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Hackensack Meadowlands #2

To get around in this urban birding wilderness, get from New Jersey Turnpike exit 16W to Route 3 West. Exit at 17 south Lyndhurst. At the light, take Polito Ave. straight ahead to valley Brook Ave. Turn left on Valley Brook and take it to the end at the Hackensack Meadowlands Environmental Center (closed Sundays, otherwise facilities). From the end of the building, scan the gulls on the ice. This is a good spot for lesser blackbacks of any age, Iceland and glaucous gulls and maybe something rarer. Franklin's, com. black-headed and Thayer's gulls have been found here. In this area also, watch for shortear, peregrine, roughleg and harrier. Raptors are heavy in the meadows. If open water or high tide, canvasback, shoveler, teal, gadwall, mergansers and other ducks can be found also. Owls are occasionally found in nearby cemeteries (observe the proprieties, of course). After working this area, take Valley Brook west again out to Orient Way. Turn left on Orient (after the steep hill on Valley Brook) and take Orient south to a T. Go left on the T, and at the diner, bear right on Schuyler Ave. Take it south, check the cemetery on the right for larks, and proceed south to rte. 7, the Belleville Pike. Turn left on the Pike (rte 7) and proceed east to the Janitex plant near the Amtrak RR line. Just beyond the Janitex driveway is an obscure second driveway over a wooden bridge (the Amtrak workers' access). Go left on this driveway/bridge and drive to a gate at the river. If the gate is open, you can drive the riverbank left; if not, park and walk. Turn left and watch the open spots in the marsh on your left, known as Kearny East. Here you can find coot, pied-billed grebe, hooded merganser, a winter roost of black-crowned night-herons, other duck species, raptors, and the like. Even when other spots are frozen, this always has some open water. The river in this area has been excellent for red-necked grebe, and should be good this winter with the lakes freezing. If you walk up onto the east-west tracks at the end of the paved road, you can overlook the 900 acre Sawmill Wildlife Management Area, which may have waterfowl, coot, raptors and the like. Take care not to get locked in! Probably it is safer to leave the car and walk.

--Rich Kane