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
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.