Four summers ago, the Meadowlands Commission invited well-known nature photographer and author Kevin Karlson to host a day for the public at DeKorte Park.
The plan was for Karlson, a Bergen County native and Ramapo College alumnus, to lead bird walks, offer photography seminars, and talk about his latest publishing projects — all free of charge to the public.
When Kevin and I drove to DeKorte that morning, it was pouring rain, and we wondered if anyone would be there for the event. To our eternal surprise, 85 people showed up, and Kevin Karlson Shorebird Day was born.
Fast-forward to August 2013, and the event — cosponsored by the Bergen County Audubon Society — is in its fifth year. On Saturday, starting at 8:15 a.m., Kevin and fellow ace nature photographer Lloyd Spitalnik will once again to help folks connect with nature. It promises to be a great day.
We recently interviewed Kevin between his national appearances. Here are some highlights:
Why is this event important to you?
It helps make people more aware of DeKorte Park and the amazing wildlife here, and gives them a chance to enjoy themselves and birds and nature for a day — for free.
How did you get started in birding?
In 1978, my wife and I were invited to go bird-watching at Sandy Hook. We thought it might be fun, and funny. Our friend pointed out all these birds with comical names, and I don’t even remember getting any looks at them.
My wife and I never pursued further, until we went to the Everglades for a winter camping vacation, and we saw so many amazing birds. We spent the entire vacation looking at birds and trying to photograph them with a tiny camera. It was all over for me after that. I went hell-bent for 15 years, chasing birds.
Did you visit the Meadowlands much in your early birding days?
I used to come down here all the time when it was still an active dump. I’d photograph raptors and look at gulls. A million gulls would congregate here in the winter.
Any special birds you hope to see on Saturday?
I’m always hoping for some white-rumped sandpipers, one of the longest-distance migrants. It goes 20,000 miles a year, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. We might see a couple if we’re lucky.
Why is this time of year such a good time to see birds in the Meadowlands?
Migration started in mid-July for shorebirds, and it’s peaking in August.
What’s the best part of Kevin Karlson Day for you?
The Meadowlands is a jewel. It’s has always been a good spot to see water birds, raptors, sparrows, songbirds — a little bit of everything. You never know what you’re going to see around the corner, and to me that’s what birding is all about.