Among Many Native American cultures the hawk is a visionary and bringer of life’s messages that teaches us to become more aware and look at the bigger picture of the world around us. In the Meadowlands, there is a place that pays tribute to the spirit of the hawk called Harrier Meadow, an urban wilderness which acknowledges an almost mystical raptor, the Northern Harrier. These incredible hunters of the sky can often be seen soaring above the marshland grasses in the very place that bears its name.
Harrier Meadow, located in the town of North Arlington, may be the best kept secret of the New Jersey Meadowlands. It is passed everyday by people who live and work close by but are not aware of its existence. When they do finally enter Harrier Meadow they find themselves transformed by this very different place than the one that endures outside. Gone are the trucks, warehouses and busy roads that surround Harrier Meadow.
Once inside, you enter a world of tidal mudflats that are critical areas for migrating shorebirds, upland areas for songbirds, and ponds for waterfowl and Egrets. Stands of Red Cedars line the trail, Groundsel shrubs show off their cloud-like blossoms and the native grasses wave in the wind telling birds like the Savannah Sparrows that they have arrived at Harrier Meadow.
But it wasn’t always like this. Like many places in the Meadowlands of the past, Harrier Meadow was exploited and abused. The natural area was once a dumping ground for construction debris from Route 280. In 1996, the then New Jersey Meadowlands Commission acquired the property and by 1998 had restored the one-time landfill to the important wildlife sanctuary it is today.
Harrier Meadow’s diverse habitats within the 77-acre site have attracted some rare bird species over the years. Curlew Sandpiper, Black-Necked Stilt, White Ibis, Grasshopper Sparrows, Orange-Crowned Warbler, Connecticut Warbler and Blue Grosbeaks are among the many rare birds that have paid visits to this wonderful wildlife haven. Improvements and restoration work continues at Harrier Meadow with the introduction of more native plants
If the Native Americans are right, and the hawk is the visionary, than the Northern Harrier must have brought that insight to the people that helped create such an extraordinary place, a sanctuary for both the wildlife that thrives there and the people that are lucky enough to visit Harrier Meadow.
Access to Harrier Meadow is limited and the natural area is not open usually to the general public. But you can join the Bergen Audubon Society for a free scheduled free walk in Harrier Meadow this coming Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 10 am.
Harrier Meadow is located on Disposal Road off Schuyler Avenue in North Arlington. Park at the North Arlington Firehouse at the top of the hill and walk across the road to the entrance to Harrier Meadow. Please be careful as construction work is going on along the road and trucks will be traveling in the area.