Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Wilderness Trail in the Great Swamp

Yesterday I was in a portion of the Great Swamp that I had not walked through before. I have probably been to Lord Stirling Park more than any other part of the swamp. Judging from reports  on JerseyBirds, most birders seem to frequent the areas around Pleasant Plains Road and the Long Hill Road boardwalk trails. More than half of the National Wildlife Refuge lies east of Long Hill Road and is designated as a "wilderness area." I am not sure that a refuge in the center of New Jersey is a good example of "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man," as described by the Wilderness Act; it certainly does not feel that way when the trailhead is surrounded by a housing development. Nonetheless, this area of the Great Swamp was the first refuge to be designated as a wilderness in 1968.

Wilderness as it may be, this trail was pretty quiet yesterday. The most activity I saw was from a single flock of sparrows. Most of these were Dark-eyed Juncos, with a healthy mix of White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and (best of all) a few American Tree Sparrows. Nearby was a small flock of Eastern Bluebirds. At a different point, there were a few Swamp Sparrows, and near the end of the walk a large flock of American Robins flew overhead. Other than that, there were few birds to be seen.

I suspect that this trail may be more productive during the breeding season, when some swamp specialties would be in the area. It may also be more productive when the water is not frozen. The trail passes through several areas that appear to be open or wooded swamp, which ought to host Wood Ducks and other waterfowl during the appropriate seasons. Despite the lack of birds, this less-traveled trail offered some solitude and beatiful scenery.