New Jersey provides some of the most varied and exciting birding in North America, and more than 450 species of birds have been recorded in the state. Many of these species can be seen within the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve.
The 1.1 million-acre New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve contains the largest remaining wilderness on the Eastern Seaboard between Maine and the Florida Everglades. It also lies along the important north-south Atlantic Flyway for migrating birds. The Pinelands has a wide variety of habitats, from the headwaters of its river systems down to its bays and shorelines. Many bird species that rely on the estuary systems benefit directly from the clean water flowing from the Pine Barren streams and rivers into the coastal estuaries.
Birding is one of the many enjoyable activities that people of all ages and abilities can take part in to gain a greater understanding of our natural world and the Pinelands.
Perhaps the best way to get started is to find a friend who is a birder or join a group that organizes bird walks. Borrow a pair of binoculars and a birding field guide. After your first outing or two, you may find that you have discovered a new hobby that you can enjoy with friends and family for years to come!
One fun place to get started is the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR (Brigantine Unit) Visitor Center. It is perhaps the most frequently visited birding location in the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. Forsythe runs free bird walks every Friday morning and they have binoculars to loan out. This is a great location for both novice and expert birders alike!
Before long, you may decide it is time to invest in your own pair of binoculars and a field guide. Here is some information to point you in the right direction.
There are many excellent print and mobile app Field Guides available. Some use illustrations and others use photos to help the user identify birds when in the field. Here are a few of the most popular ones:
- The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America and The Sibley eGuide to Birds (mobile app)
- Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America and Peterson Birds (mobile app)
- National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (book)
- The Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America (book)
- iBird Pro (mobile app)
- Audubon Bird Guide (free mobile app)
- Merlin Bird ID (free mobile app)
Choosing a pair of binoculars is an important purchase decision. Finding the right pair for you depends on a number of personal factors, the type of birding you plan to do and your budget. It is best to do your research, get some expert advice and try out a few pairs before making your final decision. An 8 x 42 pair of binoculars is the most popular choice for birding. Here are some resources to help you make your decision.
- The Audubon Guide to Binoculars
- Cape May Bird Observatory FeatherEdgeOptics
- Birdwatching Bliss – Guide to Binoculars
Where To Go
With 1.1 million acres to explore in the NJ Pinelands National Reserve, where do you begin?
Armed with your field guide and binoculars, you can choose any convenient location to get started. However, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird can make your decision on the best places to go much easier. Over 100 million bird sightings around the world are recorded by fellow eBird birders each year. From this extensive database, you can find out what birds to expect throughout the year in a region or location using their Bar Charts. You can also discover the best places for birding by Exploring Hotspots.
Here are a few of the more popular Hotspots by county within the NJ Pinelands National Reserve:
- Pinelands Preservation Alliance Bishop Farmstead Headquarters
- Whitesbog Village
- Franklin Parker Preserve
- Black Run Preserve
- Bass River State Forest – Lake Absegami
- Batsto Village
- Brendan Byrne State Forest
- Island Beach State Park
- Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
- Tuckerton – Great Bay Blvd WMA
- Manahawkin WMA
- Edwin B. Forsythe NWR – Holgate (Long Beach Island)
- Double Trouble State Park
- Edwin B. Forsythe NWR (Brigantine Unit)
- Brigantine Island – North Brigantine Natural Area
- Tuckahoe WMA (Corbin City)
- Estell Manor Park
- Peaslee WMA – First Ave
Cape May County
- Jake’s Landing
- Tuckahoe WMA (Cape May Co.)
- Belleplain State Forest
- Goshen – Cape May Bird Observatory Center for Research and Education
- Stipson Island Rd
- Beaver Swamp WMA
- Eldora Nature Preserve (TNC)
- Heislerville WMA
- Heislerville WMA – South Impoundment
- East Point Rd
- East Point Lighthouse
- Thompson’s Beach
- Glade Rd/Thompson’s Beach
- Moore’s Beach
- Wharton State Forest – Sandy Causeway Rd
- Wharton State Forest – Burnt Mill Rd
- Wharton State Forest – Pump Branch Wetland
The Pinelands presents numerous birding opportunities throughout the year. So, get out and see how many different bird species you can find. In the process, you will find yourself discovering and exploring many new, exciting locations.