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Exploring Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

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  • Post published:02/15/2021
  • Reading time:4 mins read
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Some mornings you wake up and feel the need for a brisk hike; other days you feel the pull of nature but just may not have the stamina to go on a full-fledged hike. The Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge is the perfect place to go when you need to get out and be one with nature while exerting minimal physical effort. It is also a photographer’s dream.

Photo Credit: Patron Deb Stone

These 47,000 acres of coastal habitat are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Within the preserve are 50 miles of coastline and one of the Atlantic flyways most active migratory paths. At least 322 species have been cataloged as visitors here and 78% of the park is salt marsh. Explore all of the NWR’s in New Jersey with this guide.

Credit: author Sue Fajgier

Upon arrival the first thing you’ll see is the Visitor’s Center. While it is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, it does offer educational programs and a small gift shop along with an Observation Deck on the roof. To the right of the Center is Wildlife Drive. This is an 8-mile one way road that leads you through the salt marshes, wetlands and woodlands where you are able to observe and photograph a changing array of wildlife throughout the year.

Photo Credit: Patron Deb Stone

So far, I can honestly say that I have visited in three of the four seasons and have never been disappointed with the beauty of nature here and the miracle of our migratory birds. For more birding recommendations, check out our Birdy Jerz guide.

Credit: author Sue Fajgier

The road leads you through the salt marsh and you can see the Atlantic City skyline off to the right. Nested among the marshes in the bay are nesting boxes for the osprey. We have been lucky enough to watch them go from empty in the Fall to fully inhabited by Osprey parents feeding two chicks in the Summer.

Photo Credit: Sue Fajgier

The road allows you views of the interior lakes and ponds while offering beautiful bay vistas. Wildlife can be present on either side; it really is a feast for the eyes. There’s an Observation Tower about halfway along the drive where you can get out and climb to the top for even better views. My favorite part of the drive is before you enter the final woodland section. On several occasions we have been lucky enough to spot multiple great egrets perched high in the trees. As their feathers billow in the wind, you just might think you are seeing angels.

Photo Credit: Patron Deb Stone

The beauty of this park is you can drive and pull over to observe and photograph at your own pace. We make frequent stops for great blue herons, egrets, cormorants and geese; whatever happens to capture our imagination. If you go multiple times during the year you can see the change in wildlife and even notice the marsh grasses come to life. Here’s a rough guide to who you might encounter:

  • Winter – black ducks, Atlantic brant
  • Spring – osprey, diamondback terrapins
  • Summer — great blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets
  • Fall — monarch butterfly migration, geese

Photo Credit: Sue Fajgier

The park also offers four miles of walking trails. I have to confess; we have never had time to do these trails. The 8-mile drive is always so full of sights to savor we have yet to be able to get through it in less than three hours.

I need to include one note of caution too for those visiting in Summer – the bugs are biting so be prepared. It is a marsh and there’s a reason the birds come in great numbers. And make sure you are prepared with the right gear!

So, if you love nature, photography, and seeing the seasons change with all your senses you will love this place like I do. Some of my favorite sightings include; avocets, night herons, diamondback terrapins, baby osprey and raccoons. Watching these beautiful creatures feeding, flying and raising their young right in our New Jersey backyard is a gift. This park offers a true cornucopia of wildlife for the nature lover.

Cover photo by patron Matt Baron. Follow him on Instagram.

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