View Full Version : Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge

11-03-2002, 10:20
About 5 miles south of Vernon, NJ you'll find one of the most unique places on the AT. Some of you who have hiked through there in the summer may recall it as a mosquito hell. This is the Wallkill River NWR ===> http://wallkillriver.fws.gov/

This is perhaps the only place on the AT where you can see the following three species of Birds of Prey;

Short Eared Owl
Northern Harrier
Rough Legged Hawk

All of these species overwinter here. The reason is simple. The fields, nearly devoid of trees, closely resemble the arctic habitat where these birds breed. The fields are also filled with prey; mice, voles, muskrats & small birds.

If you are section hiking this area from November until March or April, look for the Harriers with their characteristic white patch near the tail. They'll be flying low over the fields. If you're extremely lucky you'll see a male Harrier. They are a beautiful pearl grey in color. Harriers are one of the few birds of prey that are sexually dimorphic (difference in plumage between sexes). The Short Eared Owls come out at dusk and can be seen flying over the fields around the AT. Occasionally you'll see a Rough Legged Hawk hovering over the fields in search of prey. Slightly larger than a Red Tailed Hawk, they are seen in both a light phase and dark phase.

Take a look at a Field Guide of Birds before hiking this area. You won't see these species anywhere else along the AT, unless you encounter them in migration.