google-site-verification: google900a98bdc2b675aa.html
Pet Rabbit Photo Bloopers

Pet Rabbit Photo Bloopers

Photographing a pet rabbit is not always easy.  The rabbit needs to be comfortable and in familiar settings.  Here are a few bloopers from our Easter photo shoot.

Rufus-rabbit-Easter-Bunny-bloopers (3)

Rufus Rabbit is not quite finished with his snack.  

In order to photograph your pet rabbit, or just about any pet, a little snack helps to keep them interested.

Rufus-rabbit-Easter-Bunny-bloopers (2)

Caught exactly at the wrong moment – silly rabbit!

Be prepared to take a lot of photos.  In many cases, you will only have a short window of time before they become distracted and walk off the set.

Rufus-rabbit-Easter-Bunny-bloopers (1)

Here’s what I really think about this photo shoot!

Hope you enjoyed this super-quick post and have a few things to keep in mind for your next pet photo shoot.  Have a great day!

The Easiest Way to Get Quality Snowflake Photos

The Easiest Way to Get Quality Snowflake Photos

We got a lot of snow this week

…about 3 feet (about 1 meter), then some ice and a power outage, and today – more snow. The little voice said get your butt outside and take some snowflake photos!

So, I got all the gear together – my Canon 80D, a Canon 100mm macro lens, a sturdy tripod, and some dark microfiber towels to catch the snowflakes. Seems like an easy way to photography snowflakes, doesn’t it?

No worries – there’s a Plan B.

 

Macro like this on a point-and-shoot camera?

The challenge:

Accuweather predicts there’s only 20 more minutes of snowfall. Of course they’re reliable, so I put on all my winter gear, grab a few extra towels for the camera and start shooting straight away.

The photos aren’t looking great so far with setting at f/8 and ISO 400. With a shutter speed of 7 FPS, there is obvious blur in the tiny snowflake. I move closer, move away, focus manually, change a few more settings.

Meanwhile, the towel covering the camera

is covered in snow

and my feet are already frozen.

 

After ten minutes, I retreat. Come in, wipe off the camera and let it be still while it acclimates to a balmy 65 degrees F in the house.

Zoomed in all the way – captured on the Olympus Tough TG-5 compact camera

Plan B?

It’s the Olympus Tough TG-5. It’s a little brick of a camera that fits in your pocket. The camera is mostly metal, waterproof, handles freezing temps, tolerates a few good drops (table to floor), can shoot RAW, slo mo, 4K. It can also shoot macro.

  • There’s a microscope mode
  • a zoom microscope mode
  • a focus stack mode in-camera
  • and a focus-bracketing mode

It’s attached to a Gorillapod most of the time.  I grab it and head outside with a fresh towel.

 

Size compared to a US dime

Snow accumulates quickly

Ten cents and a snowflake

Snowfall lightens up.   The camera is set to the zoom microscope mode, which can also do video. The Gorillapod is bent so that the camera is sturdy, about one inch from the towel. Everything can be seen clearly on the back of the screen – it’s waterproof and freeze tolerant. Forgot to mention – shoots 20 FPS!

When you photograph snowflakes, it has to be really really cold, or you have to be really really fast, like within a second. Otherwise, the snowflake turns to mush.

After ten minutes, the battery dies. It was not fully charged, but lasted long enough to get the job done.

If it kept snowing, I could have stayed out there much longer – it was really fun and SO easy to shoot with the Olympus. I didn’t have a ton of stuff to set up or any worries about damaged gear, settings, etc. Only two decent shots with the Canon setup – had many more to choose from with the Olympus.

Canon 80D + 100mm Macro

 

Olympus Tough TG-5 zoomed in all the way

My Olympus is at least two years old. Latest model is the Olympus Tough TG-6 with some notable improvements. A bundle goes for about $389 USD.

Favorite things about the Olympus:

  • Compact and quiet – no shutter noise and fits in your pocket
  • Video features are good when stabilized and used in daylight, including 4K, Slo Mo (60 FPS) and regular
  • Macro mode is really fun and easy to use – get super-close
  • Shoots RAW
  • Waterproof
  • 20 FPS
  • Has many other standard features like Scene mode, Timelapse, and Timer

Not so great

  • Does not perform well in low light – grainy
  • Video is best when stabilized, to much ghosting, IMO, when moving
  • Image quality is best in daylight
  • Battery life is not great and the battery indicator is unreliable – always carry an extra charged battery
  • A little expensive for a point-and-shoot

Summary

Would you get a point-and-shoot camera for not only macro photography, but suitable for all of your outdoor adventures?  Consider the Olympus Tough, for fast photos and 4K videos.  Don’t forget that extra battery!

Snowy and Short-Earred Owls

Snowy and Short-Earred Owls

One of my favorite bird photographers on YouTube is Mark Smith, from Florida, USA.  He has amazing photographs and video of Osprey, Eagles, Herons and more.  He narrates his videos in a unique and entertaining style.

Recently, he visited New York (Long Island) to photograph Snowy Owls.  He then made his way over to the  Shawangunk Grasslands NWR – about an hour north of here – which is an annex of the Wallkill River NWR, detailed in my blog.

Check out his amazing photography of the Snowy Owl and even more impressive, the Short-Earred Owl, in this video. 

Enjoy – as we recover from the Ice Storm and brief power outage this week – Winter Weather!

Snowy Owl photo feature by Zdenek Machacek from Unsplash.

 

 

The Great Backyard Bird Count is Here – Will it be the Biggest One Ever?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is Here – Will it be the Biggest One Ever?

Have you heard?

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is here!

For four days, February 12-15, 2021, spend at least 15 minutes counting the birds you see.

Just as the name implies, the birds you count can be right outside your window. Or, head to your favorite birding spot to count.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Birds Canada.

Who can participate?

Everyone! This is a global event. Watch updated observation lists as they are submitted from around the world. For more ways to participate, check out the official website.

Resources

Use ebird.org to track your birding activity

Get the Merlin Bird ID app for FREE for help identifying birds. I personally love the app. Not only does it make it easy to ID birds on the spot, but they have a library of excellent sounds. 

Dark-eyed Junco backyard bird

Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), aka Snowbird is a common backyard visitor in the Winter

Stats from the GBBC from 2020, according to the official website:

  • over 270 thousand participants

  • over 27 million birds counted

  • almost 7 thousand bird species identifies

  • 194 Countries participated

Why might this be the biggest event ever?

With the Covid pandemic and social distancing continuing into 2021, more people are staying home or finding activities in small groups. And, an interest in nature and birds continue to increase. It’s a great way to participate in a global event. It’s fun for individuals, friends and families.

One sponsor, the National Audubon Society, explains:

“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a free, fun and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org

Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) may be one of the birds you spot this weekend in your backyard for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Submit your photos for a chance to win!

Categories are:

  • Overall
  • Habitat
  • People
  • Composition
  • Group
  • Behavior

Check out the 2020 winners (a PDF gallery)

For more info about submitting your photography, check out the official rules and Share your photos

SUMMARY

Get your checklists and cameras ready for the 2021 Great Backyard Bird Count! It’s a fun activity to enjoy from the comfort of your home, in your car, or your favorite birding spot.

Just spend at least 15 minutes documenting the species and number of birds you count. And perhaps best of all, submit your photos, which may be shared on social media, the Macaulay library, and a chance to be a photo Winner!

A Winter Hike and Wildlife:  Looking for Porcupines

A Winter Hike and Wildlife: Looking for Porcupines

A winter hike can be a great experience. Recent snowfall turned a leisurely hike to a more strenuous activity, requiring snowshoes. It was peaceful and easier than ever to see wildlife.  There were footprints in the snow. Hawks, Juncos and Chickadees were found in trees. And, to our delight, we spotted a Porcupine!

Porcupines can be a little tricky to find, even in the winter. To the average person, if the Porcupine is not hanging out towards the end of a branch, it may be overlooked as a squirrel nest.

During the day, they may rest near the truck of the tree. Their dark color can provide camoflauge against the bark, especially in Pine or Hemlock trees.

porcupine (2)

Porcupine in a Pine Tree. The branches make it difficult to get a clear photo.

Porcupine Facts

The North Amercian Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is the second largest rodent in North American, behind the North American Beaver.

  • Porcupines weigh from 10 to 28 pounds (4.5 to 13kg). For a diet consisting mainly of trees, that’s pretty heavy!
  • They are typically dark brown or black in color with white highlights.
  • Their bodies are stocky, with short legs, a short and a thick tail.
  • Although they have big brown eyes, their vision is not very good.

When are porcupines active?

They are mostly nocturnal – active at night – and have an amazing memory for finding their way through mazes to food sources and back to their dens.

Can porcupines shoot their quills?

The most familar feature about a Porcupine is their quills. An adult has about 30,000 quills on most of it’s body, except for it’s underbelly, face, and feet.

Although the quills are used as a defense mechanism, they cannot throw or shoot their quills. They will contract their muscles when threatened, causing the quills to stand up from their body. This makes it much easier for the quills to detach from their body.

Backing up into the predator is a commmon way of defense, leaving the attacker with a patch of painful quills that are hard to remove. The quills look long and straight, but they actually have little barbs which stick into the flesh of the enemy. Ouch.

 

porcupine (3)

Porcupine in Pine Tree during winter.

Do Porcupines hibernate?

Unlike our Groundhog friends, Porcupines do not hibernate. They hang out in trees close to their dens in the winter. The den may be a rock crevice or cave, a hollow log, or sometimes under a barn or shed.

How long do Porcupines live?

Porcupines are naturally social-distant, living mostly solitary lives up to 30 years. They may starve, fall out of a tree, or get hit by a car.

The Male Fisher is it’s greatest natural enemy. The Fisher can climb trees. If it can cause the Porcupine to climb down, it will attack the face and underbelly.

What is a baby Porcupine called?

One of my favorite things was to learn that baby Porcupines are called Porcupettes. Their quills are soft when they are born, thankfully for Mama, and will begin to harden within a few days. Typically, only one Porcupette is born at time.

What do Porcupine eat?

They will eat conifer needles and tree bark. The damage they do to trees makes them a pest to some people.

Porcupines love salt.  They will seek out road salt, which can also result in getting hit by cars. They will also eat plywood for it’s salt content and even eat sweat-soaked leather gloves and wooden tool handles from forestry workers.

Some Porcupines love Pumpkins, like the famous Teddy in this YouTube video.  They make the cutest noises ever!

 

Photographing Porcupines

It is not easy to get a good photo of the Porcupine in the wild, despite it’s slow movement. It is almost always obstructed by tree branches. Otherwise, it it curled up and sleeping or will move closer to the trunk, where it will hide it’s face. They are usually high up in a tree.

 

Porcupine at the Zoo, image by Eliza28diamonds of Pixabay

 

Summary

Next time you are out on a hike, especially in Winter, be sure to check for wildlife.  You might just spot a Porcupine while you’re at it!

Interesting Groundhog Day facts you may not know

Interesting Groundhog Day facts you may not know

Groundhog Day is a fun holiday to look forward to. A chubby brown critter gets his day in the spotlight every February 2nd.

As the story goes, if it is sunny and clear, there is six more weeks of winter. Spring would come early if it was cloudy.

So how did this tradition get started?

Here are interesting facts about Groundhog Day that you may not have known.

 

The original holiday from Germany was Candlemas, also celebrated on February 2nd. Early European Christians believed that if the sun came out on this holiday, there would be six more weeks of winter.

An old English rhyme helps us to remember:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Candlemas, or the Blessing of the Candles, is one of the oldest feasts of the Christian church. It occurs 40 days after December 25 – Christmas Day – and marks the end of the Christmas season.  It is also the meeting of the Christ child in the temple.

It is celebrated a little differently in various regions of the world.

Here are some traditions:

  • Crepes, the delicate golden sweet pancake, are a traditional food in Belgium, France and Swiss Romandy. It is thought to have the likeness of a of a solar disc, meaning the return of Spring after the darkness of winter. All candles in the house should be lit.

 

  • In Mexico, the day is celebrated with adoration of the Christ Child with richly decorated clothes and brought to the church to be blessed. Afterwards, the entire family is invited to a meal of Tamales.

 

  • One of the largest cultural festivals in Peru celebrates the Virgin of Candelaria. It is one of the three largest festivals in South America, the others being Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and in Bolivia, Carnaval de Oruro. Music, dancing and elaborate costumes are at the core of the festivals. Thousands of people are involved as participants, organizers, musicians, and costume makers.
groundhog kit in grass happy groundhog day (2)

So how did a Christian holiday turn into a celebration of Groundhogs?

 Germans settled into Pennsylvania in the 1880’s. Many of them were farmers. In Germany, they relied on a hedgehog to help them with the weather, since they didn’t have TV’s or satellites.

They adapted to the tradition when they arrived in the United States. They used the Groundhog, commonly found in PA and the northeast, as their weather prognisticator.

    Punxsutawney Phil

    • Ever since the debut of the movie, upwards of 30,000 people would gather in the small town of Punxsutawney, located about 1.5 hrs northeast of Pittsburgh, PA, for the annual celebration.
    • You can visit Phil in his burrow- he lives at the Public Library. The town is also decorated with 32 artistic larger than life Groundhogs lining the streets of the town.

    Phil is not the only famous Groundhog. Other famous Groundhogs include:

    • Staten Island Chuck, also known as Charles. G. Hogg, resides at the Staten Island Zoo in New York. My favorite memory is when the ex-Mayor of New York (Mike Bloomberg) stuck his hand in the cage – and got bitten. Don’t mess with the Groundhog!
    • Jimmy The Groundhog is from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. In 2016, he also bit the Mayor, who thought it would be cute for the Groundhog to whisper in his ear. Wrong!
    • Chatanooga Chuck lives at the Tennesee Aquarium
    •  General Beauregard Lee, from Jackson, Georgia, makes home at the Dauset Trails Nature Center.
    • Thistle the Whistlepig hails from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
    • Stonewall Jackson VIII* from Space Farms Zoo and Museum is a resident of Sussex County, New Jersey. *There have been several generations of Stonewall Jackson, I think they’re up to eight.
    young groundhog pair near shed

    A couple of cute Groundhog kits outside the shed on a sunny Spring morning.

    Other names for a Groundhog include Woodchuck, which some believe have origins from the Algonquin name of Wuchak. They are also known as Whistle Pigs, Ground Squirrel and Gopher. They are from the Marmot family, Marmota Monax is their scientific name.

     

    Groundhogs have skills.

    • They are powerful tunnelers, digging complex tunnels over 30 feet long with multiple entryways and chambers. All that digging equates to about 700 pounds of dirt. They can also climb trees and swim.
    • They also have little stumps on their from paws, like thumbs, which allow them to hold and manipulate objects.
    • Voracious herbivores with an occasional sprinkle of grasshopper, they seem to eat constantly. They especially love grasses – and gardens – one of the main reasons gardeners and farmers try to eradicate them.
    • Their large tunnel systems can also do extensive damage to property, especially near sheds where they can easily burrow. Lawn tractors and equipment can get stuck if they do not maneuver carefully.
    groundhog kit with mom (3)

    Groundhog Kit with Mama

    More Groundhog facts:

    • Groundhogs weigh between 9-15 pounds, but put on a lot of extra weight in the fall to prepare for hibernation.
    • They’re an average of 20 inches long with a big bushy 6-inch tail.
    • They live up to 6 years old, but since they love to forage near the edge of the road, they also get hit by vehicles.
    • Other major predators include fox, coyotes, raccoons and dogs.
    • They have a litter of 4 to 9 kits or cubs. The kits open their eyes at 4 weeks old and don’t leave the den until almost 7 weeks old.

    Watch a cute video about Groundhogs:

    How accurate is Phil?

    About as accurate as most other weather predictors, about 40% of the time, according to the National Climatic Data Center (NOAA).

    Finally, Groundhogs know when winter is over.

    After their long hibernation, they emerge in early spring to look for a mate. As the weather becomes more seasonal, they appear more often.

     

    What is something you didn’t know about the Groundhog?  Let us know in the comments below.

    groundhog kit in grass

    If you can relate to the Groundhog or know someone who doesn’t like winter, consider getting one of these fun t-shirts.

    The Groundhog is wearing a blue or red beanie hat, with the words, “Wake Me Up When Winter is Over”. It’s fun to wear all winter long! Get yours today on Amazon $14.99 – you’ve got six more weeks!

    Wake Me Up When Winter is Over Groundhog TShirt SALE Blue
    Wake Me Up When Winter is Over Groundhog TShirt Red

    Some other designs to consider for Valentine’s Day and St. Patricks Day:

    HUG ME I'm Vaccinated
    Shenanigan Squad
    V is for Vaccinated Hug Me Bear pink

    Disclosure: Some of the links on this page contain affiliate links, such as Amazon links. I may earn a small commission from purchases made through some of the links, at no extra cost to you. I only link to products that I personally use and highly recommend. Any purchases made through affiliate links are greatly appreciated, as they enable me to continue to create content to share with you.

    My favorite birder, Leslie the Bird Nerd

    My favorite birder, Leslie the Bird Nerd

    Perhaps one of the most impressive birders out there, be sure to check out Leslie the Bird Nerd.  She hand-feeds Blue-Jays!   She is amazing and stands by her name. 

    Here’s one of her latest YouTube videos about the Snowbirds (Juncos).

    Edwin B. Forsythe NWR:  NJ Bird Photography Paradise

    Edwin B. Forsythe NWR: NJ Bird Photography Paradise

    Where can you go any time of year to observe and photograph birds for just about every skill level, age, physical condition in the comfort of your own car?

    You got it – Forsythe is THE PLACE for Bird Photography!

    In these times where social distancing is required, it is tough to think of a better place than “Forsythe”.  For starters, it features an 8-mile auto road.  It is a bird sanctuary – a bird photographer’s paradise! Driving on Wildlife Drive, there will be birds to the left of you.  And birds to the right.   Look up for more birds in flight!

    It’s a National Wildlife Refuge, perhaps one of the largest in New Jersey.

    According to the official website, the refuge protects over 47,000 acres of coastal habitat in southern NJ. This location makes it a prime flight path in the Atlantic Flyway, which is crucial for migrating birds in every season. As more people develop land on the NJ shoreline, this protected area becomes more important than ever.

    Be aware that this post is based on the Main Refuge Headquarters and Wildlife Drive.  There are other sections of the refuge.

    snow geese at forsythe

    Snow Geese make a stopover during winter.  Look closely and you can see their “mugs” covered in mud from foraging in the marshlands.

    Getting There

    Address and link to Google Maps:

    800 Great Creek Road
    Oceanville, NJ 08231

    From Garden State Parkway Southbound:

    The refuge is easily accessed using Parkway Exit 48. You will exit onto US Route 9 South. The refuge entrance is at the 3rd traffic light (Great Creek Road). Turn left on Great Creek Road, which ends at the refuge.

    Hours:

    Wildlife drive is open every day from sunrise to sunset. However, routine maintenance may require closures; check the website before your visit to check what is open.

    There is a fee to enter the park; $4 per car and $2 for walk-ins and bicycles. There are other options for more frequent visits.

     

    common tern forsythe summer

    Common Terns are a common sight in late spring and throughout the summer

    Amenities

    • There is a visitor center but refuge facilities are closed. There are port-o-johns available.
    • Several picnic tables are located near the visitor center.
    • Nature trails surround the visitor center – great if you just drove a few hours to get there. Depending on season, there are tons of songbirds, warblers, squirrels, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and more.
    • Wildlife near or in the ponds surrounding the trails may include muskrats, turtles, frogs and the occassional otter and mink.

    Bird Photography along Wildlife Drive

    This is an amazing opportunity to get stellar close-up photos of a huge variety of birds. Your vehicle is the perfect “blind” to allow safe viewing:

    • The one-way 8-mile drive is in a square shape.  Good light will be on one at least one side of your drive for most spots along the drive.
    • For example, on a sunny morning at the begining of your drive, Atlantic City will be on your right side and be backlit. Birds on the left side of the drive will be in ideal light and will be easier to get good photographs.
    • A lens of 400mm or greater is recommended. Many of the “pros” bring their 600mm + lenses without having to lug them around – definitely a huge benefit of Wildlife Drive!

    Many birds are in the pools and channels right next to the road – it is like a wildlife safari!

    Very often, seagulls will fly overhead to drop a mussel or other mollusk snack to help break it open. They will wait until the last minute to get out of your way.

    In late Spring and Summer, Terns, Egrets and Heron – even Night Heron – can be found near drainage areas to fish for their meals. Great photo opportunities abound!

    You can get out of your vehicle, but be sure to stay on the drive.

    northern pintail

    Hundreds of Northern Pintail can be seen during late winter and fall migration

    northern shoveler

    Northern Shoveler make their way through Forsythe in the hundreds during winter months

    Wildlife Highlights by Season

    Winter

    Winter is home to thousands of Brant, Black Ducks and Snow Geese. Raptors include Red-Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Short-Earred Owls, and even a Snowy Owl. Ducks like Northern Shovelers, Pintails and divers such as Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, Grebes and Mergansers can be spotted. We got a special visit from this Merlin during our drive in mid-January.

    merlin closeup

    Closeup Merlin, also featured image

    Merlin on bird sign at Forsythe

    Yes – you can get THIS close – here’s the same Merlin on bird sign at Forsythe, so fitting “for the birds… and you!”

    Spring

    Spring is my favorite time to visit – there is just so much happening. Ospreys return, Snowy and Great Egrets, Herons, Oystercatchers, Terns and Warblers arrive, as well as all the shorebirds and sandpipers. Purple Martins can be spotted near the Visitor Center. Diamondback Terrapins lay their eggs in the soil – be careful driving. There are patches of bright Daffodils on some trails and the fruit trees produce beautiful flowers. Keep an eye out for Glossy Ibis.

    Summer

    Summer brings the pollinator insects and butterflies that you can see in abundance along the nature trails. The turtles are out in full force, and Fiddler crabs can be seen when the tide is low. Black Skimmers are a favorite to watch as they hover low to the water to catch any insects on the surface. Be warned – Summer is Green Fly season and it is amazing how they can swarm. Our last summer visit was in mid-July and it was difficult to put the windows down.

    Fall

    Be on the lookout for migrating hawks by early September. Monarch Butterflies also migrate through in order to prepare for their final journey south. As the weather gets colder and the days become shorter, foliage turns brilliant colors of yellow, orange, red to rust. As the frost arrives, so do wintering ducks and geese – their home for the win

    black swallowtail on pink knapweed

    This beautiful Black Swallowtail on Pink Knapweed was captured near the Wildflower Nature Trail, just outside the Visitor Center.

    Notable Information

    In order to keep up to date on the most recent sightings, be sure to check out ebird.org, a popular bird sighting and reporting app developed by Cornell, where hundreds of users report daily sightings, many of them regular and reliable visitors to the refuge.

    Extending your stay?

    If you are planning to make a few extra stops or extend your stay, be sure to check out Historic Smithville, located about 5 miles from the refuge headquarters.

    • There are over 50 specialty shops, about 10 different eateries, including the Smithville Inn, where you can also stay the Night.
    • The setting could hardly be more picturesque. The shops are a collection of wooden clapper board-syle building that surround a lake.
    • There is a train, carosel and even a covered bridge! There are events year-round. Check out their highly informative and up-to-date site Historic Smithville map and info.

    If you do plan on staying, there are hotels in nearby Little Egg Harbor; we haved stayed at the Homewood Suites by Hilton a few times, located about 20 minutes from the refuge.

    For a quick pit-stop, there is a Wawa convenience store just up the road from Smithville, on Route 9 (from GSP South x 48)

    If you like golf, there are some beautiful resorts in Galloway, including the Galloway National Golf Club. High-end restaurants, spas and other lodges options can be found in Galloway.

    For a regional visit, I highly recommend staying in Cape May, home to the World Series of Birding.

    There are many opportunities for lodging, including AirBNB rentals. You can even take your vehicle on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry for about a 1.5 hrs trip to Delaware to visit more Wildlife Refuges. We did this and visited Bombay Hook NWR, which also has a wildlife drive. In my humble opinion, Forsythe is much better. The ferry ride was nice, but it does take up most of the day because you have to arrive early for security, etc.

    egret

    Great Egret photo from Bombay Hook NWR.  This photo was captured in the Birds as Art (BAA) style of world renowed photographer Arthur Morris

    FAQ and Resources

    Here are some resources to help facilitate you on your journey to Forsythe – they are all from the official Forsythe NWR site and include PDF Maps and other great info to accompany your visit:

    Is swimming allowed?

    No, the refuge was built to protect wildlife and provide and maintain resources for them to survive and thrive.  Besides, salt marshes have mud flats, insects, crustaceans: a buffet for birds, definitely not a swimming hole.  Go to the beach or local pool for swimming.

    Are there picnic areas at the refuge?

    There are picnic tables near the visitor center. However, due to Covid, picnicing has been prohibited in public places. Check the main headquarters for updates.

    How about a snack bar?

    No, but there are vending machines at the Visitor Center. Carry out any trash or disposable items.

    Can I bring my dog?

    No, pets are not allowed at the refuge.  Dogs are highly disturbing to all the ducks, birds and other wildlife that call the refuge home.  Animal waste is detrimental to the health and welfare of the wildlife and people who visit the refuge.

    What are the hours?

    Most areas are open from dawn to dusk. No overnight parking is allowed on any part of the refuge.

    Can I camp out at the refuge?

    No, camping is not a permitted activity. There are some great resorts and hotels in the area.  Camping in popular as you make your way to Shore points.

    Can I ride my bike?

    Yes! Be advised that Wildlife Drive is a dirt-packed road.  It can be very dusty on windy days and muddy during rainy season.  The road is out in the open except at beginning and towards end, where there are trees to get some respite from the sun.

    There is also a fee that must be paid before entering the loop road.

    Can I launch my boat from Wildlife Drive?

    No.  Wildlife Drive is restricted to vehicles, walking, or bike riding only.  The refuge encompasses 47,000 acres; there are other sections that do allow boating

    Boats may be launched at the Brigantine Division’s Scotts Landing boat ramp, located at the end of Scotts Landing Road, off Moss Mill Road, at Leeds Point.

    Can I go fishing along Wildlife Drive?

    No, not along Wildlife Drive, but there are designated areas at Brigantine and Barnegat divisions under Federal and State regulations.  According to the website:

    • These areas include: Salt water fishing (from land) at Gravelling Point, Little Beach (with permit), Parkertown Dock Rd, Cedar Run Dock Rd, and Stafford Ave.
    • Boats may be launched at the Brigantine Division’s Scotts Landing boat ramp, located at the end of Scotts Landing Road, off Moss Mill Road, at Leeds Point.
    • Fresh water fishing is permitted on Lily Lake in Oceanville.
    forsythe photo

    There are several lookout towers on Wildlife Drive.  The first one is a quick 1/3 mile walk from the Visitor Center.  Check out the pools for ducks, turtles, herons at Red-Tailed hawks.

    A group of Sandpipers flew in.   After taking a few shots, they were easy to identify.

    What should I bring?

    Other than dressing accordingly for the season and your favorite camera, binoculars are highly recommonded. Serious birders will commonly have pro-grade binoculars and spotting scopes.

    If you’re looking for high value binoculars and just getting into bird watching, there are some suggestions below. Binoculars are rated by their magnification power (strength) and diameter of the lens in millimeters, such as 8×42 or 10×50. The higher the first number, the more distance can be captured. However, longer distance also equals more hand-shake and less light.

    For bird watching, 8×42 is the standard and also useful for boating, nature and hiking. If you are experienced at handling binoculars, consider 10×42, 10×50 or even 12×50 for details in smaller species at a distance. The lowest priced binoculars generally do not provide good optics, take extra time to focus and can become misaligned or break easily – very frustrating.

    High-value binoculars to consider under $100 on Amazon:

    Gosky 10×42, HD Professional Binoculars with Phone Mount, highly rated at about $85 on Amazon at the time of this publication

    Are there family-friendly activities?

    Yes. Most of the refuge is fairly flat so that people of all ages and most abilities can find a trail suitable for the amount of time they want to spend, activity or wildlife they wish to observe.

    It is handicapped accessible?

    Yes.  There is a paved path to the Visitor Center and the parking area is flat.  There are ramps to some of the trails and Wildlife Drive is best enjoyed from the comfort of your vehicle.

    Are there dangerous animals at the refuge?

    In general, it there are no dangerous animals at the refuge. The most dangerous threat is to be bitten by an infected tick, undected, which could lead to Lyme Disease. Ticks are common on Deer, which are abundant throughout the refuge. They are also very common in grasslands and wherever deer forage.

    Are there a lot of mosquitoes at the refuge?

    Depending on the season, especially in the summer, mosquitoes can become a nuisance. Green Flies are be very bad too.  Since most of the refuge is surrounded by wetlands, ponds or saltmarshes, mosquitoes and other biting insects can become prevalent.

    Take caution by wearing long sleeves and pants, a hat, and using bug spray, like Off. If you are concerned about chemicals, here are some great alternatives, available on Amazon:

    Are there restrooms at the Refuge?

    Yes, there are port-a-john toliets at the Visitor Center.

    Due to Covid, many restroom facilities in public lands were closed. Check the refuge headquarters for the latest information.

    Where can I park?

    Depending on your desired activity, there are limited amounts of parking throughout the refuge. The Visitor Center has the most parking spaces, enough for about 30 vehicles.  Trails and lookout points offer an average of 5-10 vehicles per lot. Weekends tend to be more popular visiting times and fill up faster. Plan accordingly.

    Where can I find maps of the refuge?

    As mentioned above, here are some resources to help facilitate you on your journey to Forsythe – they are all from the official Forsythe NWR site and include PDF Maps and other great info to accompany your visit:

    SUMMARY

    • Be sure to include Forsythe on your top birding spots whenever you are in the south NJ area.
    • There are outstanding opportunities to photograph a large variety of birds from the comfort of your car. Be sure to check on the latest sightings and make sure the areas you plan to visit are open.
    • To my knowledge, the largest closure occurred after Hurrican Sandy caused destruction to wildlife drive to the point where it was not safely driveable. Otherwise, head on down for a great day of birding!

    Disclosure: Some of the links on this page contain affiliate links, such as Amazon links. I may earn a small commission from purchases made through some of the links, at no extra cost to you. I only link to products that I personally use and highly recommend. Any purchases made through affiliate links are greatly appreciated, as they enable me to continue to create content to share with you.

    What to Photograph in Winter After the Holidays:  19 Ideas

    What to Photograph in Winter After the Holidays: 19 Ideas

    Perhaps one of the most festive times of year has passed. The lights, the colors, the gifts, the ugly sweaters, the special meals, the desserts – you get it. What else is there to photograph during this cold, bleak period before we begin to see the life of spring? Well, plenty, actually!

    Winter brings some unique opportunities unlike any other time of year. So get your camera ready and let’s get to it!

     

    Here’s a list of 19 ideas to photograph in winter after the holidays have passed.

    Do a photoshoot in the snow

    Snow and winter landscapes can make for extra dreamy backdrops and really capture the heart of the season.

    If you live in an area that is cold enough for snow, or if you plan on travelling to a cold climate, here are some ideas for your photoshoot:

    1. Throw on some bright colors, perhaps a matching hat and jacket, for an instant color pop and head to the local park, stand in front of a snow-covered tree or head to a majestic overlook.

     Color Pop Girl with Skates by langll from Pixabay

     

    3. Snow too heavy? Make a little snowman. Hold it out in front of the camera so that you or your subject is de-focused. Or, get ready for Valentine’s Day by making a snow heart or tracing one in the snow.

     

    Mini Snowman by Sandra_M_H from Pixabay

    2. Not snowing right now? Throw some snow in the air around your subject. It can be your friend, a pet, or just do a selfie. Remember not to clump the snow together – that’ll hurt!

     

    Snow Blow by langll from Pixabay

     

    4. Do a winter sport like snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, sledding or snowmobiling. Be ready to take action shots and closeups of the blades on ice and the skies plowing through the snow. Get the reaction shot after descending down a big hill!

    5. Head out onto snow-covered roads lined with evergreens. Just be on the lookout for vehicles!

     

    Don’t like the cold enough to get outside? Try these indoor ideas:

    6. Cozy up to the fireplace. The warm amber lights could be the main subject, or, add interest by composing your shot with the fireplace in the background.

    7. Make a mug of hot chocolate brimming with fluffy marshmallows and whipped cream or other warm beverage.  Get close to capture the delicious details and the hot steam rising from the mug or hold it in front of the fireplace.  Take flat-lay images of your hot toddies scattered with ingredients placed on the tabletop or counter.

    Cozy Fireplace by JillWellington from Pixabay

    8. Experiment with bokeh. If you still have string lights floating around, why not cut out fun bokeh shapes, like stars, snowflakes or hearts, and snap away.  For more creative light ideas, check out my blog post.

    9. Try macro photography. If you’ve never tried macro photography before, now is a great time to try it. Photograph coins, a flower bouquet – add water droplets for extra interest – or capture frost on a window.

    A super-quick tip for photographing a snowflake: bring a dark-colored fleece scarf or similar object to catch the snowflake – it needs some dark contrast to make it stand out.  Besides, it’s easy enough to pack away in your pocket, or perhaps you’re wearing a fleece item.  The fleece material also adds interest to the overall image.

    Macro Snowflake by Ekamelev from Pixabay

    Capture the essence of winter landscapes

    10. The days are shorter in winter, so it’s easier to get out before sunrise or after sunset for spectacular golden hour color. Clouds during this time tend to capture vivid pink and purple tones, which look even better against a snow-covered landscape or frozen lake.

    Even bare trees look amazing under the right light conditions, like this stunning capture:

    winter ice shadows water

    Bare Tree Winter by MabelAmber from Pixabay

    COVER:  Frozen Winter Lake during golden hour with long shadows by fietzfotos of Pixabay

    11. Photograph ice patterns. Ice formations can make great abstract images, especially if you plan to layer them in post-processing. Even if you keep it simple, look for ice formed over standing water, in shallow creeks or river, iced-over foliage and interested formations created with freezing water.

    12. If you live in the city or plan to visit in winter, a cityscape covered in snow can take on mysterious qualities and suddenly look calm, clean and peaceful. Look for a park lined with streetlights or capture a downtown scene with lights streaming through the snow.

    13. Near a lake or the ocean? Winter is a great time to capture dramatic weather events. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the water as it crashes against the rocks, a lighthouse or pier. Use a slow shutter speed to blur the clouds for a dreamy and relaxing effect.

    This winter storm crashing against a lighthouse in the sea looks especially dramatic in black and white:

    Winter lighthouse by LintonS from Pixabay

    14. Shoot a time lapse. Head down to a frozen lake at sunset and setup your camera for a timelapse. Figure out how long you will be there – 20 to 30 minutes should be fine, especially in the winter, and set the timer to capture a photo every # amount of seconds.

    On this recent time lapse, I setup for a landscape shot, f/11, ISO 100, and had the camera take a photo every 4 seconds. For a 15-second timelapse, it took 30 minutes, a photo every 4 seconds. That’s 15 frames per minute X 30 minutes, for a total of 450 frames.

    For this image, I used my Canon 80D DSLR, which has an articulating screen. It’s very easy – and fun – to do a time lapse with this camera. The touch-screen lets you focus exactly on the point in which you choose. And the flexible screen is a life-saver in awkward positions. Check out the latest version on Amazon.  Don’t forget your tripod!

    15. Photograph falling snow. Besides, isn’t that what we all love to see? Falling snow flakes in your composition can take ordinary shots to the next level.

    Experiment with your shutter speed: If it is slow, you will end up with snow streaks. A faster shutter will capture smaller flakes. There is no right or wrong answer – it all depends on what effect you are going for.

    16. Shoot the shadows. The low light of the sun in winter creates long shadows. Capture patterns of shadows over a landscape or get your subject to wave their arms or jump up for some creative and fun effects.

    17. Don’t forget white balance. Winter is cold. Make the effect more compelling by experimenting with your white balance settings. This will generally be a temperature of no more than 5000, or try the florescent light setting for blue hues.

    Wildlife makes a special appearance

    18. Perhaps my favorite tip – photograph birds and wildlife in the winter! Birds rely heavily on supplemental food, water and protection from the elements during winter, when there are less natural resources for them.

    Set up a perch in your backyard to entice your visitors. Use your leftover Christmas tree or, from our December DIY project, the Festive Winter Gnome to help cover food sources and add natural interest.

    As a bonus, there may also be unique wildlife that only comes around in winter, such as Dark-Eyed Juncos, aka, Snowbirds. Look for sightings on ebird , a bird-tracking and hotspot app brought to you by Cornell University. 

    A trip down to the NJ shore got me this gorgeous Harlequin Duck, visiting all the way from northern Canada and Greenland!  Snowy Owls occasionally dot the landscape with their grand appearance.  Snow Geese, which flock in the thousands, may also be seen flying overhead, foraging in fields or making a stopover at a large reservoir.

    harlequin duck

    A Harlequin Duck makes an appearance at Barnegat Inlet, NJ, during winter.

    19. Not into birds? Dress up your pup in a colorful winter outfit and keep it warm during your walk – makes for a cute and colorful winter memory!

    SUMMARY

    There are plenty of fun things that you can photograph during the winter. Use this season to practice your skills and gain new ones.  From macro photography, creative lighting, landscape and bird photography, dramatic weather, and experimenting with fast and slow shutter speeds, winter brings many opportunities to create special images during the winter.

    What are your favorite things to photograph during winter?

    Let us know in the comments below!

     

    Disclosure: Some of the links on this page contain affiliate links, such as Amazon links. I may earn a small commission from purchases made through some of the links, at no extra cost to you. I only link to products that I personally use and highly recommend. Any purchases made through affiliate links are greatly appreciated, as they enable me to continue to create content to share with you.

    Wallkill River NWR Wildlife Highlights and Activity Guide

    Wallkill River NWR Wildlife Highlights and Activity Guide

    The Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge is a diverse habitat consisting of grasslands, wetlands, a multitude of freshwater ponds, vast fields and upland forests and part of the Appalachian Trail.

    Established in 1990, it borders nine miles of the Wallkill River in Sussex County, New Jersey and Orange County, New York, managing this conserved land of over 6000 acres.

    The refuge provides quality habitat for an abundance of wildlife and recreational activities for public use.

     

    In 2020, it become more of a refuge for people at a time when many state parks were closed due to Covid-19. If you have not had a chance to visit, here is a list of common activities you may enjoy participating in and wildlife you may encounter.  There’s also a YouTube video below to see wildlife highlights.

    Getting There

    Due to the size of the refuge and type of activity planned, there are a number of places to choose.

    The Main Headquarters is located at 1547 Route 565, Vernon, NJ.

    Main activities and amenities include:

    • Nature Walks
    • Hiking
    • Bird Watching
    • Wildlife Observation
    • Botany and Nature study
    • Photography
    • Fishing
    • Snow-Shoeing
    • Restrooms

    The Dagmar Dale Trail traverses some open fields with views of the Kittany Ridge and High Point State Park Veterans War Memorial obelisk and follows the edge of the Wallkill River.  Take a look at a map of the trail and Main Refuge Map.

    Nearby trails:

    The Wood Duck Trail is located near the corner of Route 23 and Route 565, Sussex, NJ, across from Quick Check gas station and convenience store.

    The three mile out-and-back trail consists of an old railroad bed, so it is very flat, with marshes and light forests bordering the trail.  Here’s a map of the Wood Duck Trail.

    Activities include:

    • Walking trail
    • Bird watching
    • Botany and Nature Study
    • Photography
    • Dogs and Bikes are NOT allowed
    • No restrooms

    Similar trails:

    Timberdoodle Trail

    About 4 miles out-and-back, located on Bassett’s Bridge Road near Owens Station Crossing.  Here’s a map of the Timberdoodle Trail.

    Activities include:

    • Walking trail
    • Bird watching
    • Botany and Nature Study
    • Photography
    • Dogs and Bikes are NOT allowed
    • No restrooms

    Winding Waters Trail

    Located at Oil City Road, shared parking lot with Fishing and Canoe access to Wallkill River.  About a 2-mile walking loop through fields and picturesque parts of the Wallkill River.

    Activities include:

    • Walking trail
    • Kayaking / Canoeing in Wallkill River
    • Fishing
    • Nature trail
    • Bird watching
    • Botany and Nature Study
    • Photography
    • Hunting in winter – visiting strongly discouraged to casual observers
    • No dogs allowed
    • No restrooms

    Liberty Loop Trail

    At 2.75 miles and a mostly flat trail, it is also part of the Appalachian Trail located on Oil City Road, Pine Island, NY.  This is one of the more popular areas of the refuge, probably due to accessibility, easy walking and diverse birding opportunities.  The parking lot is small, allowing for about a dozen cars.  Here’s a map of the Liberty Loop Trail.

    Activities include:

    • Walking trail
    • Bird watching
    • Botany and Nature Study
    • Photography
    • Part of the Appalachian Trail
    • No restrooms

    Owens Station Crossing

    A new Visitors Center will open here in 2021.  It features an accessible dock where you can fish or launch a kayak.  There is a pavilion with picnic tables.  A paved trail, about 1 mile in length out and back, borders a lake used for kayaking, canoeing and fishing.  There is a very large pollinator garden that boasts a variety of beautiful perennial flowers.  Ample parking is available, as well as a restroom.

    Activities include:

    • Walking trail
    • Kayaking and Canoeing
    • Fishing (catch and release)
    • Bird watching
    • Botany and Nature Study
    • Photography
    • Dogs and Bikes are NOT allowed
    rabbit on the trail

    Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus floridanus, is a familiar sight at dawn and dusk in many parts of the refuge.

    rabbit grooming

    Eastern Cottontail Rabbit grooming.  Walk gently and quietly in order to capture wildlife closeups like this.

    This is considered an Important Bird Area (IBA), according to Audobon. Learn more about the common birds and conservation concerns outlined in this article by Audobon.

    • Since the AT shares this trail, dogs are allowed on a leash and owners must clean-up pet waste
    • If you park at Owens Station and cross the road, there is about 2 miles of recently paved trail for mobility access.
    • Notable wildlife observation is available throughout the refuge, most commonly on the Liberty Loop.

    Here is a list of common species by season, including, but certainly not limited to, the following:

    Winter

    • Raptors such as Harriers, Cooper’s Hawks and Red-Tailed Hawks are common.
    • Bald Eagles have a nest located near the Wallkill River and Short-Earred Owls visit briefly
    • Winter songbirds include Northern Cardinal, Black-Capped Chickadee, Eastern Bluebirds, Tufted Titmouse, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Cedar Waxwings, woodpeckers, sparrows and more.
    • Snow Geese are common flyovers, sometimes landing to forage in the rich black dirt farm fields surrounding the refuge.
    • In late February and early March, Woodcock can be heard and sometimes found displaying their courtship dance, which includes an unforgettable “helicopter” flight.
    • Muskrat can be seen foraging around their lodges. They are similar to beavers, but smaller in size and do not have the engineering marvels of the beaver.
    • An occasional Red Fox and even White-tailed Deer are common throughout the year.
    • Coyote may be spotted.
    bald eagle couple

    Bald Eagles have a nest at the Liberty Loop section of the trail and are a familiar sight in winter.

    Spring

    An abundance of waterfowl can be found including Northern Pintails, Wood Ducks, Widgeons, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Green-Winged Teal, Blue Teal, Ring-Necked Ducks, Common and Hooden Mergansers and Swans.

    You may also notice a Canadian Goose – hundreds and hundreds of them!

    • Thousands of Red-Winged Blackbirds arrive and stay through most of the year.
    • Common Moorhen (Gallinule) and American Coot nest and raise their young here.
    • In late spring, a huge variety of warblers visit the refuge.
    • Eastern Cottontail Rabbits are abundant in spring and fading out gradually during summer.
    • Woodchucks (Groundhogs), Eastern
    • Gray and Red Squirrels, Chipmunks and the occasional Fisher may be found.

    Summer

    Warblers continue throughout the summer. Grassland-dependent birds like the Bobolink can be found here, listen for their bubbling metallic song, which reminds me of R2D2 of Star Wars.

    • Indigo Buntings are a welcome sight in the summer, as well as Egrets and Herons.
    • Baltimore Oriole, Sandhill Crane, Kingbirds
    • Double-Crested Cormorant may be found at Owens Station.
    • Common Milkweed attract Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators are plentiful
    • Frogs provide a spectular concert during mating season, especially in mornings and at dusk
    • Turtles, including the endangered Bog Turtle may be found here
    • Grasshoppers seem to pop up over every step and are an important source of food for Herons and Egret, among others
    • Dragonflies are common, especially at Liberty Loop throughout the open marshes.
    mink

    Mink, Mustelidae, on the trail on an early summer morning.

    egrets

    Great Egret flies in to check out what Little Blue Heron is snacking on.

    Fall

    Any of the warblers that stayed for the summer will depart for their wintering grounds.  Hawks and Raptor sightings increase, especially during their migration in early fall.  In November, Northern Pintails, Widgeon and Green Teal are common visitors.  Other wildlife sightings may include:

    • Canada Geese
    • Tundra Swans
    • Mallard and Black Ducks
    • White-Tailed Deer
    • An occasionnal Opossum
    • Bald Eagles
    • Harriers
    • Red-Tailed Hawks

     

    Water Activities

    Other popular activities include kayaking, canoeing and fishing at Owens Station and on the Wallkill River.

    Canoe and Kayak access points include:

    • Owens Station – easy access very close from parking
    • Oil City Road – a very short walk from the parking lot
    • Bassets Bridge Road – carry your boat on a boardwalk to access the river

    Fishing is popular at all three above locations, and also the “new” Hidden Ponds access point off Lake Wallkill Road. There is a tiny parking lot with a grass path that leads out to at least 3 large bodies of water. In the summer, look for wildflowers, pollinator butterflies and bees and hummingbirds.

     

    hidden ponds wallkill river NWR

    Hunting is allowed on many parts of the refuge, mostly with permit access only. White-Tailed Deer and Turkey are commonly hunted. For more info about hunting, check the refuge website.

    Some other pre-Covid activities included the following and may be re-introduced, depending on current guidelines:

    • Astrology
    • Veterans Appreciation
    • Kids Activities
    • Nature Crafts
    • Birds of Prey Demonstration
    • Releasing Rehab Birds

    Here’s a YouTube video of Highlights from many parts of the refuge with a focus on birds and wildlife:

    FAQ

    Is swimming allowed in the Wallkill River?

    The short answer is no. An article posted in The Other Hudson Valley outlines a number of issues,  the most common being Algae Blooms. In recent years, Algae Blooms have become more prevalent, affecting many area lakes such as Swartswood Lake State Park and Lake Hopatcong, among others. Additionally, according the post, there is a high level of fecal matter, which can host a number of dangerous pathogens. There are also aging pipes and pump stations, which can ultimately seep into the river. You’re better off with an inflatable pool if you want to go swimming.

    Are there picnic areas at the refuge?

    There are picnic tables at Owens Station. However, due to Covid, picnicking has been prohibited in public places. Check the main headquarters for updates.

    How about a snack bar?

    No, There are no vending facilities or snack bars on site. Food can attrack unwanted visitors and pests. Carry out any trash or disposable items.

    Can I rent a kayak?

    A new visitor center is being built for 2021 at Owens Station. Kayak rentals are being planned for public usage. Keep informed on the latest developments and read the article about the new visitors center posted by the NJ Herald here.

    Can I bring my dog?

    Dogs are only allowed at the Liberty Loop section of the refuge and must be kept on a leash at all times and all waste must be cleaned up immediately and carried out. Animal waste is detrimental to the health and welfare of the wildlife and people who visit the refuge.

    What are the hours?

    Most areas are open from dawn to dusk. No overnight parking is allowed on any part of the refuge.

    Is is safe to walk alone?

    If you see any suspicious or unlawful activity, here is the Division of Refuge Law Enforcement, National Wildlife Refuge System Turn In Poachers, or TIPs, hotline. Please call this phone number to report any unlawful activities observed on the refuge. 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477).

    Can I camp out at the refuge?

    No, camping is not a permitted activity. There are some great campgrounds, resorts, and hotels in the area.

    Can I ride my bike?

    No. The primary function of the refuge is to provide priority habitat for “Wildlife First”. Pets, jogging, bicycling, horseback riding and motorized vehicles are not allowed on refuge trails, which disturb visitors, wildlife and erode trails. One exception is dogs all allowed on leash on the Appalachain Trail, which spans two miles over the Liberty Loop trail.  Here’s a complete list of rules from the refuge.

    Is there an auto road, like at Forsythe or Montezuma?

    No, the refuge is best enjoyed by foot, wheelchair, stroller, or in the winter, snowshoes or cross-country skies. For more information, see Rules and Regulations.

    What should I bring?

    Other than dressing accordingly for the season and your favorite camera, binoculars are highly recommended. Serious birders will commonly have pro-grade binoculars and spotting scopes.

    If you’re looking for high value binoculars and just getting into bird watching, there are some suggestions below.

    Binoculars are rated by their magnification power (strength) and diameter of the lens in millimeters, such as 8×42 or 10×50. The higher the first number, the more distance can be captured. However, longer distance also equals more hand-shake and less light.

    For bird watching, 8×42 is the standard and also useful for boating, nature and hiking. If you are experienced at handling binoculars, consider 10×42, 10×50 or even 12×50 for details in smaller species at a distance.

    The lowest priced binoculars generally do not provide good optics, take extra time to focus and can become misaligned or break easily – very frustrating.

    Here’s a pair of high-value binoculars to consider under $100:

    Gosky 10×42, HD Professional Binoculars with Phone Mount, highly rated on Amazon

    Are there family-friendly activities?

    Yes. Most of the refuge is fairly flat so that people of all ages and most abilities can find a trail suitable for the amount of time they want to spend, activity or wildlife they wish to observe.

    The refuge is a haven for nature, birds, mammals, flora, insects and more, and can be very educational for children. In addition, Friends of WRNWR offers various activities, including Junior Refuge Manager. Check back in 2021, when their new Nature store will open.

    It is handicapped accessible?

    At Owens Station, there is a handicapped-accessible dock for fishing and for kayakers. Recently, about a 2-mile stretch has been paved at Owens and stretches over to Liberty Loop. There are excellent wildlife viewing opportunities along this stretch, and you may fish along the Owens portion of the path.

    Are there dangerous animals at the refuge?

    In general, it there are no dangerous animals at the refuge. The most dangerous threat is to be bitten by an infected tick, undetected, which could lead to Lyme Disease. Ticks are common on Deer, which are abundant throughout the refuge. They are also very common in grasslands and wherever deer forage.

    What is the best way to prevent tick bites?

    Wear light-colored clothes, tuck socks into pants, a bug repellant may help, do a quick inspections frequently, perhaps every 15 minutes, to see if you have any “hitchhikers”. They can usually just be “flicked” off if they are on your clothing.

    One of the best ways to prevent tick bits is to spray your clothes with Permethrin, an insecticide, medication which is also a pesticide. This spray should only be used outside and away from pets, small animals and children.

    Spray clothing outdoors, such as hiking boots and shoes, pants, backpacks and more, allow to dry thoroughly. As an insecticide, it will kill insects that touch the treated articles.

    Unlike insect repellent, Permethrin can irritate skin via direct contact and can also cause breathing problems to vulnerable populations if inhaled or used indoors.

    If you are looking for a more natural repellent, Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent Fisherman’s Formula is a long-lasting insect repellent against mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies and more.

    Are there a lot of mosquitoes at the refuge?

    Depending on the season, especially in the summer, mosquitoes can become a nuisance. Since most of the refuge is surrounded by wetlands, ponds or the Wallkill River, mosquitoes can become prevalent.

    Take caution by wearing long sleeves and pants, a hat, and using bug spray, like Off. If you are concerned about chemicals, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus is deet-free and repels mosquitoes for up to six hours. The active ingredient is Oil of lemon eucalyptus 30% (smells good, too!). Natrapel 8 Hour is another natural remedy against mosquitoes, with an active ingredient of Picaridin (20%), also a common ingredient in Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula, mentioned above.

    Other than ticks and mosquitoes, snakes can be found on most trails, although most pose no harm. Black bears may be spotted; most of the time they will run away soon after they are spotted. However, if they do not move, appear grounded or grunt, and begin to back away slowly. Waves your arms high and make a lot of noise to “shoo” them away. Do not run. For more tips on Black Bear safety, know the Bear Facts from NJ DEP.

    Are there restrooms at the Refuge?

    Yes, there are flushing toilets at the Main Refuge Headquarters. There are also pit toilets at Owens Station. However, due to Covid, many restroom facilities in public lands were closed. Check the refuge headquarters for the latest information.

    Where can I park?

    Depending on your desired activity, there are limited amounts of parking throughout the refuge. The main Headquarters and Owens have the most parking spaces, enough for about 30 vehicles. Other facilities offer an average of 10 vehicles per lot. Weekends tend to be more popular visiting times and fill up faster. Plan accordingly.

    Where can I find maps of the refuge?

    Here is a PDF Map of the refuge:  Refuge Map

    Interested in getting more involved? Visit the Friends of Wallkill River NWR for family activities, education / outreach, volunteer opportunities, make a donation, and new developments for 2021.

     

    SUMMARY

    Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to visit year-round.  It offers an abundance of photography opportunities for birds in flight, wildlife, flowers, insects, landscapes and more.  There are some easy trails for a short stroll or connect with the Appalachian Trail for more extensive hiking.  You can also go fishing, kayaking, canoeing and in certain areas, hunting.  If you are walking your dog (only in approved areas), please keep it on a leash at all times, clean up waste immediately and carry it out.  Please remember that first and foremost, this space is to provide the best habitat for wildlife to thrive and survive.  Enjoy and respect nature!

     

    Products recommended in this post, available on Amazon:

    Disclosure: Some of the links on this page contain affiliate links, such as Amazon links. I may earn a small commission from purchases made through some of the links, at no extra cost to you. I only link to products that I personally use and highly recommend. Any purchases made through affiliate links are greatly appreciated, as they enable me to continue to create content to share with you.

    Favorite Photos of 2020

    Favorite Photos of 2020

    Happy New Year!

    I wanted to share my favorite nature photos of 2020, including small animals, birds, landscapes, waterfalls and morning fog.  Scroll down to the end for my top “Pic”. 

    Hope they bring you a big smile!

     

    SMALL ANIMALS

    baby groundhogs

    Baby Groundhog pair pals

    chipmunk vote

    The Chipmunk too?  

    back off prairie dog

    Gimme some space!  Prairie Dogs pair

    baby bun

    Cottontail rabbit with character

    SONGBIRDS

    chickadee spring

    Chickadee in Spring

    tree swallow

    Tree Swallow in Spring

    cardinal spring

    Cardinal in Spring

    MORNING FOG

    hay bales fog

    Morning Fog on the Field

    refuge fog fall

    Fall on the Refuge

    WATERBIRDS

    cormorant catfish

    Cormorant with a Catfish

    harlequin duck

    Harlequin Duck

    LIGHTHOUSES

    Esopus Meadows Lighthouse Ulster Park NY

    Esopus Meadows Lighthouse Ulster Park NY

    Rondout Lighthouse Kingston NY

    Rondout Lighthouse Kingston NY

    LANDSCAPES

    milford PA overlook

    Milford PA overlook in Fall

    stokes fall

    Little Flatbrook, Stokes State Forest

    MY FAVORITE

    magical morning

    Magical Morning

    On many weekends during the summer and fall, hot air balloons are launched when conditions are calm.  I’ve taken many photos of this balloon, but the sunrise melting away the fog on the field was really special.

    Other than the photos listed here, one of my favorite places to visit was Shohola Falls, just over the border in PA.  With all the travel restrictions in place, we were lucky to visit.

    Summary

    What is your favorite photo?   Is there a special place or photograph you would like to capture in the new year?  Let us know in the comments below!  

    Happy New Year!

    error: Content is protected !!