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Don Torino's Life in the Meadowlands: 50th Anniversary of Earth Day – Don’t it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got till it's gone?

In just a few weeks we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day and in the words of the classic Joni Mitchell song we seemed to not know what we had till it was gone, or in this case at least denied access.

As Covid-19 devastated our communities and their usual destinations were forced to close, more and more people were drawn to our local nature areas and open spaces. Whether it was out of nowhere else to go or a kind of primal urge to turn back to nature, individuals and families alike turned out in big numbers at our local, county and State Parks.

Sadly, that desire to return to the natural world may have been its undoing as officials began closing all those special places that many of us have grown to love over the years  and maybe, more importantly, more had just now discovered and quickly found a passion for places they never knew were even there. As a close friend expressed to me, just when we needed nature the most it closed up.

On this very special anniversary on which we will celebrate victories like the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act we will also understandably be denied access to the places that are the results of those victories, the places we cherish and revel in. 

Sadly and perhaps ironically part of the reason is human kind may have started the outbreak is by the crimes we still commit against nature like in this case the  ghastly and inhuman way animals are sold and marketed. And before you say it didn’t start here, I don’t know anyone who thinks our commercial corporate farms and slaughterhouses although better are not going to win any humane awards, at least in my book .

As the special day approaches, separated from the places and in some cases the people we love, we should never forget this Earth Day, as it was a time we faced human  devastation, sacrifice and heroism never seen in this generation. But perhaps we also have come to realize how important and how much we crave the wild places in our State and communities. I hope we can and will recall that we needed meadows not malls, running streams and trees not an amusement park,  wildlife not warehouses.

This no doubt will be saddest and most difficult Earth Day of all but this also could be the time in our history when Earth Day has a new beginning and a new  special meaning not for just a few but for all of us as we join together and realize our love for the environment and our love for each other is inseparable, and if we allow it to exist and flourish, nature will bring joy to our hearts and heal our souls, something we could all use right now

   Stay well, see you in our Meadowlands   

Operation Osprey Uplift Update!

1E Landfill, North Arlington

Our Osprey have arrived for the spring migration and are finding new nesting spots at several places in the Meadowlands as part of Operation Osprey Uplift. The multi-party collaboration by the NJSEA and its partners, which was spearheaded by the Bergen County Audubon Society, provides much-needed nesting space for the NJ Threatened Raptor.

Nest platforms have been installed in the past few months at the Erie Landfill in Lyndhurst, the 1E Landfill in North Arlington, the Keegan Landfill in Kearny, and at the River Bend and Hawk Marsh sites along the Hackensack River in Secaucus. While not pictured here, Osprey have been observed using the nest platforms. 

Keegan Landfill, Kearny

The nest platforms and materials were donated by PSE&G and Joseph M. Sanzari, Inc. The Hackensack Riverkeeper assisted in the design of the platforms. 

Operation Osprey Uplift team members also include the Bergen County Audubon Society, Meadowlands Conservation Trust and Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

River Bend, Secaucus

The Osprey population has made a remarkable resurgence in the region over the past four decades, to the point where Osprey in the Meadowlands outnumber suitable nesting locations. Operation Osprey Uplift is working to develop a variety of nesting approaches for the bird tailored to specific locations to assist in the continued resurgence of these majestic raptors.

Hawk Marsh, Secaucus
Erie Landfill, Lyndhurst

Don Torino's Life in the Meadowlands: It's Time to Put Up Those Birdhouses!

Flicker – Credit Jim Macaluso

As old birders like to tell newcomers, no season is ever the same as the last, and as we are now all very much aware that could not be more true when it comes to all humankind this spring. But if there is any positive at all for birders and nature lovers to be spending more time at home it is that we will all be a firsthand witness to spring migration right in our own backyards. We’ll see how our little stand of trees and gardens is as much a wildlife habitat as any nature center or park. 

Tree Swallow

Just as there is a housing shortage in the Garden State for people it is the same for most of our feathered friends. Anyone who has lived in New Jersey has witnessed firsthand the devastating loss of natural wildlife habitat right in our own neighborhoods. When many of us were growing up there was always a pond, a patch of woods or a grassy meadow that we loved to play in.

But take a look around your town now, where has it gone? It is now a shopping mall, a housing development or a parking lot. And now try to imagine if you are a bird returning to those places in the spring to nest. Where do you go? The good news is that we can give many bird species a helping hand by putting up nest boxes, or what are more commonly called birdhouses. 


Birds such as Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Eastern Bluebirds and many more are cavity nesters, which mean birds that either make holes in dead trees or use the natural cavities in trees for laying eggs and raising their young. Unfortunately, due to habitat destruction and homeowners cutting down older or dying trees that are preferred nesting places, good nest sites have become too few and far between. We can turn that around a bit and help out our feathered friends by substituting man-made structures that closely replicate the kind of cavity they would use in nature.


USE the Right Nest Box in The Right Place! 

Placing the right birdhouse in your backyard is critical if you want to encourage birds to make your backyard their home. Just because you put up a Bluebird house does not mean that you will get a bluebird to take up residence. To do it right you will need to match the right nest box to the correct habitat.

By all means if you have Bluebird habitat, which is large, open fields then go for it. But if your yard is like most of suburbia then you may have more success inviting Black-capped Chickadees and House Wrens into your backyard habitat. 

If you are located in a more wooded area than birds like White-breasted Nuthatches and Northern Flickers may be added to your list. Depending on the species some bird houses can be hung from a tree branch with success and others will need to be placed right on the trunk of the tree. Still others will need to go very high up and or will need to be close to water. It will depend on the species you are trying to help.

Some common mistakes

 If you avoid a few common birdhouse mistakes you will have a better chance of having birds call your backyard home this spring 

  1. Keep birdhouses far away from feeders! Most birds like to be secretive when nesting. Birds such as Blue jays and Grackles can be nest raiders so keep your houses as far away from bird feeders as possible to have the best chance of a successful nesting season
  2. Get houses up early! Birds start looking for places to nest as early as February so you want to have your boxes out as soon as possible. Some birds will have second broods or arrive in late April from migration, so you will still have a good chance if you are a little late. The most important thing is getting some nesting places up wherever you can.

Some Birdhouse Basics 


It is important for functional houses to have good ventilation. Panels of wood that are ¾ inches thick help provide insulation from the heat. Holes near the top of the house allow for the heat to escape. 

Easy Clean Out

A side panel that opens allows for easy clean out of the nest at the end of the season which helps to keep the pest population down. 

Adequate Drainage

Holes at the bottom corners allow for drainage. Drainage holes in the middle of the bottom will not adequately allow for drainage.


Perches are not necessary and actually allow unwanted birds and predators a place to sit and access the hole.

Birdhouse specifications for specific species 

Name -Size of floor – Ht.entrance above the floor -Diameter of hole -the height off ground -Habitat preference

Chickadee 4″ x 4″ 4″– 7″ 1-1⁄8″ 5′ – 15′ Woods/edge

Titmouse 4″ x 4″ 6” – 8″ 1-1/4″ 5′ – 15′ Woods/edge

Nuthatch 4″ x 4″ 6″ – 8″ 1-1/4″ – 13/8″ 5′ – 20′ Woods/edge

House Wren 4″ x 4″ 4″ – 7″ 1-1⁄8″ – 11/4″ 5′ – 10′ Woods/yard

Carolina Wren 4” x 4″ 4″ – 7″ 1½” 5′ – 10′ Woods/yard

Screech Owl 8″ x 8″ 9” – 12″ 3″ 10′ – 30′ Woods

Wood Duck 12″ x 12″ 10″ – 18″ 4″w – 3”h 6′ – 30′ Woods near water


Downy 4″ x 4″ 8″ – 12″ 1-1/4″ 5′ – 15′ Woods

Hairy 6″ x 6″ 10″ – 14″ 1½” 8′ – 20′ Woods

Flicker 7″ x 7″ 10″ – 20″ 2½” 6′ – 30′ Woods

By putting up nest boxes and setting aside a part of our backyards for wildlife we can help restore the balance to the natural world around us and bring about a healthier and happier world for our wildlife and for our children too. It’s something we could all use right now.

 Spring is out there and as it has done for eons it rejuvenates our spirit and revives our soul .

Today birdhouses are made from everything from recycled material to the traditional cedar. If you plan to make your own you can use one-inch thick pine boards or of course cedar but which will be tougher to find. Also, do not use pressure treated wood.

If I can answer any questions or help you get started on your backyard habitat please let me know at

Stay well all, see you soon.