Sunday, July 08, 2012

Birding Hawk Rise Sanctuary

Hawk Rise Sanctuary in Linden, New Jersey, was opened just this past May. It incorporates the land around the former Linden Landfill, which is being remediated into wildlife habitat. The 95-acre site includes grassland habitat on the landill proper, a salt marsh on the north side of the Rahway River, and a small patch of deciduous woods. There are currently 1.5 miles of trails, with more trails planned.

I was there yesterday to check it out. In a little over an hour, I observed 40 bird species, which I think it pretty good for a refuge of this size on a blisteringly hot day. (I made sure to finish up before the worst of the day's heat arrived.) The birds were mostly characteristic wetland species: Red-winged Blackbird, Spotted Sandpiper, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and so on. The most unusual sightings were a half-dozen Purple Martins flying over the landfill and a single Boat-tailed Grackle that flew across the creek that meanders through the sanctuary. The grassland on the landfill looks large enough to attract grassland specialists (both now and in winter), but for now at least it is closed to the public except for a short trail between the landfill and salt marsh. An early-morning walk there in May could produce some interesting sightings.

Restoration of wildlife habitat in the sanctuary is still in progress. Preparation for the opening in May included planting native understory shrubs in the forested parts of the sanctuary. Many of these are still tagged with pink ribbons and occasionally temporary labels. I noticed rhododendrons, viburnums (pictured right), highbush blueberry, various ferns, and mayapples, among other things. Some of the plants looked stressed, probably due in part to the ridiculous heat waves we have experienced in late June and early July this year.

One habitat problem the sanctuary is still dealing with is invasive species. Phragmites seems to be the dominant wetland plant, at least from what I could tell. Other invasive species I saw included Japanese Knotweed (one of the world's 100 worst invasive species), Purple Loosestrife (another from that list), and Canada Thistle. Fortunately none of them are there in huge numbers. For more on the Hawk Rise Sanctuary, see New Jersey Audubon, the NY-NJ Trail Conference, and Gone Hikin' blog.