The Meadowlands Commission is honoring Black History Month with a weekly post on this blog. Today the focus is a Tuskegee Airman from Rutherford. This series of four posts originally ran in 2009. That’s the great thing about history — it never gets old.
Calvin J. Spann, who grew up in Rutherford, served with the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
From 1943 to 1946, 1st Lt. Spann served in the U.S. Army Air Force, 332nd Fighter Group, 100th Squadron, as part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen — the first-ever group of black Army pilots.
Spann was among an elite group of Tuskegee Airmen who escorted B-17 bombers and reconnaissance planes over Nazi Germany during World War. Spann flew 26 combat missions.
In a phone interview yesterday from his home in Texas, Spann said: “My growing up in Rutherford inspired me to be a Tuskegee Airman. Planes from Teterboro Airport took off right over my house.
“I was able to do everything any young man in high school did, and when I got into the Air Corps and they said they didn’t think I could learn to fly, I thought that was preposterous. I’d been doing everything everyone else was doing all my life, and it really stuck with me. That was my experience growing up in Rutherford.”
We are saddened to report that John R. Quinn, a naturalist and writer and illustrator who loved the Meadowlands, died late last month after a long illness.
In his memorable 1997 book "Fields of Sun and Grass, an Artist's Journal of the New Jersey Meadowlands," Quinn wrote that it was here that "a truce of sorts has been declared and a compromise reached between nature and a technology that has long been estranged from it… In the Meadowlands, something of a reconciliation and healing is under way…
"If the environmental maturity and wisdom acquired here, in the management of this threatened ecosystem, are applied wherever and whenever they are desperately needed, we will, just perhaps, bequeath a livable planet to those whose lives are yet to be lived."
Quinn worked for the Meadowlands Commission as a naturalist for several years and designed the distinctive Meadowlands license plate now seen on so many vehicles in our area.
In an e-mail a few years ago, Quinn wrote that "I have nothing but fond memories of my tenure [at the Meadowlands Commission] — especially paddling then-Governor Whitman around the Mill Creek Marsh with batteries of photogs following us!
Four of Quinn's black-and-white illustrations from "Fields of Sun and Grass" will appear in "The Nature of the Meadowlands," to be published in the fall by Schiffer books. One of those illustrations is posted above.
A link to The Record's obituary on Quinn, published today, is here.
The Record had a cool story today on tomorrow night's Transit of Venus.
The Meadowlands Commission is sponsoring a special viewing event:
“Transit of Venus”
5:30 p.m. to sunset Tuesday, June 5.
The NJMC invites the public to view the Transit of Venus at the Commission’s William D. McDowell Observatory. The rare astronomical event occurs when Venus passes directly between the sun and earth. Observers will see a black dot move across the surface of the sun. The next Transit of Venus is not until 2117. This event was celebrated by many historians and artists and served as a means to measure the distance from the earth to the sun.
Event is weather permitting. NJMC William D. McDowell Observatory, DeKorte Park, Lyndhurst. 201-460-8300.
Observatory Director John Sloan is quoted in the story, saying:
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime event; I don't know how else to say it," said John Sloan, director of the William D. McDowell Observatory in the Meadowlands Environment Center. "If you work in teaching – science and math – you have the theories; you work through all the mathematics that this should occur at this date. It's nice to see that everything works."
The link to The Record's story is here.
We are proud to announce that the Meadowlands Marsh Hawks have won their division in the World Series of Birding!
The team of Mike Newhouse of the N.J. Meadowlands Commission, Chris Takacs and Mike Wolfe tallied an unofficial 139 species in one day for Bergen County, and raised money for our new native plant garden and New Jersey Audubon as well.
Congrats to the team, and to all the folks who competed in the World Series yesterday!
Some results can be downloaded here:
We hope to publish a full list of the Marsh Hawks' 139 birds later in the week.
After hearing reports of a Red Admiral invasion to our south and actually seeing some sunshine, I checked out Kingsland Overlook in DeKorte Park for butterflies this afternoon.
All I can say is: Wow. The reports were not exaggerated. I saw 50+ Red Admirals (above), at least five American Ladies, three Question Marks and — get this — a Hummingbird Clear-winged Moth (below).
Pix of Question Mark and American Ladies follow. (Tough angles.)
We dropped in on our Monk Parakeet pals in Ridgefield last week, and they are as boisterous as ever.
They appear to be using both the railroad bridge and the manmade nesting poles for housing — the special nesting structures were built last spring to provide housing while the bridge underwent repairs.
We counted at least 20, and there are no doubt many more.
Directions to the Monk Parakeet colony are on the left-hand side of the blog.
We have heard of no more Harp Seal sightings in the Meadowlands since last month, and we are still looking for earlier records of any.
Erik Kiviat, executive director of Hudsonia, a non-profit environmental research institute, reports: "I have no Newark Bay or Hackensack River records of harp seal from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center as of 2008. There are two Hudson County records from Bayonne in NY Harbor, and many records from Monmouth Co."
But Tom Shinskey, principal environmental scientist for The Louis Berger Group, found this: "NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] has noted the harp seal increase in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic and released this on Monday: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/nero/hotnews/arcticseals/ (Thanks, Erik and Tom!)
Here's a snippet the NOAA press release: "NOAA reported today that there has been a large influx of harp seals into Northeast region waters. Harp seals typically are found from the Arctic to the southeast coast of Atlantic Canada, but they have been known to venture much further south." [The press release notes that one was seen as far south as North Carolina this year.]
Link to our original blog post is here.
Dave Rotondi reports:
"Took a walk on Disposal Road Saturday morning. About 100 yards in from the Valley Brook Avenue entrance [and DeKorte Park entrance] I flushed a male Ring-necked Pheasant.
"It ran into the phrag far quicker than I could snap a picture though. I've always heard them, but this was my first visual." (Thanks, Dave!)
We have had similar sightings this month as well. The photo ar right is from last March, when we did a longer post about Ring-necked Pheasants in the Meadowlands — one of the few places they exist in the wild in New Jersey.
Link to that post is here.
Thanks to the Meadowlands Commission's art director, Mimi Sabatino, the crude DeKorte Duck Map we put together last month has been superseded by a spiffy new improved version.
To help novice birders identify the various species, we have included photos the "Ducky Dozen" — the most-likely-to-be-seen ducks, and what tidal impoundments you are most likely to see them. As we note on the map, "Your duckage may differ."
Download the map here: Download NJMC Winter Duck Map LR.
With all the recent snow, keep in mind that you can go cross-country skiing on the trails at DeKorte Park — especially the Transco Trail — and in the Carillon area and beyond on Disposal Road.
We advise waiting till Tuesday to avoid getting in the way of snow removal at DeKorte.
If you are interested in receiving e-mail alerts about cross-country skiing at DeKorte, e-mail Jim Wright here. (Above photo is from a Feb. 2010 snowstorm.)