Soaring Tern and More!

Common Tern

Check out this awesome photo of a stealth-like Common Tern soaring into the Meadowlands sky and more great photos taken by Joe Koscielny during this past Tuesday’s Bergen County Audubon Society DeKorte Park walk. We’ll have more from Joe in a bit!

Common Tern

Least Sandpiper
American Robin

Great Egret



Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: My Conversation with a Groundhog

As it always seems to happen spring finally appears like it’s here to stay. Like all nature lovers I have been enjoying the spring invasion of warblers, the magnificence of the first Mourning Cloaks and watching the House Wrens compete for nesting places. But what I have been truly looking forward to is with the arrival of spring is to continue my stimulating and thought provoking springtime conversations with my Groundhog.

Yes, you heard correct. One of my favorite spring activities is to sit in my comfy garden chair in my butterfly garden and carry on deep philosophical conversations and debates with my fuzzy backyard buddy. The groundhogs and I discuss age old questions such as the meaning of life, national politics and sometimes even gossip about the neighbors (groundhogs know a lot about what is going on in the neighborhood).

We ramble on about our tough day at work and about our more serious family matters like the kids. My groundhogs seem to have a tough time keeping the young ones organized at times. Nevertheless we very much enjoy the newly emerged flowers in the garden and they may even sample a few when I am not looking, just to let me know which ones they prefer.

And still many other times we don’t talk very much at all. We just sit and enjoy the garden and relax; that is what good friends do sometimes. Words are not needed when you understand each other.

Groundhogs are also very good listeners. I could go on and on about the events of the day and he just sits back, nods his head in agreement and listens, especially if I happen to leave a strategically placed big carrot near my chair. I am not entirely sure if he really is deeply concerned about my issues but I believe that if more people talked with groundhogs there would be very little need for the psychiatric profession … and they don’t need a referral or co-payment before they can help you out.

 Now I realize there are people who like to talk with other creatures of the garden besides groundhogs.  I have a friend who loves talking with trees, others with squirrels and still others think that talking with their wildflowers helps them grow. But many others love bantering with birds also. Some folks enjoy chatting with Chickadees or like to have a tête-à-tête with a Tufted Titmouse, which works for them just fine. But some birds are much better conversationalists than others.

Cardinals don’t hang out too long or talk much and Blue-jays just want to speak when there might be a peanut in it for them. Crows talk a lot but only to each other and Mockingbirds talk all night long. Robins just seem to eavesdrop on your conversations and we are probably just keeping owls awake by talking too loud during the day. Mourning Doves seem to listen well but Red-winged blackbirds always seem like they are having too much fun to care. As for Carolina Wrens, they just talk really loud but not to me.

Conversing with groundhogs in my garden is one of my great pleasures in life. No matter what happens in the world or in my life the groundhogs, birds and butterflies are there, dependable and trustworthy,  just as all nature is, always there just waiting for us to connect to it. This spring get outside and take in all the surprises and miracles of nature, and tell all the groundhogs I said hello and I will do my best to look out for them.

Thank You Spectrum for Living!!!

A huge thank you from the NJSEA to Spectrum for Living for the ornate bird houses donated to the Authority last week. Each year several Spectrum for Living locations work on designing wonderful, unique birdhouses. They also donated additional houses that the NJSEA installed in DeKorte Park.

This year’s designed bird houses above, left to right: Most Nautical: Teaneck ATC; Most Architectural: Carver ATC (Westwood); Most Colorful: Edison ATC; Most Creative: North Haledon ATC; Most Natural: Westwood ATC; Overall Winner: Ringwood ATC.

Ironweed to DeKorte via BCAS

Thanks to the Bergen County Audubon Society for its generous donation of Ironweed plants to the NJSEA for use around DeKorte Park. The plant is beneficial to butterflies and caterpillars. Says NJSEA Parks Supervisor Gaby Bennett Meany (pictured above with BCAS President Don Torino): It’s a native to the Meadowlands and there is so little of it growing in the wild that it’s one of my favorites!!!

Thank You BCAS, Nicole Bookstaber and Robert Waters School Students!

A big thank you to the Bergen County Audubon Society, art teacher Nicole Bookstaber and students from the Robert Waters School in Union City for combining on a great Tree Swallow nest box project. The BCAS donated the Tree Swallow next boxes to the school, where Nicole guided her creative 5th and 6th graders in an awesome job painting the boxes. The BCAS brought the new additions to the NJSEA this morning. They will definitely find good homes, and the tree swallows are talking about them already!