Our South Bergenite Column: Surviving Winter!


With weather conditions so snowy and nasty for humans this winter, a lot of folks have been wondering how difficult the past few months have been for our avian neighbors — and which spring arrivals to look forward to in the coming weeks.

For the answers, I thought I’d turn to my go-to guy for all things avian, New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) naturalist Mike Newhouse.

According to Mike, we shouldn’t worry too much about our feathered friends during snowy winters.

“Birds tend to know what to do with conditions like this,” says Mike. “If they need to move south to find food they will. Some of the local populations might struggle a little, but they usually find a way through these tough times – thanks in part to people with filled birdfeeders.”

If you haven’t seen as many birds in their normal locations this winter, he says, it’s because they tend to move around a lot in search of food and cover.

The bad weather has had its silver lining. It has brought some nifty visitors from the north as well.

Snowy Egret

“This year we have seen an increase of bald eagles as most of the open water up north has frozen and they came south and found refuge here in the Meadowlands,” says Mike. “Back in late January and early February when the temperatures here were so cold, most of the water in the Meadowlands froze, too. This most likely pushed some of those eagles even farther south.”

Mike says a few rough-legged hawks and a Lapland longspur are wintering here in the Meadowlands as well, but adds: “The waterfowl diversity and abundance is way down this winter here, but I would expect that to change once we start seeing some of the water open up again. However, we might not see much of  change until mid-March when birds start to migrate.”

Mike says he is especially looking forward to seeing the tree swallows and egrets again: “The return of these two species let us know that spring is just around the corner.”

With all that snow and ice, I can’t wait to see tree swallows and egrets either — as well as killdeer and ospreys and our other spring favorites.

In the meantime, you might fight cabin fever by participating in the free guided nature walk at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst on Sunday (March 2). You never know what you might see this time of year.  Last weekend, there were several reports of Snowy Owls, plus a great assortment of ducks, including Canvasbacks and a pair of Ring-necked ducks.

The walk, sponsored by the NJMC and the Bergen County Audubon Society, begins at 10 a.m. in the first parking lot — but check the NJMC‘s nature blog, meadowblog.net, for last-minute updates or location changes due to the weather.  For more information, you can call the BCAS’ Don Torino at 201-230-4983.

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