2005-05-26 / Front Page

Bird search turns into a ‘big day’ in E. Bruns.

Residents surprised by findings within town

Staff Writer

A sandpiper observed during last Saturday’s tour of township parks.
A sandpiper observed during last Saturday’s tour of township parks. EAST BRUNSWICK — To hear Dave Moskowitz talk about how his daylong bird-watching excursion with friend Rich Wolfert began, it sounds like a new twist on an old joke.

“Going to pick up Rich at his house, a turkey walked right across the road right in front of my car,” Moskowitz said.

Not having the time to ask the bird why it crossed the road, Moskowitz embarked on an intriguing day of discovery, when he would find cuckoos, cowbirds, catbirds and woodpeckers, as well as 71 of their feathered brethren, all in East Brunswick.

It was all part of Saturday’s inaugural Big Day, an East Brunswick bird-watching event modeled after the New Jersey Audubon Society’s World Series of Birding, during which several teams of bird watchers have 24 hours to search the state for different bird species.

“But we did it totally within East Brunswick, trying to spotlight the diversity of birds that you can find in East Brunswick and also the diversity of wonderful parks that we have,” Moskowitz said.

Moskowitz and Wolfert found 75 species in about 12 hours of bird searching, something they were pleased with, considering many World Series teams found about 150 species of birds, with more time and a significantly greater search area.

“So, in just 12 hours, in just one town, we found either one-half or possibly a little more than one-third of the birds that they found statewide, and only in East Brunswick,” Moskowitz said.

Although Moskowitz said he was excited to find that so many species made their homes in East Brunswick, the journey of discovery was not limited to birds. He noted that, although he has lived in East Brunswick for 15 years and on countless occasions has wandered the local woods and fields, this adventure took him to local places he had never been, and didn’t even know existed.

As with the creation of the township’s butterfly park and the recognition given to the annual salamander-crossing event, the goal with Saturday’s search was to spotlight the biodiversity of nature and wildlife in East Brunswick.

“It’s easy to lose sight of that when you just think of East Brunswick as being Route 18,” Moskowitz said. “But seeing 75 species of birds in 12 hours is pretty amazing, and I think it really shows the wonderful parks that we have and the wonderful open space that we have.”

The parks Moskowitz and Wolfert visited included little-known Keystone Park, off Route 615 near the township’s border with Old Bridge.

“It starts out through a beautiful forest and then it winds up on the South River in a beautiful marsh,” Moskowitz said. “It’s really a special place.”

The duo also included in their search area Frost Woods Park, near Old Stage and Summerhill roads, which boasts a forest, hiking trails and large, rolling hills.

“When you’re in the middle of it, you’ll think you’re literally in the middle of the woods,” he said. “You feel like there’s nothing around you.”

Dallenbach, a park near Crystal Springs Aquatic Center, Dunhams Corner Road, known for its fishing lake, and Jamesburg Park, near Helmetta, were also visited.

Moskowitz said some of the more interesting birds they found were ospreys and ruby-throated hummingbirds.

To find some of the birds, he and Wolfert employed the use of binoculars, and for others they simply recognized the bird calls they heard. He noted that they didn’t prepare for their search by scouting any of the parks before the Big Day, an event that he hopes will be expanded next year in terms of participation.

“I really think with more sets of eyes and more sets of ears in town on next year’s Big Day, that we will find more species than we did, and I like to think that 100 is not out of reach,” Moskowitz said.

He said other nature events in town have gained momentum over the years and become community-wide events, but this year’s Big Day was organized on such short notice that many would-be participants were unaware the search even took place until it was over and Moskowitz had divulged its results.

Moskowitz is a member of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission, which aside from holding such events has a lesser-known role of looking over proposed development applications prior to their approval.

“We actually provide comments to the Planning Board, the Zoning Board, and the Department of Planning and Engineering, of what environmental aspects of a project we think ought to be addressed during [development application] hearings,” Moskowitz said.

Although the commission plays only an advisory role in those projects, Moskowitz said its members take the responsibility very seriously.

The commission, he said, must also teach local residents to be “environmental stewards” for the location and protection of the town’s natural resources.

“I think it’s very important for towns to educate their residents about the natural environment around them and to show them the biodiversity of their town, and I think from that you get a great appreciation for nature,” Moskowitz said. “Because if we don’t take care of it in our own community, who is going to take care of it?”

For more information about Environmental Commission activities, as well as a full report on the findings of the Big Day, residents can visit the Web site designed and maintained by Wolfert at www.njnaturenotes.com.

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