This wildlife oasis in suburban northern New Jersey is one of the best places in the Garden State to look for American Bittern and Virginia Rail.
By Rob Fanning | Published: 2/20/2009
Once a working farm, the Allendale Celery Farm is now a wildlife oasis amidst the sprawling suburbs of Bergen County, New Jersey.
The centerpiece is Lake Appert, approximately 20 acres of freshwater marsh that attracts waterfowl, herons, and rails when it’s not frozen, generally from mid-March to mid-December. Three sturdy platforms offer wonderful views, making the site a photographer’s dream.
I bird the Celery Farm for many reasons. At no other suburban birding locale do I truly feel like I’m in the middle of wilderness. Plus, the farm is one of the best places in New Jersey to look for American Bittern and Virginia Rail. Also, expect to see Wood Duck, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Tree Swallow, Baltimore Oriole, Warbling Vireo, Great Egret, and much more during the spring and early summer.
And the number of rarities seen over the years is impressive. I will never forgot being part of a small group that spotted the refuge’s first Purple Gallinule – a stunning adult on a misty, foggy August morning. — Rob Fanning
Rob Fanning is a World Series of Birding veteran, and he leads field trips for the Fyke Nature Association and the New Jersey Audubon Society.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Freshwater marsh, ponds, woodlands.
Flat. Easy walking. Main loop trail about one mile. Can be muddy or flooded after heavy rains or icy in winter. Not wheelchair-accessible.
250 species. Breeding: Wood Duck, Tree Swallow, Green Heron, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Willow Flycatcher, Virginia Rail. Red-shouldered Hawk breeds nearby and is frequently seen here. Migratory: Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Hooded Merganser, Northern Waterthrush, Palm Warbler, Osprey, American Bittern, Orchard Oriole, Mourning Warbler (mainly spring), Rusty Blackbird, Bobolink, Lincoln’s Sparrow (mainly fall). Rarities: Purple Gallinule, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Western Kingbird, Red-necked Phalarope, Black Tern, Prothonotary, Cerulean, and Connecticut Warblers, Clay-colored Sparrow.
When to go
Mid-March through May and mid-August through October for migrants. Mornings always best, but evenings good August to September. Mid-day best for hawks.
Small kiosk with a bird-sightings book. Bird walks led by New Jersey Audubon and Fyke Nature Association. Checklist. No restrooms. Restaurants available in Allendale.
Natural area. No entrance or parking fees. Open dawn to dusk daily.
Spotting scope helpful for scanning the lake. Poison ivy present; wear long pants.
For more info
Garret Mountain Reservation
About 25 minutes south of Celery Farm in West Paterson. One of the premier spring migrant traps on the east coast.
About 25 minutes from Celery Farm in Lyndhurst. Good for shorebirds, terns, and skimmers.