If you love beautiful birds and butterflies, now is the time to visit DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst.
The one-square-mile park is a jewel just about any time of year, but late August is particularly awesome.
The fall shorebird migration is in full swing, and when the tide is out, the mudflats at DeKorte Park are filled with thousands of shorebirds feeding on the little critters that live in the mud.
These long-distance fliers need to chow down and bulk up for the rest of their trip — all the way to South America in some instances.
How important is this part of the Atlantic Flyway? Consider: Earlier this month, one birder stood and counted 15,000 semipalmated sandpipers — a species of special concern in New Jersey — on the nearby Saw Mill Creek Mudflats.
When the tide comes back in, the birds fly to places where they can roost and rest. Sometimes that’s in one of the tidal impoundments at nearby Harrier Meadow, or on the docks of River Barge Park in Carlstadt.
To help the birds save their energy, the water levels in the Shorebird Pool — the big “pond” beyond the Meadowlands Environment Center — have been lowered to create mudflats around the clock.
Those lowered water levels have drawn some mighty cool birds. So far this month, hundreds of bird-watchers have gotten spectacular looks at such first-in-a-lifetime birds as a breathtakingly beautiful young tricolored heron and several secretive least bitterns – in addition to seeing peregrine falcons, bald eagles, several varieties of sandpipers and other shorebirds.
All these have been seen in DeKorte Park, essentially right in your own backyard. All you need to see this great show is a decent pair of binoculars.
But birds are just part of DeKorte’s attraction. I continue to marvel at the other amazing creatures to be found here, the beautiful gardens and landscapes to be enjoyed here, and those amazing views of the New York skyline to be savored here.
Among those amazing creatures are DeKorte’s thriving butterfly population. Although most human eyes have been trained on the marshes and mudflats, a few discriminating butterfly buffs have been watching the profusion of Lepidoptera to be seen in DeKorte Park these days.
On a recent lunch hour, without really trying, I saw a dozen species of butterflies by Jill’s Butterfly Garden, located outside the Environment Center – from the flighty little skippers to such show-stoppers as common buckeyes and painted ladies.
A few days earlier, a friend reported seeing both types of beautiful diurnal moths in the garden – the Hummingbird Clearwing and Snowberry Clear-wing.
As for nocturnal moths, fuggedaboutit! Our first-ever Meadowlands Moth Night at DeKorte Park last month attracted more than 100 humans and a couple dozen species of night-fliers.
I hope you can spend some time at DeKorte real soon. It’s the best short vacation I know of.