Where’s your favorite migrant trap?

I’ve received several emails regarding this question, so I figured I’d send it back to you, the New Jersey birders. Before I do, though, I’ll first say that if you want a comprehensive description of the best birding locations across the state, Bill Boyle’s guide is the ultimate, and can be purchased here.

I would like this list to be focused primarily on migration hotspots, so without further ado:

Spring or Fall, where is it? I’m compiling a list and will post it to Woodcreeper.com after sufficient comments. Please include the following:

Season (“Spring, Fall, or Both”)

Placename (Garret Mountain)

Synonymous names (“Bruce’s Backyard”)

Size & Description (in acres if possible, or relatively speaking, such as “big park, with mixed hardwoods, old fields, and open areas. A small pond which can be good for swallows and shorebirds”)

Location (city/town, “West Patterson”, or “Just outside of West Patterson, at the north end of the Watchung ridge”)

Location (Address)

Location of best birding spots within site (specific directions, such as “up Wilson ave. which can be reached from the north end of the park, can be best first thing in the morning as birds are making their way landward. Up at the top of the park is also good first thing, near the castle. Birds make their way down into the lower reaches of the park as the day progresses, making the area around the lake a good spot slightly later as the day warms, etc.”)

And better yet, include a link to Google Maps, Link to Garret Mountain“)

Best conditions (“this is an inland site that produces great numbers of birds in any season when migration is heavy over New Jersey, but can produce great numbers in either season when winds are favorable for inland migration”)

Of course, if you think of anything else that I’ve missed, post it too, and everyone else can follow suit.

I look forward to the evolution of the list!



5 responses to “Where’s your favorite migrant trap?”

  1. Best Time

    Spring Migration

    Location Names

    Makepeace Lake North Wildlife Management Area
    Makepeace Lake South Wildlife Management Area
    Greater Egg Harbor River Wildlife Management Area (RT559)
    Atlantic County Park – Camp Acagisca or Atlantic County – (RT559)
    Atlantic County Park Estell Manor Park – Estell Manor (RT50)


    Hardwood wetlands and mixed oak pine, pine mixed oak uplands some open fields.

    Best Locations

    Makepeace WMA North – Elwood Road from reservoirs to US Highway Route 322, Hamilton Township

    Makepeace WMA South – Interior unimproved roads

    Greater Egg Harbor River WMA – Hamilton So. – Weymouth Road (CG559), Hamilton Township – Interior unimproved roads

    Atlantic County Park – Camp Agagisca of Atlantic County – Weymouth Road (CR559), Hamilton Township- entire campground especially near the river

    Atlantic County Park – Estell Manor Park – Route 50 South, City of Estell Manor
    interior trail areas and areas along the river.


    Fantastic inland neotropical migrant areas. The Makepeace WMA along Elwood Road is an excellent location for observing migrants after suitable winds. Traffic noise can sometimes be a concern in areas close to the roads; when birding later in the day. Very early morning is best at all of these locations. These areas represent tens of thousands of acres of woodlands.

  2. Season: Spring and Fall (more variety in fall)
    Placename: The Celery Farm
    Location: Franklin Turnpike, Allendale, Bergen Co, NJ
    -Size and description: slightly over 100 acres of freshwater marsh, woodland, shrubby edge habitat, and some field habitat. Main lake about 20 acres, with 2 other small ponds off the main trail. 3 viewing platforms. Main trail about 1 mile around–well maintained.
    -Best Birding spots within site: Usually the 2 main birding platforms which overlook the lake/marsh. Greenway esp. in fall–where there is some field/hedgerow habitat and a small pond.
    -Best conditions: inland site which usually gets decent variety after strong cold fronts–but good birds have been known to turn up here during poor migration nights as well. Peak diversity occurs April thru May, and again Mid Aug thru Oct.
    -Common nesting birds incl: Wood Duck, Baltimore Oriole, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, C. Yellowthroat, Willow Flycatcher, Tree Swallow
    -One of the best places (in season) for great looks at: Am. Bittern, Va Rail, Osprey, Nighhawk, Hooded Merg, Lincoln’s Sparrow, N. Waterthrush, Green and BC Night-herons.
    -Rare but annual: Mourning Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-bellied and Alder Flycatchers, Philly Vireo.
    -Rarities seen here: Purple Gallinule, LeConte’s Sparrow, Barnacle Goose, Western Kingbird, Red-necked Phalarope, Protonotary Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Black Tern, etc.

  3. Site: Natco Lake

    Seasons: Winter and Spring

    Size & Description: Part 1 lies along Henry Hudson Trail in Union Beach north of Route 36; Part 2 lies south of Route 36 behind Lakeside Manor.

    Location: Route 36 at Rose Lane, Union Beach

    While the south side offers excellent birding, the best advice on visiting the site comes from Tom Boyle on the NJAS website:

    My experience is primarily birding the north side. When birds fall out at Sandy Hook they fall out here as well, thanks to the site’s location on the Bayshore. Migrating orioles, warblers, flycatchers and sparrows are all found here, including some species that are not easily found elsewhere, such as Wilson’s Warbler and White-crowned Sparrow. Walk the main trail slowly and scan every tree. Some of the vegetation is dense, so some birds are heard but not seen. Endangered Yellow-crowned Night-Heron can be seen regularly in a tidal pool south of the Henry Hudson Trail. Clapper Rail breed under the bridge 1/3-mile E of Rose Lane. Lingering waterfowl can be found here well into the spring, and the winter provides some chances for interesting waterfowl, such as Canvasback and the occasional rarity. Shorebirds are found here in the fall (moreso than the spring). This used to be one of about 4 places along the Bayshore for Northern Bobwhite (E of the Clapper Rail bridge), but I haven’t heard them here for years.

    Best conditions: When Sandy Hook has a fallout, so does Natco Lake, and it’s much closer to the Parkway.

  4. Season: Both (although oddly I have better success in Fall)

    Placename Palmyra Cove Nature Park, Palmyra, NJ

    Synonymous names Palmyra, The Cove

    Size & Description 220 acres of recovered dredge site, now abounding with a mixture of young hardwood forest and marshes. Paths run through a variety of grassland, light forest, wetlands, riparian habitat, fringe habitats. Two newly created ponds are still getting ‘their feet wet’, but a larger beaver pond and resulting marsh are traditionally good habitats.

    Location Palmyra, NJ – just over the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge from Philly

    Location 1300 Route 73 North,
    Palmyra, NJ 08065

    Location of best birding spots within site The first quarter-mile from the entrance to the park is usually rife with birds, especially with the new ponds. The “Big Pit” was a warbler magnet for the last few years, but new dredging has put it off-limits for now. However, the rest of the ‘pit’ area and Warbler Woods are still quite popular and productive. The grassland trail by the beaver pond is also quite dense with bird life including warblers, orioles and flycatchers. In winter, the well-named “Saw-whet Trail” is traditionally one of the few places to reliably find saw-whet owls. Google Map

    Best conditions This place is definitely best after a cold front and wetter weather in the fall (check those radars here!). In the spring, early morning and later afternoons abound with life. It can get quite dead in summer during the 10am – 3pm time period though.

  5. Cape May Point State Park in the fall. It has a great nocturnal flight – I believe the birds are attracted to the lights including the lighthouse beam, has a good morning flight. And birds stick around there also throughout the day. NW, N, NE, W, even SW winds and birds will be there come that morning.


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