Special Features... Nature: Wait,
and photographed by
two predators picked out a young deer, one they knew they could take down. At
the right moment, they charged, lunged and tripped up the deer, tumbling all
three together into a cloud of dust that after a short time became still.
a scene that could have come straight out of Africa’s Serengeti Plain or the
hills and meadows of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. That particular
picture of the workings of nature didn’t take place in either Africa or the
American West, but it did unfold not long ago just north of Stockton, New Jersey
in Hunterdon County. Dr. Roger Locandro, who’s taught ecology at Rutgers
University for the past 39 years, said he witnessed it in a field near his home
several years ago.
dramas like the one described above of two coyotes hunting a deer are a sight
most likely seen by those who spend their life observing nature, many of the
beauties and dramas of nature are available to those who take the time to wait,
look and observe in places along the Delaware River in both Bucks and Hunterdon
always like to come back to Stockton,” said Dr. Locandro, who’s observed
wildlife everywhere from Alaska to Africa to New Zealand. “I think it’s one
of the most beautiful, diverse areas in the entire world.”
there are prey there will be predators, and Dr. Locandro said over 500 deer were
counted on a farm near his home recently. That is most likely the highest
concentration of deer anywhere in the world, he said, so in one way Hunterdon is
a kind of Serengeti.
you might have trouble keeping the deer off your bumper as you drive up Route 29
out of Stockton, so numerous are they, you also have a chance of seeing coyotes,
black bears, foxes, wild turkeys, rabbits, grouse and lots of squirrels. Dr.
Locandro said there was even a moose sighted near Highpoint several years ago.
The moose spent the day and ambled off.
was being interviewed by a young reporter in my driveway and I saw an eagle,”
Dr. Locandro said. “I said to her, ‘Did you ever see an eagle?’ ‘Oh, no,
no,’ she said. ‘What about that one right there?’ I asked. She almost
are still a rare sight, but they fish the river, along with osprey, especially
when the shad and herring run in spring. The Delaware is a major flyway for all
sorts of migrating birds, so you never know what you’ll see in the trees if
you take up a pair of binoculars here. Dr. Locandro saw a rare painted bunting
in his backyard, but a visitor honking her horn drove it away.
of the best places in the country to see migrating warblers and vireos in spring
and fall is Bull’s Island just north of Stockton. Participants in the World
Series of Birding regularly put it on their stop list. American red starts nest
here, and you’ll likely see palm warblers, yellow warblers, worm-eating
warblers, common yellowthroats, Philadelphia vireos and many others. The small
side roads off of Route 29 also offer up birding surprises, since many birds
from the flyway stop in places other than parks.
entire stretch of Route 29 north of Stockton offers postcard views, all the way
up and beyond the scenic cliffs of Milford. You can stand on top of those
Milford cliffs and view a grand stretch of the Delaware below. Although there
are cliffs in many places along the drive, Dr. Locandro said he didn’t know of
any peregrine falcons nesting on them. Peregrines do come through the flyway.
you go down to the river to view birds or to cross it, you’ll see plenty of
wading birds, including mergansers, cormorants, golden-eyed ducks, Canada geese
by the thousands and snow geese. By the New Hope-Lambertville bridge, mute swans
have found a home and are easily viewed or photographed.
Pennsylvania along the river, there are more of the same sorts of wildlife in
Bucks County as there are in Hunterdon County. Rare least weasels might scurry
in front of your car on Route 32, and one woman reported red foxes having their
pups on her farm for six years straight. Another woman had red foxes bringing up
their young in her backyard in a development near a patch of forest for three
straight years. A black bear has been making nearly a yearly foray along a ridge
in Ottsville, Pennsylvania through Bucks, across the river, and into West Amwell,
parks offer a more structured environment to view nature.
Bucks County Audubon Society runs Honey Hollow Environmental Center and has
programs and trips for the public. It’s located on Upper York Road in Solebury
and can be reached at (215) 297-5880. Peace Valley Nature Center has 300 acres
and 9 miles of hiking trails, with woods, fields, a wildlife blind and a nature
store. It’s on Chapman Road in Doylestown and can be reached at (215)
345-7860. Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve has various nature walks and
lectures. It’s located off River Road south of New Hope and can be reached at
the center of Bucks County, Nockamixon State Park is dominated by a 1,450-acre
lake. It offers hiking, biking, equestrian trails, family cabins and a pool
It’s on Mountain View Road in Quakertown and can be reached at (215) 538-2151.
Tyler State Park on Route 413 and Swamp Road in Newtown has 1,700 acres with
paved bike trails and a fishing lake. It can be reached at (215) 968-2021.
the center of this overflow of nature in Hunterdon and Bucks Counties is its
lifeblood, the Delaware River. It has the finest muskellunge population
anywhere, according to Dr. Locandro, along with shad and herring, catfish and
even some steel head trout. Years ago, according to Dr. Locandro, the herring
were so thick in their spawning streams that you couldn’t put a finger between
them. Overfishing in the oceans has depleted their populations, but that’s not
the Delaware’s fault.
health of the river is excellent,” Dr. Locandro said.
that helps keep the rest of the area teeming with all the beauties of nature.