By Hugh M. Carola


Wherever you live, the change of seasons always brings a movement of animals. Sometimes it’s very noticeable, as when a large flock of Double-crested cormorants wings its way southward and other times it isn’t, as when woodchucks move deep down into their burrows to hibernate. This year is no different. As our boating season wound down to a close, we and our passengers were treated to the sights of many different species of birds making their way to and through the Meadowlands and the woods of the upper watershed. On shore, many of your friends and neighbors have been keeping a sharp lookout for them. Here’s what they’ve been seeing:


Bald eagle - An immature bird observed flying over Oradell Reservoir during an Eco-Walk on 9-18-05. Three adults seen from the State Line Lookout in the Palisades Interstate Park on 10-15-05. An incredible twenty-nine birds observed at Lake Tappan in New York on 1-7-06.

Belted kingfisher - Observed along the Hackensack River in New Milford, NJ on 11-4-05.

Broad-winged hawk - Kettles totaling 585 birds observed from State Line on 9-21-05.

Canvasback - A flock of about 300 of these large ducks was observed on the Kingsland Impoundment at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, NJ on 1-12-06.

Common raven - Very rare bird in our area - a single bird observed at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus, NJ on 1-7-06.

European starling - An immense flock of thousands observed at Teaneck Creek on 2-1-06.

Great cormorant - Also noted at Laurel Hill on the same day was a mixed group (adult and immature) of these large waterbirds.

Great egret - A VERY early (or late?) bird observed in Bellman’s Creek on 1-26-06.

Northern goshawk - Observed from late October through mid November in Ramsey, NJ. (A little outside our watershed but an excellent sighting and one that I wanted to share.)

Northern shoveler - Eighteen birds observed on 11-20-05 at Mehrhof Pond, Little Ferry, NJ.

Owls - Three different species: Eastern screech-owl, Great horned owl and the threatened Barred owl have all been heard all January calling in High Tor State Park in New City, NY.

Peregrine falcon - Numerous birds observed hunting and harassing gulls during late October on and around the Route 3 bridges between Secaucus and East Rutherford, NJ. Another seen hunting pigeons over Secaucus Junction on 1-26-06.

Red-headed woodpecker - An adult was noted near the horse stables at Garret Mountain Reservation in Paterson, NJ on 1-21-06. Outside our watershed but a great bird to see!

Red-tailed hawk - Adult observed perched on Main Street Hackensack building on 10-18-05. Adult seen killing & feeding on a Ring-billed gull at Harrier Meadow, Lyndhurst on 12-14-05.

Rough-legged hawk - This winter visitor, once common when the Meadowlands garbage dumps in were operation, was seen at Mill Creek Point Park in Secaucus, NJ on 1-7-06.  

Ruddy duck - Over three thousand individuals observed on Mehrhof Pond on 11-20-05.

Yellow-shafted flicker - Observed along the Hackensack River in New Milford, NJ on 11-4-05.

Harbor porpoise - This rare sighting was reported on 2-1-06 by a gentleman walking his dog at Riverbank Park in Kearny, NJ. This is the second sighting of a Harbor Porpoise in our region in recent years. At about 5 feet in length, they are the smallest whale species found in U.S. waters.

One special note: Winter is the season when Harbor seals can sometimes be observed in and on the shores of the lower Hackensack River and Newark Bay. If you observe one, DO NOT APPROACH it but report your sighting to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, NJ at 609-266-0538. The Center collects all data on Marine Mammals in New Jersey waters.


Remember, we want your sightings! To make a report, just call me at 201-968-0808 or e-mail me at hugh@hackensackriverkeeper.org. Whatever you do, please don’t keep that critter to yourself!

Special thanks to our observers who contributed to this first installment of Hackensack Watershed Field Notes: Mary Arnold, Gabrielle Bennett-Meany, Gene Dunton, Ivan Kossak, Joan O’Daly, Linn Pierson, Kyle Spendiff and Doug Tille.

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