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The Best Hudson County Parks to Bird Watch

by Sarah Griesbach
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Here in Hudson County, we’ve seen deer, coyotes, and even a sturgeon. But many may be surprised to learn of Hudson County’s avian biodiversity. There are many places in Hudson County for birdwatching: in the just 62 square miles that make up the county, there are over a half dozen destination-worthy spots for birding. These locations all offer truly impressive bird watching for the amateur, expert, or beginner birder. Read on to learn more about birding in Hudson County.

red tailed hawk

(Red-Tailed Hawk, Photo credit: Patricia Hilliard)

Bayonne

It is no wonder that Bayonne boasts numerous locations where birds of every season flock or touch down on their long migrations. Conservationists have worked hard to negotiate for the restoration and preservation of the wildlife habitats that now draw populations of waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, birds of prey, and so much more.

The good folks of the Bayonne Nature Club will happily take new bird enthusiasts under their wings to introduce the joys of bird spotting on the bird walks hosted every Thursday and Sunday. With the help of the Bayonne Nature Club experts and their equipment, even those who can’t distinguish a Black Crowned Night Heron from a Snowy Egret have the opportunity to spot and learn about the Blue Skimmers that zigzag up the cove’s riverlet at low tide in summer and the plovers and sandpipers that make use of the tall grasses leading up to the Scottish Links Golf Club that the park surrounds.

ducklings

(Ducklings, Photo credit: Patricia Hilliard)

This group is eager to introduce others to the Rutkowski Wetlands area of historic Stephen R Gregg Park, built in 1916. Walk the boardwalk through this restored wetland habitat to catch sight of American Widgeons, Double-Crested Cormorants, Red-Winged Blackbirds, and Black-Throated Blue Warblers.

Bayonne’s Dennis P. Collins Park is a migratory crossing point for Winter Wrens, Chickadees, and Eastern King Birds among others. Walk the trail with an eye on the treetops and on the shoreline.

Secaucus 

Secaucus, too, lays claim to three of Hudson County’s best parks for sighting winged splendor. Cross through the Mill Creek Point gate and enter a beautifully restored and replanted wildlife area replete with native species of swamp grasses and shrubs inviting enough to draw Northern Harriers, migrating Wood Ducks, and Green Wing Teal.

Read More: Quaker Parrots: A Hidden Nature Gem in Edgewater

Nearby Schmidts Woods offers trails that winds through woods, thickets, and meadow where the rare Yellow-crowned Night Heron nest in treetops and meander the park grounds. Hudson County wild bird advocates appeal to dog owners to keep their pets on a leash when in this and all areas where sensitive bird species nest, roost, and feed. 

yellow crowned night heron

(Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, Photo credit: Patricia Hilliard)

In the warmer months (soon!), wildflowers line the trails of lovely Laurel Hill Park. Rent a canoe or kayak to explore the Hackensack River and observe Marsh Wrens, Mute Swans, and perhaps a Brant floating among the reeds.

North Bergen

North Bergen’s James J. Braddock North Hudson Park is home to some of the oldest and largest trees in Hudson County. Those magnificent trees attract forest birds, such as the Flicker, the Nuthatch, and the Wood Thrush. Local birders posit that because Braddock Park sits directly across the Hudson from New York City’s Central Park, it is possible that the hawks seen perched on the tiptops of Braddock’s River Birch trees are part of the dynasty of Pale Male, the Red-tailed Hawk who gained fame in legend, on film, television, and at least one country song for his dominance of the skies over Central Park.

Lincoln Park 

Jersey City’s Lincoln Park is the oldest and largest of the Hudson County Parks. Lincoln Park is home to the Black Skimmer, Osprey, and Egret. Hawk-eyed Lincoln Park birders have spotted Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Black-crowned Night Herons, Grey Herons, Warblers, Kingfishers, and Falcons.

The birds of Lincoln Park span the Eastern Park’s ponds and landscaped greenery and Lincoln Park West’s preserved natural habitats. With Edgewood Lake at its center, providing fish not just for the people, but also for the birds, it’s easy to see why such a wide variety of bird species are attracted to the 273.4-acre park.

Hudson River waterfront walkway sign

(Photo credit: Patricia Hilliard)

Divided into Lincoln Park East and Lincoln Park West by Truck Route 1 & 9, it’s very much an urban park. And though the idyllic pockets of marshlands and meadow may make you forget for a moment that you’re in Jersey City, the through traffic will remind you. 

“Sometimes I talk fancifully about ‘escaping into nature’ in Jersey City’s parks. In reality, the city is inescapable – you hear it constantly, smell it (too often), see its traces everywhere. But the birds live with it, and so must we.” states Lorraine Freeney. Lorraine is the founder of Jersey City Birds, a  Facebook group for anyone interested in Jersey City birds to share photos, news of bird sightings, and offer backyard birding tips. The group has grown steadily since Lorraine began her project and has produced its own calendar of member photos for the past two years.

See More: How to Have a DAY at Liberty State Park

With her new flock of avid birders, Lorraine began organizing bird walks, mostly in Lincoln Park, though they also visit Caven Point and other areas in Liberty State Park, and take field trips to non-JC locations. The group has gone as far as the Cape May Fall Festival to see what flies to those southern Jersey shores. In the spring of 2021, Lorraine had the idea of putting up a few tree swallow nesting boxes in Lincoln Park West. She approached the Jersey City Parks Coalition and Dawn Giambalvo, of both the Canco Parks Conservancy and the Parks Coalition, who put her in touch with the Bergen County Audubon Society (BCAS) who then offered to pay for the boxes.

tree swallows

(Tree Swallows, Photo credit: Patricia Hilliard)

“I’ll never forget that day. Don Torino and Chris Takacs from BCAS came out to help install them and we had volunteers from our group too. Literally, within a few minutes of us beginning to put the boxes up, we had tree swallows flying in and landing on the boxes to claim them. It felt like magic.”

Members of the Jersey City Birds group are now collaborating with Friends of Lincoln Park, the Native Plant Society of NJ, and various other groups on the development of a pollinator pathway in Lincoln Park West. They’ve submitted data collected by members to various official count lists and participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Liberty State Park 

Liberty State Park is prime real estate for birds. Liberty State Park Nature Center organizes educational bird walks that will help the novice identify the well-camouflaged Grey Heron or even, on rare occasions, the elusive Snowy Owl. For those lucky enough to see such a thing, rare bird sightings should be reported to organizations such as the New Jersey Audubon (www.njaudubon.org).

Kearny

Gunnell Oval in Kearney Marsh is the last great spot to see birds on this Hudson County Parks list. It’s currently undergoing improvements due to storm damage and chromium clean-up. Environmental land remediation is the effort of our day. All of these great parks are in the midst of efforts to restore lost habitats that birds are a vital contributor and beneficiary to. Gunnell Oval is home to many diverse bird species including Least Bittern, Common Gallinule, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Osprey, Marsh Wren, and Black Crowned Heron. 

great egret

(Great Egret, Photo credit: Patricia Hilliard)

The Hudson and Hackensack rivers draw birds of all kinds to our area’s doorstep. Local birdwatchers post pictures from even small city parks like Van Vorst in Jersey City or from their tiny backyards. Cedar Waxwings, Downy Woodpecker, even Bald Eagles, make their way from the rivers to our doorsteps.  They come right here, to us. We just need to look.

Bird Watching Locations

Bayonne’s South Cove Commons

1 Lefante Way, Bayonne, Ritkowski Wetlands

Stephen R Gregg Park

Park Drive, Bayonne

Dennis P Collins Park

84–98 W First Street, Bayonne

Mill Creek Point Park

300 Millridge Road, Secaucus

Schmidts Woods Park

2000 Koelle Boulevard, Secaucus

Laurel Hill Park

1002 New County Road, Secaucus

James J. Braddock North Hudson Park

Bergenline Avenue + 79th Street, North Bergen

Gunnell Oval

488 Schuyler Avenue, Kearny

Keep up with @jerseycitybirds on Instagram and the Facebook group to learn more about the birds in the area.

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