Birding Sites

Whitesbog has been better known historically as the place that cultivated the first successful blueberry crops. Many are unaware that Whitesbog offers a unique opportunity for seeing the birds of the Pine Barrens of new Jersey.

Located in Pemberton Township, Burlington County, it is now a part of the Lebanon State Forest. Whitesbog is found off County Road 530 just west of New Jersey Route 70. It is about 40 miles south of Trenton and 18 miles east of Medford.

To enter Whitesbog, look for signs indicating the Conservation Environmental Studies Center. These signs are at the junction of Route 70 and County 530 and on County 530 at Whitesbog Road between the 34 and 33 mile markers. Turn onto the paved portion of Whitesbog Road and follow the road a short distance to the town of Whitesbog. Turn right at the stop sign and stay to the right of the study road through the town until you reach a large reservoir on the left and cranberry bogs on the right. This area is the best place to begin your observations.

Travelers should use caution on these narrow sandy roads. They are rough and usually wet during bad weather. Avoid the ditches at the sides.

This area of the Pine Barrens is unique since it offers a variety of habitat. Whitesbog has over 3,000 acres of both abandoned and cultivated cranberry bogs and blueberry fields, reservoirs, swamps, ponds, streams, cedar bogs, fields in all stages of succession, and oak and pine forests. Over two hundred species of birds have been observed here. The reservoirs, flooded cranberry bogs, and other wetlands have produced the largest numbers and greatest variety of birds.

Many shorebirds pass through Whitesbog during late summer and early fall. These birds can best be observed when the reservoirs are partly drained. Sixteen species of shorebirds have been observed. They include Yellowlegs, Pectoral, Least, Semipalmated, and Upland Sandpipers. Spotted Sandpipers, Killdeer, and Common Snipe are seen there in the summer also. Last year Avocets were reported.

In the summer you may find nesting Mallards, Black and Wood Ducks, Green-winged Teals, Pied-billed Grebes, Virginia Rails, American Bitterns, Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Northern and Orchard Orioles, to name a few. The woods and fields have year-round resident Great Horned Owls, Screech Owls, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite, and Ring-necked Pheasants.

Whitesbog offers a good opportunity to observe the birds of the Pine Barrens because of its chain of sandy roads that travel through the many unique habitats and waterways. There are no camping or picnic areas. Many cranberry and blueberry fields are still privately owned and visitors should stay out of these areas. Hunting is allowed, so birders should be careful during the fall season, or bird on Sundays.

--Len Little

(Excerpted from New Jersey Audubon, vol. 4, no. 2)