A BALD EAGLE SWOOPS silently through the trees. Frozen waterfalls glisten in
the sun. Tiny animal tracks dot the pristine snow. These are some of the sights
that reward wintertime visitors to Duke Farms, the 2,742-acre nature preserve in
Hillsborough in the heart of Central Jersey.
Since reopening to the public in May 2012, Duke Farms has attracted more
than 1 million visitors, including 600,000 this year alone. Most come in the warm
months to stroll or bicycle amid the historic buildings, dozens of statues, open
fields, woodland and water features of the property, once the home of the late heiress Doris Duke.
But far fewer visit in winter, when the preserve shows a different side. Those
who do might spot a red fox or a rare river otter—if they are lucky. Birds are abundant. During last year’s one-day Christmas bird count, birders tallied 91 species, including 11 kinds of ducks and 16 kinds of raptors. Several bald eagles and
great horned owls were sighted, as well as the charismatic short-eared owls that
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KEVIN WATSON
DUKE FARMS IN WINTER
Quiet settles over the preserve as temperatures
drop—but visitors are always welcome.
BY JIM WRIGHT
60 December 2014 NJMONTHLY.COM
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