Great Pine Swamp, 200 Years Later


In May 1811, the Scottish-born American ornithologist, Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), collected specimens of three supposedly new wood warbler species, and one new thrush in a place called the “Great Pine Swamp.” Twenty years later, John James Audubon (1785-1851) claimed that he “followed [Wilson’s] track” in 1829 and located the swamp near Rockport, Pennsylvania.

However, in June 2023, Dr. Matthew Halley, Assistant Curator of Birds, used historical maps to retrace Wilson’s expedition and found that the “Great Pine Swamp” was actually in Monroe County, PA, 16 miles east of Rockport and on the opposite side of the Lehigh River, contrary to Audubon’s claim. This resolves the mystery surrounding the swamp’s location and offers new insights into Wilson’s and Audubon’s observations of the species there.

The “A” on this map shows the likely field site of Audubon. The “W” is the actual collecting location of Wilson’s “Great Pine Swamp,” on the opposite side of the Lehigh River, courtesy of Matthew R. Halley.

The paper is free and open access. Read here.

Learn more about Halley’s research projects and publications on his website.