New Jersey is considered by many to be among the very best bird watching “hotspots” in North America. Our state’s lucky position on a major bird migration superhighway means that we get the benefit of cheering on our feathered friends as they make their southward journey for a warm-weather winter.
Here in Maplewood, we have both Memorial Park and the South Mountain Reservation to lure all our traveling friends for a layover reprieve from their travels. Our proximity to the relatively green-free urban areas of Newark and New York make our assets even more tempting for the winged creatures.
Getting an all-access pass to watch the migration in action is incredibly easy. Simply slow down on your next walk around town or through the park, and keep your eyes peeled for some of our regular residents. Learning to identify your local birds makes it easier to know when a visitor is making a short stop on his way from somewhere else to somewhere else.
At Maplewood Memorial Park, hundreds of different species of birds have been spotted. A family of vibrant, proud cardinals calls the green space to the right of the library home, while a fantastic belted kingfisher makes an occasional stop over the pond to fish for treats. The black-capped chickadee makes an occasional visit to cardinal territory, especially in mid-afternoon. Round-bellied robins and nosy rock pigeons scavenge and forage along the ground for treats, while several gregarious blue jays and northern flickers prefer to watch the goings-on from high branches scattered throughout the park.
Among the more exciting residents of Maplewood are the cedar waxwings with their Batman masks; they look more like superheroes than neighborhood birds. Then there are the European starlings—transplants from their native land—with glimmering, multi-colored feathers and a song to make the other birds jealous. If you’re lucky, you might spot the lime green and blue Argentine monk parakeets that have been spotted from time to time feeding in the park’s trees.
If nothing else, you can simply pause at the duck pond, where mallards make their home. Occasionally an egret or a swan will stop by for a visit, but you’re guaranteed to see the ducks and their comical antics—especially right before dusk. Making your acquaintance with these other neighbors will make your brief encounters with our annual out-of-state guests even more memorable.
If you get bit by the birding bug, a good place to start is with a pair of lightweight binoculars and a local birding guide. Waterford Press publishes a handy, waterproof New Jersey Birds guide that you can buy for $5.99 at The Birdhouse in Madison, or if you’re really invested you can pick up the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America at Words Bookstore on Maplewood Avenue. Enjoying our feathered friends, however, requires nothing more than ears, eyes, and a little curiosity. Happy birding!
Rhode Island native Nicole Champagne is a newcomer to Maplewood. After several years of enjoying city life as a resident of Brooklyn, Nicole made the move to the area earlier this year. An English teacher at Newark Academy in Livingston, Nicole has a BA in English from the College of Charleston and an MA in English from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Letters degree in the Humanities from Drew University in Madison. Aside from teaching and bird watching, Nicole also enjoys writing and photography. Nicole’s photography has been featured in the New Jersey Jewish News, on the cover of Outreach Magazine, and in Drew University’s publication Insanity’s Horse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.