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You can easily spend two hours of birding at the Main Pool area during the migratory seasons (see the website for anticipated migration patterns).
Find the entrance; wind back to the visitor center. In the parking lot you can see starlings, swallows, butterflies and chipmunks. Lock your car and walk up the handicap accessibility ramp and look over the swamp/pond. Most of the park looks like the veranda view .... marsh, scrub fields, ponds, little inlets, lotsa of insects (late summer).
In the visitors center, ask staff what special events are happening. Usually lectures are scheduled about endangered species or new projects or general birding topics. There are various dioramas and charts and specimens. There is a gift shop you'll probably want to visit now because you usually won't be coming back to the visitor center once you enter the park.
Get your own copy of the park map and have the staff point out locations for newest sightings.
On the way out, use the restrooms... there is only one other set of facilities in the park.
There is a trail to the first tower just beyond the north end of the parking lot. It is a 10 minute walk to that tower on gravel and dirt.
Back in the parking lot at the visitor center, drive out the north exit and head SLOWLY into the park (SLOWLY.... you do not want to frighten the wildlife or miss anything). The roadway is oneway and about one and one-half cars wide in most spots. So if you see something you can pull gingerly off to the side off the road and see or use your camera (be careful in springtime because the shoulders are a bit soggy). It is generally recommended to do your pics from the comfort of your car rather than walk around scaring the animals. You will find pull-offs and trails ahead where you can get out and get up close to nature. Continue on this way along the road indicated on the park map. The drive part ends at route 89.
Bird species include ducks, swans, geese, terns, sandpipers, geese, blackbirds, herons, egrets, geese. (images are stock photos)*
Updated Apr 4, 2011
When you leave the Observation Road (see the other part of webpage http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/d6398/cd550/4/), you are at the intersection with route 89 (the I-90 Thruway is visible but not accessible). Just north of that point is the tower to overview Tschache Pool. We spent about 40 minutes here watching mostly geese, swans and ducks and having a pre-packed sandwich and coke. Then we drove about a quarter of a mile farther north and parked on the east side of the road. On the west side there was a short walking trail that led around the north side of the Pool (the Barge Canal can be seen on the north side of the trail). There was a swans' nest in the reeds and an egret that was trying to fish and did not appreciate our presence. We watched a harrier overhead and saw several swallows. After about 20 minutes we went back to the car parked across the road.
A flat observation area is on the east side of the road where you can also view wildlife but we saw none there that day. The signs indicated that eagles and hawks should be visible but all we saw of them was there posters on the information kiosk.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Just south of I-90 on route 89 (right where the wildlife drive exits onto route 89) there are two largish ponds called North Spring Pool and South Spring Pool. They can be seen from the road but there is no safe spot to pull off for birding (traffic is infrequent but fast-traveling).
We found the authorized trails to this area on the west side of the ponds (on East Tyre Road) but the trails were not negotiable with the foot-gear we had (recent rains had made the area very swampy). We went down the trail a bit and had to turn back. The brochure says that you can see nesting marsh birds in this area and some field birds like warblers and vireos. We will have to try this place in a dryer time of the year.
(If you go there and try it, please post a trip review of it on VT.)
Updated Apr 4, 2011
There is a vistor center open April through November at the main entrance which offers brochures and displays about the refuge. There are also restrooms and an observation deck with a telescope. Please check the website for times. Admission is free.
There are several sections to the refuge. The Main Pool is the area where you will see the most wildlife. It is a gravel road and you can only visit this area by car driving very slowly. You can not bike or walk here because it may disturb the animals. I have been there many times and have always spotted some form of wildlife. The chances of seeing a blue heron are very high in this area.
Another area of the refuge is Tschache Pool which is another marsh. There is an observation deck with a telescope. This is the area where they say you have the best chance of seeing a bald eagle, although I have not been that lucky yet! Maybe someday! :-)
If you would like to do a little hiking, there is an area called Ester Brook Nature Trail . You are allowed to walk here.
Updated Jun 2, 2004
Address: 3395 Route 5 & 20 east , Seneca Falls, NY
Phone: 315 568 5987
Photo Equipment: Bring a long distance lens so you can take some nice pictures of the animals through your car window without disturbing them.
Miscellaneous: Definately bring your binoculars! You may see something moving around in the distance and you will want to know what it is!
Written May 31, 2004