Hike MWA's Educational Trail

On a recent walk along the Musconetcong Educational Trail, led by MWA’s Alan Hunt, Director of Policy and Grants and longtime watershed resident, eight watershed residents spanning three generations, and a dog, got the normally extraordinary experience offered by this trail.

Hikers on a recent Educational Trail walk, led by Alan Hunt, on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Riverside forests and wetlands are full of plant life and animal activity. Each time one visits this trail, there is something new in store. The highlight this time was the third sighting of a pair of Barred Owls, preening each’s feathers, which from a distance looks like kissing. Earlier, four owls were spotted, likely including two fledglings. Barred Owls are rarely seen in pairs, advised one of the walkers, who was trying out their Merlin Bird ID app to identify a range of bird types, including a yellow warbler and a flicker.

A hiker using binoculars to spot a pair of Barred Owls preening on a tree branch.

This walk’s title was, “The Life of an Educational Trail.” The trail originally began as an Eagle Scout project in 2010. Part of that project was constructing bridges to cross a number of streams. Getting sturdy, durable materials and anchoring bridges so they are not swept away in floods is a challenge. Over time, some bridges need repair, and unfortunately a few needed to be replaced. This original trail, blazed blue with paint on tree bark, ran from the Musconetcong River Resource Center in Asbury, parallel to Maple Avenue, and ended at the fishing access parking area at Shurts Road, next to a green metal truss bridge. However, with two large stream crossings without bridges, about two thirds of this 1.5 mile trail fell into disuse, and became overgrown.

A pair of Mallards were spotted swimming in this larger vernal pool. Vernal pools are critical breeding areas for amphibians.