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The Bernards Inn offers a special Go Birding! Spring Getaway Package. Guest blogger and Teacher Naturalist Stephanie Punnett Foster gives you a preview...

Glorious birdsong and the earliest blossoming wildflowers are sure signs that spring has finally arrived at the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary in Bernardsville ( ) .  Located just minutes from the Bernards Inn, the sanctuary is a natural treasure of flora and fauna that we hope you’ll be able to enjoy. Bring your binoculars and explore the sanctuary for yourself or take a guided bird watching tour from one of our experienced naturalists.

Your experience begins as soon as you step outside the center. Immediately, you are greeted by an orchestra of birds, all singing their own songs, yet somehow magically transforming what should be a cacophony into a beautiful symphony.  The first wildflowers to brave the cool temperatures of early spring are also beginning to push through the layer of dead leaves on the forest floor.

Bluebirds light up the sky and have spent the last few weeks looking at the real estate options provided by the nest boxes in the fields.  Location is everything, they say, and it appears that several pairs have closed on the deal.  Often perched on the top of their summer homes, the brilliant blue and orange/red of the male is striking in the sun, while the more camouflaged female is usually inside checking out their seasonal abode.  Newly arrived neighbors, the Tree Swallows, will pick from the remaining nest boxes in the neighborhood.  Flying and swooping in search of insects, their iridescent blue-green backs are brilliant as they tilt away from the sun.

Walking into the forest along the paths lined with Trout Lilies, a Golden-crowned Kinglet greets you with its high pitched “tse tse tse” while it flits in the branches overhead.  As you get closer to the river, bright spots of green Skunk Cabbage shoots dot the riparian habitat.

Down by the river is where you’ll find our newest arrival, the Louisiana Waterthrush, singing his song loud enough to be heard over the rushing water.  Actually a warbler and not a thrush, its musical warbler-like song begins with three or four high, clear notes followed by a descending warbling twitter.  It will build its nest along the stream bank under tree roots exposed by erosion.  This is a precarious spot, threatened by floods and predators, but somehow they manage.

As spring progresses, migrant birds like the Indigo Bunting and vireos will make their appearances.  We will be walking the trails more frequently, eagerly searching for the appearance of more of the spring ephemeral wildflowers.  Bloodroot will soon dot the forest floor with bright white flowers on short stalks.  The Trout Lilies will add their small, yellow, lily-shaped blooms to the speckled leaves we see now.  The Skunk Cabbage leaves will unfurl and create a carpet of green along the river.

Stephanie Punnett Foster

Teacher Naturalist

New Jersey Audubon

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary

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Guest Saturday, January 21 2017