Hiking Local: Palmyra Cove/Taylor’s Refuge

I decided to spend the morning doing something I haven’t been able to do all spring – hike/bird locally. It’s hard to believe that I missed almost all of migration this year, but somehow between the weather and doing stuff around the house, I did. So, I decided to see what might be left around the area.

I started the morning early at Palmyra Cove, and it was obvious that migration must be nearly over, as the parking lot was completely empty. During migration, this place usually had a dozen cars by 7:30am. Well, that would mean that I would have the Cove all to myself, I guess. Turns out, that was close to true as I only saw a handful of people the entire time, although they WERE very nice people.

Palmyra was full of the usual suspects, but highlights included a FOS Great-crested Flycatcher (which would also be a first for me at Palmyra), a trio of Osprey circling over the beaver pond, two different Baltimore Oriole nests to complement the dozens of orioles (incl. orchard orioles flying around, and a Hooded Merganser in the beaver pond. I also got to see some FOS warblers: Black and White, American Redstarts and Common Yellowthroat. Sadly, the park was mostly devoid of butterflies and dragonflies, although I did add a new species of damselfly (Skimming Bluet*) and saw a few Common Baskettails.

All in all, I spent 3+ hours walking around Palmyra but a conversation with a fellow local birder, Al, directed me to try Taylor Refuge a short distance away.

Taylor Refuge

I’d heard of this place from the JerseyBirds listserv, but really didn’t know much about it. I decided to check it out on the fly and didn’t even notice that they had a map at the entrance – it might have been helpful, as I got turned around a couple of times. Oh well – it meant that I got home MUCH later, but I enjoyed adding another 3 hours of hiking to my day. Taylor Wildlife Refuge is a county park recently set up after a donation by the Taylor family in Riverton. It reminds me quite a bit of the far reaches of Palmyra Cove – long stretches of trail that wander through a variety of habitats, including some that were nearly overgrown with catalpa bushes (similar to the far end of the Cove Trail at Palmyra). The trails were nice overall, if a little hairy at times with poison ivy and the ticks were pretty bad, but I would go back again soon.

The birding was a little slow, mostly because the place is really full of plant life, which made finding the birds all the harder. With the exception of a pair of Belted Kingfishers, most of what I saw was a replication of Palmyra Cove, although often in different settings (along the river, cedar and pine forest, etc.). But there were far more butterflies and dragonflies about, especially at the fields near the parking lot. I was treated to several FOS odes (Common Green Darner, Familiar Bluet, Fragile Forktail and a Slender Spreadwing, although I was having a really bad day shooting yesterday, so I have little photographic evidence to show for it. Butterfly-wise, I had FOS Black and Tiger Swallowtails, Red Admiral, American Lady and a number of skippers: Tawny-Edged, Zabulon and Silver-spotted. But the highlight was my first Appalachian Azure* – a large azure that kept landing on a pile of Southern Cottonwood ‘cotton’ on the ground.

After about 7 hours total, I was pretty spent, so I called it a day (at least for hiking) and went home to do the chores I was supposed to start a few hours earlier. But my soul was feeling rejunvenated for getting out in nature for a few hours. Now if I could just figure out what that gremlin was with my camera(s).


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