Get lost in the Meadowlands
State agency offers programs on butterflies, birds, and stars
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Jul 21, 2013 | 4768 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s signature event, Butterfly Day, will be held this year on Sunday, July 28. Last year, approximately 700 participants attended Butterfly Day.
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s signature event, Butterfly Day, will be held this year on Sunday, July 28. Last year, approximately 700 participants attended Butterfly Day.

It’s likely that your weeklong family trip out of town to the beach or the in-laws’ place was scheduled months ago. But for those looking for fun things to do the rest of the summer, Hudson County offers several fun “staycation” options – even for those who want to “get away from it all” while still sticking close to home.

One available option is the lineup of summer programming offered by Weehawken Rowing, which was recently featured in the Weehawken Reporter. (To find that story online, visit Other options are the many programs offered by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC). The state agency located in Lyndhurst has an event schedule chock full guided bird walks, butterfly sightings, and other opportunities for you to get lost in nature.

The New Jersey Meadowlands is on the cusp of peak bird watching season, thus “birding” is a major staple of the NJMC’s late summer/early fall calendar, as it is each year during migration season.

Jim Wright, who leads guided bird walks through the state agency’s campus along the Hackensack River, said this is a particularly exciting time for the hobby.

“The shorebirds are coming through now and they’ll be coming through fairly late. And then, starting in September, we start getting more and more raptors,” said Wright.

But bird watchers, both novices and those who have been active in the hobby for years, don’t have to wait until September to spot great finds flying through.

The NJMC, in conjunction with the Bergen County Audubon Society, offers their “first Sunday of the month” bird walk series, which began earlier this month and will allow participants to enjoy two-hour guided tours through the NJMC campus, looking for Bald Eagles and other rare finds.

All this bird watching will culminate on Aug. 10, when the NJMC will co-host a day of birding events with noted shorebird expert and nature photographer Kevin Karlson. This is the third year the NJMC will co-host, with the Bergen County Audubon Society, its annual “Kevin Karlson Day.” Beginning at 8:15 a.m. Karlson, co-author of “The Shorebird Guide,” will lead two 90-minute bird walks. Later that day, at 1:45 p.m., he’ll give a talk on how nature lovers can improve their bird watching skills.

“He’ll give tips on how to identify specific birds better, how to see better,” said Wright. “When you’re bird watching you have to have a different pair of eyes than what you use when you’re just walking around. You have to be much more aware and focused on details.”

Karlson will finish up the day with a photography workshop with Lloyd Spitalnik at 2:30 p.m.

All of the events with Karlson are free, although the NJMC requests that those interested in participating register to participate.

On Tuesday, July 16, the NJMC will host a “birding by boat” cruise.

“We did one earlier in the year, and we saw a lot of great birds. But it was high tide,” said Wright. “This time when we go out it will be low tide. We’re going to go into some of these marshes and get some of these neat shorebirds as they migrate. They hang out on the mud flats.”

The two-hour cruise costs $15.

Not just for the birds

Birding isn’t all the Meadowlands has to offer.

For those who couldn’t give two feathers about the difference between a parakeet and a pigeon, the NJMC has many other interesting events on tap, notably its signature event – Butterfly Day, which will be held Sunday, July 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.—and a line-up of programming in the William D. McDowell Observatory. Part of the NJMC’s Meadowlands Environment Center, the observatory features a 20-inch Cassegrain Telescope.

The agency’s annual Butterfly Day is a festival dedicated to the beauty of butterflies. The day includes educational slide shows, butterfly walks, and educational talks for children and adults of all ages. Last year, this event attracted more than 700 participants.

The NJMC has already begun its Summer Learning Seminar Series, Let’s Talk Astronomy, which will continue through August 20. The remaining seminars will focus on “Planets Orbiting other Stars” (July 23); “Celestial Navigation: How the Skies Steered the Ships” (August 6); and “Constellations & Stars of Late Summer Their Lore and Meaning” (August 20). These programs, which run from 7 to 9 p.m., are free for members and $5 for nonmembers.

For more information about these programs, visit, or call (201) 777-2416.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at

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