Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Observations from an Eagle’s Nest

Besides leading field trips, doing nature programs and oh yes even going to work, I spend many of my days beginning in January doing observations for the NJDEP of the Ridgefield Park Eagle’s nest. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be watching a nesting pair of Bald Eagles in the middle of New Jersey’s major highways, surrounded by concrete and steel and oh yes hundreds of thousands of people, I would have said you should go lie down while I call the doctor. Because that could never happen here.

Yet as we all know it has. Not only in Ridgefield Park but in many places in our most densely populated State that we call home. In fact, it has happened about 200 times now, in our most urban and rural parts of the Garden State.

Ridgefield Park Eagle’s Nest

As the cold winter winds freeze my face and hands I recall my proudest moment as Bergen Audubon President: the battle to protect the Ridgefield Park nest from development. We were told we would be wasting our time and could never win, that we would need lawyers and lots of money. Yet our members, school kids, and folks from all walks of life stood up and made it loud and clear that we will not lose these amazing birds for more buildings and more cars. And they won. A true grassroots victory if there ever was one.

I still find it very difficult to talk to groups about this famous eagle pair without getting emotional and choked up. As folks visit the observation area across from the nest I try to give them a history, a background of where we once were and how far we have come. Where once it was just about impossible to see an eagle to now when all you need to do is look up and there they will be gracing the skies overhead for all to see.

My good friend Chief Vincent Mann of the Great Ramapough Nation tells me that Eagles are messengers and carry our prayers up to the Great Spirit. That certainly must be true especially with this special pair of eagles I have the honor to observe.

In that Eagle’s nest that I watch so closely lies the coming true of the hopes and dreams of scientists, conservationists and everyone who ever dreamed of seeing an Eagle. In those branches and sticks and in the wind under their wings is the evidence that good people can do good things when we care enough to join together to stand up and do what is right.

As I look through my scope I see the hope for the future in that nest. If we can bring back a species from the brink of extinction we can do anything. I also can see the hope in the eyes of all who visit there, hoping our eagles will stay, have a family and thrive for future generations to come so their children are never denied seeing an Eagle in the wild ever again.

When you see one of our Eagles why not send up a prayer with them. Ask that we learn from our mistakes and never go back and that we all join together once again and stand up for the Eagles and all of nature for all our future generations to come.

5 thoughts on “Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Observations from an Eagle’s Nest

  1. Chief Vincent Mann

    Truly a honor my friend….. a sign of hope that has teetered on the brink of extinction for a long time, but it is these sights, the sights if returning hope that will continue to inspire us all…


    Don, bravo for all that you do “in your spare time”…I do love birds and get excited when I
    see them on my feeders in my backyard…I have been on a few walks with you and all the
    other birders….You are a very wise and caring man…THANK YOU SO MUCH…Anne


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