Can you tell a Great Egret from a Snowy Egret, or a Canvasback from a Bufflehead?
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission wants you — to be able to identify more of the beautiful birds that make their homes in this region.
With that goal in mind, the NJMC is working on a new free color brochure called “Common Birds of the Meadowlands,” with an emphasis on our avian friends that can be seen frequently in DeKorte Park and along the Hackensack River.
The idea is produce a pamphlet designed for young people, new birders and the folks on our popular summertime pontoon-boat cruises. The Meadowlands is one of the best places to watch birds in New Jersey. The goal of the brochure is to whet people’s appetite.
As the birding expert/authority David Sibley wrote in his aptly named book “Birding Basics”: “The first thing you learn about a bird is its name, then you attach other information, like what it eats, what time of year it appears, what habitat it prefers and so on. It all follows from learning its name.”
We plan to compile a guide that highlights more than two dozen popular Meadowlands birds, with color photos that help with the identification. For simplicity, we’ll divide the birds into three sections — colder months, warmer months and year-round.
But we don’t want to belabor the obvious. For example, we have omitted the northern cardinal and the American robin because we figure that almost everybody recognizes them already. If folks need help in identifying these two birds, the pamphlet may prove a bit too challenging.
Similarly, we have steered clear of such rarities as snowy owls, tri-colored herons and cinnamon teal. Yes, we do get these birds in the Meadowlands — once in a blue moon.
We have already asked the regular readers of our nature blog, meadowblog.net, for their input, and now have far more birds than can fit in one pamphlet.
A preliminary list of candidates follows. What do you think should be added or, even better, subtracted?
Year-round: red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American kestrel, northern mockingbird, great black-backed gull, belted kingfisher and American goldfinch (our state bird).
Warmer months: great egret, great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, osprey, double-crested cormorant, snowy egret, Forster’s tern, red-winged blackbird (male & female), tree swallow, barn swallow, Baltimore oriole and black skimmer.
Colder months: canvasback, bufflehead, ruddy duck, pintail, northern shoveler, hooded merganser, green-winged teal and white-crowned sparrow.
One of the cool things about the above list is that six — peregrine falcon, northern harrier, bald eagle, black skimmer, kestrel and osprey — are on the state’s list of threatened and endangered species.
What’s considered somewhat common here can be much tougher to see elsewhere in the Garden State. That’s what makes the Meadowlands so awesome.
Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.