Our first stop was DeKorte Park, home to the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, but it wasn't as productive as we'd hoped. Despite the substantial trail network there, much of our expected route was off limits, and besides, it was high tide. The sandpipers and plovers didn't have much space to peck about in the mud, because it was essentially flooded for the time being. It was time for plan B, Mill Creek Marsh off the Hackensack River in Secaucus.
|Mill Creek is just a few miles away |
from downtown Manhattan, as the crow flies.
What we didn't see at DeKorte we saw at Mill Creek in abundance: sandpipers, yellowlegs, and both snowy and great egrets. Never having seen both kinds of egret together, I was amused to see that the great is quite a bit bigger than the snowy; but for the difference in beak color I'd have thought the snowy was the great's offspring. We also were treated to the sight of an immature Baltimore oriole, its orange markings not yet darkened from the juvenile yellow.
Mill Creek offers a lot, even if you're not into birds. The area was regraded and restored to highlight the beauty of its original tidal flow, and this time of year you'll see plenty of blooming marsh mallow along the path along with healthy marsh grasses. Surprisingly, on our visit it wasn't buggy at all; while we saw the average number of dragonflies and butterflies, we were unscathed by mosquitoes. Proper tidal flow and ample insect-eating birds are doing their job, it seems.
|Marsh mallow and other wetlands greenery|
overtake an old cedar stump.
The only real down side to Mill Creek is the incessant hum of Turnpike traffic, but you can still hear the sounds of the marsh without much trouble (where are those truck noise cancelling headphones when you need them?). It doesn't take much to see that the Meadowlands is on the rebound after years of environmental abuse. Just ask the birds: they're finding plenty of healthy food to eat, and the marsh is clearly on their maps.