By James Nani, Times Herald-Record, link to original post
A great blue heron stands on one spindly leg, staring through wetlands and brown, windswept cattails before spreading its bluish-gray wings and taking off with slow, deliberate wing beats.
To bird-watching novices, the scene is something you may expect captured by a National Geographic camera crew hiding deep in a bayou, miles away from civilization. Try Goshen instead.
The 61/2 Station Road Wildlife Sanctuary, supported by the Orange County Audubon Society, is not just home to a tiny 62-acre wetland filled with flora and fauna but a place to peacefully enjoy an autumn stroll as leaves slowly change from green to shades of red and gold.
The funny name for the road the sanctuary is on dates to a time when farmers used to leave their milk at the nearby Erie Railroad station on what is now the Heritage Trail. The stop was six-and-a-half miles to the next stop, where milk was transferred to New York City.
In 1981, the local Audubon chapter purchased the land with a $25,000 loan from the National Audubon Society’s Whittell Fund. More than 30 years later, 171 species of birds have been seen there, according to the society. Today, the Heritage Trail borders the sanctuary and also provides a steep contrast. While the Heritage Trail is well maintained and filled with joggers and trimmed foliage, the sanctuary is roughly hewn, with tall reeds and less maintained, meandering paths. The two spots make a good pair, but bring a good pair of boots.
Whether you decide to stroll the Heritage Trail or the sanctuary, a good pair of binoculars should allow you to spot a few birds along the way.
Walking along trails lined with briars and thistles, those exploring the sanctuary might find hosts of sparrows bursting out of an Eastern red cedar and landing in unison on the branch of a weeping willow, among its lance-shaped leaves. Take a seat on a wooden bench and listen to the cooing of fawn-colored mourning doves and the constant low hums and clicks of insects.
Though the sanctuary is small and surrounded by the bustling Route 17M in the distance, it serves an important ecological function. It’s a recharge site for the surrounding water table and a natural reservoir that holds an estimated 112.9 million gallons of water that eventually flows into the Wallkill River aquifer. The sanctuary also absorbs excess storm water that helps in controlling flooding and cleanses the impurities in the water that flows through it.
Whether you’re watching a yellow warbler perch on a white ash in the sanctuary or out for a morning jog on the Heritage Trail, the changing autumn leaves will be a draw for anyone looking to enjoy the region’s spectacular foliage display.
6 1/2 Station Road Wildlife Sanctuary
How to get there: From the Village of Goshen, head northeast on Greenwich Avenue toward North Church Street, turn left onto West Main Street, then take a slight left onto West Main Street Extension. Take the ramp onto New York 17M W/US-6W/Grand Army of the Republic Highway. Turn right onto 61”2 Station Road; the sanctuary is on your right.
Don’t Miss: When you first arrive at the wooden entrance of the sanctuary, lift the wooden panel in front. There’s a book inside where people note the birds they’ve spotted and animals they’ve seen. Also check out the trees that have placards in front of them with facts about each species.
Be Aware: The paths in the sanctuary can be dense, hard to follow and can just sort of … end. Bring a good pair of boots and be aware of the paths. Binoculars are a must, to catch glimpses of all the wildlife.