Winter in the Woods

Wondering what to do to cure cabin fever? There is no better time to visit Cedar Run than now. Although our woods are beautiful year round, I find it to be the best time of year to get to know our wild and resident wildlife. With a chill in the air and a forest that buffers the winds, our trails and animal housing area are open 7 days a week, no matter what the weather.

Harpo, Mute swan. Photo credit to Steven Wasson

Many people often ask what we do with our animals when the temperatures dip and our lakes freeze. As humans it is difficult to understand how animals can endure such drastic changes in our weather. We bundle up with layers of clothes, and cover every bit of exposed skin just to walk out of our homes in winter. Animals, on the other hand, are perfectly adapted for all types of weather conditions. All of our resident animals are animals that live in our area and climate year round. They are perfectly adapted for any seasonal condition. Of course we also provide extra warmth and comfort in their enclosures.

Wondering what happened to all those donated Christmas trees? We set them in each enclosure where they offer windbreaks and insulation, while offering new scenery and enrichment for the animals. Come see how our friends look with their seasonally dressed homes. You may need to look close, many like to hide among , in , and under the branches.

Squam, Barred owl; photo credit to Steven Wasson

Come see our friends sporting their new winter coats. They fluff up their feathers, and grow layers of extra fur to provide comfort and warmth no matter what the weather. They also have the ability to stay dry with the top layers trapping in heat and keeping moisture away from their skin.

Not only do we have trails to explore in the winter, but often we get new visitors. With fewer large groups visiting, our local wildlife finds our property to be a safe haven, often meandering into the animal housing area for a visit with our residents. Some end up staying year round like our friend Penelope the Turkey, and our young deer friend that has been seen visiting our White resident deer Sassafras.

Just yesterday, I ventured down the Yellow trail and built shelters with some young friends. We talked about survival and what it must have been like to be a settler long ago. We built primitive shelters from logs, sticks, and old branches,  and retreated to the Nature Center for a quick warm up in the reptile room.

So remember, although it may be cold and dreary outside, our trails are always open, and our furry and feathered friends are always happy to have visitors. 

Happy Winter everyone! I hope to see you on the trails this season.

  • Any suggestions for the next edition, or comments on a visit, feel free to share your experiences and email me at


  • Special thanks to Steven Wasson for submitting such amazing photos to this edition.

Winter Wings

Winter Wings

As many of you know, I have an unrelenting admiration for the migratory winter birds like the tiny warblers, snow buntings, juncos and pine siskins. I love hearing the sweet high pitched song of the dozens of White throated sparrows that have taken up shelter in our shrubberies and forests, and Boy is it easy to appreciate the colors of the male Northern Cardinal during the gray days of winter.  It is like finding a treasure in the forest to see and hear these seasonal visitors, and I do miss them when they leave in the early spring.  But it is some of our largest year-round residents that don’t seem to get the recognition that they truly deserve.

frozen lake
Cedar Run Lake

Here in South Jersey we have 2 species of vultures that live here year round; The Turkey Vulture and the Black Vulture. NO they don’t sing sweet songs, or frequent our feeders of black oil sunflower seeds, but they are out there in search of food and water just the same.  Most people like birding to observe the beauty and grace in nature. When it comes to vultures though… I often hear that the vultures are UGLY and (dare I say it) Gross!

I personally see the vultures’ unsightly characteristics as amazing adaptions. That could be because of my background in Biology, but nonetheless, they are truly fascinating when observed close up.

Apollo, Immature Turkey Vulture & Education Ambassador

The Turkey Vulture has a salmon colored, BALD/ featherless head that aids in an eas
y clean up after a meal. If you’re sticking your head in dead things, who needs feathers just to get all mussed up? Also, there are no observable difference between the genders, and both can have a wing span of almost 6ft! They use their huge wings to teeter in a “V” shape at low altitudes to sniff out their next meal.  The smellier the better! Roadkill skunks are not a problem for these guys. With their huge nostrils they can locate the unsightly carcass, and it’s the clean-up crew to the rescue.

Now the Black vultures will also eat carrion, but have been observed to also kill small

Cora, resident Black Vulture at Cedar Run

prey. They don’t have the ability to sniff out an easy meal, but have incredible eyesight. They are slightly smaller, at nearly 5ft, they often soar with their flattened broad wings, above their red-headed cousins, watching them and waiting for them to pick out an easy meal.  They too have featherless heads, but their skin is all black. I think what I love most about the Black Vultures, is that they bark! Without a voice box, they make adorable grunts, hisses, and yes..barks.

At Cedar Run we get many vultures as patients annually. They get caught with their heads in a meal, and often get injured themselves. We have released many vultures over the years, while a few have become permanent residents. Come see our dear Cora, if she is feeling playful she may bark at you. Beware of our sassy Socrates, she has been known to attempt to snack on a shoelace or two. Apollo has visited many schools and been to several festivals as an education ambassador changing people’s opinions about these beautiful creatures.

Vultures are very curious creatures, and our residents and ambassadors will offer an up-close view of what most of us can only see meters above our heads.

cora head

Autumn Activities

Here at Cedar Run, we love the changes that autumn brings. Children leave with pockets full of acorns and brightly colored leaves, and family’s leave with lifelong memories. Making the trip out to Cedar Run is a huge adventure for children and adults alike, and Autumn is one of the best seasons to come and visit.

We get visitors from far and near; some trek hours, while many live in the adjacent neighborhoods. I love it when locals discover us for the first time. They often say they had no idea our little treasure was in their backyard. After all, we don’t have flashing lighted signs or billboards to direct you to our little corner of the pineland forest, nor do we sit on a main highway for all to see. We have quaint street signs, and rustic carved signs that welcome you with the quiet beauty of nature.

Fall Cedar Run LakeCedar Run is 171 acres of protected pineland forest with over 3 miles of sandy hiking trails that wind through the underbrush of blueberry and laurels. The trails are mainly flat, with a boardwalk through the wetlands, and an observation deck just where the upland forest meets the wetlands on the white trail. I love to search for green frogs and fence lizards down there. I saw both just this past Saturday; amazing since it was barely 50 degrees. The trails can be easily navigated by visitors of all ages and is wide enough for a double stroller if needed. I often point out the critters to visitors that unknowingly know that they are being watched form the waters below.

The biggest attraction I think is the mature pineland forest, and the many unique plants that are able to thrive in the sandy soils, or the tiny feathered migrants that come this time of year. But if you ask most, they are most surely here to see the nearly 60 animals that permanently reside at Cedar Run. Each has a heartbreaking story why they must live with us and not in the forest where they truly belong. It is their stories of human impacts on nature that many make personal connections with their favorite.

Baron smiles Like Baron, our resident gray fox. Raised in a home after being found abandoned, he is now habituated and no longer fearful of humans. He would not be able to survive on his own in the wild. He loves to welcome visitors and often sits at the side of his enclosure as if to say hello with a grin on his furry little face. Often it is the story of Orion, one of two Bald Eagles that live here permanently. Orion is a victim of powerlines, and can no longer fly or hunt.  Each has a story of their own, and each are now ambassadors for our local wildlife populations.

We also have the most active wildlife hospital in the state. Caring for nearly 4000 animals annually,pport our mission is to return wildlife to the wild. Our hospital doors are open 7 days a week and on holidays to accept any injured or orphaned wildlife. Our Nature Center and trails stay open year-round as well.

Survival shelter
Our Scout programs are currently in full swing, survival themed birthday parties are a favorite this time of year, and our adult Walk on the Wildside tours have been filling quickly. We also have raptor photography sessions and Night Hikes running throughout the season. There is always something to do at Cedar Run no matter what the season, but I find Autumn to be a favorite of many.

Back to School with Cedar Run

With summer coming to an end, and the kiddos back to school, we too are going back to school. We welcomeLeading group field trips and bring entertaining and educational programs into classrooms and auditoriums.

Our education department has many STEM inspired programs. STEM is an acronym for Science,Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and each is all around the natural world.

STEM education effects what is closest and dearest to us, our youth. STEM education and careers are their future, the technological age in which they live, their best career options for their future, and the key to our global success.

With classes and teachers being constantly restrained by new state standards and curriculum changes, we are able to enhance their learning bvany either giving experiences in the field, or simply by bringing STEM programs in to them with our REFUGE on WHEELS programs. We use connections within our unique Pinelands habitat to captivate students’ interest in science, using and discussing the technology and data collection methods used to measure and identify any changes over time.

Our programs discuss habitats, ecosystems, adaptations, and diversity among a few of the topics. We delve into organisms from microbial to large mammals. We discuss the transfer of nutrients within a community and how it can be related to global issues. Introducing students to these issues we can make connections with global issues and gain an understanding of how the small things can ultimately affect the bigger.  But the crowd denise & hawkfavorites are always when they get to meet some of our scaled, furry, or feathered friends. Our resident wildlife educators are always inspiring future wildlife biologists, environmental engineers, and possibly the next alternme and homeschoolative energy or environmentally-friendly machine inventors.

Our programs are led and taught by engaging, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic educators using hands-on and minds-on activities. We make science, technology, math, and engineering fun and interesting. Our programs help students to learn and may even plant the “seed of interest” that could grow into an exciting and rewarding STEM career.

So why not experience STEM at Cedar Run during or onsite programs, travelling Refuge on Wheels programs, or our monthly homeschool classes. STEM is everywhere, out in nature, on the trails, in the dirt, under the stars, and in the water. It exists within our everyday experiences, and we are happy to share our experiences and knowledge with you.
boys at water