This state park in the Palisades region is a great place to find Golden-winged, Cerulean, and other warblers, as well as vireos, buntings, orioles, and much more.
By David Speiser | Published: 2/15/2011
I became hooked on Sterling Forest in May 2003, when I saw 29 warbler species on one fantastic spring day. Now whenever anyone asks where they can see Cerulean or Golden-winged Warblers, I send them here. It’s the best spot in the region for the birds.
I like to arrive early, drive slowly, and roll down my windows, listening for singing warblers. I regularly hear Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Cerulean, maybe an American Redstart, and Yellows everywhere. Then, in just a short stretch of road, more spring birds chime in: Indigo Bunting, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and Warbling Vireos.
And that’s just the first half-hour! Park by the visitor center and walk toward Sterling Lake. A five-mile loop trail starts here. In the first quarter-mile, you should see breeding Louisiana Waterthrush and Worm-eating Warbler and at least hear a Pileated Woodpecker. Golden-winged and Cerulean Warblers are a little farther down the trail. You never know what might pop up — pickerel frogs, timber rattlesnakes, or Ruffed Grouse. I am always surprised and eager to go back. — David Speiser
David Speiser is a wildlife photographer and a board member of the New York City Audubon Society. He also wrote about Francis Marion National Forest, Charleston, South Carolina, Hotspot Near You No. 134.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Forests, lakes, some grasslands, shrubs.
Mostly flat, but some trails are steep. Bird from your car on Long Meadow Rd.
Spring migrants: Magnolia, Cape May, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted, Tennessee, Nashville, Mourning, Canada, and Wilson’s Warblers, and Northern Parula. Breeding: Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Cerulean, Prairie, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Black-and-white, Worm-eating, and Hooded Warblers, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-throated, White-eyed, Warbling, and Red-eyed Vireos, Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Ruffed Grouse, Common Raven, Broad-winged Hawk.
When to go
April to July.
Visitor center has gift shop, auditorium, restrooms, and a great view of Sterling Lake.
State park. Open year-round, daylight hours. No fees. Parking is free, and you can park along the road at many birding spots. Visitor center is open 8-4:30 Monday to Friday. Closed on weekends, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Orange County is home to ticks; be prepared and stay on the trails. Bring insect repellent, tuck in your pants, and check for ticks before you leave. Lightweight and light-colored clothing is best.
For more info
Bear Mountain State Park
About 22 miles northeast of Sterling Forest State Park. Best spot is Doodletown Rd. Eastern Bluebird and Orchard Oriole are more readily seen than at Sterling Forest.
Shawangunk Grasslands NWR
About 45 miles north of the park. Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Savannah and Field Sparrows, and Upland Sandpiper.