Trail Guides
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Great Creek Road, Oceanville, NJ
Phone: (609) 652-1665

OWNER:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

DIRECTIONS:  This is the first site on the trail. From the intersection of Route 9 and Route 30 in Absecon, continue North on Route 9/New Road. After 4.0 miles, turn Right onto Great Creek Road. Continue for 0.8 miles to the parking area at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Refuge sign at Route 9. Entrance can be reached via Great Creek Road or Lily Lake Road.   Map
ACCESS AND PARKING:  Headquarters is open weekdays, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Wildlife Drive and trails are open daily from dawn to dusk. The daily entrance pass is $4.00 per vehicle, or $2.00 per pedestrian or bicycler. Children under 16 are admitted free. At various times during the year, the Wildlife Drive and trails are closed to the public in order for the refuge to carry out wildlife management plans, so it is best to check the web site or call prior to visiting. Organized groups are requested to contact the refuge to register their visits in advance.

NEAREST PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:  NJ Transit Bus No. 559 Lakewood/Atlantic City stops at Route 9 and Leeds Point Road. Walk 0.1 mile South on Route 9 and turn Left on Great Creek Road. Continue for 0.8 miles to the Wildlife Refuge entrance.

At various times during the year, the Wildlife Drive and trails are closed to the public in order for the refuge to carry out wildlife management plans, so it is best to check the web site or call prior to visiting. Organized groups are requested to contact the refuge to register their visits in advance.

SPECIAL FEATURES:  Be sure to check out the eBird Trail Tracker just outside the new Visitor Contact Station. Visitors can report the precise locations of wildlife sightings. There are three viewing platforms equipped with fixed scopes – two are visible from the wildlife drive. The third and newest platform is marked by a sign on the left side of the auto loop after it enters the uplands, known as the “experimental pool viewing area.” Hiking trails: Akers Woodland Trail – This is a small loop from the parking area that is an excellent trail for spring and fall migrant songbirds and features interpretive panels. Leeds Eco-trail – This is another small trail that begins at the bottom of the hill at the beginning of the wildlife drive. It features a raised boardwalk over the marsh and trail showing transition from Spartina grassland to pine/oak upland. On warm days at low tide, fiddler crabs can be glimpsed scurrying across the mud under the boardwalk. Jens Trail/Songbird Trail - Near the end of the auto tour, a trail spurs off to the right around a small pond. This is Jen’s Trail, another excellent place for spring and fall birding. Jen’s trail connects to the more recently opened and longer songbird trail, for those who want a longer, more intensive hike. Each trail is marked with colored blazes and re-emerges along the auto loop. Lily Lake – Lily Lake is accessible from Lily Lake Road. From the refuge parking area, continue through the gate and go straight down the dirt road instead of bearing Right. After the dirt road becomes paved again, look on your right for a small parking area next to the Noyes Museum. A path leads to Lily Lake where a dam provides a convenient point from which to scan for Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Wood Duck and flycatchers such as Eastern Kingbird, Phoebe and Great-crested Flycatcher. Painted turtle and green frog are common here. Fishing is permitted in the lake with a freshwater license. Bluegill, largemouth bass, pickerel and catfish are abundant.

SITE DESCRIPTION:  Originally established as two separate refuges, Barnegat and Brigantine National Wildlife refuges were combined in 1984 to form Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Next to Cape May, this refuge is perhaps one of the most well-known birding hot spots in New Jersey. Over 46,000 acres are protected in the Forsythe Refuge complex, most of which is tidal salt marsh providing important stopover habitat for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway. An eight-mile auto loop extends from the headquarters area and explores freshwater impoundments bordered by salt marsh, grasslands, white cedar swamp, and pine/oak uplands. “Wildlife drive” as it is called, always delivers what it promises – lots of wildlife!

DON'T MISS:  At the bottom of the hill where the Wildlife Drive begins, continue straight instead of going Right to begin the loop. This road leads to Gull Pond Tower, where visitors can see into the marsh and areas of canopy. Secretive birds such as American Bittern, Sora and Virginia Rail often turn up here for the patient observer.

Winter:  Waterfowl are abundant – Brant, Black Duck, Pintail, Shoveler, Coot, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Snow Goose, Tundra Swan, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser and Double-crested Cormorant are common. Belted Kingfisher can often be spotted perched on snags. Great Blue Herons are conspicuous. Harrier, Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon are regulars. Deer wander in the frozen impoundments. Short-eared Owls hunt over the marsh at dusk, while Great-horned Owls call from the woods. Winter specialties to keep an eye out for include Rough-legged Hawk, Snowy Owl, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Siskin and Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Spring:  In mid-March, watch at dusk for American Woodcock near the grasslands. By mid-April, migrant songbirds fill the woods near the parking lot. Warblers include Pine,Yellow, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Bay-breasted, Wilson’s, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Hooded and Black-and-White, among others. Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting call from the meadows. Look for Wood Ducks along Doughty Creek and the nearby Lily Lake. This is a good time to look for rare shorebirds such as Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Curlew Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover and White Ibis. Listen for the signature whistle of Bobwhite near the grasslands. Muskrats are active in the impoundments and red foxes stealthily hunt the woodland edges. Raccoon and river otter can be tracked in the mud. Fowler’s toad, spring peeper, chorus frog, cricket frog, gray treefrog, spadefoot toad, leopard frog, marbled salamander, red salamander, four-toed salamander and red-backed salamander are among the amphibians on the refuge.
Summer:  Insect repellant recommended. Nesting songbirds include White-eyed Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Towhee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Common Yellowthroat. The impoundments are teeming with shorebirds including Short-billed Dowitcher, Willet, Yellowlegs and Glossy Ibis. Eight heron species can be seen with diligent searching, with a Cattle Egret occasionally bringing the total to nine. Forster’s, Least, Common and Gull-billed Terns hunt the impoundments and marsh. Tree and Barn Swallows are abundant. Osprey nest on the platforms. Reptiles that can be found on the refuge include Eastern fence lizard, five-lined skink, black racer, black rat snake, pine snake, Northern water snake, hognose snake, rough green snake, ribbon snake, snapping turtle, painted turtle, mud turtle and diamondback terrapin. Butterflies and dragonflies are abundant. Chuck-will’s-widow calls from the woods at dusk and Common Nighthawks come out to hunt alongside bats.
Fall:  Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe and Blue-winged Teal are among the waterfowl. Migrant songbirds include Palm, Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Cedar Waxwing, Hermit Thrush and White-crowned Sparrow. Caspian Terns and sometimes Black Terns stop to hunt over the impoundments. Shorebirds are moving back through, with rarities such as Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Phalarope, Stilt Sandpiper, and Ruff turning up on occasion. Chipmunk, gray squirrel, red squirrel and opossum are among the mammals that may be glimpsed. Kestrel, Merlin, Broad-winged, Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawk are common migrants. Golden Eagle and Goshawk show up on occasion.

A CLOSER LOOK:  The refuge offers many excellent programs throughout the year. Call or visit the website for more information.

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