|Boardwalk, Great Swamp management area|
(Margo D. Beller)
Because of the proximity of I-80 and I-280, which significantly reduced the size of Troy Meadows, it is now difficult to hear the early-morning calls of distant marsh birds due to the traffic from the highways. Nearby development and consequent siltration have reduced the value of the area to wildlife. Although it is seldom visited by birders anymore, it remains an interesting and worthwhile area to bird, and can still produce many of the expected marsh birds.
The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is not mentioned in 1966 because at the time there was not much of it. MH remembers one designated trail at the end of a busy road - a road that is now incorporated into the refuge. There are several such incorporated roads. As time goes by the people whose homes were allowed to stand sold them to the federal govenment and went elsewhere. The homes were taken down and the land left open. By 2004, Boyle was referring to it as a "haven for wildlife in the midst of southern Morris County's ever-expanding suburbia."
|Great Swamp in winter (Margo D. Beller)|
Both are threatened by over-development. Part of one area of the Swamp owned by Morris County as a park comes right up against backyards and runs along power lines. The federally owned part of the Swamp - the greater part of those 8,000 acres - provides plenty of room to wander without seeing human habitation. (This can be both good and bad, and it is always a good thing to hike with a companion.)
From my own birding experience, I am comfortable hiking throughout the Swamp, including the area where volunteers come maybe once a year to cut back fallen trees and clear the trails. The managed area has a tour road, boardwalked trails and is very popular with suburbanites who want their kids to experience "nature" in small doses. The wilderness area, as the name implies, tends to be muddier and more of a challenge, tho' I find the birding as good if not better than in the managed area.
I am not comfortable at Troy Meadows, even though at 3,000 acres it is considerably smaller than the Swamp. (That's one reason you won't see any photographs from there. We leave our cameras at home.) There are many access points onto the Meadows property. Some are off well-traveled roads but some are at deadends that are rather secluded and frequently used by people not there to go birdwatching. At least that's been my experience. (One time MH and I were walking an unpaved trail when several cars of area college-age kids drove by to what was once an old rifle range to hang out.) Another entrance, in the middle of a housing development, takes you into wild marsh. You might find roughlegged hawks flying over the power lines in winter or sparrows and warblers in the brush. But you'll also find the walking is difficult, there is no path per se and the grass will need a good mowing in late summer.
|Great Swamp vista, management area (Margo D. Beller)|
The Meadows' Helen Fenske is Robert L. Perkins, Jr., who died just last year. Keeping "development" at bay in Parsippany-Troy Hills is a much more difficult matter. (The township is an amalgamation of several smaller towns, the largest two of which became the new name.)
When I was growing up in NY there was the snooty Upper East Side and the wannabes on the Upper West Side. So to me those in Parsippany are those who wanted to show they'd "made it." Being one of the largest townships in the area, development is rampant and the McMansions have sprouted like weeds.
Perkins started agitating around the same time as Helen Fenske. However, as you can see from the timeline of Wildlife Preserves, the group he led, results have been mixed.
1952— Wildlife Preserves was founded and incorporated by a group of philanthropic conservationists, including the organization's long-time President and Executive Director- ("Bob") Robert L. Perkins, Jr. of Tenafly, NJ. The fledgling corporation began fundraising from within and outside of New Jersey and started buying farm lots and meadowlands in the Passaic River Basin, including land in Troy Meadows, Hatfield Swamp, and along the Whippany, Rockaway, and Passaic Rivers in East Hanover, Hanover, and Parsippany-Troy Hills.
|Redheaded woodpecker, Colonial Park, NJ|
Here's another difference: Nowadays the Swamp is better known. However, those who see reports out of Troy Meadows, such as those compiled by veteran Meadows hiker and naturalist Jonathan Klizas through his mocosocobirds.com website, flock there. There are now breeding redheaded woodpeckers in the meadows (in the Swamp the reports are not as consistent). Recently, a Connecticut warbler - a notoriously difficult bird to find when it passes through New Jersey on its way south, was sighted there, as were Lincoln's sparrows. On the same mid-October day, 43 species of birds were found at the Swamp; 42 were found at Troy Meadows.
You can believe that Troy Meadows was a well-known marsh bird spot visited by famous ornithologists back in the day, including Roger Tory Peterson and Ludlow Griscolm. That's why, as Klizas told me, work continues to be done by Len Fariello, the manager of Wildlife Preserves, to keep the Meadows a meadow. That means putting up deer "exclosures" around the interior of the property to protect it from overbrowsing, planting trees and keeping the runaway phragmites under control.
So while you may have to work harder to shut out the surrounding noise and people watching you from their back decks, birding the Meadows won't waste your time. MH and I will have to try it again soon.