Our Latest Column: Meadowlands Big Year

Grebe2 roy-006Jim Wright, who keeps this blog, also writes a twice-monthly Meadowlands nature column for the South Bergenite. His latest is on the Meadowlands Big Year competition:

This year marked the first-ever “Big Year’ competition in the Meadowlands — a contest for birding enthusiasts to see how many species they could see in the district during this calendar year. Although 2012 is not over quite yet, one thing is clear: the Big Year has been a big hit.

All 11 participants (including me) have already seen more than 100 species in the Meadowlands, and two participants have seen more than 200 species. Now that’s a lot of birds!

Since the goal of the Big Year was not only to encourage folks to do more bird-watching closer to home in the Meadowlands but also to highlight the wide range of amazing birds we have here, I have to say “mission accomplished.”

I recently asked participants what their “best” bird was so far, and the variety of the replies gives you an idea of the wide range of birds we have been seeing.

For Ray Duffy of Secaucus, the highlight was “finding evening grosbeaks in my mom's yard 3 days after Hurricane Sandy.”

For Doug Morel of Mahwah, the highlight was the least bitterns seen for almost a month in DeKorte Park’s Shorebird Pool. Doug says the bittern was a first-ever sighting for him: “I was lucky enough to get very close, amazing looks on several occasions."

Julie McCall of Lyndhurst says her best Meadowlands bird was a Vesper Sparrow she saw in October at Laurel Hill: “It was amazingly cooperative, and it was a great life bird.  It was one of those birds that aren’t all that easy to see, and I found it without an assist.  There's extra satisfaction that comes from that kind of lifer.”

Photographer Roy Woodford of Rochelle Park says his best bird just might be “the Pied-Billed Grebe that I shot from 15 feet the day after getting shots of the Horned Grebe — good weekend.”

A novice birder when he started his big year, Roy has seen 129 species in the Meadowlands as of Dec. 15, or “three times as well as I had expected.

Ramon Gomez of West New York says his best bird was the yellow-bellied sapsucker — “I saw one in March and again in December.”

Ramon’s philosophy on the big year reflects that of all the participants. “I totally enjoyed doing a big year so close to home, and I made many new wonderful friends that I continue to listen to and learn from.”

We are planning to do another Meadowlands Big Year challenge in 2013, and invite you to participate. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s informative. You’ll be amazed how birds you’ll see!  Just stay tuned to the Meadowlands Nature Blog for details.

Next time: An interview with the “Meadowlands Big Year” winner.

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