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 hosted 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 refuge is home to over 90 nesting bird species, with many others stopping by as they migrate. Throughout the years, a recorded 190 species have been seen here. It's an ideal location to observe warblers, with up to 30 different types spotted by some visitors and an average of 20-25 seen during the peak of spring migration, which occurs during the first three weeks of May. As a result, bird watchers and nature enthusiasts frequently visit the area during this time, including groups such as the Summit Nature Club, Trenton Naturalist Club, Montclair Nature Club, and Watchung Nature Club. The refuge is extensively covered during the Annual Christmas Bird Count and the Princeton Big Day Count.
Brad Merritt planned this morning's field trip in memory of Fred Spar, an avid birder and Princeton resident who passed away last year.
Fred Spar, a student-athlete from Brooklyn, NY, ran track at Midwood High School and Cornell University. His career had diverse phases, beginning as an elementary school science teacher and earning a PhD in Chinese history from Brown University in 1980. He spent a year at the Stanford Centre in Taipei, Taiwan, and later lectured at Keene State College. For the next 36 years, he worked as a communications consultant at Kekst & Company in Manhattan. Fred was a part of the 2010 class at Harvard University's Advanced Leadership Initiative. After that, he applied his vast experience, advising or serving on the boards of numerous environmental and education organisations. These organisations include the Watershed Institute, Friends of Princeton Open Space, New York City Audubon Society, Generation Schools, and City Year New York. He was also the chair of Friends of the Rogers Refuge, where he worked tirelessly on improving the wildlife habitat and accessibility for human visitors.
I didn't know Fred Spar, but 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 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 meant too much backlight casting a dark shadow on my subjects. I continued along the walk, shooting wildflowers and plants until we went to an area of marshland. Here, I could finally find some birds against a background that worked for photography.
Inside the refuge, various signs highlight the significance of marshes and swamps. One of these signs emphasises their crucial role in acting as "safety valves" during heavy rainfalls, regulating our water table, providing habitats and food sources for aquatic life, birds, and other animals and serving as a natural collector for high-ground nutritional runoff. Preserving such habitats is vital since marshes are rapidly disappearing.
I captured some photos of the Red-winged Blackbird that had landed 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 the 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. The Song Sparrow is adorned with a captivating blend of russet and grey feathers. A prominent feature of this bird is the striking streaks that embellish its white chest, adding a touch of boldness to its appearance.
I then spotted a tree swallow. With deep-blue iridescent backs and clean white fronts, Tree Swallows are a familiar sight in the wetlands across New Jersey. Tree Swallows nest in tree cavities; they also readily take up residence in nest boxes. This habit has allowed scientists to study their breeding biology in detail.