Winter - This is a great time at Prime Hook for waterfowl, winter finches, sparrows, and Hermit Thrush (above). For waterfowl, there needs to be some open water, so don't go looking for waterfowl after a prolonged freeze.
Spring - Harbingers of spring are the Osprey and Laughing Gull. They usually arrive within 10 days of official spring. Then come the early woodland migrants, like Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and later Ovenbird. Then the first 2 weeks of May are the real migration peak, with well over 100 species possible in a day.
Summer - Shorebirds leave, shorebirds return, and some breed here. It can be buggy, but it can be great birding as well. Willets breed on the Refuge (below):
Fall - The long migration season. Woodland migrants begin arriving in August along with shorebirds. Waterfowl and raptors arrive from September through November. Below, N. Pintail, m & f
For a guided auto tour from the Headquarters, see Prime Hook Auto Tour Route
Prime Hook has been significantly impacted by coastal storms over the past decade. The storms have significantly changed the habitat by causing breaches in the barrier dunes, followed by saltwater intrusion into the man-made freshwater impoundments. The Prime Hook NWR web site by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service addresses this issue at some length.
From a bird perspective at Prime Hook, birds that feed on fish, such as the above Forster's Tern, have expanded dramatically, because the breaches have allowed many small fish from the Delaware Bay to enter the impoundments and reproduce. Bird species seen in much higher abundance include herons, egrets, terns and gulls. Birds seen in lower numbers are those that feed on fresh water vegetation, which has been dramatically reduced by the saltwater intrusion. These birds include most of the "puddle ducks" like pintails, shovelers, wigeon and teal. As ice closes off open water, both waterfowl and wintering herons, have a difficult time, like the below Great Blue Heron.
For Young and Beginning Birders
The above link was supplied by a teacher, who was given the article by one of her students. The article is very detailed with links to excellent resources, such as the Corlnell Laboratory of Ornithology. It covers topics such as selecting binoculars, finding birds, country wide birding events, etc.