Newfoundland, West Milford offer preserved deep forests, brooks, ponds and unspoiled landscapes throughout the Pequannock Watershed.

Wildlife Management Areas

Guide to Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in Northwest New Jersey.

Wildlife Refuges in New Jersey

The year 2003 celebrated the centennial birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a network of public lands purchased, enhanced, restored and maintained by the US Fish & Wildlife Service for wildlife and their habitats, and preserved for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

Float the Wild Side on the Wallkill River

Follow the tiny but mighty Wallkill River on its 88.3-mile journey north through eastern Sussex County into New York State. From out of Lake Mohawk, it spills over a dam then becomes a stream unseen by most, running through town parks, woodland, and past parking lots and businesses. It's dammed in Franklin to form Franklin Pond, the town's reservoir, and, in Hamburg, is stocked with trout before it flows through the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge and into New York.

Hacklebarney State Park

Hacklebarney State Park is 892 acres of glacial valley, with gorges carved by the Black River and two tributaries that feed it, the Rinehart and Trout Brooks. There are over 5 miles of trails.

Lower Musconetcong Valley

Taking Route 519 south from Alpha through Springtown, the narrow macadam curves west as it enters the lower Musconetcong Valley and joins Route 627. This, 627, is the route to stay with for 519 soon deserts us and goes off to Milford. Route 627 hugs the lower Musconetcong River for its last few miles of existence through a little-known collection of ancient settlements and beautiful farms.

Musconetcong River

How have we loved the Musconetcong River? Let us count the ways.

Pequest River

When the brooklet reaches Warren County, just a few miles from its source at Stickles Pond, it becomes a respectable body of water. For example, in Sussex County the streamlet is most often referred to as Pequest Crik; in Warren County its name is, without exception, Pequest RIVER.

Raritan South Branch: Budd Lake to Clinton

The fledgling river flows south from Budd Lake, under Route 46 where you can follow its general path by turning left on Wolff Rd, right on Flanders-Drakestown, and left again on River Road through heavily wooded residential areas marked here and there by occasional ancient homesteads and antique mills refurbished for family habitation. When River Road meets Flanders Bartley Road, turn right and follow the river as it makes its way, having picked up some steam, into Washington Valley.

Raritan South Branch: Clinton to Flemington

A good place to begin your appreciation of the South Branch is at Echo Hill Park just south of Clinton.

Raritan South Branch: Flemington to Bridgewater

The water begins to spread across wider ranges of farmland and meadows as it approaches the Higginsville Road bridges that span the river between Hunterdon and Somerset Counties.

Rockaway River

Follow its path not an easy thing, since access is often difficult and you can see things that make you want to cheer and weep. In its 40 miles, the Rockaway serves as a précis of the story of all American rivers and their relationship with people who live, work, play, travel, love, care for and ignore them.

Shad Fishing

The restless army enters the river proper in smaller divisions; schools clustered densely at the center of the run with advance brigades in front, followed by platoons hanging back at the rear. Their mission is simply to swim, females following males to nesting locations along a journey that, for some, can continue for more than 300 miles.

Super Intentions

The fiftieth anniversary of Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area in 2015, which coincides with the hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, invites reflection on the past—and a focus on the future.

The Black River

The Black River (also called the Black-Lamington) is only about 12 miles long from beginning to end, but on the way it slices through the lives of tens of thousands of New Jerseyans. It hits them where they live, work and play.

The Lamington River

Two tributaries of the Raritan River, the Lamington River and the North Branch, meander through some of the prettiest scenery in the state. Happily, some of the best stretches of the rivers are now open to the public. Confucius claimed that a man of wisdom delights in water; these havens offer ample opportunities to grow wise.

The Mighty Musky

The Musconetcong River runs forty-two miles down from Lake Hopatcong to the Delaware River. But in that brief distance, the river and its valley describe, for better or worse, the evolution of modern American culture in the advance of agriculture, transportation and industry. Exploration of the valley is never short on delightful surprises, and deserves to be on your itinerary. The village of Asbury is a good place to begin.

Walkill National Wildlife Refuge

As a major watershed, wedged between the Appalachian Valley and Ridge to the west and the Highland Ridge System to the east, the Wallkill River provides migratory and nesting habitat for waterfowl, which use the valley as a conduit between eastern Canada and the Atlantic coast and between the Delaware and Hudson rivers.

Whippany River

If ever there was a river that expresses New Jerseyans' attitude toward their state's natural resources, the Whippany River is it.

Worthington State Forest

Situated along the river, within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Worthington State Forest comprises almost 6,000 acres extending about seven miles along the Kittatinny Ridge.

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