Raritan Bay Sites
Raritan River Sites
Arthur Kill Sites
Southern County Sites
Woodbridge River Watch (Avenel) - Located just east of the intersection of Rahway Avenue and Omar Avenue (Map). Well-maintained trails with large stands of trees and a medium-sized wetland make this a nice spot for waders, ducks, and songbirds. Several large stands of dead trees are attractive for woodpeckers. A Red-headed Woodpecker was seen here in spring 2009 and may have bred here. More info at the Woodbridge River Watch Organization's web site.
Alvin Williams Memorial Park (Sewaren) - (Map) Detailed directions here. Located on the Arthur Kill, this manicured park can be good for waterfowl during migration and winter. Many gulls and cormorants roost on the pilings as well. Cliff Road along the waterfront is worth driving to check all the inlets. A Boat-tailed Grackle was recorded on the 2010 CBC here.
Perth Amboy Waterfront – The best birding site at Perth Amboy is the walkway that curves around the mouth of the Raritan at the southeast corner of the city. It is a good place to look during winter for gulls, shorebirds, and waterfowl. The walkway is paved and gives views of the Raritan River, the Arthur Kill, and out into Raritan Bay. A scope is advisable, but you can see a lot of birds just with binoculars. There is public parking in lots at the south end of 2nd Street and along Front Street near Gordon Street. (At the latter, check the signs: some lots are public and some are private.) Typically, the best concentration of waterfowl will be around the jetty/breakwater near Water and Lewis Streets. However, there are also rafts of waterfowl farther out on the bay, and sometimes there will be grebes swimming in the marina on Front Street. The beaches along Sadowsky Parkway will have flocks of gulls and sometimes shorebirds. We don’t have much info on this site in other seasons – more info is sought!
Raritan Center - Mill Road Marsh (Edison) - (Map) From Rt. 514 in Edison, turn onto Mill Road. Take this road to the end and park in the Heller Industrial Park lot. This very large marsh bordering the closed Kin-Buc Landfill is good for marsh birds like Marsh Wren, wading birds, and ducks. Accessibility is a bit limited but it is great for listening at night where one might hear Virginia Rail, Sora, American Bittern, or a number of other species.
Raritan Center - Other Accessible Areas (Edison) - More to come
Edison Boat Basin and River Walk (Edison) - (Map) Driving west on Rt. 514 in Edison, turn left onto Meadow Road. Take Meadow Road all the way to the end and the boat basin will be on your right. Park in the paved lot. You will see a foot bridge that takes you to the River Walk. The River Walk runs for about a half a mile along the river. There are plans to extend it all the way to Perth Amboy. The river is good for gulls, waterfowl, nesting Osprey, and waders at low tide. In winter, gulls loaf in the lot and it's worth scanning for Glaucous and Iceland gulls. The River Walk takes you through scrub-shrub habitat that also includes a stand of birch trees. Indigo Buntings breed here and Blue Grosbeak likely bred here in 2011. This site is worth checking further in migration and winter. The birch trees could attract Common Redpolls.
Dismal Swamp Conservation Area (Metuchen, Edison, and South Plainfield) - "660 acres of freshwater wetlands and hardwood forest as a largely undiscovered birding oasis in an ocean of suburban sprawl. Over 175 birds have been spotted at this largely unexplored birding hotspot, including the threatened and endangered grasshopper sparrow and yellow-crowned night-heron. The Dismal Swamp is best accessed from the Triple C Ranch on Tyler Road in Edison."(3) Visit here for more details. Additional access point directions here.
Highland Avenue Woods (South Plainfield)
Veterans' Park (South Plainfield)
Julian Capik Nature Preserve (Sayreville)
Raritan Bay Waterfront Park and Cliff Ave. (South Amboy / Morgan) - This access to the Raritan Bay waterfront is a popular spot for birders at all seasons and arguably the best overall birding spot in the county. Over 210 species have been found here. Detailed directions and birding tips are here and Boyle(2) has a chapter in his book on birding this area. Rarities have included Black-headed, Little, Franklin's and Glaucous Gulls; Black and Sandwich Terns; and Hudsonian Godwit.
Waterworks Pond (South Amboy) - For directions, see the section on "The Pond" here. Birding this site is easily combined with Morgan and Raritan Bay Waterfront Park. The back side of the pond can be accessed by following the trail at the end of Cliff Ave. and making a left turn at the manhole cover. This area is excellent for waterfowl, swallows, and shorebirds. Pied-billed Grebe has bred here.
Old Bridge Waterfront Park (Old Bridge)
Pirate's Cove (Laurence Harbor) - Directions here. Per NJ Audubon's web site: "The mouth of Whale Creek has mudflats that attract gulls, terns, and shorebirds year-round. The waters of Raritan Bay are worth scanning here for loons, grebes, bay ducks, and the occasional Harbor Seal. The second growth woodlands are breeding sites for Brown Thrashers and Willow Flycatchers." This waterfront site is easily combined with South Amboy.
Donaldson Park (Highland Park)
Johnson Park (New Brunswick) – This large park has extensive paths and easy access to the Raritan River. A variety of birds are possible at all seasons, but migration and winter offer the best variety.
Rutgers Ecological Preserve (Piscataway) – This chunk of old growth forest
Rutgers Gardens and Helyar Woods (Milltown) – The extensive plantings at Rutgers
Dallenbach Lake (East Brunswick)
Duhernal Lake (East Brunswick)
Jamesburg Park Conservation Area and Helmetta Pond (Helmetta)
Plainsboro Preserve – Direction on NJ Audubon’s site. This preserve offers extensive trails and a large lake. This is one of the few places where Pileated Woodpeckers have been seen with some regularity. Birding is best during migration and in winter when the lack attracts a variety of waterfowl if unfrozen.
Fields around Cranbury – The field at the corner of Cranbury-Half Acre Rd. and Santa Fe Way has been good for shorebirds during fall migration. It has been reliable for American Golden Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and Pectoral Sandpiper. Please keep in mind that this is private property. You can bird from Santa Fe Way which is partially closed as of 9/2011 which minimizes traffic. Other fields in the area are worth checking.
(1) Boyle, William J., The Birds of New Jersey: Status and Distribution. Princeton University Press. 2011.
(2) Boyle, William J., A Guide to Bird Finding in New Jersey (Revised and Expanded Edition). Rutgers University Press. 2002.
(3) Wheeler, David, Birds of Middlesex County. Edison Wetlands Association. 2007.