A Meadowlands Thanksgiving

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Don Torino  wrote a column last year  about the reasons to be thankful on Thanksgiving. Here's the beginning:

"My love of Thanksgiving has much less to do with Pilgrims and much more to do with giving thanks to the many wild places we are fortunate enough to enjoy here in New Jersey.

"For me Thanksgiving always started out spending a few hours in the morning enjoying nature before sitting down to dinner."

And another sample: "Watching a Red-tail soaring over the trees or a Chickadee caching a sunflower seed in your backyard Oak tree, connecting with nature on this wonderful day reminds us that there is something bigger than ourselves out there, and that we need to give thanks for many things in nature that we sometimes take for granted." Amen.

The link is here. (A nice pic by Mike Malzone, too.)


Reasons to be Thankful

JW Bald Eagle_0266
Four Thanksgivings ago, I wrote a column in The Record and Herald-News today about reasons to be thankful. It still applies today.

Here's a sample:

On this day, rather than mourn the open space lost to development over the years, I celebrate the open space that has been saved through New Jersey's Green Acres Program and through the foresight and determination of individuals who love wildlife and elbow room.

On this day, rather than lament the thoughtless folks who litter, refuse to clean up after their dogs or flick their cigarette butts wherever they please, I celebrate all the folks who groom trails, plant native plants, or put out bird feeders just to make this neck of the woods a little more nature-friendly.

On this day, above all, I celebrate nature's abundance — not the food on our tables, but the feathered creatures large and small that we share our small part of the planet with.

After all these years, I remain amazed at the world around me.

As David Sibley writes in his preface to "The Sibley Guide to Birds," "I still learn new things every time I go birding, and I am certain that the opportunities for learning will never end."

Reasons for birders to give thanks this year

Thursday November 24, 2011, 10:19 AM
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
The Record

Today is Thanksgiving, the perfect time to pause for a few moments — preferably in a favorite park or natural area — and celebrate nature's blessings.

Since this is a column about birds, I'll focus on a few avian reasons to be thankful (except for the birds that currently find themselves on the wrong end of a carving knife).

In fact, there is so much good news out there that I am starting to take for granted a few things that I would not have believed possible a few years ago.

Most notable is the incredible comeback of the bald eagle in North Jersey. Four decades ago, all of New Jersey was home to just one nesting pair. In 2011, this region alone was home to three nests that come to mind immediately.

In recent weeks, I have seen bald eagles all over: in Carlstadt, Lyndhurst, Allendale, Secaucus, Alpine, Oradell, even along the Garden State Parkway just north of Atlantic City.

What's more, local hawk counts have been tallying high numbers of migrating bald eagles the past few years. As of last week, for example, Montclair had counted 123 bald eagles so far this fall, a bit behind last year but nearly double the 2009 total of "just" 66. Mount Peter in nearby New York State had 70, 19 behind last year's count but far ahead of the 40 in 2009.

We are not talking about just any old seed-eater here. We are talking about the symbol of this nation, and the most awe-inspiring bird in all of North America.

Add this to such other long-term good news as the rebound of peregrine falcons, ospreys and Cooper's hawks — other raptors at the top of the food chain — and you can't help but feel optimistic.

I also celebrate the real-life version of the empty-nest syndrome. As I walk around my back yard or favorite walking paths these days, I am intrigued by the orioles' and robins' nests that have become visible now that so many trees have shed their leaves.

Last week, I discovered a strange snaggle of vines atop a sapling no more than 20 yards from my living-room window. A bird family had been my neighbors for at least part of the summer, and I never knew they were there. What species of birds were they? Was the nest successful? I smile at the thought that they lived so close by, hidden in plain sight.

On this day, rather than mourn the open space lost to development over the years, I celebrate the open space that has been saved through New Jersey's Green Acres Program and through the foresight and determination of individuals who love wildlife and elbow room.

On this day, rather than lament the thoughtless folks who litter, refuse to clean up after their dogs or flick their cigarette butts wherever they please, I celebrate all the folks who groom trails, plant native plants, or put out bird feeders just to make this neck of the woods a little more nature-friendly.

On this day, above all, I celebrate nature's abundance — not the food on our tables, but the feathered creatures large and small that we share our small part of the planet with. After all these years, I remain amazed at the world around me.

As David Sibley writes in his preface to "The Sibley Guide to Birds," "I still learn new things every time I go birding, and I am certain that the opportunities for learning will never end."

- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/recreation/134446013_Reasons_for_birders_to_be_thankful.html?page=all#sthash.4aTR09ek.dpuf

Reasons for birders to give thanks this year

Thursday November 24, 2011, 10:19 AM
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
The Record

Today is Thanksgiving, the perfect time to pause for a few moments — preferably in a favorite park or natural area — and celebrate nature's blessings.

Since this is a column about birds, I'll focus on a few avian reasons to be thankful (except for the birds that currently find themselves on the wrong end of a carving knife).

In fact, there is so much good news out there that I am starting to take for granted a few things that I would not have believed possible a few years ago.

Most notable is the incredible comeback of the bald eagle in North Jersey. Four decades ago, all of New Jersey was home to just one nesting pair. In 2011, this region alone was home to three nests that come to mind immediately.

In recent weeks, I have seen bald eagles all over: in Carlstadt, Lyndhurst, Allendale, Secaucus, Alpine, Oradell, even along the Garden State Parkway just north of Atlantic City.

What's more, local hawk counts have been tallying high numbers of migrating bald eagles the past few years. As of last week, for example, Montclair had counted 123 bald eagles so far this fall, a bit behind last year but nearly double the 2009 total of "just" 66. Mount Peter in nearby New York State had 70, 19 behind last year's count but far ahead of the 40 in 2009.

We are not talking about just any old seed-eater here. We are talking about the symbol of this nation, and the most awe-inspiring bird in all of North America.

Add this to such other long-term good news as the rebound of peregrine falcons, ospreys and Cooper's hawks — other raptors at the top of the food chain — and you can't help but feel optimistic.

I also celebrate the real-life version of the empty-nest syndrome. As I walk around my back yard or favorite walking paths these days, I am intrigued by the orioles' and robins' nests that have become visible now that so many trees have shed their leaves.

Last week, I discovered a strange snaggle of vines atop a sapling no more than 20 yards from my living-room window. A bird family had been my neighbors for at least part of the summer, and I never knew they were there. What species of birds were they? Was the nest successful? I smile at the thought that they lived so close by, hidden in plain sight.

On this day, rather than mourn the open space lost to development over the years, I celebrate the open space that has been saved through New Jersey's Green Acres Program and through the foresight and determination of individuals who love wildlife and elbow room.

On this day, rather than lament the thoughtless folks who litter, refuse to clean up after their dogs or flick their cigarette butts wherever they please, I celebrate all the folks who groom trails, plant native plants, or put out bird feeders just to make this neck of the woods a little more nature-friendly.

On this day, above all, I celebrate nature's abundance — not the food on our tables, but the feathered creatures large and small that we share our small part of the planet with. After all these years, I remain amazed at the world around me.

As David Sibley writes in his preface to "The Sibley Guide to Birds," "I still learn new things every time I go birding, and I am certain that the opportunities for learning will never end."

- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/recreation/134446013_Reasons_for_birders_to_be_thankful.html?page=all#sthash.4aTR09ek.dpuf

Reasons for birders to give thanks this year

Thursday November 24, 2011, 10:19 AM
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
The Record

Today is Thanksgiving, the perfect time to pause for a few moments — preferably in a favorite park or natural area — and celebrate nature's blessings.

Since this is a column about birds, I'll focus on a few avian reasons to be thankful (except for the birds that currently find themselves on the wrong end of a carving knife).

In fact, there is so much good news out there that I am starting to take for granted a few things that I would not have believed possible a few years ago.

Most notable is the incredible comeback of the bald eagle in North Jersey. Four decades ago, all of New Jersey was home to just one nesting pair. In 2011, this region alone was home to three nests that come to mind immediately.

In recent weeks, I have seen bald eagles all over: in Carlstadt, Lyndhurst, Allendale, Secaucus, Alpine, Oradell, even along the Garden State Parkway just north of Atlantic City.

What's more, local hawk counts have been tallying high numbers of migrating bald eagles the past few years. As of last week, for example, Montclair had counted 123 bald eagles so far this fall, a bit behind last year but nearly double the 2009 total of "just" 66. Mount Peter in nearby New York State had 70, 19 behind last year's count but far ahead of the 40 in 2009.

We are not talking about just any old seed-eater here. We are talking about the symbol of this nation, and the most awe-inspiring bird in all of North America.

Add this to such other long-term good news as the rebound of peregrine falcons, ospreys and Cooper's hawks — other raptors at the top of the food chain — and you can't help but feel optimistic.

I also celebrate the real-life version of the empty-nest syndrome. As I walk around my back yard or favorite walking paths these days, I am intrigued by the orioles' and robins' nests that have become visible now that so many trees have shed their leaves.

Last week, I discovered a strange snaggle of vines atop a sapling no more than 20 yards from my living-room window. A bird family had been my neighbors for at least part of the summer, and I never knew they were there. What species of birds were they? Was the nest successful? I smile at the thought that they lived so close by, hidden in plain sight.

On this day, rather than mourn the open space lost to development over the years, I celebrate the open space that has been saved through New Jersey's Green Acres Program and through the foresight and determination of individuals who love wildlife and elbow room.

On this day, rather than lament the thoughtless folks who litter, refuse to clean up after their dogs or flick their cigarette butts wherever they please, I celebrate all the folks who groom trails, plant native plants, or put out bird feeders just to make this neck of the woods a little more nature-friendly.

On this day, above all, I celebrate nature's abundance — not the food on our tables, but the feathered creatures large and small that we share our small part of the planet with. After all these years, I remain amazed at the world around me.

As David Sibley writes in his preface to "The Sibley Guide to Birds," "I still learn new things every time I go birding, and I am certain that the opportunities for learning will never end."

- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/recreation/134446013_Reasons_for_birders_to_be_thankful.html?page=all#sthash.4aTR09ek.dpuf

Reasons for birders to give thanks this year

Thursday November 24, 2011, 10:19 AM
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
The Record

Today is Thanksgiving, the perfect time to pause for a few moments — preferably in a favorite park or natural area — and celebrate nature's blessings.

Since this is a column about birds, I'll focus on a few avian reasons to be thankful (except for the birds that currently find themselves on the wrong end of a carving knife).

In fact, there is so much good news out there that I am starting to take for granted a few things that I would not have believed possible a few years ago.

Most notable is the incredible comeback of the bald eagle in North Jersey. Four decades ago, all of New Jersey was home to just one nesting pair. In 2011, this region alone was home to three nests that come to mind immediately.

In recent weeks, I have seen bald eagles all over: in Carlstadt, Lyndhurst, Allendale, Secaucus, Alpine, Oradell, even along the Garden State Parkway just north of Atlantic City.

What's more, local hawk counts have been tallying high numbers of migrating bald eagles the past few years. As of last week, for example, Montclair had counted 123 bald eagles so far this fall, a bit behind last year but nearly double the 2009 total of "just" 66. Mount Peter in nearby New York State had 70, 19 behind last year's count but far ahead of the 40 in 2009.

We are not talking about just any old seed-eater here. We are talking about the symbol of this nation, and the most awe-inspiring bird in all of North America.

Add this to such other long-term good news as the rebound of peregrine falcons, ospreys and Cooper's hawks — other raptors at the top of the food chain — and you can't help but feel optimistic.

I also celebrate the real-life version of the empty-nest syndrome. As I walk around my back yard or favorite walking paths these days, I am intrigued by the orioles' and robins' nests that have become visible now that so many trees have shed their leaves.

Last week, I discovered a strange snaggle of vines atop a sapling no more than 20 yards from my living-room window. A bird family had been my neighbors for at least part of the summer, and I never knew they were there. What species of birds were they? Was the nest successful? I smile at the thought that they lived so close by, hidden in plain sight.

On this day, rather than mourn the open space lost to development over the years, I celebrate the open space that has been saved through New Jersey's Green Acres Program and through the foresight and determination of individuals who love wildlife and elbow room.

On this day, rather than lament the thoughtless folks who litter, refuse to clean up after their dogs or flick their cigarette butts wherever they please, I celebrate all the folks who groom trails, plant native plants, or put out bird feeders just to make this neck of the woods a little more nature-friendly.

On this day, above all, I celebrate nature's abundance — not the food on our tables, but the feathered creatures large and small that we share our small part of the planet with. After all these years, I remain amazed at the world around me.

As David Sibley writes in his preface to "The Sibley Guide to Birds," "I still learn new things every time I go birding, and I am certain that the opportunities for learning will never end."

- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/recreation/134446013_Reasons_for_birders_to_be_thankful.html?page=all#sthash.4aTR09ek.dpuf

The link is here.  Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday Morning Mystery Answered

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On Monday, I asked: Who are these guys, what are they doing, where and when?

The answers are: Legendary birders Stiles Thomas and Rob Fanning, participating in a Big Year competition, in the Celery Farm, most likely a decade ago.  If anyone remembers who won, please let me know.

I know that Stiles had 175 species that year. His 2006 list is here, posted in 2009 as part of a big controversy over Fred Weber's record-shattering Celery Farm Big Year in 2008.


The Wild Turduckens of High Mountain!

Turducken-splash
Just in time for Thanksgiving, The Nature Conservancy's New Jersey blog has posted my story about the Wild Turduckens of High Mountain, complete with Miwa Ishikawa's wonderful illustrations (above) -- and the only known recipe for this extraordinary game bird.

The link is here.

(A version of the story originally appeared in the current issue of Autumn Years magazine.)

(Thanks, TNC!)