Daily Archives: February 4, 2011

South Bergenite: Of Heath Hens and Passenger Pigeons

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.

IMG_8223-3Indeed, 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.

More follows.

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Don’t Miss Super Bird Sunday!

IMG_0742  Don't forget: The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission is offering a free “Super Bird Sunday II” guided nature walk this Sunday — Feb. 6 — beginning at 10 a.m. at the Meadowlands Environment Center in DeKorte Park.

It's great way to get some exercise, hone your birding skills and win some nifty prizes before settling in to watch the Super Bowl.

The second annual Super Bird Sunday, sponsored by the NJMC and the Bergen County Audubon Society, features a 90-minute bird walk on DeKorte Park’s scenic trails – with an added incentive.

The first person to see a bird species with the same name as an NFL team – cardinal, raven (left), falcon, eagle, seahawk (osprey) or “woodpacker” – wins two tickets to a NJMC  pontoon boat cruise of the Hackensack River next summer.

More info follows.

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