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Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Old Boots, Books and Binoculars

My new boots arrived in a box left by the front door. Didn’t have to go try them on, talk to a sales person or for that matter admire an assortment of boots sitting on the wall display. Sadly very impersonal I guess. But even so just like some ancient ritual I sat back and applied my waterproofing to the leather, slowly taking my time to work it in really well.

I was reminded of how many times and on how many boots I have performed this ceremonial task over the years. Of course there have been countless other boots, some still sitting in my closet, unable to part with, and others that I remember so fondly from back packing trips, some with blisters and all so many years ago. Of course there were many other boots that were stuck in the Meadowlands mud that had to be pulled out when my feet were not even in them and still others from too many soggy birding trips that I will never forget.

 But that’s how it is with birders and nature lovers. Inanimate objects take on their own personality. Simple things that forever embrace a special memory when doing nothing more than holding them in your hand.

Many friends still hang on to their old binoculars, out of date, low on modern technical advantages but full of memories of family, friends and birds. Hard to part with but they still hold an important place in our hearts. Most now retired to a place of honor to a desk or shelf but sometimes being picked up for a quick glance that will bring back the memories of people and places that we love so much. 

 Old field guides still proudly rest on the door of my truck. Wrinkled and bent pages, loose bindings and many water stains of trips gone by. There are better, more up-to-date field guides for sure. Like the Apps on my phone that will never hold a proper memory or remind me of anything but problems learning how to use my new phone.

Holding an old field guide in your hand, maybe one that your mom, dad or close friend also carried with them can be an almost mystical experience when opened, instantly projecting you to a different place in time. A time when you saw a life bird, sat on a fallen tree as a Red-tail flew close by or when you were unknowingly on that very last field trip with someone special. These books are to be treasured and cherished and always to be held and read, never to be overlooked on a shelf or in a drawer to be forgotten.

Enjoying the natural world and especially birding in the end is all about the friends we made, the birds we have seen and the people and places we have come to love along the way. Memories are made to be cherished and sometimes there are those simple things that help remind us and guide us along life’s journey into the natural world.

If you have something that reminds you of special times and people while out enjoying nature let me know what it is. I would love to hear about it.

Glorious Tree Swallows

Many thanks to Mickey Raine for this series of recent beautiful Tree Swallow photos taken at Mill Creek Marsh. Mickey gives a great description of this amazing species:

The most adorable of all the creatures found in the area–the TREE SWALLOWS, those masters of aerial acrobatics as they zip in and out and swish/swoosh by in all directions with lightening speed for short bursts.  The tiny insects flying about have no chance with these cuties … As adorable as they are, when posed in certain lights in such a way, they can seem quite regal with that Egyptian Blue capturing the attention of any onlooker.

Thank You BCAS for Native Plants!!!

Bergen County Audubon Society President Don Torino stopped by DeKorte Park just now with a generous donation of three dozen native plants to be placed around the park. Don is pictured with NJSEA Parks Supervisor Gabrielle Bennett-Meany.

Two species were delivered: Penstemon, which attract Hummingbirds and polinators; and Helianthus, a favorite of butterflies. Definitely delivered just in time! Thanks again BCAS!

New eBook by Jim Wright Coming Soon!

You won’t want to miss the forthcoming free, online e-book, “The Best of ‘The Bird Watcher’: 50 Favorite Columns for The Record by Jim Wright.

The book includes a forward by Bergen County Audubon Society President Don Torino and spans a decade of Birdwatcher columns. More at Wright’s Celery Farm and Beyond Blog

Wright began penning the bi-weekly column for The Record and in 2009 and has since written roughly 250 columns. Check out today’s column on the best birding weekend of the year here.

Reminder: BCAS Walk This Sunday at Losen Slote Creek Park in Little Ferry!

Join the Bergen County Audubon Society this Sunday, May 5, as they lead a guided walk through Losen Slote Creek Park and the Mehrhof Pond Wildlife Observation Area, both in Little Ferry. The walk goes from 10 am to noon.

Losen Slote is one of the last remaining parcels of lowland forests in the Meadowlands and the Observation Area is fantastic place to watch birds and waterfowl. For more info contact Don Torino at or 201-230-4983.