Monthly Archives: October 2019

Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Our Spiritual Connection to the Birds

Credit: Jill Homcy

The last month or so my birding has been confined to what I can see from the chair on my deck. My recent surgery has kept me from getting out to the fields and meadows that I have enjoyed since childhood. My feeling of loss, even though thankfully temporary, has taken more from me than just seeing what birds might be visiting  my favorite haunts but has seemed to have deprived me of some of my much needed emotional and spiritual connection to the outdoors and our birds.

Maybe much more than we can understand, at least just speaking for myself, nature keeps me more focused and renews my resolve to face the challenges of the day.  Nature can do that, and for the folks that remain close to the natural world it plays an important part of our everyday lives

Ever since man first beheld birds flying high in the heavens there has been a special connection to our winged wonders of the skies. Mythological fables regarding birds blend through every culture, every religion and always has a parable which includes a spiritual linking with birds, from the many Biblical stories involving  the Dove to the timeless unique Native American  sacred connections to birds such as the Eagle.

Man has evolved accepting and understanding that the sighting of birds at important times could have significant personal meaning which may help them receive a message, guide and direct them throughout difficult times in their lives or connect to the memory of a loved one long gone.

But not everyone gets the message and somewhere along life’s arduous journey seem to have lost our way. Maybe because we have begun to lose our feeling of fitting together with the natural world around us or possibly because we have just chosen to ignore the signs that nature expresses to us it seems that less people are feeling that closeness of nature and may be missing that extraordinary experience that only being part of the natural world can give us.

Most birders, I believe, have not lost that special connection with nature. They may not talk much about it to each other or find the need to express it that often but when the Red-tailed Hawk soars overhead or a Great-Blue Heron stands majestically on the shore they don’t need to say anything. You can just see it their faces that there is something special happening, there is that unexplainable bonding, an ancient linking with nature that has united them with the spirit of the birds forever and then there is no longer need for words.

Many birders have their own “special” bird that has a deep personal meaning to them. When they cross their bird’s path it can bring back fond or even sad memories of days gone by. They may feel a connection with a loved one or even feel they are being guided on the right path. Birders just don’t walk outside to look at birds and forget about them; there is something that touches them deep in their soul that stays with them for a lifetime.

Sitting on my deck I have once again realized that there is still magic even in the Starling with all its whistles and squeaks and also in the much maligned House Sparrow with its chirps, fluttering and constant search for its place in the environment.

Our connection with nature runs deep. There is something we may never fully understand and have lost touch with but in our hearts we know we are as much a part of the natural world as the Robin or the Wood Thrush. If we are honest with ourselves there is no denying it; we are part of the environment, connected through eons of living side-by-side with nature. The only question is if we will learn to hear its message.

Banded Bald Eagle In Secaucus Last Week!

Chris Takacs sent this exciting dispatch this morning!

A young banded Bald Eagle was seen resting for the day on the edge of Schmidt’s Wood’s last week. Migrant raptors, like Eagles, Peregrine Falcons and others stop and use our Meadowlands due to the diverse habitat here. 

This eagle, P/3 was banded on 5/15/17 in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut (home of the grave of Connecticut legend “Midnight Mary”).  It was measured to be a male at 41 days old.  It had one nestmate, a female, legband N/3.  It was previously photographed at Milford (Ct.) Harbor on 9/27/17, Leonia, New Jersey on 11/26/18, in Great River, New York in late November, 2018, and Massapequa, NY. on 10/4/19. 

Thanks to Chris and Ray Gilbert for these tremendous photos of our visiting Bald Eagle

Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Finally Fall

Just as the Goldenrods bring in the last of the Monarchs and the Asters and Wild Ageratums attract the final Bumble Bees of the season Fall has finally arrived. Of course, we are the only creatures that ever feel the need to question nature on such things as the changing of the seasons.

After all every Robin never questions when it is time to load up on Hawthorne and Holly berries. All the shorebirds understand they need to move ahead and gather on the mudflats for the long journey south and the Pintails, Shovelers and Bufflehead by some deeply understood instinct over time and immemorial recognize when they need to travel south to open water before winter sets in.

The Fall for us is about keeping the same faith. Every birder, nature lover, gardener or anyone that has ever gazed out the backyard window searching for the first White Throated Sparrow of the season knows this in our hearts 

Autumn has been well on its way for some time now. Our boots rustle through the russet, reds and creamy colors of the fallen leaves, the days much shorter and the clouds overhead are unexplainably different and that first brisk jacketed morning gives energy to our hearts and enlivens our souls in ancient ways in anticipation of the coming season.

The Juncos will arrive under your feeders, the delicate American Tree Sparrow will make its annual magical long distance journey to our fields and meadows, and the Bald Eagles will gather along our rivers and lakes before fall allows winter to bring in the next enchanted time of year.

We need to connect more with nature, not only for our own health but also the wellbeing of the rest of society.

Nature is the one thing we can depend on no matter what. Some of us may just let it go by without a glance but to those of us who have the faith to let it in it will refresh our souls forever.

Reminder: Special BCAS Harrier Meadow Walk Tomorrow (Oct. 15)!

Join the the Bergen County Audubon Society on Tuesday, Oct. 15, from 10 am to noon for a special guided walk of Harrier Meadow, a beautiful natural area in North Arlington usually closed to the public. They’ll be looking for raptors, sparrows and more. Harrier Meadow is located off Disposal Road. For more information, contact Chris Takacs at or call 201-207-0426.