Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Our Life With Birds

 Not a single day goes by that I don’t get a phone call, text or email about how a bird is in some way enriching someone’s life. It may be that a bird they have never seen before shows up at a backyard feeder, or it may be about a family member that has passed on is being thought about when that special cardinal appears to reassure them that all will be fine .

It might be the life changing event of seeing a ‘life bird’, the one that never leaves you, that stays in your heart and soul forever, the bird that goes with you everywhere on your journey. It might be the first bird your child saw on one of your first time walks through the woods and meadows or even the very last time you and a friend enjoyed all of the birds together that still holds that special place in your heart.

From Native Americans belief that the eagle is the messenger to the Great Spirit to the symbol of the Dove in Christianity. From ancient cave drawings of birds to the paintings of Audubon, Peterson and Sibley, birds, no matter if you are an avid birder or the person that just happens to notice a bird flying overhead on the way to work there is no denying the our birds have enriched our everyday lives and made them better at least in some small way.

 Maybe because I am getting up there in years I tend to think about my own life journey with the birds as much as I do about the birds themselves. At times I think we might get lost in the lists, the Apps and the species race and not realize how much of our lives adventures and journey is connected to our passion for birds and nature.

Through life’s ups and downs, good times and bad the birds have always been there for me, no matter what was happening in the world around me I could always count on the birds to sooth my soul and renew my spirit. Births and deaths, tragedy and celebration; those times are intertwined in my heart and memories forever along with my first Bald Eagle and the joy of birding with good friends. To let these things go by without a thought would be like turning away from a rare bird without a glance, something that should never ever be done.  

Perhaps it was the special place you stopped, the good folks you met and the birds you found along your birding highway. Maybe it was the rain, the laughs or even the sadness that brought you to where you were with the birds.  Sometimes, like life, a birding journey can’t be planned or anticipated. Rather it’s better to let it happen and just enjoy the unforgettable ride. No matter how much we try, nature and life cannot be controlled, and that is the way it should be.      

Our Lives are all about journey and the stories we recollect. Especially from the days when we could run full all out day and night without rest to the years when things slowed down and our life’s sagas became more about old friends and family. These are the times when we love to recall when we have big audiences and the stories we love to remember when we are sitting on the front porch alone. They are the stories we love to pass on to our children and our grandchildren and the stories we use to remind all our old buddies about where we have been and what we have done. They are our stories, the ones we hold deep in our hearts and save in that very special place to bring out when we need a smile or to renew our souls. And for bird lovers the stories can sometimes mean even more.   

 It is my hope that we all can make birds a part of our lives and never ever have to know or even imagine what it may be like to ever have a life without birds.

 See you in the Meadowlands. 

I’ve Got Something to Say!

Whatever this Marsh Wren is talking about, he’s saying it loud and proud. Check out this fantastic set of photos from Dee De Santis on the Bergen County Audubon Society’s Mill Creek Marsh walk this past Sunday. More from Dee this afternoon!

Least Sandpiper
House Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
American Robin

Save the Date: Meadowlands Festival of Birding is Sunday, Sept. 12!

The Meadowlands Festival of Birding returns! Join the BCAS and NJSEA for a day of birding walks and talks, including by guest speaker Gabe Willow of the New York City Audubon Society, focusing on optics, bird identification, beginners tips and of course, the wonderful avian population itself. There will also be a live raptor demonstration!

The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is rain or shine.

Contact: Don Torino at or 201-230-4983.

About guest speaker Gabe Willow:

Gabe Willow Gabriel has been a nature enthusiast and birder since he was a small child in Maine, roaming the woods and fields in search of frogs and woodcocks. In his teens he traveled to Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to study birds, learning how to use mist nets and band birds. He went on to study ecology in college, his studies taking him to the mountains of Vermont and to southern Mexico, where he studied and painted the endemic avifauna for five years. In 2003 he moved to NYC, hoping to pursue an art school dream, but instead was drawn again to nature and birds, becoming a teacher-naturalist with the Prospect Park Audubon Center and leading tours for Wave Hill, Bryant Park, NYC Audubon, and others. Gabriel leads a wide variety of programs for NYC Audubon these days, including trips to NYC-area birding hotspots like Staten Island’s Clove Lakes Park, overnight excursions to destinations such as the Adirondacks, and classes on bird identification and using eBird.

Save the Date: Butterfly Day is Sunday, July 18!

The Bergen County Audubon Society and NJSEA co-host the most anticipated event of the summer. There will be butterfly walks to take in these winged marvels, talks about how butterflies play a key role in health of the environment, plus scavenger hunts and costume contests for the kids. There will also be information tables with a plethora of material on these brilliant pollinators. The event goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rain date Saturday, July 25. Mark your calendar now!

Contact: Don Torino at or 201-230-4983