Monday, September 14, 2009

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 43,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats are actively protected and managed for migratory birds.

Forsythe is one of more than 500 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world.

It is located just 10 miles from the traffic and noise of Atlantic City’s casinos. But you can still escape to a quieter world of tidal salt meadows and marsh, shallow coves and bays, woodlands of oak, white cedar and pitch pine, and fields.

Holgate and Little Beach, two of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches in New Jersey, are among the 6,000 acres of the refuge designated as Wilderness. Its internationally recognized wetlands habitat is critical for the world’s black ducks and Atlantic brant.

The Refuge's headquarters is located at its Brigantine Division on the mainland, at Oceanville, New Jersey. Headquarters is open weekdays, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

What can you expect to see
if you visit in September and October?

SEPTEMBER: Fall flowers bloom in the salt marsh. Along the Leeds Eco-trail, look for the red of glasswort, the dainty white fall flowers of salt marsh asters and the slender fan of sea lavender. Red "leaves of three" warn of poison ivy.

Visitors may see migrating hawks flying over the salt marsh and woods, searching for food. Remember to look sky ward from time to time so you don't miss them. Young animals are learning how and where to find food. Watch for them as you walk the trails and along the Wildlife Drive. Remember, feeding of wildlife is prohibited on the refuge.

Goldenrod is in full bloom. Monarch butterflies migrating through this area stop to sip its nectar, to fuel the next stretch of their long journey to Mexican wintering grounds. Look for the beautiful blue flowers of Pine Barrens Gentian, in moist sandy barrens habitats.

Look for ducks stopping to rest and feed in Refuge wetlands as they migrate south. Many are traveling to their wintering grounds in Central and South America.

Morning dew accentuates spider webs. Look for different kinds of webs as you walk the trails.

OCTOBER: Observe the trees and shrubs in this season as glorious fall colors start to appear. Fewer shorebirds are seen in refuge impoundments. More species of ducks can be seen resting and feeding in refuge waters. Look for diving ducks in salt water areas.

Watch for deer early in the morning or near dusk feeding on islands in the impoundments.
Persimmon trees bear ripening fruit, a sweet treat for wildlife. Look for them among the other trees as you walk the Leed’s Eco Trail.

Atlantic Brant geese arrive to spend the winter here. Look for large flocks resting inside the impoundments and flying over or feeding in surrounding bay waters. Listen for their soft voices as they communicate with each other. Some songbirds are still migrating south. Others are now settling in to spend the winter months. Look and listen for White-throated sparrows and Juncos among others.

Are your feeders clean and filled? The feeders at the headquarters building go up during National Wildlife Refuge Week. Stop by the headquarters buildings to get a peek at the wide variety of birds (and squirrels!) that stop by to feed throughout the fall and winter. If you come Monday through Friday during the day, you can get a view from the windows in the auditorium.
Vines, shrubs and trees now bear fruit and seeds for wintering wildlife. See how many different kinds of wildlife food you can identify as you walk along the refuge trails.

Look for Snow Geese arriving from the far north. Many rest in the impoundments while others will be feeding in the salt marsh.

Wildlife Drive and trails are open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. At various times during the year, Wildlife Drive and trails may be closed to the public to carry out wildlife management plans. Organized groups are requested to contact the refuge to register their visits in advance.

The Refuge receives over 200,000 visitors each year. Cumulative impacts of this many visits on wildlife and habitat can be great, so adherence to Refuge guidelines and regulations is important.

Most of the Refuge's public use facilities are open only during daylight hours (sunrise to sunset).

Pets must be on a short, handheld leash and are prohibited at Holgate and at Graveling Point.

The refuge's location in one of the Atlantic Flyway's most active flight paths makes it an important link in the vast network of national wildlife refuge.

If you want to know which bird species have been seen recently along the Wildlife Drive, the website uses eBird to track the weekly bird observations made by Atlantic Audubon, refuge volunteers, and visiting birders who enter their observation data so that you can see online up-to-date bird sightings. See the Flickr photo group for thousands of photos taken at the Refuge.

At Forsythe (and many USFWS sites), kids can explore nature and when they the refuge headquarters or the Friend’s Nature Store, they can pick up a Junior Refuge Manager Activity Guide. (Ages 4-7—Dragonfly Edition, Ages 8+—Osprey Edition). By completing 6 activities, they can become a JUNIOR REFUGE MANAGER.

Volunteers are essential to so many environmental efforts. the life blood in helping the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge fulfill its mission of conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats as well as providing educational and recreational opportunities for the public.

Volunteer Newsletter Spring 2009