The Wildlife of Baristaville

Has anyone else seen this bird—or one looking like him, anyway—in Edgemont Park recently?

I am amazed by this beautiful creature, which George from the Montclair Bird Club has told me is a Great Blue Heron. I first saw the bird two summers ago in the pond at Edgemont Park hanging out among the geese, though slightly off to the side like the new kid in the school cafeteria trying to fit in. He remained there for several weeks. To my delight, the heron came back again this spring. Of course, it could be a different bird—a relative who somehow intuited his ancestor’s pleasure at hanging out at a park in Montclair. As George tells me, “There is no way of knowing for sure since they forage rather widely.” But, he added, some species of birds do exhibit “home site fidelity,” so it’s possible the bird is the same one I saw two years ago.

Whoever he (or she) is, the bird is elusive. The few times I’ve seen him this year, I have not had a decent camera on me. Whenever I do have a camera, he seems to have disappeared, and the last few times I have been to Edgemont Park he has not been there.

He is one of the many non-human creatures I’ve gotten a child-like thrill out of seeing since I moved to Baristaville from the city four years ago. Others may find deer to be pests, but I still stop and gawk every time I see one. Or when I see a wild turkey, one of which ambled up the slope of my backyard last fall, not far from my window, where I sat staring in awe. My kids love to watch the chipmunks and robins fight over the birdseed on our patio. And, as I mentioned in this post, there really is a family of groundhogs that lives somewhere under our backyard. Sure, they’re chubby and ungainly, but so far they haven’t destroyed anything.

Strangely, one of the most amazing wildlife sightings I had was in New York City, while on a walk in Central Park. Standing on a baseball field not more than a few feet from me was a red-tailed hawk (Pale Male, perhaps?), looking proud, regal and surprisingly big.

Which is why the heron is so fascinating, too. His size alone makes him an unusual sight in an area usually populated by robins, cardinals and sparrows—miniscule in comparison.

I hope he returns before the summer ends. Maybe I can finally get a decent picture.

What has been your best wildlife sighting in Baristaville?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Wildlife?

    “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand,
    Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain.
    He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook’s,
    Going to get a big dish of beef chow mein.”

  2. There are fish in Edgemont Park? Who knew? Are they stocked there by the state to give kids a treat?

    But Monmouth County is fact full of great blue herons. You can often see them from your car on the GSP in that stretch of marshland near Cheesequake Park. Solitary birds, but sort of common to see.

    Prof, someone once took me in London to eat at Lee Ho Fook’s. The food wasn’t so hot, as I recall.

    Skunks, possums and raccoons are pretty easy to see round here, especially if one is up late. And I suspect, based on what look to be their dams in the reservoir lands there, that beavers can be found in Millburn. Shy, elusive critters, but I definitely saw one last week in Middletown dashing by near a creek. I hope no fool tries to turn our local versions into hats.

  3. Yeah, the heron seems to scare easily, but given all the dogs running around, can’t blame him/her.

    About two years ago I saw a mangy looking fox walking around Verona not far from the park.

  4. We actually go fishing at Edgemont every once in a while. Some pretty big catfish in there, as well as sunnies, bass and carp. As far as birds that like to fish the pond, besides Great Blue Herons, we’ve also seen Black-crowned Night Herons, Great Egrets, and Double-crested Cormorants. A good spot to find these birds is the small stream that leads north from the pond.

  5. Spotted two Black-crowned Night Herons in the brook in Brookside Park a few weeks back. They were at the end nearest the garden center, away from the ducks and geese.

  6. Clark’s Pond in Bloomfield used to be stocked by the State.

    Right now the only stocked ponds in Essex County are:
    Verona park
    Diamond Mill Pond
    Branch brook park lake

    Before my husband’s catastrophic medical event he used to participate in the Clark’s Pond stocking and in Stream Species Assessment (fish shocking, assessment and counting) with the State’s biologist.

    If you want to know what bodies of water are stocked- the list is here

  7. Speaking of cormorants, which are pretty ugly-looking birds, has anyone ever seen that great Ralph Fiennes move “The “Cormorant?”

    “The bird doesn’t come with the house, Archie. It’s the house that comes with the bird.”

  8. I have some fierce groundhogs in my yard. I sometimes see a marsupial in a pink shirt wandering around too. Then there are the possums and raccoons. Oh, and deer in my yard last week.

  9. We have a family of raccoons who found their way thru our pet door in the basement walked up the stairs and into our kitchen. We know this because we caught them red handed late one evening eating the cat food and washing their paws on the cats water bowl – we have kept the pet door locked at night since – but got lazy one evening recently and don’t you know they paid us another visit – this time they not only cleaned out the cat food but also helped them self to our pencil stash, all our fridge magnets were on the floor so I can only imagine they were trying to get in the fridge, found some leftover holiday candy somewhere because there were empty wrappers everywhere and left their signature dirty water bowl from washing the paws before leaving – needless to say we’ve been careful to not forget locking up again. Never had this problem on 87th and Amsterdam.

  10. Sweet Lord, grgirl!!

    I would be in FREAK OUT MODE if I spotted one of those bandits in my estate. And our two cats? I suspect they’d help open the fridge! One did come to my deck door once, stared at me, said bad things about my mother, then left.

    I’m still shaking.

  11. The first encounter was a few years ago, I was home alone with my son who was in the tub and I went to get something in the kitchen and walk right past them thinking it was one of our cats eating, as I glanced down exiting the kitchen i heard a hiss and well…I did freak, managed to get out of the kitchen and called the police – no help there by the way – so I got a broom amd showed them the way out. We have trapped a few and released them in the reservation – they still come back or the “word” is on the street about our house, maybe it’s the costco cat food and plus they don’t seem to be the least bit threatened by us, or our cats only the broom. They are pretty darn smart and fussy eaters – never got into our garbage can in the kitchen…yet.

  12. there are pet doors that are triggered to open by your pet’s collar.

    Once my neighbor got uop early and when she went out on her 3 season back porch there were 3 racons hanging by their toes on her gutters and looking her in the eye through the window. I heard her scream- they were still there when I got there but looking mighty surprised.

  13. Love all the stories of the wild life sightings. I’ve had raccoon and opossum families on the property and my front porch. I find them adorable and fun. My miserable neighbors, two in particular, not so much. Love the little chipmunks running thru my yard which probably live in my garage. There’s the occasional bunny and since I’ve got at least 3 bird nests in my windows and eaves I’ve seen too many little featherless babies lying on my property. All get proper burials along with the voles, mice and squirrels.

    My biggest thrill came last year during the winter as I was turning left onto Coyeman Ave. At first I thought it was a Sheltie, but when I stopped (in time thank God) I realized it was a fox. Beautiful! Last month I encountered a few deer bounding across Upper Mountain Avenue in Montclair. That was a thrill. I don’t care what critters eat what on my property, I think they’re all magnificent and magical and precious.

  14. A family of Red Foxes live in a den adjacent to the Iris Gardens. In fact, right about now, they’re probably scratching their heads, wondering why all these strange humans have invaded their territory in order to sing the entire soundtrack to “Grease.”

  15. Pretty sure I saw a black winter goose and a loon in Verona Park. I would love to see more groundhogs since they are one of my animal totems. Van Vleck Gardens is great for bird, chipmunk, and groundhogs and rabbits. Love the flora and fauna of Montclair.

  16. There are a few Blue Herons who live in Grover Cleveland Park (Caldwell/Essex Fells) They fly down along our adjacent brook, honking like crazy…then they fly back to the park. I think that they eat little fish that fall over the waterfall that get loose from the fishing pond in the park. They do this punctually at sunrise and then at sunset. There is a big black & white duck that my neighbors feed so he stays in the brook all day long and honks at chipmunks…who in turn, squeak back at him. ALL DAY LONG. There are also raccoon, beavers, squirrel, turtles, skunk, coyote, HUGE turkeys, wild birds, deer OMG…. as well as other animals that we can’t even identify.

  17. I’ve seen herons and egrets lurking about Brookside Park on a number of occasions, seemingly oblivious to the hustle and bustle of all the traffic and commercial activity at the nearby intersection, which would seem to make their presence all the more improbable.

    Just up the road on busy Broad Street in Bloomfield, I’ve observed a veritable menagerie during their visits to my postage stamp-and-a-half sized property. Most of the birds visiting my feeders are common species around these parts, although I once did spy a budgerigar (parakeet) among the flock one day – most likely a domesticated escapee – as well as a rose-breasted grosbeak on the ground, which are typically arboreal during their early spring migrations through New Jersey.

    Then there was the wild turkey which strutted up to my front stoop like she owned the place (not to mention the wild turkey that brought the Broad Street and Bay Avenue intersection to a complete standstill, apparently convinced that “DO NOT WALK” applied only to human pedestrians). On a few occasions (that I know of at least) I’ve had deer foraging in my tiny backyard. Add to this the usual rodent suspects: squirrels, chipmunks, and a big brown rat – no more throwing bird seed on the ground for the mourning doves and cardinals!

    But the most thrilling discovery was that which was heard but not seen, when I finally learned that the ethereal trilling sound I would hear very late at night in the cool spring night air, sleeping with my bedroom window open as I do, was the mating call of the screech owl.

  18. The only wildlife I seem to get is my neighbor’s cat, who routinely tries to dig up my hollyhocks and basil.

  19. In my back yard on a regular basis: Rabbits, Raccoons, Squirrels, Skunks, Coyotes, Fox, Deer, Possum, Hawks, it is a regular Zoo out there. Right below the Conservation area. No Petting. I have pics of all. Never seen a snake though, still waiting.

  20. Lots of deer in my yard. I also get a variety of animal tracks in the snow so I know there are other things out there, too.

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