Nature lovers can observe the vegetation, birds, butterflies, and other dwellers of the local wetlands this summer through free or low-cost nature walks, observatory nights, boat tours, and senior programs offered by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC).
The big event the summer season is the Third Annual Butterfly Day being held on July 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – a free one-day butterfly fest at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, just outside of Hudson County. In addition to butterfly walks for the entire family, there’ll be brief introductory slide shows, information tables, binoculars, contests and door prizes. A record number of butterflies have been spotted to date such as Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, and Question Marks. (Rain Date, July 29.)
To get some early practice spotting butterflies, folks can go to Butterflies for Beginners on July 1 at 1 p.m. After the 30-minute talk and slide show about butterflies, visitors can look for them in DeKorte Park.
Nature abounds in the surrounding wetlands.
Boat and canoe tours
The NJMC guided pontoon boat cruises and canoe tours of the Hackensack River and its marshes begin in June. Boat and canoe tours, for ages 10 and up, run through mid-September. The cruises head south from River Barge Park and pass under historic portals and drawbridges.
Due to the popularity, early reservations are recommended. Canoe tours are $15 per person and the suggested donation for pontoon boat rides is $15 per person. No two cruises are alike. Weekday trips are at 10 a.m., 5 p.m., or 5:30 p.m.
A special Pontoon Boat Birding Cruise will be held in conjunction with BCAS on July 17 at 10 a.m. and Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. to look for peregrine falcons, ospreys, northern harriers, various egrets and herons, plus diamondback terrapins.
The NJMC also offers three-hour canoe rides in which paddlers will learn the basics of salt marsh ecology and enjoy the magnificent natural and manmade scenery while rowing past wetlands down creeks. The season’s inaugural canoe tour is a Father’s Day Weekend Canoe Paddle on June 16 at 8:30 a.m., departing from Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus. Canoe tours depart on July 21, Aug. 18, and Sept. 22 from various locations; all tours launch on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. Canoes hold up to three people and it is preferred that at least one person has experience in canoeing. Requests for group trips are welcome. Preregistration is required.
For a complete schedule of trips and to register online, visit http://www.njmeadowlands.gov/environment/tours.html. Registration forms are also available at the NJMC offices and Meadowlands Environment Center, both in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst.
Observatory public viewing nights: every Monday and Wednesday
The William D. McDowell Observatory is open to the public for free stargazing on Monday and Wednesday evenings throughout the summer with the exception of Wednesday, July 4. Stargazers may see planets Mars, Saturn with Neptune appearing in August, and Arcturus, Vega, and Alberio among other stars and sights. In June and July the viewing hours are 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. In August the hours are 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. For more info call (201) 777-2416.
The NJMC and BCAS joined forces three years ago to offer a wide range of nature programs to the public, including twice-monthly free guided nature walks held on the first Sunday and third Tuesday of each month, which are open to all. Check meadowblog.net for last-minute updates and weather advisories. Participants must sign a standard liability release. To RSVP for any nature event, contact Don Torino of the BCAS at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-230-4983.
Nature lovers can take an excursion to Harrier Meadow in North Arlington on Aug. 21 and Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. The 70-acre site, usually off limits to the public, features ponds and tidal impoundments and birds aplenty. Meet at 10 a.m. at the entrance to Harrier Meadow on Disposal Road or meet up at the visitors parking lot at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst at 9:30 a.m. to carpool.
Spend the day with a noted shorebird expert and nature photographer for the Fourth Annual Kevin Karlson Shorebird Day on Aug. 11. The 90-minute bird walks begin at 8:15 and 10:15 a.m., followed by a talk on “Tips on Becoming a Better Birder” at 12:45 p.m. At 1:45 p.m. Karlson discusses his latest books. At 2:30 p.m., he and another noted photographer, Lloyd Spitalnik, will lead an hour-long wildlife photography workshop.
The walls of the NJMC Flyway Gallery will be filled with watercolors, oils, acrylics, pastels and photographs paying “Homage to Nature” during June and July. The exhibit by members of the Clifton Association of Artists runs from June 4 to Aug. 3. The Flyway Gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, excluding holidays.
Free events for seniors
Several events are planned for seniors, and they all take place at the Meadowlands Environment Commission headquarters in DeKorte Park.
Join MEC Director Dr. Angela Cristini as she uncovers the underground secrets of the ruins unearthed in the Meadowlands, and leads you in a game of Marsh Jeopardy on June 19 at 2 p.m. for a presentation called “Why are the ruins of NYC’s Penn Station in the NJ Meadowlands?”
Join aviation artist Michael O’Neal for the presentation New Jersey Aviation History through Art on June 21 at 7 p.m.
Historian Arnold Brown leads a slide tour of a historic cemetery in Little Ferry in Secrets of the Dead: A History of Gethsemane Cemetery on June 26 at 2 p.m.
Enjoy Patriotic Music of the early 20th Century featuring the North Jersey Concert Band on June 28 at 7 p.m.
NJMC landscape designer Katy Weidel in Landscapes Transformed – Stories of Lost Landscapes of the Meadowlands on July 10 at 2 p.m. will highlight lost stories of the Meadowlands. In the craft workshop Creating the Art of the Hudson River being held on July 12 at 7 p.m. professor Arlene Toonkel teaches how to create metal-craft drawings with colored pencils.
In Peek at the Past, and Peek at Your Past, being held on July 17 at 2 p.m. Dr. Angela Cristini will quiz seniors on the identity and uses of various found objects and artifacts from the Meadowlands.
Participate in the re-creation of a 19th-century Hudson River tavern, with songs, anecdotes, pie and punch in the performance Pie and Punch: A Musical Salon from Earlier Times with Thad MacGregor being held on the evening of July 19 at 7 p.m.
Learn about agricultural inventions, history, innovations and discoveries made in NJ during the lecture New Jersey’s Agricultural Inventions, Innovations and Discoveries on July 24 at 2 p.m.
Seniors are welcome to bring children to Pirates of New Jersey! on July 26 at 7 p.m., which teaches about life on the high seas. Limit of one child per adult.
NJMC’s Jim Wright shares a slide show and talk, Birds of the Meadowlands, Past and Present, on July 31 at 2 p.m. For an Old-Fashioned Barn Dance on Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. Caller Ron Kapnick will teach barn dancing set to recorded music in the Senior Summer program finale.
For more information on these events, as well as to confirm dates, times, and costs, please call: (201) 460-8300.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.