Monthly Archives: December 2015

Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Eastern Red Cedear: The Sacred Tree


The Eastern Red Cedar, known to many Native American cultures as the “Tree of Life,” is considered especially sacred and believed to hold much power. It is still used in many ceremonies and very much considered a spiritual living being. To our wildlife, it is equally important. It provides sustenance, protection and survival for a vast species of birds.

The Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) does triple duty when it comes to providing what birds need to survive. It offers cover for everything from Owls to Kinglets, nesting places for Orioles to Raptors and food for over 80 species of birds. The Eastern Red Cedar is truly one of the most important species of trees in our environment, and the Meadowlands is home to a great number of these sacred North American native trees.

Our Eastern Red Cedar is a dioecious species, which means basically that there are both male and female plants. Both trees provide excellent cover and nesting opportunities, but it is the female tree that provides those lovely masses of blueberries which attract many birds like a magnet. The Cedar Waxwing is especially fond of these sapphire delicacies which are how it got its namesake. But there are many more diverse bird species that depend on the fruits of the Eastern Red Cedar.

In The Meadowlands the Eastern Red Cedar graces the landscape from DeKorte Park to Mill Creek Marsh, and it is here that many bird species seek out the sustenance of the cedars From Hermit Thrush , Mockingbirds, Yellow-rumps , Tree Swallows and Brown Thrashers to both species of Kinglets and even Northern Flickers, all depend on the cedars throughout the seasons.

Nesting time in the Meadowlands would not be the same without the Eastern Red Cedars. Mockingbirds, Robins and Mourning Doves are among the many bird species that raise their young in the branches of this evergreen .

In winter ,besides serving as an important food source, many other birds such as The Long-Eared Owl take cover in its dense branches to roost and rest to be ready for the evening’s hunt .

Planting Eastern Red Cedar in the home landscape may be a chore since it is not readily available at most garden centers (but I am sure It can be ordered). In addition, if you have apple trees you may not want to introduce it since it is the host for the cedar apple rust disease, which defoliates the trees but usually does not do permanent damage.

Knowing and learning about our native plants in the Meadowlands is an important part of becoming a better birder and gives us a better understanding on how all things in nature are connected and interdependent .






The Beauty of Mill Creek Marsh In Fall


Don Torino sent these photos he took last week of Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus. “There’s no place more beautiful in fall than Mill Creek Marsh,” Don notes. With the weather staying relatively warm this week, now is a great time to hit the many trails, parks and natural areas in the Meadowlands and experience the breathtaking scenery and wildlife.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mill Creek Marsh, you can access the marsh trail from the Mill Creek Mall – park next to Bob’s Discount Furniture. Look for Don’s next “Life in the Meadowlands” column, on the Eastern Red Cedar tree, on Thursday.





More Sunday Disposal Road Walk Photos

Here are some beauties courtesy of Joe Koscielny from yesterday morning’s Disposal Road Walk. Simply fantastic!

Great Walk on Sunday!

What a great way to kickoff December and the holiday season! The nature walk yesterday on Disposal Road led by the Bergen County Audubon Society was a great success, with nearly 40 people taking in Kestrels, Merlins and many more on a beautiful Sunday morning.

Here’s a first batch of photos courtesy of Mary Kostus, with more to follow.

Don’t miss the next free Meadowlands Nature Walk led by the BCAS on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst. We’ll be looking for wintering waterfowl, raptors and other birds of interest. The walk takes place from 10 am to noon and meets in the Meadowlands Environment Center parking lot. Information: or 201-230-4983.

Bald Eagle Along Passaic River

Passaic River Bald Eagle Rich Brown 12.4.15

A little bit out of the Meadowlands but still noteworthy: Rich Brown sent a photo he took on Friday of a Bald Eagle perched along the Passaic River.

Rich writes:

I was driving to work this morning on Route 21 North when I saw a Bald Eagle perched on a log in the Passaic River, north of the dam.  I crossed the river on Route 46 East and took the first exit south to River Drive in Garfield.  I was able to take some photos from the public sidewalk along the river, near the USGS Stream Gaging Station.  I could not observe any leg bands at that angle or distance.

I’ve observed eagles, osprey, geese, ducks, mergansers, gulls, and other birds in the area before. There is a park and walkway along the river (above and below the dam) that makes it easy to observe wildlife.  The area is called Dundee Lake.  I did a quick internet search and found some interesting information about the area on Elmwood Park’s website.

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Nature Walk This Sunday (Dec. 6) Along Disposal Road!



Join the Bergen County Audobon Society this Sunday (Dec. 6) as they lead a free nature walk along Disposal Road in Lyndhurst from 10 am to noon. Disposal Road, which is adjacent to DeKorte Park, is a fantastic spot for viewing and photographing raptors, so keep an eye out for Kestrels (pictured above), other falcons, hawks and more. The walk meets in the Meadowlands Environment Center parking lot in DeKorte Park. For more information, contact or 201-230-4983.

Kestrels Welcome!


Drew McQuade of the NJSEA’s Natural Resources Department was busy this morning installing a Kestrel Box in Harrier Meadow in North Arlington. Drew helped provide us with some background info on Kestrels:


American Kestrels, the smallest and most colorful falcons in North America, inhabit the Meadowlands region year round, but are most abundant in the Spring and Fall. Nesting season begins in late April, with young birds leaving the nest as early as a month after fledging. In the late Spring, most Kestrels will migrate South, while some will continue to stay in the region.

In February 2012, the American Kestrel became listed as a New Jersey threatened species. Like many birds of prey, Kestrels have been losing their habitat and nesting cavities to development. American Kestrels cannot create their own nesting cavities, and must rely on either those that exist naturally, or man-made nest boxes.

American Kestrels are easily distinguished by their most typical hunting behavior where birds hover at a height of around 35 to 65 feet and swoop down on insects and other small prey

The NJSEA will be installing additional Kestrel boxes in the coming weeks.

There’s a chance you could see a Kestrel during this Sunday’s (Dec. 6) guided nature walk led by the Bergen County Audubon Society. The free walk along Disposal Road in Lyndhurst meets in the Meadowwlands Environment Center parking lot in DeKorte Park, which is adjacent to Disposal Road. The walk takes place from 10 am to noon. Disposal Road is a great place for viewing raptors, including Kestrels, hawks and more. For more information, contact or 201-230-4983.