To the average person, Hawk Rise's location might not sound all that promising, stuck on the broad strip of land between Route 1 and the Turnpike, amid warehouses, a tank farm and a recently-capped city landfill. Then again, that description isn't much different from the way many people would characterize the Meadowlands, and we know how vibrantly alive with wildlife that region is. Plus, New Jersey Audubon was actively involved in developing the sanctuary with the City of Linden. I felt pretty confident that the trip would bear at least some good sightings.
|The path from the parking lot leads you through woods.|
That, however, is exactly what happened. The farther we walked in, the more the outside noise faded away, replaced by the sounds of nature. By the time we made our way through the woods to the edge of the landfill (Mount Linden?) Ivan was recording names of birds he'd heard but not spotted, which I've never seen him do.
|Marsh with capped landfill in the distance.|
Looking up and tracking, with binoculars to eyes, Ivan called, "Osprey!" Not unexpected, considering how close we were to water, but a nice find.
I heard something else rapidly approaching us overhead. "L-10-11," I called, checking out the recent take-off from Newark Liberty. We never quite forgot we were within ten miles of the airport, but the jet noise stayed well within acceptable limits.
The trail ends in a cul-de-sac boardwalk about twenty feet or so from the edge of the Rahway River, and while you can see houses and a little bit of industry at the far side, there's plenty of nature to observe. A killdeer picked through the mudflat a few feet ahead of us, and a snowy egret was doing some morning fishing in some shallower water farther away.
|The eagle was just on the other side of the river. I swear.|
Our walk back through the woods netted us a few more species, including Baltimore oriole, indigo bunting and a heard-but-not-seen red-bellied woodpecker. Oddly, we didn't see a single Canada goose on the landfill or near the river. Could we have found the one place in Union County they haven't discovered?
Even considering all our great finds, I think I was most heartened by the potential for Hawk Rise to make so many more people aware of what's living -- and what's possible -- in our most industrial settings. Audubon will be running a series of events there, and the organization is working with Linden schools to include the sanctuary in the local science curriculum. We need more stuff like this in New Jersey.