(Click on the photo for a larger image).
Most mocosocoBirds readers are familiar with Glenhurst Meadows in Warren Township. Glenhurst was formerly known by the unfortunate name of Warren Green Acres, which some people continue to use. It is unfortunate and confusing because there are other parcels of land in Warren Township other than Glenhurst that fall under the aegis of Warren Green Acres.
Glenhurst Meadows was the Cooper Farm before it became a golf course, a very wet golf course and eventually a Green Acres site. Adjacent to Glenhurst is the former Wagner Dairy Farm, now called Wagner Arboretum. Birders generally combine these areas into one entity. It is one of the most productive birding locations in northern Somerset County.
Less known is the area north of the Passaic River from Glenhurst. This is the southern section of Long Hill Township in Morris County. Placards posted on the trees identify it as administered by the Morris County Park Commission. There is no information about a name for this area although it could be called Passaic River County Park like many other sections in Morris Co. The Passaic River Coalition has some land parcels near this locale that are labeled Long Hill Wetlands I, II and III. This name is appropriate for the entire area between the Passaic River and Valley Road. It is in Long Hill and it is wet, very wet. That is justification enough for a name – Long Hill Wetlands it is.
The Long Hill Wetlands are located in Stirling, Millington, and Gillette south of Valley Road to the Passaic River and extend from the eastern boundary of the township on Hillcrest Road to the western boundary along King George Rd. At this point Long Hill Wetlands meets the King George Road Wetlands Preserve and Dead River Wetlands in Somerset Co. This is a big playground. It is predominantly a Pin Oak bottomland flood plain along the Passaic River. Very little of this territory has been explored.
Millington was my boyhood home in what was then called Passaic Township and decades later became Long Hill Twp. For those old enough to remember, Old Stirling Road (S. Main Ave. on some maps), the extension of Main Ave. in Stirling south of the blinker (for those who remember the blinker), was a complete road to Mountain Avenue in Warren Township consisting of dirt and gravel. It was barely maintained, if at all. Only locals knew about it, especially curious, teenage boys filled with exploratory urges. Sometime after the 1970s, the road was decommissioned. Besides repeated flooding by the Passaic River, the road had become a garbage dump for those less endowed of intelligence. The small bridge spanning the Passaic River deteriorated and was removed. Old Stirling Road became a dead end on the map. The road south of the river (Somerset Co.) is overgrown and impassable. The road north of the river (Morris Co.) is now part of the Morris County Park Commission. Once upon a time on the Internet it was read that Morris County was rated as the best run county in New Jersey. This writer tends to agree.
Recent explorations to assess the birdability of the Long Hill Wetlands reveal the following:
• There are no trails.
• It is wet.
• It is mucky.
• It is buggy.
• There are lots of trees and habitat.
The road to the river is a productive stretch to bird but limited in scope. A power line offers the only reasonable access into the area. After that, one is on their own. The path near the third power tower heading west from the road is perpetually flooded ending that route. One can make a detour around that but the footing is treacherous with water, chest-high vegetation, fallen trees, vegetation hiding fallen trees, vegetation hiding water, etc., etc.
What is the allure of Long Hill Wetlands? If Glenhurst Meadows is such a rich area, why can’t Long Hill Wetlands get some of the overflow. Morris and Somerset are two of the wealthiest counties in the United States of America based on per-capita income. These sister counties should share the riches, n’est–ce pas? Red-headed Woodpeckers are an example. Many Glenhurst reports from the past few years were of Red-headed Woodpeckers actually in Morris County as well as Somerset County. Mike Hiotis documented some Red-headed Woodpeckers at Glenhurst in a JerseyBirds post yesterday. Other reports in 2013 from Glenhurst fueled my interest in exploring Long Hill Wetlands this morning. The reward today was the Red-headed Woodpecker pictured above. All six regularly occurring woodpecker species in New Jersey (sans Yellow-bellied Sapsucker) were observed this morning. One cannot help but think that other interesting finds are here throughout the year. If you go, make sure you bring boots, waders or a boat depending on the water levels. Interestingly, mosquitos were not an issue this morning. Other visits have proven them brutally inhospitable. Remember, this is not an easy place to get around in. A link to today’s bird species list is here.
The road towards the river is as sane as it gets at the Long Hill Wetlands.
Typical woodland habitat of Long Hill Wetlands.