Jim Wright, who keeps this blog for the Meadowlands Commission, also write a column for The South Bergenite on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Here is his latest:
Late next week, just after the stroke of midnight, four intrepid birdwatchers will begin a 24-hour-long quest to see how many species of birds they can see or hear in Bergen County.
The quartet – Mike Newhouse of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (above), Chris Takacs of Lyndhurst, Mike Britt of Bayonne and Vince Koczurik of Easton, Pa. – are the Meadowlands Marsh Hawks, one of roughly 50 teams competing in the 28th annual World Series of Birding. I will be going along for the ride — as designated driver and photographer.
For birders, this is prime time.
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“The World Series of Birding is always the second week in May because it is the time of year when you can see the most species,” says Newhouse, who will be competing in his first series. “The early migrants are here, the late migrants are in full swing, and there are possible winter stragglers that haven’t left the area yet.”
According to Newhouse, the Meadowlands and other parts of Bergen County are great spots to see birds these days because the region is part of the Mid-Atlantic Flyway, sort of an Interstate 95 for birds traveling up the East Coast.
To improve the quality of the birds’ stay, Newhouse has lowered the water levels slightly in the Shorebird Pool in DeKorte Park, creating mudflats around the edges that provide buffets for shorebirds, bitterns and other species. Last week, for example, a rare moorhen was seen along one of the edges.
While they are counting birds, the Meadowlands Marsh Hawks will be also raising money for research. They are accepting pledges, based on the number of species they see or hear, with the proceeds going to support the N.J. Meadowlands Commission Landfill Bird Banding Project, which has been a great educational tool for Ramapo College students in recent years.
For the past three years, Newhouse and the students have been monitoring migratory birds on the Erie Landfill and the nearby restored wetland Harrier Meadow. The data they have collected has invaluable in learning what habitats prefer during spring and fall migrations on capped landfills birds.
With some luck, the Marsh Hawks hope to tally more than 130 species on May 14 — not bad for one county in one day. “If we get to see such rare species as saltmarsh sparrow, least bittern, white-rumped sandpiper, and Virginia rail,” says Newhouse. “That would boost our numbers and be a real feather in our caps, so to speak.”
The statewide winner will no doubt see more than 225 species in a day — or far more than most people will probably see in a lifetime.
For more information on the Meadowlands Marsh Hawks and how you can donate, go to the Meadowlands Commission’s nature blog, meadowblog.net. For more information on the World Series of Birds, go to birdcapemay.org/wsob.shtml.
NJMC Communications Officer Jim Wright maintains the Commission’s daily nature blog, featuring beautiful photography and the latest info on the region’s natural wonders.
Photo cutline: Mike Newhouse, training for the World Series of Birding on May 14.
Photo credit: Jim Wright/NJMC