Author Archives: Brian Aberback

Don Torino’s Life In The Meadowlands: Cattails And Other Meadowlands Memories

Cattails at Skeetkill Creek Marsh, Ridgefield, Credit: Jim Macaluso

There are many a wonder in the natural world that can almost automatically prompt magical memories and reflective reminiscences of life’s special days gone by. The sight of Cattails does just that for me.

While walking the trail at Skeetkill Marsh in Ridgefield last week my heart did a flutter as I saw new stands of cattails coming back to the wetlands. I immediately recalled as kids being lucky enough to find a patch of cattails, or “punks,” as we innocently referred to them. They were like gold to a Meadowlands kid, a special gift that only Meadowlands folks knew about or at least that is what we told ourselves. 

I could immediately smell the scent of the burning cattails just like I did when I was 12-years- old as we lit the brown treasures to repel mosquitos, which was our perfect excuse to watch the glowing embers in the Meadowlands night as we talked tales of the end of summer and the dread of the school year ahead. 

We picked blackberries and ate wild grapes. We walked the old railroad tracks as muskrats splashed down along the creeks. We fished the old clay pits and caught snakes just for fun as our distinct last right of summer. We told stories and contemplated our future as our cattails burned their last glowing ashes of the evening.

Caught between new urban sprawl and the last gasp of the hints of rural life was growing up in the Meadowlands, not quite fitting in with the youths of nearby towns and many times feeling like outcasts at school, even sometimes made to out to feel inferior was growing up in the Meadowlands.

Yet in some special way we knew that we were lucky and had something no one else had, could understand or even grasp. We could wake up with the Red-winged Blackbirds and watch Egrets fly overhead. We could enjoy the Barn Owls perch outside an old warehouse, ice skate on a frozen marsh and see American Bitterns try to hide in the tall grasses. We floated rafts down Berry’s Creek and looked right into the eyes of a Northern Harrier. We somehow knew we were part of something bigger than ourselves, too young to understand what exactly it was and yet connected enough to know the Meadowlands would always be who we were, what we loved and what forever would bond us together.

Today as the dried cottonwood leaves crunch under my feet and the early fall clouds begin to form, and as the shorebirds join up in the mudflats, I am still in awe of what an incredible place we are blessed enough to be part of.

And like the Meadowlands I am still here, wandering the fields and meadows, contemplating the butterflies and birds, and now have a better understanding of what it all means and what it all was for. This our Meadowlands. Unique and diverse as its people, frail and strong, resilient and yet always on the brink. A place that has risen from the ashes like an ancient phoenix waiting to be discovered understood and still saved.

The New Jersey Meadowlands is like all of us who managed to survive life’s journey and at times fought back from the brink. And this is ultimately the reason its wonders like the Osprey, Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle touch our spirit and soul. It’s your Meadowlands; get out there and make it part of who you truly are.

Skeetkill Creek Marsh Scenery!

Softstem Bulrush

Thanks to Jim Macaulso for sharing these great photos highlighting the vegetation taking shape at Skeetkill Creek Marsh in Ridgefield! The 16-acre parcel is maintained by the Meadowlands Conservation Trust, which works to preserve, protect, and enhance environmentally sensitive lands in the Meadowlands region and the Hackensack River Watershed.

Saltmarsh bulrush
Saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
Saltmarsh fleabane
Canada Goldenrod
Flat Top Goldenrod
A Visitor in the Vegetation

Thanks for Coming Down to DeKorte!

A big thank you from the Bergen County Audubon Society to the great folks who participated in this past Sunday’s DeKorte Park Nature Walk! Highlights included Ospreys, Egrets  a fly over Raven and a visit from George the American White Pelican!

Miss out? No worries. Come on out on Saturday, Sept. 14 to DeKorte for the Meadowlands Birding Festival! The day runs from 8:30 am to 3 pm and includes walks, talks, seminars, live raptor demonstrations and kids activities! To read more and see the schedule for the day, click here

There is also a BCAS guided tour on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Losen Slote Creek Park in Little Ferry, one of the last remaining lowland forests in the Meadowlands. The walk runs from 10 am to noon. For more info contact Don Torino at or 201-230-4983.

Converation Among Friends

Check out these fantastic photos from Joe Koscielny taken on an NJSEA-BCAS Pontoon Boat Tour last Thursday, including the rarely seen in the Meadowlands Caspian Terns above! We’ll have more from Joe later today.

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Black-backed Gull and Double-Crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron and Snowy Egrets

Great and Snowy Egret
Great Egrets and Snowy Egret