Garden State Excitment

     In my experience, outside of the state, New Jersey is more often associated with dense population and heavy traffic than a  diverse populace, and birding hotspot. In fact I recently met a gentlemen, while out birding with my brother-in-law, who believed NJ to be the most beautiful state! (Which was saying a lot coming from a guy who had lived for 20 years in Hawaii!)

     With over 8 million people total and nearly 1,200 residents per square mile, it is the most densely populated state in the country. (It must also be noted that the state has the highest concentration of engineers and scientists per square mile of anywhere in the world!) Despite the busy roads, sidewalks, and parks, having spent my summer in the state, I can attest to its natural beauty and rich biodiversity (if you know where to look).

Seaside Heights is a rather interesting place if you ever have the chance to visit. It is full of interesting people, sun, food, and (of course) the famous boardwalk. While staying with my in-laws at their beach house, I was able to spend a couple of mornings running the span of beach between Lavallette and Seaside with my brother-in-law. We enjoyed the distance by watching the shore birds rapidly retreat in our wake and the gulls lazily recline in the water just past the break. It was on one of these run I imagine, that we discussed birding and possibly going on an outing together.

Barry had never really been out birding before, and I am certain he was not sure what to expect. Birding, in my opinion, is not something easily described to someone who has never been before, but I attempted anyway. “It really opens a whole new perspective. You begin to see and hear things you never noticed, but were always right under your nose or above your head”. Right then I stopped trying to explain, because it is more something to be experienced than described. It just so happens that not far from fanfare of the Jersey Shore is a little bastion of wetland biodiversity, rich with the residents that any great brackish water community should hold.

Island Beach State Park is very reminiscent of my Floridian walking grounds, without the alligators of course! It has one two- lane road that spans the length of the  park, with a few beach access areas to the side. After a little searching, I was able to find access to the bay and what appeared to be a popular walking and fishing spot. It was here that I spent my birthday enjoying the company of my wife and brother-in-law as well as taking advantage of the beautiful weather and wildlife (Note: wear plenty of insect protection because mosquitos certainly can take the enjoyment out of the day). Barry also wished to travel to the same spot on his birthday morning as well after looking at my images and listening to me recount my adventure. Considering that Barry and I only differ in age by a day, I was able to spend one afternoon and a morning, swatting mosquitoes and peering through sweat and shrubbery happily looking for yellow flashes and listening for birdsong!

I never tire of watching and listening to Ospreys

Island Beach State Park scenery with the bird blind on the right

A female Common Yellowthroat

     Barry was very inquisitive as to the identity of the many birds we saw on our morning foray. In fact we were able to catch a glimpse (not a photograph unfortunately) of an American Oystercatcher! The striking orange beak and dark head was unmistakable. Despite this identification, I  wasn’t at an ability to identify all of island residents, so instead I loaded a blank memory card and handed him my camera. First, because any questionable birds could be identified later, and second because I think the pursuit of the perfect image adds to the excitement. As you can see, we were able to see a good number of these islanders busy in there daily meanderings. (Note: all images included in this and other entries on this site belong to me and are images I physically took myself)

The blind

A scene from the blind

The Barn Swallow had a nest in the blind and mouths to feed


COYE (Common Yellowthroat)

This BCCH looks a little worse for wear

These Eastern Kingbirds seemed to be enjoying the sunshine


In all of my observations, Cedar Waxwings tend to be gregarious. They also always seem to be very high up in the trees. According to one of my guides, they are typically only are seen as individuals (or in pairs) when nesting. This is why, while riding my bike to the local park to play some basketball, I almost fell off my bike in excitement a the sight of one individual bird calling at eye level! I quickly wheeled around and madly pedaled back to the house to retrieve my camera, praying that he would still be there. I had never been so close to one before!  At first, upon returning, I only saw only one of these gorgeous birds. But it turns out, this individual and another had made a nest in a nearby tree! What a treat it was to observe the pair for a couple of hours while they went about their nesting activities! I can only hope that they didn’t notice the click click click of my camera.–This image was taken in Lavallete along with the other CEWA images

The CEWA nest

I think the excitement got the best of my brother-in-law, because not long after returning to Bergen Co. he purchased his own camera and 300mm lens! Together we set out on the local duck pond and Allendale Celery Farm (another blog will cover this particular location in more detail during winter) to search for birds  and other wildlife. The images below document what we saw.

I never thought I would see so many different types of herons in such a busy park! This adult Black-crowned Night-heron, a juvenile BCNH, a GRHE, and a GREG were all seen at the same community duck pond.


I won’t attempt to misidentify this sparrow

(The following images were taken at the Celery farm in Allendale, NJ)

Swallows preparing for the new day

The all to common NJ deer

What appears to be a male Wood Duck…

This appears to be a YEWA…

This is definitely a YEWA

Female AMGO from the backyard

Male AMGO from the backyard

I believe there is a certain merit to the quiet that permeates solitary moments spent in wild places. However, I often find as much or more satisfaction and enjoyment from shared experiences than reclusive ones. With that said, I never imagined I would find a companion birder in my own family and am thankful to be able to share the sometimes quiet, sometimes sonorous, but always remarkable moments of nature with.



You can find more information about the Celery Farm here

More information about Island Beach State Park can be found here


(All images included in this and other entries on this site were taken by and belong to me)

All Images © 2012 Brian Lang

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