Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Our Favorite Bird

One of the questions I get asked most often by friends, school children and even newspaper reporters is one that may seem harmlessly simple at first but at times can be a very, very complicated and complex question to say the least. The question usually starts off innocently enough for sure but then is presented almost as an attempt to throw me off, even stump me or confuse me. 

“So Don, what is your favorite Bird?” they ask with a teasing big grin. That can be a question that ranks right up there with, “What is the meaning of life” or, “Why is it always that the line that I am standing on always moves the slowest?” As a very astute friend once pointed out to me, “Picking your favorite bird is like trying to pick your favorite child. It just can’t be done because there are so many wonderful things about each one of them.” Those are wise words for the ages to be sure.

But sometimes I am pressed for an answer, especially when there is a cute little boy or girl looking up at me holding their breath, just waiting and waiting for my answer which most people expect for some reason to be incredibly insightful and thought provoking. 

Now I have to admit at times I feel pressure to say what people think I should say. After all, the President of Bergen County Audubon Society must have at the very least the Bald Eagle as his favorite bird, or maybe a Peregrine Falcon, an Osprey or some regal looking bird that will make everyone nod their head in agreement. I apologize but favorite birds do not work that way.  

Credit Jim Macaluso

My favorite bird tends to surprise many people. It’s a common bird, to some maybe not the most beautiful of birds. At times passed over as folks look for the rare more exotic species. But as my close friends well know my favorite bird of all is the Red-winged Blackbird.  The reaction of many people when I finally come clean seems to be a bit of puzzlement. “Really?”  they ask like a deer in the headlights. Yes, really.

Growing up in the Meadowlands I have a special connection to the Red-wings. Since it is one of the first birds to return in Spring migration we kids could not wait to see the very first one of the year, for we knew then that spring could not be far way. As the years went by I would point out the Red-wings to my two boys as I drove them back and forth to school. We had fun trying to see who would see the first one singing from the top of the grasses. 

Now when leading nature walks in the Meadowlands I enjoy telling stories about those special very birds, what it was like growing up in the Meadowlands, and the passion and love that we all inherited having the privilege of being raised in such a very special place.  That is what favorite birds really are all about, ones that mean something very special and personal and touch our hearts and souls.

Favorite birds are the ones that bring back fond memories of friends and family. Favorite birds are not just simply something that is added to a page in a book, APP or computer and then left to itself and forgotten. They are birds that we will brag to our grandkids about, daydream about when we get too old to wander the trails of our lives. 

Favorite birds live in our hearts and play a significant part of our lives. They are our memories, ones we recall with delight and at times with much examination and considerable contemplation. 

Credit: Jim Macaluso

They recall special times in our lives not only about the birds themselves but also the people in our lives we enjoyed them with and the wild places we have all come to love.  Favorite birds are just that: Birds that have become part of our lives and stay in our hearts and become who we are and what we are truly about forever.

Please let me know what your favorite bird is and why it is special to you. You can email me at greatauk4@gmail.com

Common Tern at DeKorte This Morning

Thanks to Chris Takacs for sending in this great photo of a Common Tern (foreground) with a Forster’s Tern in the background taken at DeKorte Park this morning.

Chris writes: Good comparison of two very similar looking birds. Darker, redder, thinner bill on the Common Tern, shorter redder legs too. Grayer upper wing to the Common Tern. Rare to our Meadowlands, these are beach nesters compared to the marsh nesting Forster’s Tern.

This Sunday July 7: BCAS-NJSEA 10th Anniversary Nature Walk!!

Help celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the partnership between the Bergen County Audubon Society-New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (formerly the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission) by joining our 10th Annniversary Nature Walk of DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst on Sunday, July 7, from 10 am to noon! Keep your eyes peeled for egrets, osprey and more!

For more info contact Don Torino at greatauk4@gmail.com or 201-230-4983.

This Sunday July 7: BCAS-NJSEA 10th Anniversary Nature Walk!

Help celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the partnership between the Bergen County Audubon Society-New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (formerly the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission) by joining our 10th Annniversary Nature Walk of DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst on Sunday, July 7, from 10 am to noon! Keep your eyes peeled for egrets, osprey and more!

For more info contact Don Torino at greatauk4@gmail.com or 201-230-4983.

Native Plant Day Pics!

Grasshopper on Purple Coneflower

Thanks to the NJSEA’s Terry Doss for these great photos taken during Sunday’s Meadowlands Native Plant Day!!

Blazing Star
Hydrangea
The NJSEA’s Gaby Bennett-Meany points out Cutleaf Coneflower
BCAS President Don Torino shows Common Milweed
Purple Coneflower

Native Plant Day a Tremendous Success!

A huge thank you from the NJSEA and the Bergen County Audubon Society to the 200 people who came to our first annual Meadowlands Native Plant Day yesterday (June 30)! Visitors experienced native plants in all facets, from guided walk of DeKorte Park to expert talks and visiting tables of local native plant and nature groups.

Special thanks to BCAS President Don Torino and NJSEA Parks Coordinator Gabrielle Bennett-Meany, pictured above, whose tireless dedication to raising awareness of the importance of native plans has improved the quality of life for many a pollinator! Thanks also to the BCAS for their generous donations throughout the years that have been used to increase the number and diversity of native flora in DeKorte Park!