Jim Wright, who keeps this blog for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, also writes a twice-monthly column for The South Bergenite. Here's his latest, on the Meadowlands Big year.
This year, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission is sponsoring a “Big Year” — a friendly competition to see who can see the most species of birds in the Meadowlands District for 2012.
The goal is not only to encourage folks to do more bird-watching in the Meadowlands, but also to highlight the wide range of amazing birds we have here.
The results have been gratifying.
As of March 1, we have eight competitors and a tie for the total number of species — 76 — between Chris Takacs and Julie McCall, both of Lyndhurst. Several others inside and outside the district are also faring well.
Rest of column follows.
The birds that people have been seeing are pretty nifty — including long-eared owl, ring-necked pheasant, bald eagle and peregrine falcon.
So far, Chris Takacs has enjoyed the challenge of a doing Big Year in his own backyard.
“It's been fun getting out this winter with all the open water to see just how much is going on in The Meadowlands.” he says. “It amazes me the number of species than use The Meadowlands for breeding or migration.”
For Julie McCall, the hardest part of the competition was deciding to enter: “When I first read about the Meadowlands Big Year, I initially thought ‘no way,’ ” says Julie. “A Big Year is usually a Big Endeavor, and as a non-driver, I rely on my feet, public transportation, and some carpooling to go birding."
She also thought about all the excellent local birders out there, and figured she leaved the competition to them — until Julie’s curiosity got the better of her. “It also seemed like the Big Year challenge was a great way to draw some more attention to the Meadowlands as a fantastic birding area, and I wanted to help out with that if I could,” says Julie.
The Meadowlands Big Year has two divisions — Meadowlands residents and non-Meadowlands residents — to level the playing field for folks who do have to travel a little to compete.
The winner in each division will several nice prizes, including two free NJMC pontoon-boat cruises and a one-year membership in the Meadowlands Environment Center, which offers a wide range of wonderful programs year-round.
What's more, the Bergen County Audubon Society is donating $1 in native plants to the NJMC for every species the overall winner records. The NJMC’s Mike Newhouse is also keeping a count — just to set the bar for another facet of the competition. Anyone who can tally more species for the year than Mike gets a free pontoon-boat cruise as well.
As a bonus, Newhouse has gotten to see some great birds. “My two favorite birds thus far are the long-eared owl and orange-crowned warbler,” says Mike. “And the snow buntings are always a treat.”
It’s not too late to join the fun, and it’s free. To enter, e-mail me at jim.wright (at) njmeadowlands.gov.