An extensive salt marsh at Conaskonk Point in Union Beach hosts breeding Green Heron, Clapper Rail, Willet, American Oystercatcher, Marsh Wren, and Seaside and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows. Non-breeding summer residents include herons, egrets, Common and Least Tern, and Black Skimmer.
In winter there is often a flock of Greater Scaup just offshore that can number as many as 15,000! The Eared Grebe at the left was photographed at the mouth of Matawan Creek in Keyport near Conaskonk Point on Feb. 28, 2009, by Scott Barnes. Note the bird's more upturned, slender, and finer-pointed bill, the dark cheek and neck, and more buoyant posture in the water. Another Eared Grebe was photographed in the same spot during February 2008.
In late May and early June, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Red Knots feed on Horseshoe Crab eggs near the mouth of Chingarora Creek. Whimbrel is a regular migrant in small numbers in both spring and fall. Watch for the birds feeding on mudflats at low tide or in the higher marsh at high tide. The individual at the right was photographed by Tom Boyle on August 21, 2008.
Other species seen here have included Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, American Golden Plover, Black-headed and Little Gulls, and Hudsonian Godwit.
- Take the Garden State Parkway to Exit 117 and get on Rt. 36.
- Take 36 about 2.5 miles to the Union Ave. exit. (Traveling from the Sandy Hook direction, it is almost 11 miles to the Union Ave. exit. )
- Follow Union north until it changes into Front St.
- At the far end of Front Street, past the municipal beach, there is an unpaved parking lot where the road bears left. NOTE: Union Beach was badly damaged in Storm Sandy. On 4/4/13 this parking lot was inaccessible. Using the access from Chingarora [see below] may be a better approach for the time being.
- Park in this lot and explore the beach and marsh beyond.
- Another access point is at the foot of Edmund Street.
- To reach Edmund, exit from this first parking lot to the right onto Dock St., and follow it to its end at Florence St.
- Turn right on Florence.
- Make a right on Edmund (shortly after a sign warning that you are approaching a fire house).
- Go to the end of Edmund and turn left (on Chingarora).
- Park along the street, and walk out the dirt road to the beach. The creek mouth on the left is often productive. Please try not to disturb birds by approaching them too closely.