More than 40,000 acres of salt marsh, upland fields, woodlands, islands, ponds, and huge impoundment pools draw wildlife to Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge-Brigantine Division. An 8-mile auto tour winds through the sanctuary’s habitats and permits panoramic viewing of the salt marshes and pools. As you pass along the elevated dikes, look into the roadside channels, which harbor Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Gadwalls, and other ducks from fall through spring. Check out the dikes themselves for Woolly Bear Caterpillars, which are on the march in mid-fall. The flowers along the dike edges, as well as elsewhere in the refuge, attract Black Swallowtails, Common Buckeyes, Red Admirals, American and Painted Ladies, and Monarchs.
A telescope is useful but not essential for exploring the vast expanses of Brigantine’s marshes and pools. Binoculars alone can provide great looks at many shorebirds, including yellowlegs, Dunlins, dowitchers, and plovers; Forster’s Terns and Black Skimmers; huge flocks of Snow and Canada Geese; Mute and Tundra Swans; Glossy Ibises; Little Blue and Tricolored Herons; Black-crowned Night- Herons; and swirling flocks of ducks and swallows, depending on the season. There are resident Peregrine Falcons, and the refuge is known as New Jersey’s finest spot for wintering birds of prey.
After passing the large pools, watch for deer, hawks, and turtles along the edges of the roads and woods. The woods can be good for migrant songbirds and a few breeding species, such as the Eastern Towhee and Northern Cardinal. Wood Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, and other fowl can be seen on the lily ponds near the refuge entrance. In a building at the first parking area is a book for recording interesting wildlife observations.
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