Raritan Headwaters Association > Flora and Fauna at Fairview Farm

Flora and Fauna at Fairview Farm

A walk at Fairview Farm can take you through several different habitats — meadow, forestland, succession forest and wetlands — where you can discover a variety of plant and animal species.


Over 175 species of trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses and wildflowers have been identified at the preserve. Can you find the following?

Red Oak

(Quercus rubra)Red oak acorns (Quercus rubra)

The Red Oak is New Jersey’s State Tree. Its acorns are an excellent food source for deer and black bears.



(Lindera benzoin)

Rub your fingers on a leaf and you’ll know why this shrub is called spicebush! In late summer its berries, which appear only on female plants, turn red and are food for many birds migrating to their winter habitats.

Marginal Woodfern

Marginal Woodfern

(Dryopteris marginalis)

Look carefully under this plant – you might see a toad or a salamander.

Milkweed Susan Richart

Susan Richart

Common Milkweed

(Asclepias syriaca)

Common Milkweed is quite variable — its wonderfully fragrant flowers may be attractive, but they can also appear faded and dingy-looking. Although many people think of this plant as a wee, its flowers and foliage provide food to many kinds of insects. In fact, it is a host plant for the regal Monarch butterfly. A host plant is a plant that an organism depends on for food and reproduction.


During the 2011 BioBlitz at Fairview Farm, 60 species of birds were seen or heard and identified. The preserve is a haven for birds all year round.

Prairie Warbler Vince Capp

Vince Capp/vcapp@optonline.net

Prairie Warbler

(Setophaga discolor)
In the spring and early summer, listen for this bird’s ascending trill. The Prairie Warbler forages deep in the interior of bushes and likes to stay low, often feeding just above the ground. It spends most of its time less than 15 feet off the ground and some Prairie Warblers may go through their entire lives without ever seeing the canopy of a tree.

Tree Swallow Vince Capp

Vince Capp/vcapp@optonline.com

Tree Swallow

(Tachycineta bicolor)
From late spring into the summer, you can hear Tree Swallows twittering overhead as they hunt for flying insects above our fields and pond. You might also see one of these birds flying low over the surface of the pond and then take a quick drink by briefly dipping its beak into the water while in flight. The Tree Swallows often nest in the Purple Martin box in the field next to our pond.

Steve Hillebrand/USFWS


(Pandion haliaetus)
Fall brings birds migrating through the area to their winter homes. You might see an Osprey hunting for a meal over our pond. If you click on this link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,you’ll see a photo of an Osprey in flight with a fish in its talons. Often observers will say that the bird is “packing a lunch!” If you look at that same photo, you may notice that the bird’s wing set seems to echo the letter “M.” This is a good way to identify an osprey in flight, even from a distance.

Tufted Titmouse

Robert Burton/USFWS

Tufted Titmouse

(Baeolophus bicolor)

During the winter the Tufted Titmouse is often seen at our feeders and busily foraging throughout the woodlands.  A seed hoarder, this bird takes one seed from the feeder at a time, then shells it before hiding it nearby! Although the Tufted Titmouse has one fairly distinct song, it also has a wide variety of other calls that can make it a challenge to identify by sound.

Eastern Screech Owl Vince Capp

Vince Capp/vcapp@optonline.net

Eastern Screech Owl

(Otus asio)
In late winter, the Eastern Screech Owl may be heard calling from its nest in a tree cavity late in the afternoon and evening. The Eastern Screech-Owl has two distinct color phases – reddish brown and gray.  This bird blends in with the tree in which it perches, and there is a very good chance that you’ll walk past one without seeing it as you hike the trails at Fairview Farm!



Butterflies are the most popular insects at Fairview Farm, attracted to our demonstration Bird and Butterfly Garden and native meadows.


Monarch on Milkweed Barb Sendelbach

Barb Sendelbach

Monarch Caterpillar Barb Sendelbach

Barb Sendelbach

Monarch butterfly

(Danaus plexippus)
The Monarch gets its food from the flowers and lays its eggs on the leaves of the milkweed. When the eggs hatch, the larvae (caterpillars) feed on the milkweed leaves and later suspend themselves from the underside of a leaf to form a jewel-like chrysalis. Visit this site to learn more.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Black-eyed Susan

Dr. Thomas G. Barnes/USFWS

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

(Pterourus glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail can often be seen “puddling” at a small puddle of water or in mud. Puddling is the way butterflies get a drink of water.  It is one of the most familiar butterflies in the eastern United States, where it is common in many different habitats.


Painted Lady ButterflyPainted Lady

(Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is raised in many school classrooms to demonstrate the life cycle of a butterfly.  The entire North American population of Painted Lady butterflies (which can number in the billions) winters along the border of the United States and Mexico.  In the spring, the butterflies migrate northward and spread out across the continent.

Cabbage WhiteCabbage White Butterfly

(Pieris rapae)

The Cabbage White is native to Europe.  It was brought to the east coast of the United States around 1860 and quickly spread across the continent.  Its green-colored larvae feed on many species of the Mustard family, including common garden vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and kale.  You are sure to see it in almost every open space during the summer months.


Here are some of the mammals that you might see at Fairview Farm include:

White-Tailed Deer

Ryan Hagerty/USFWS


White-tailed deer

(Odocoileus virginianus)
The deer eats green plants in the spring and summer, acorns and nuts in the fall and the buds and twigs of woody plants during the winter months. It follows well worn paths to move about — you will likely see deer trails throughout the woods and fields.

Eastern Cottontail rabbit

Lewis Gorman/USFWS

Eastern cottontail rabbit

(Sylvilagus floridanus)
This rabbit typically dines on grasses, herbs and garden plants and spends its day resting in thickets and forest edges. When frightened, it can travel at speeds up to 18 miles per hour!


Tom Tetzner/USFWS

Eastern chipmunk

(Tamias striatus)
The chipmunk is a ubiquitous symbol of spring and summer in our region. Although it is not a true hibernator, during the winter it stays in its den, where it can lower its body temperature dramatically and slow its heart rate from 350 beats per minute to as low as 4 beats per minute.

Gray Squirrel

Laura Perlick/USFWS

Gray Squirrel

(Sciurus carolinensis)

Red Squirrel

(Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Both these species live year-round in trees, either in cavities or in nests made of leaves and small twigs. They can almost always be seen at the bird feeders located near our office building!

red fox


Of course, there are more elusive mammals that will likely remain hidden as you walk the trails:

Red fox

(Vulpes vulpes)
Solitary except when young or raising a litter, the fox is an omnivorous high-level predator that helps keep rodent populations in check.


Steve Thompson/USFWS


(Canis latrans)
This secretive canine prefers to operate under the cover of darkness. An opportunistic eater, it will hunt many species of mammal but will also consume the remains of already-dead animals. It is much more common to hear coyotes howling in the evening than to see them at Fairview Farm. When you hear them howling, it is easy to assume the area is overrun with coyotes, but in reality you are probably hearing just two to six family members calling to one another.

black bear

Waverly Traylor/USFWS

American black bear

(Ursus americanus)
The Black bear is generally a solitary creature, with the exception of sows with cubs. It is primarily crepuscular — most active shortly before sunrise and again after sunset. Bears avoid human contact, but are are occasionally spotted in and around Fairview Farm, although it is much more common to see their tracks or scat.


There are a plethora of reptiles and amphibians at Fairview Farm!

Painted Turtle

Eastern painted turtle

(Chrysemys picta picta) The eastern painted turtle loves to bask on a log in the pond at Fairview Farm. A close look shows why it is called the Painted Turtle.


Bill Buchanon/USFWS


(Rana catesbeiana)
The bullfrog is the largest frog in North America. It can often be heard calling from the pond and if you walk quietly close to shore, you might be lucky enough to see one at the water’s edge.

Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle

(Terrapene carolina) Look for the eastern box turtle in the damp areas of our fields. Male box turtles have red eyes and females have yellow eyes.

Garter snake

Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

Eastern Garter Snake

(Thamnophis sirtalis)The eastern garter snake is another creature that makes its home at Fairview Farm. Normally found amidst vegetation, you might allow you to spot this snake as it basks in the sun along a foundation or on a rock.

Follow this link to find more information about the reptiles and amphibians of New Jersey.