Rather than try to figure out where the summer went (I think all that rain pretty much washed away), I thought I’d use this space to look ahead to what autumn will bring in terms of new birds and other wildlife.
The new season doesn’t officially begin until next Friday at 5:05 a.m., but from the chill in the air some nights, you can’t be faulted for thinking fall arrived a week or so ago. Autumn always means a change of guests in the Meadowlands’ vast bed and breakfast for birds, and we’ve already had an early duck arrival or two (including a blue-winged teal).
If we’re lucky, we might get a rarity, like the northern wheatear (above) that showed up in DeKorte in late September two years ago and hung around for a few days — drawing bird-watchers from four states.
The last of the shorebirds will be heading out over the next month or so, with the Monarch butterflies not far behind. We’ll see more northern harriers, American kestrels and other raptors appear as well. Some of the hawks will keep migrating south, while the harriers (and, later, if we’re lucky, the rough-legged hawks will hang around and hunt the landfills.
As the fall wears on, more and more ducks — and more and more species of ducks — will start collecting in the Meadowlands’ tidal impoundments, until we’ve got canvasbacks by the hundred and plenty of northern pintails and ruddy ducks and shovelers.
If you’ve like to experience in the Meadowlands first-hand, I invite you to go on one of our upcoming free guided nature walks. The Meadowlands Commission, in partnership with the Bergen County Audubon Society, has three unusual two-hour walks over the next five weeks.
Instead of touring DeKorte Park, our usual base of operations, we will visit Harrier Meadow in North Arlington (next Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 10 a.m.), Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus (Sunday, Oct. 2, at 10 a.m.) and Losen Slote Park in Little Ferry (Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 10 a.m.).
These informal walks are a great way to see some of the great parks and open spaces that the Meadowlands has to offer — including a couple of places that most people have never visited. Not only do you get to enjoy that great autumn air, but you get to learn about birds and other aspects of nature along the way.
Next Tuesday’s Harrier Meadow walk is of particular note because it will include a bird-banding demonstration by the Meadowlands Commission’s avian expert, Mike Newhouse. You’ll be able to get amazing up-close looks at some beautiful wild birds, and you’ll get to walk in a 70-acre natural area that’s usually closed to the public.
For details on all the walks, go to the NJMC’s nature blog, www.meadowblog.net.