First, let me say how thrilled I am to be a beat writer here at 10,000 Birds. I look forward to interacting with all of the readers out there while posting about all things New Jersey and butterfly-related. I might even combine those two topics together! Wow!
Let’s start with a post about birding in New Jersey. Before I begin, let me point out a few things to all of the non-New Jerseyans out there. No one from New Jersey says “New Joisey” and the people from “Jersey Shore” and “The Sopranos” are a very, very small population of this diverse state (and most of them are imports from NY anyway). Also, despite what the great George Carlin says, we are not called “The Garden State” because we grow smokestacks.
Negative stereotypes aside, NJ does boast the country’s best tomatoes, a splendid meat called pork roll, Frank Sinatra, Atlantic City, both the Giants and the Jets (sorry NYC), and Kevin Smith. Along with these admirable features, an impressive 465 bird species have been recorded in the state. That’s extra impressive considering it’s not only the 4th smallest state, but it’s also the most densely populated. On a given day, especially at the peak of spring migration, one can see over 200 species of bird with some effort. And even with only a little effort, days of 100+ species can be had almost any day of the year.
The tremendous number of species is thanks to two important factors. One, NJ is situated very nicely along the Atlantic Flyway making it a stopping ground for birds making their journey north and south. Second, many habitat types are represented in a small geographic area making it easy to see a variety of birds with little travel time.
In the north, we have mountains and dense forests of oak, pine, and maple with smatterings of hemlock and spruce where 20+ species of breeding warblers can be found including sought-after species like Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers. It’s less than 2 hours from the mountains to the coast where you can easily find breeding Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and American Oystercatchers. The bays, ocean, and beaches are also a haven for wintering waterfowl and migrant shorebirds. The southern portion of the state is dominated by the Pine Barrens – an area not so barren at all. Here you can find many interesting bird species along with rare orchids, carnivorous plants, and butterflies. Rumor has it that there are even small populations of Red Crossbills breeding there. The Delaware Bayshore on the southwestern coast is basically one huge salt marsh supporting breeding Bald Eagles, wintering Short-eared Owls, and thousands of migrant birds. Nestled around the state are freshwater marshes, lakes, rivers, and even a few bogs. While grasslands are a threatened habitat type in NJ, they can still be found among the farmland. There one can see Grasshopper Sparrows, Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and rarely an Upland Sandpiper. And oh yeah, did I mention we also have birding gems like the NJ Meadowlands, Sandy Hook, and a little place known as Cape May?
I hope I’ve given you a little glimpse into what makes NJ a great birding location. In the coming months, I plan to highlight some of these areas, the birds themselves, and some of the great birders who call NJ their home. And who knows, while I’m out birding I might even find Jimmy Hoffa.