The first data for the WCAS biological survey of Alexauken Creek Wildlife Management Area were collected when several inches of snow blanketed the fields and woodlands and ice covered the creek and pond. A mere trickle of water could be heard beneath a frozen cascade, the tracks of tiny creatures of the night dotted otherwise pristine snow, and hoarfrost from the exhalations of slumbering muskrats rimed the dry stems beside the many portals of their pondside den. By late March, the snow was gone and mud season was upon us. A flock of migrating robins graced the lawn of the homestead and a titmouse sang heartily among the branches of an ancient walnut tree, stark and twisted against a blindingly brilliant blue sky. Just one month later, the forest floor was literally carpeted with spring beauties, bloodroot, cut-leaved toothwort and rue anemone. On a late April day, early spring migrants were seen and heard in the trees; salamanders and bullfrogs were soaking up the warmth. Three muskrats sunned on logs and swam lazily in the pond, their barely-visible heads trailing gentle V's across the still water.
In the winter months, the woods were fairly quiet and bird activity was concentrated in hedgerows, scrub/shrub and forest edge habitats. Every woodpecker species that might be found in New Jersey was documented. Our early spring arrivals included palm, black-and-white and black-throated-green warblers, and the Louisiana and Northern waterthrushes. Wood ducks and a kestrel were spotted more than once, a possible forecast of breeding activity. Gently turned logs and rocks revealed northern dusky, redback and northern two-lined salamanders. A baby snake with a checkerboard pattern presented an identification challenge.
The habitat and species data will be used to make recommendations for a management plan for both game and non-game species at the WMA, which is located in West Amwell Township. Anyone considering a visit to the property, which has parking available on Lambertville-Rocktown Road, should be aware of several things. First, trails are obscure, unmarked and not maintained for public hiking. Second, as a Wildlife Management Area the property is used, in season, by hunters. Check schedules on the State Fish & Wildlife website, www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw, beforehand. Finally, the habitat is ideal for copperhead snakes and some local people claim they are present. Stay away from the rock walls!
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