Contributed photo

TRR photo by Scott Rando

Northern harriers can often be seen foraging over Liberty Marsh as they fly low looking (and listening) for mice, voles and other rodents. Like an owl, they have a disk-shaped head so the placement of their ears enhances their sense of hearing; this enables them to hear the faint rustle of a hidden mouse in the grass.

Wallkill River NWR, a year-round destination

During the first week of February, I visited the north end of Liberty Marsh at the New York side of the border with New Jersey. It is located within the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, a roughly 12-mile-long area of federal refuge lands that surround the Wallkill River.

It seems that every time I go to the refuge, I see something interesting. During the winter, I’ve racked up a half dozen trips for a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation raptor survey, a couple of bird-club trips and a few trips on my own, and I have always spotted plenty of birds and a few other critters as well.

There are several walking trails at the refuge, and they are mostly flat and well maintained. Even if you are not a birder, these trails make for a pleasant walk. Some of the trails go through deciduous forest, and others pass next to waterways, so there’s an opportunity to see a diverse mix of wildlife.

In addition to hiking, there are hunting and fishing opportunities available at the refuge at various times of the year. There are specific regulations for these activities, and it’s recommended to contact the refuge for any permits and any special regulations. Boat-launching areas are available for fishing or kayaking during the warmer months.

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge is open year-round, though some areas away from the trails are marked to guard against disturbance of breeding or endangered/threatened species. You’ll find maps and more information at


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