You will be happy to hear that spring has arrived. Sure, the calendar says three more weeks of winter remain, but the birds don’t lie.
Last week, on a guided nature walk in North Arlington, bird-lovers were treated not only to three Killdeer — the first Meadowlands sighting of these eccentric shorebirds this year — but they also saw a tree filled with male red-winged blackbirds. Can our ospreys and tree swallows be far behind?
The male red-winged blackbirds typically arrive a few weeks before the females so they can lay claim to their nesting areas — each male with a “harem” of several female red-wings and nests.
In the months to come, you’ll hear the males’ distinctive call — “cong-a-reeeeee” — resounding throughout the Meadowlands.
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As with so many bird species, the red-wing is named for the fieldmarks of the male — in this instance the bright red epaulets on the male’s wing. The female is quite drab, the better to hide from predators and protect the young.
Speaking of protecting their young, the males can be downright aggressive. In DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst over the past two summers one particularly aggressive male would startle people by zipping past them whenever he thought they were lingering too close to one of his nests.
We eventually nicknamed the bird Dennis the Menace, after photographer Dennis Cheeseman, who got the first good picture (mug shot?) of the bird. [Link is here.]
Aside from an occasional macho Red-wing, beautiful birds are just one of the joys of the free twice-monthly nature walks sponsored by the Meadowlands Commission and the Bergen County Audubon Society.
Our walks introduce folks to natural areas across the Meadowlands District. These walks are also great ways to get some fresh air, learn about the Meadowlands and enjoy great view of the Manhattan skyline just to the east.
Next month, for example, we are offering two nifty walks. The first two-hour walk, this Sunday (March 3), begins at 10 a.m. at the entrance to Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus. We’ll look for raptors, waterfowl and early spring migrants.
The second free walk is Tuesday, March 19, at 10 a.m. at Harrier Meadow, a North Arlington natural area that’s usually closed to the public. We’ll look for ospreys, killdeer and other spring arrivals, plus lingering winter waterfowl.
(To rsvp for either walk, contact Don Torino of the BCAS at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-230-4983).
No matter what marsh that our walks visit in the months to come, we should see those Red-winged Blackbirds just about everywhere. Along with the Great Egret, they have become the unofficial birds of the Meadowlands.