First day of spring, warm and sunny … do you need a better reason for a bike ride?
Our goal was the eagles’ nest in Mercer County Park — a park three times the size of Central Park in New York City — and to hopefully see some of the many (40?!?) eagles reportedly spotted on our first blast of spring 10 days earlier. Yes, bald eagles live in New Jersey!
It’s an easy bike ride through West Windsor, taking advantage of the township’s many bike lanes. Plus the park has (generally) paved trails, so we could avoid the main park entrance on a busier, higher-speed road that has no bike lane.
I wish I could tell you that I was able to snap a fabulous photo of an eagle swooping over Mercer Lake. Ha! We could only spot a white head above the nest line … across the lake. You’ll have to do with this stunning video showing eagles grabbing dinner out of a river in North Jersey and the image I swiped at the top.
That black blob in this photo? That’s the nest. Eagles build huge nests — an average of 4 feet to 5 feet across and 2 feet to 4 feet deep. If they’re happy, they come back every year and add another foot or two of new material each year.
There’s no webcam yet — the eagles moved 10 trees down after an earlier one was installed. Perhaps they value their privacy? One is supposed to be coming this fall. In the meantime, you can watch the live feed of a pair nesting at Duke Farms with their babies. (You can bike at Duke Farms too.)
You can also try to catch some of Mercer County’s eagles talks.
We were there around midday on a Saturday in March, and all was quiet. The babies haven’t been born yet, so perhaps the parents are focused more on protecting the nest than feeding themselves. Once there are hungry mouths to feed, will they be flying more often?
Just don’t forget your binoculars.
The route from the Princeton Junction train station
Here’s the Ride With GPS file. Treat this as just one option; there are many ways to go through West Windsor. No matter what you choose, plan on about 15 miles round trip from the train station.
Enter the park through the east entrance on Edinburg Road. Go left past the picnic area (straight takes you to the campground) and onto a paved trail. Follow it past the chorus of frogs peeping (their mating call) and the tennis courts.
Don’t worry if you miss a turn or you choose to skip it because the path becomes unpaved; the road through the park has a bike lane. You may even cross it and end up at the Sept. 11 memorial, which honors the 28 Mercer County residents killed that day.
Look out for the boat house along the lake. After that is parking for the west picnic area and playground. You want to pick up the trail along the shore here. You’re only a few minutes from the viewing spot. Look for the informational panel. (Right now there is a temporary enclosed area between it and the water.)
From the viewing spot, you can backtrack or continue on the path (past more peeping frogs) until it reaches the road. Turn left and take it until you’re back at the tennis courts, then get on the path back to the east entrance and West Windsor roads.