The 'Picnic Table Effect' at the CF

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For the past week or so, I've been a tad obsessed with getting a photo of a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird nectaring at the flowering Red Buckeye tree in Green Way Meadow.IMG_9945

First I noticed the tree (hard to miss and beautiful to behold).  Then I noticed a male hummingbird perched on a snag tree about 10 yards away.

All I had to do was wait --  and wait and wait.

While I waited, I tried to keep my eyes on the tree, because the little hummingbird  was a fast worker. You'd think he'd hang out at the tree for long stretches, since it has so many blooms, but not so.

And since the hummingbird sometimes would not appear for 45  minutes at a pop, if he appeared at all, my eyes wandered.

That's where a one-man "Patagonia Picnic Table Effect" came in.

While I waited for the hummingbird, my eyes wandered.

And I started seeing all sorts of birds that I would have missed had I merely passed by._MG_0037

A House Wren entering a nearby nest box. A pair of amorous Tree Swallows.  Baltimore Orioles flying to and fro across the meadow. A perched Red-shoulder.

A friend started watching with me, and we ended up seeing an Indigo Bunting.

Sometimes it' s best to just hang in one place and watch.

You may not get the photo you wanted, but you may get a little surprise or two.

House Sparrow Advice Sorely Needed

Bully the English SparrowA reader writes:

I am a life-long bird lover (when I lived in a more "rural" part of Bergen County I used to buy bird seed by the 50 lb bag) and animal advocate.

I still remember years ago on new year's day when I looked out my dining room window; there were two evening grosbeaks on the small roof just outside. It is a wonderful memory.

However, I have a real dilemma, a problem that grows bigger with each passing year.

Continue reading "House Sparrow Advice Sorely Needed" »

John Fell Arrested!!

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Third-graders from Hillside got a front-row seat to the arrest of John Fell by those dastardly Loyalists this morning at the historic Fell House on Franklin Turnpike.

The students were terrific, as were Heard's Brigade.

The students also got a tour of the house, quite a few history lessons, and a Pledge of Allegiance with Allendale Mayor Ari Bernstein, who also arranged for the great weather.

A big thank you to Fell Housers Susanne Lovisolo, Patty Finn, Mike Limatola and Peg Haviland!


Free eBook!

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Here's more information about "The Best of The Bird Watcher," a collection of 50 of my favorite columns in The Record and Herald News over the past decade.

The e-book offers columns on memorable birds -- from American Woodcock to backyard beauties. It also features great places -- from the Meadowlands and Garret Mountain to Doodletown and Olana.

The Best of The Bird Watcher" includes the expertise of many of the great birders I've interviewed over the past 10 years. And it includes photos by some of my favorite local nature photographers.

It's available as a free online e-book, complete with page-turning software, a search function that doubles as an index), and a Table of Contents that takes you to a column with one click.

The Best of The Bird Watcher" also features a foreword by Bergen County Audubon President Don Torino and a design by graphic artist Mimi Sabatino.

You can view the entire e-book here.

And you can download a pdf to view on an iPad or other mobile device here: Download Best of the Bird Watcher Jim Wright

When you download it, just choose "Save PDF to Books" on iPads, for example.


Watch Out For Turtles on Franklin Tpke.

IMG_0065Now's the time that Snapping Turtles really get active -- they'll start digging up the yard, laying eggs, and crossing Franklin Turnpike more and more often between now and the end of May.

This guy was crossing the trail near the Limatola bench yesterday.

Saw me, turned around and headed in the other direction. I get that a lot.

For more info on what to do if you encounter a Snapping Turtle in the road, here's a post I did on the subject earlier in the year.

A Great May for Baltimore Orioles

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Saw many at the Key Center in Chester yesterday and saw and heard plenty more at the Celery Farm this a.m.

The ones at the Celery Farm are easy to hear, harder to see, and even harder the photograph.

The above shot was the best I could do with my 400mm lens from a distance.

Also heard (and briefly seen), my nemesis bird, the Black-billed Cuckoo (thanks, Julie!).

A Bird Photography Walk at the Kay Center

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I helped with a Nature Conservancy walk at the Kay Center in Chester today, and we were lucky to come across great birds a-plenty, even if they were often at a bit of a distance.

I promised I would post a few shots, so here they are.

Although the shot above, of nesting Tree Swallows, is of the commonest bird of the lot, I just love the story of the two birds feathering their nest. 

As I mentioned to the group, Tree Swallows love to use white feathers.  More about that here.

I also promised a link to my "Bird Watcher" column, which ran in The Record today. The column was all about the nifty (and free) birding app called Merlin. The link is here.

Below are a few more shots from the walk -- a male and female Eastern Towhee,  Canada Warbler in very weird light, Eastern Bluebird on his nesting box, and (in honor of the Preakness Stakes) a Baltimore Oriole  (click to enlarge).




Monday Morning Caterpillar Mystery Answered

IMG_2125On Monday I wrote:

Photographed this caterpillar in Maryland earlier this month.

What is it, and does it mean a long winter -- or anything?

(Obligatory "coin for scale" shot below. I was out of quarters.)

I got two replies, and they are both right, though is one more correct than the other...


More about Wolly Bear and Giant Woolly Bear caterpillars here

My New Column: My Favorite Birding Apps

Can you ID the two birds above?

My new column on is about my two favorite birding apps, eBird and Merlin.

They can help you learn more about both as countless other bird species, and even ID them. (Photo on right by Sandee Faust. Thanks, Sandee!)

The column appears in Saturday's paper.

The link, with the answers, is here.

A Memorable High Mountain Hike

IMG_2267Hiked to the glorious summit from the Red Trail Parking Lot at William Paterson University this week with some Nature Conservancy pals.

The view was great on this sunny May day, and the scenery was wonderful as well, including Eastern Bluebird, Blue Jay, Wild Turkey,  Hermit Thrush, Red-tailed Hawk (heard), Great Crested Flycatcher (seen and heard), and Wild Turducken  (heard only; some suspect it may have been a Blue Jay).

Also: American Lady, Black Swallowtail and Spring Azure. Plus a really cool fungal tree (below) and a Garter Snake (below right, but only if you want to look).

Yes, that's Manhattan in the distance.



More about that old High Mountain Arrowhead

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A couple of years back, I posted an item about an arrowhead I found one sunny Fourth of July on High Mountain. (The old nickel is included to show scale.)

I wrote:

I love to look for Chert, the type of rock that this arrowhead was made from, whenever I visit High Mountain, but I never expected to find an actual arrowhead.

In fact, I have looked for arrowheads ever since I was a child, to no avail. So a pretty good day.

The Lenapes wintered in High Mountain's Franklin Clove in the late 1600s, so I figure the arrowhead might have been one of theirs.

I asked local historian and arrowhead expert Jack Goudsward if he could provide more information about the arrowhead. His reply was unexpected.

"Your point is a Levanna type of point. It is made of Black Chert. Its date range is from A.D 700 to around A.D. 1350.  It is a nice point. Great find. "

(Thanks, Jack!)

You can read more about Levanna points here and here and elsewhere.