Jim Wright, who keeps this blog, also writes a nature column every other week for The South Bergenite. Here is his latest column — on extinct birds seen in the Meadowlands more than 100 years ago..
DeKorte Park offers some amazing sights – from spectacular birds to beautiful sunsets – but the rarest of all has been right under my nose all along.
Indeed, I have walked past it dozen of times during my work for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission without giving it a second look because — truth be told — it gave me the creeps.
The “it” is a Plexiglas case with 35 taxidermy birds of 28 different species. The display is located just inside the auditorium in the Meadowlands Environment Center.
The creatures are all more than 100 years old at this point, and a bit bedraggled. The birds were all killed in the district in the late 1800s, and donated by Caroline Geigold of Secaucus decades ago.
Many of these birds would have inhabited the Atlantic White Cedar Forest that once grew in parts of the Meadowlands.
My attitude about these taxidermy birds has always been dismissive. Why would I look at dead birds in a display case – especially when DeKorte Park offers so many beautiful live birds?
But earlier this winter, prize-winning nature author and historian Scott Weidensaul presented a program in the auditorium. Before the talk, he took the time to study the taxidermy menagerie, and then remarked to me, “You’ve got some amazing birds in there.”
Two species in particular caught his eye – Passenger Pigeon and Heath Hen. The species have two things in common: Both were once commonplace in the Meadowlands, and both have now been extinct for more than 75 years.