I would be surprised if any of you had heard of the small birding spot in Bernardsville, New Jersey. However, Scherman-Hoffman Audubon Sanctuary is my favorite place to bird in the world. This location is not very widely birded, but it was my avian home for the past four years. From hawk watching, to spring migration counting, to leading bird walks I had a tremendous number of opportunities to bird there and I have a special place in my heart for the staff and the birds that can be seen from season to season and year to year.
Several years ago I had the chance to help lead a summer camp at Scherman-Hoffman, serving in the role as the “bird guy”. Right away I fell in love with the birds and the diversity found in this small patch of forest. Later that year, the director of the center, Mike Anderson, let me lead a hawk watch from the observation deck on the roof of the building. I had no expectations going into that fall migration season; however, that hawk watch was the most enjoyable birding experience of my life. I led the count from September to November, during which time I counted over 2,000 hawks, including Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Broad-Winged Hawk. The next year, I conducted a spring-migration count, recording hawk and passerine numbers throughout the park. Scherman-Hoffman is best known for its spring migration, and that year it did not disappoint. On any given day, one could see warblers, vireos, orioles, grosbeaks, and tanagers dripping off the trees. There were hawks flying over, flycatchers flitting about from branch to branch, and every once in a while a flyover Common Loon.
My proudest achievement at Scherman-Hoffman came in May of 2011. Mike asked me to do a Big Stay from the deck of the building for the World Series of Birding. The World Series is an annual event held in New Jersey in which teams compete to see the most birds in a 24-hour time span. For the Big Stay we had to stay within a 17-foot circle and count every bird seen or heard from that circle. On that day my uncle, my dad, and I tallied 80 species and took home the Big Stay Award for Scherman-Hoffman. What a thrill!
Unfortunately, I will not be able to return this year to captain the 2nd Big Stay from the Observation Deck. However, Mike Anderson, my uncle, and my dad will be back to defend the title.
So, those of you who live in New Jersey, take a trip to bird Scherman-Hoffman–you will meet amazing people and see incredible birds. For the rest, my biggest enjoyment in birding this sanctuary is that it is “mine”. Finding a birding site that is off the beaten path can offer the most rewarding birding, as I discovered with Scherman-Hoffman. It’s fun to see old friends in familiar places, and seeing a cool and unusual bird in your home patch is just that much more special.
Here is the list from May 2011. We’d love to hear how many of them you’ve seen and where!
Great Blue Heron
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler