|Shawnee Trail, Shamong Township, NJ |
Phone: (609) 859-8860 ext. 17
Open daily from dawn to dusk. The access point is not marked from the road. It is a clearing between houses at a street corner in a wooded subdivision. There is a retention basin in the middle of the clearing, fenced in a triangle, and Rancocas Conservancy signs posted along the back tree line where the woods are open to the public. Roadside parking only. Print a trail map from www.rancocasconservancy.org/preserves before visiting.
From Bear Swamp, Red Lion Preserve, turn Right on Hawkin Road. After 1.1 miles, turn Right on Old Indian Mills Road. After 1 mile, turn Right on Medford Lakes Road, Route 532. After 0.4 miles, turn Left on Oakshade Road. After 1.9 miles turn Right on Tuckerton Road. After 0.8 miles take the first Right onto Shawnee Trail. Bear Left, and at the second right-hand curve park on the Left side of the road by a stand of white pines, in front of the clearing between houses. An unimproved gravel path leads into Piper’s Corner Preserve, to the Right of a triangular fenced-in area.
DIRECTIONS FROM NEAREST HIGHWAY: From the intersection of Route 206 and Route 70 at Red Lion traffic circle, continue South on Route 206. After 4.8 miles turn Right on Tuckerton Road, and proceed 1.2 miles to a stop sign at Oakshade Road. After the stop sign, make the first Right onto Shawnee Trail. Bear Left, and at the second right-hand curve park on the Left side of the road by a stand of white pines, in front of the clearing between houses. An unimproved gravel path leads into Piper?s Corner Preserve, to the Right of a triangular fenced-in area. Map
Look for subtle mounds at the base of the slopes leading toward Rake Straw Creek. Many of these are remnants of 18th & 19th century charcoal mounds that provided the fuel for the local iron industry. If you are lucky, you might spot a rodent’s burrow in one that has unearthed some of the old charcoal.
While walking the woodland path to the stream, look carefully on the forest floor for Lycopodium, or ground pine. Although it looks like it has tiny needles, this diminutive plant is not a pine species but rather a club-moss, or fern ally, which reproduces by spores. Don’t look too close unless you’re wearing bug-spray; beds of Lycopodium are popular hangouts for chiggers. Chiggers are barely-visible wood mites whose bites cause terrible itching.
|Piper's Corner Preserve is a charming hidden preserve behind a residential development along Rake Straw Creek, in the headwaters of the Rancocas. The woods are an excellent example of a transitional forest between upland hardwoods and classic Pine Barrens habitat, with an almost 50-50 ratio of oak to pine. At 93 acres, this modest preserve has a surprising variety of wildlife to offer.
Stop by on a warm, humid evening in mid-to-late April to hear the chorus of spring peepers, gray treefrogs, and possibly Pine Barrens treefrog.
The woods remain quite green, with pitch pine canopies, holly and mountain laurel understory, and mosses and Lycopodium on the forest floor. Listen for Screech, Barred or Great Horned Owls at dusk. White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hermit Thrush, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Downy Woodpecker and Eastern Towhee overwinter.
Listen for spring peeper, gray treefrog, and fowler's toad calling from the woods and near the retention basin after rains as early as mid-March. Wildflowers and ferns come to life. Check the retention basin, with its bog-like habitat, for orchids or other rare plants in late May and early June. Overnbird, Veery, Wood Thrush, Pine Warbler, Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireo and many other songbirds call from the woods. Listen for the sharp, clear whistles of Louisiana Waterthrush near the stream.
Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Gray Catbird and Brown Thrasher are among the nesting species. Look for fence lizard, five lined skink, and black rat snake in the wood pile as you follow the trail left from the entrance. Box turtles can be found on the forest floor near the edge of the woods. Damselflies and dragonflies can be found near the stream, their larvae clinging on sunken branches and leaves in the stream. Look for moths blending on branches and nectaring on flowering plants. House Wren, Carolina Chickadee or Tufted Titmouse may be utilizing the nesting boxes near the entrance. Watch from a distance so as not to disturb the fragile hatchlings.
Insects are active through September and into October. Butterflies include cabbage white, spicebush swallowtail, silver-spotted skipper, and common wood nymph, among others. Flocks of Juncos and White-throated sparrows arrive in mid- October. Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks hunt them. Eastern chipmunks, red squirrels, gray squirrels, and cottontail rabbits scamper near the woodland edge. Carolina Wrens echo from the woods, stirring up migrating songbirds with their chatter.