Latest South Bergenite Column: Spring Guided Walks

Jim Wright, who maintains this blog for the N.J. Meadowlands Commission, alos writes a twice-monthly nature column for the South Bergenite. His latest is on our twice-monthly nature walks with the Bergen County Audubon Sociery:

Thinking about becoming a bird watcher, or just want to learn more about nature?  

 Then you need to hear about the free twice-monthly guided walks at a park or natural area near you.

The two-hour walks, sponsored by the Meadowlands Commission and the Bergen County Audubon Society, are also a great way to get some fresh air with a friendly group of people.

I have to admit that last Tuesday’s walk, at Harrier Meadow in North Arlington, exceeded even my lofty expectations.

This is the time of year when more and more birds are migrating north, so I expected that our group would see lots of “good” birds on our walk. And we did.

Raptors? We had ospreys, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and more.

Ducks? We had nine species, including pintails and common mergansers — plus three species of sparrows.  In all we saw more than 50 species.

But that’s not what is important. I understand that if you are casual bird-watcher, a litany of birds that were seen will make your eyes glaze over.  What’s significant on most of our walks, we get great looks at many of these birds.  

Some folks on last week’s walk were thrilled to see a rare-for-here bird called an American golden plover. For many, it was the first time they had ever seen this species.

But for other participants, one of the best parts of the walk was the great views they got of so many birds. Ospreys and red-tails flew almost overhead. Elegant tree swallows perched on their nesting boxes for all to see.  Pintails — a particularly beautiful duck — gave us great views as they flew from the tidal impoundments in this 70-acre natural area that’s usually closed to the public.

That’s one of the great things about birding in the Meadowlands. Because it is a land made up so much of tidal impoundments, mudflats and former landfills, it is a land of wide-open spaces — and wide-open looks at birds.

In the coming weeks, we are offering free walks that will give you opportunities to see not only the wonders of the spring migration, but also some of our amazing year-round residents.

The first walk is on Sunday, May 5, at Losen Slote Creek Park in Little Ferry — one of the last forested patches in the Meadowlands. Warblers will be on the viewing menu. If you don’t mind craning your neck every once in a while to see one of these beautifully feathered songbirds, you’ll have a great time.

The following weekend is the annual Mother’s Day Walk in Ridgefield, featuring a walk through woods and a community garden, along a marsh, and near nesting bald eagles and monk parakeets.

Just bring a healthy curiosity. We’ll provide loaner binoculars.

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