EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Semi-Annual Birding Tour of East Brunswick took place on January 9, 2021, and ran from 8 AM to 1 PM. Led by Steve Albert, a member of the East Brunswick Planning Board and a lifelong birdwatcher, the event takes place in the winter and spring each year - before and at the height of migration for New Jersey’s local avian wildlife.

Over the course of several hours, birding enthusiasts made their way through Heavenly Farms, the Edgeboro Landfill, Bicentennial Park, and Duhernal Lake hoping to spot some interesting birds. Some of the more experienced members of the group brought high-tech cameras in order to better capture what they saw. Though the weather was cold, the birds were still plentiful - those who tagged along on the tour were able to see raptors, geese, gulls, and even baby bald eagles. 

Albert has been an avid birder for 59 years, starting at the young age of 10. He’s also part of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission, which sponsors the birding tour along with the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission. Albert says that the event first started around 10 years ago, though they did not start doing it regularly until about five or six years ago. 

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“There’s a lot of different habitats near here; it’s home to over 100 different types of birds,” he said of Middlesex County and its diverse environment, which makes it an ideal home to a variety of different species.

The tour also marks a rare time in which ordinary people are allowed to enter Edgeboro Landfill for the purpose of birdwatching. Many large flocks of birds such as crows, gulls, and even kingfishers can be found on the landfill’s property, in the landfill itself and at a nearby pond. The landfill opens for curious birders in December and January, making it a perfect stop for East Brunswick’s winter tour.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the birding tour gave people the opportunity to leave their houses and experience Middlesex County’s local wildlife. Masks were required and social distancing measures were encouraged on the walk, while higher-risk activities such as carpooling from one stop to another were discouraged. The event attracted people from inside East Brunswick and from other towns, as it was advertised on a variety of different websites and Facebook groups. A few curious birders cited the Birding of Central Jersey Facebook group as where they first heard about it. “Now that my kids are older, I can get out and do this more often,” said Sara Imranyi, a birdwatcher who was on the tour.

While birding may not be for everyone, the experience was an interesting one and gave people an opportunity to visit Middlesex County’s different natural locales. Another tour will be held in the spring, at the height of migration. 

“I can’t judge anyone for their hobbies when I’m standing around in 30 degree weather looking at birds,” said Patrick Belardo, another birdwatcher, of the experience. 

East Brunswick Winter Birding Day

9 January 2021

Locations: Heavenly Farms, Edgeboro Landfill, Bicentennial Park, Duhernal Lake

47 species sighted:

Canada Goose

Mute Swan

Mallard

American Black Duck

Ring-necked Duck

Bufflehead

Hooded Merganser

Common Merganser

Pied-billed Grebe

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)

Mourning Dove

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Great Blue Heron

Turkey Vulture

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Bald Eagle

Red-tailed Hawk

Belted Kingfisher

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

American Crow Fish

Crow Tufted Titmouse

Horned Lark

White-breasted Nuthatch

Carolina Wren

European Starling

Northern Mockingbird

Eastern Bluebird

House Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

White-throated Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

Goldfinch

Chickadee

Peregrine Falcon

Winter Wren

Sapsucker

Field and Tree Sparrow

Blue Jay

Black Vulture