Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Mangement Area
The Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Mangement Area, located off Rt. 513 in northern Morris County, features an official Hawk Migration Association of North America "hawkwatch" at the top of the ridge. This is a great place to see migrating hawks in the spring and fall as they ride the thermals along the ridge top.
The hawkwatch is staffed with NJDEP volunteers who perform the hawk counts from mid-August to mid-November, and in the spring from mid-February to mid-May. There is a viewing platform on the ridgetop.
The breathtaking view of the Highlands is well worth the walk to the lookout even when the hawks are not moving. The hawkwatch provides a spectacular vista of the forest and valleys of the Highlands. On a clear day the New York City skyline is visible from this overlook high on the edge of the ridge. The view provides an otherwise hard to obtain understanding of the vastness of the Highlands forest resource and its value to hundreds of species including humans, in northern New Jersey.
No other area in north Jersey has the large unfragmented forests needed to preserve populations of endangered hawks, owls, and increasingly rare songbirds. These forests are even more important to the millions of humans living in the urban centers whose drinking water comes from the lakes and streams of the Highlands purified by its forests and open space.
According to NJ Audubon, species of "Conservation Concern – State-endangered" at the Hawkwatch include the Northern Goshawk (seen in photo above) and Red-shouldered Hawk as well as the "Conservation Concern – State-special Concern" Cerulean Warbler.
A kiosk with information about the extensive trail network developed within this WMA, which includes a segment of the Highlands Trail, is located in the parking lot. A composting toilet is also available near the parking area.