The New Jersey Audubon Society established the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory in 2001. It is known as one of New Jersey’s best year-round birding locations. The Observatory is located in the Fort Hancock section of Sandy Hook. There are programs offered by park naturalists throughout the year.
Sandy Hook, NJ is a popular stop over for birds flying along the “Atlantic Flyway”. It is a barrier beach on Monmouth County’s northern shores and brings in over 340 different species of birds with it’s optimal location. Sandy Hook has been designated by the National Audubon Society as a globally significant Important Bird Area (IBA).
For a seven mile strip of land, there are a vast number of different bird habitats. They range from the beach and dunes, to mudflats, holly forest, deciduous woods, freshwater ponds, salt marshes, coastal scrub/shrubs and successional field. It’s no wonder the species are so varied.
There are many shore birds that nest on the ocean side beaches of Sandy Hook. It is a serene setting with a view of New York City. (Not that the birds care but it’s nice for the bird watchers.) Dog owners are not allowed to walk their pets on the ocean side beaches from March 17th through Labor Day. Dog are permitted on the Bayside Beaches. I took this picture on a recent walk at Sandy Hook. I didn’t see anything more than Sandpipers and Sea Gulls but I wasn’t looking terribly hard either.
There are several more Audubon IBA’s located in Monmouth County. Upper Freehold Grasslands is home to several Jersey state endangered species including Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows. Assunpink Wildlife Management Area is a nesting spot for Cooper’s Hawk and breeding ground for many other species. The Big Brook Park Region is located in the Raritan Bay and Southern Shore areas and is part of the Sandy Hook Complex.
The North Shore Coastal Ponds Complex stretches from the Manasquan Inlet at Point Pleasant to Sandy Hook. It is home to state-endangered Piping Plovers and Least Terns as well as many other species. Spring and fall are busy migration periods and Turkey Swamp Wildlife Management Area serves as an important stopover for song birds. If they are your thing, this is the time visit this park. The Manasquan Watershed is a migratory stop for hundreds of species of land birds and wintering waterfowl.
If bird watching is your passion, hobby, or interest then Monmouth County, NJ is the place to be. The New Jersey Audubon Society will be holding a Bird Walk on Saturday, February 20, 2010 and it is open to members and non-members at no charge. Meeting place is 10:00am in the Sandy Hook Visitor’s Center. Make sure to dress appropriately for cold and wind. Binoculars are necessary and a field guide will be helpful and is recommended. For more information call (732) USA-BIRD or visit the Monmouth County Audubon Society website. Sandy Hook is just a short drive from the Comfort Inn Middletown and has wonderful birding opportunities year-round.