Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: The Wild Is Out There

Peregrine Falcon courtesy Dee De Santis

Among the concrete and iron, surrounded by the deafening traffic noise, and in-between the malls, warehouses, roads and endless lawns, there is an Osprey nesting on its steel tower tree, a Peregrine Falcon hunting its prey high atop an office building forest and the Bald Eagle now taking up residence in its busy suburban backyard wilderness .

As we dash off to work, run off to school or take refuge in our imaginary backyard fortresses, there is still a place very close by where threatened and endangered species struggle to survive. 

All around there is a little known wilderness bordered by sidewalks and traffic lights where Black-crowned Night Herons are perched like sentinels starring from the trees as we walk by clueless, a Red Headed Woodpecker brings on a new generation high above the constantly moving bicycles and baby strollers, and a Least Tern comes to rest on a log near a shopping center where thousands of people pass by unaware of the daily struggle to survive that is worthy of a PBS special. 

Our endangered and threatened wildlife species are not just at the end of some summer Sunday car ride or limited to a National Park or State Forest. They are here, avoiding us if they can possibly help it but always at high risk from our next whim or great idea.

Osprey courtesy Jimmy Macaluso

On a daily basis these species are brought to the edge, squeezed out of neighborhoods, pushed out of parks and run out of town sometimes by accident, often by design, and always with the lack of understanding or the priority of trying our best to protect and preserve these unique and special species.

A Savannah Sparrow searches for a morsel of food on a suburban sidewalk, a Long-Eared Owl rests silently in your backyard spruce tree and an American Kestrel perches on the corner of a busy warehouse deciding how best to survive.

The loss of wildlife is often insidious and sneaky. Now you see them and now you don’t. Because once these creatures were not endangered and threatened at all, and then it seems, almost overnight, you look around and they are gone.

But given half a chance our endangered and threatened species can make a comeback, just like the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon. But the big question can only be answered by us: Will we allow them to stay and remain here? Or will we turn our back with a blind eye, say it’s all too hard and it can’t be done?

As you run out to the store, mow the lawn or play catch in the backyard remember all around us there is wildlife trying to survive, doing their best to continue like they have since time immemorial. We need to stand up for land preservation. Plant a milkweed, save a tree and remember to connect to the nature around you and keep some of that that wilderness in your heart forever.

 See you in the Meadowlands

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