Union County, NJ – Local bird watchers have been pleasantly surprised while exploring Union County parks in recent weeks. One intrepid birder even caught sight of an ash throated flycatcher flitting through the woods at Lenape Park in Cranford. The bird usually ranges far into the western U.S. and Mexico, and it is rarely seen in New Jersey.
A young peregrine falcon was also recorded in Lenape Park this season, and a group of birders who call themselves the Lenape Night Hawks recorded several other birds of interest while participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count, a nationwide project initiated by the Audubon Society more than 100 years ago.
“On behalf of the Freeholder Board, I would like to thank the Night Hawks and all of the volunteers who are contributing to the Christmas Bird Count,” said Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski. “These citizen-scientists make a real difference in Union County and beyond.”
The Christmas Bird Count takes place from December 14 to January 5 each year, involving tens of thousands of volunteers around the country.
The Night Hawks conducted their count on December 14, at Lenape Park and along the Rahway River Parkway in Winfield and Clark.
Despite the rain, the Night Hawks recorded some unusual birds including a snow goose and a gadwall. They also took note of many common denizens of Union County parks such as cardinals, mocking birds, white-throated sparrows, song sparrows, blue jays and American crows.
In addition, the group recorded a great horned owl, which was heard but not seen.
Peregrine falcons are an endangered species in New Jersey, and local birders have been able to report a band around the leg of the young peregrine spotted in Lenape Park. Their report will help scientists learn more about bird populations, population fluctuations, habits and territories.
Union County residents – and people the world over – can learn more about peregrine falcons by tuning into Union County’s free online livestream of a peregrine falcon nest on the roof of the Union County Courthouse Tower in midtown Elizabeth, at ucnj.org/falcon.
Union County residents can also help protect and improve environmental health in Union County by joining the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program. Visit envirostewards.rutgers.edu for more information or contact Michele Bakacs, County Agent and Associate Professor for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County at firstname.lastname@example.org or 732-398-5274.
Everyone can also help preserve local nature habitats by recycling or properly disposing plastic bags, bottles and other items. To participate in organized habitat improvement projects in Union County parks, visit the Adopt-a-Park/Adopt-a-Trail program online at ucnj.org/parks or call 908-789-3683.
Quick links to all Union County environmental programs and activities are available at The Green Connection, ucnj.org/green-connect.
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