Union County, NJ – When the Lenape Park Nighthawks take to the fields this Saturday, there will be no cheering — You wouldn’t want to scare the birds away, would you?
This Saturday, May 9, is the 32nd annual World Series of Birding, where teams compete to identify birds across New Jersey. There are also fun categories, such as the one the Nighthawks opted for, and they will compete more against themselves, looking to up their score from last year when they saw or heard 93 different species of birds.
“We wish the Lenape Nighthawks the best of luck,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh.
“Whether or not they beat their top score of two years ago, to date they have used the World Series to raise more than $7,000 for the New Jersey Audubon Society, and that is truly commendable,” he said.
The Nighthawks will focus their search in Lenape Park, in the center of the County.
“We’ll start at 5:00 a.m. and go through ‘til six,” said team captain Frank Budney, stressing that “six” was 6:00 p.m.
Some state teams will start at midnight in High Point, at the northern tip of the state, and make their way down to Cape May by the end of the day, Budney said, noting that those teams will often count more than 200 species of birds by the time they are done.
New Jersey is along the Atlantic Flyway, the path birds take when migrating between the northern and southern hemispheres. Many birds seen and heard in this area are just passing through to northern nesting areas. Others will be settling in for the summer.
“A lot of people think Union County parks are softball fields and baseball fields, but there are all these wildlife areas,” said Budney, who can be found bird-watching in Lenape at least once a week.
He is also one of several volunteers who lead bird hikes in the park, which the public is welcome to join. Anyone interested in participating should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Their morning expeditions utilize a number of trails through the park, including the East Coast Greenway, which passes through several of the 36 parks in the Union County Parks System.
While Lenape may pale in size to the County’s 2,200-acre Watchung Reservation, it can have its fair share of surprises, Budney said.
A green heron continues to make the park its home, while last year, a pair of red-shouldered hawks — not to be confused with the more common red-tailed hawks –came to the park.
Although they have not been seen recently, that does not mean they have not returned to nest.
“They’re very secretive,” he said.
For information on the dramatic rescue of Lenape Park’s green heron last month, visit ucnj.org/press-releases.
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