This morning I joined members of the Washington Crossing Audubon Society and an excited group of birders on a field trip in the Princeton Institute Woods by Brad Merritt. The group met near the entrance to Charles H. Rogers Wildlife Refuge. The Washington Crossing Audubon Society hosts regular birding field trips around Central New Jersey, the Delaware Water Gap, Delaware Bay, the New Jersey shore, and eastern Pennsylvania.
About the Charles H. Rogers Wildlife Refuge:
The tract is a nesting ground for more than 90 species of birds and scores of others pass through the refuge; over the years more than 190 species have recorded here. There is perhaps no better place of comparable size to find warblers. A few people see up to 30 different kinds of warblers and many spot 20-25 in a single day at the height of spring migration, the first three weeks of May. As a consequence, many bird watchers and nature groups visit the area every spring. Some of the groups include the Summit Nature Club, the Trenton Naturalist Club, the Montclair Nature Club, and the Watchung Nature Club. The Annual Christmas Bird Count and the Princeton Big Day Count cover the refuge extensively.
This morning’s field trip was planned in memory of Fred Spar, an avid birder and Princeton resident who recently passed away last year.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Fred was a student-athlete who ran track at Midwood High School and Cornell University. His career had many chapters. He worked as an elementary-school science teacher before completing a PhD (1980) at Brown University, where he studied Chinese history and spent a year in Taipei, Taiwan, at the Stanford Center. He lectured at Keene State College before working 36 years as a communications consultant at Kekst & Company in Manhattan. He was a member of the 2010 class at Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative and applied his experience thereafter advising or serving on the boards of environmental and education organizations, including the Watershed Institute, Friends of Princeton Open Space, New York City Audubon Society, Generation Schools, and City Year New York. He was also chair of Friends of the Rogers Refuge, for which he worked tirelessly on improvements to wildlife habitat and accessibility for human visitors.
I didn’t know Fred Spar, but it seems he accomplished much with his life. I joined the group on this field trip, not to honour Fred, but to learn more about the Rogers Wildlife Refuge and also do a test run with the Fujinon XF100-400mm R LM OIS WR that I rented. I will be taking photographs of warblers with Ray Hennessey tomorrow afternoon.
Photographing the birds in the Princeton Institute Woods was challenging for me. The birds kept to the high branches which meant shooting with a bright blue sky as a background; which means too much backlight casting a dark shadow on my subjects. I continued along the walk, shooting wildflowers and plants until we go to an area of marshland. It was here that I was finally able to find some birds against a background that worked for photography.
There are a number of signs within the refuge, one of which explains the importance of marshes and swamps. “Marshes: act as ‘safety valves’ during peak rains; help maintain our water table; provide a highly productive habitat and food supply for fish, waterfowl birds, animals and crustacea; and serve as a collection point for high-ground nutritional runoff.” Preservation of this habitat is particularly worthwhile because marshes are disappearing at an alarming rate.
I captured some photos of the Red-winged Blackbird that had landed one on the tall grasses in the swamp. The images are not as sharp as I would like. These were captured at the far end of zoom range for this lens.
On my walk back to the car a song sparrow landed in a low branch of one of the trees immediately to my left.