In addition to my other outdoor activities, I am an avid birder and spend as much time (probably more) watching birds as photographing them. As part of my birding activities, I participate in several bird population surveys that are managed through the Citizen Science Program of the New Jersey Audubon Society. One of these surveys is focused on Grassland Birds. Much of the pasture and farm lands that once made up New Jersey (yes, our state is known as the Garden State for a reason) have been gobbled up by developers and turned into shopping malls and housing projects. And while the resulting McMansions seem like a tax generating windfall for our local officials, they have consumed vast tracks of land that, in addition to producing agricultural crops, also provided living and breeding spaces for small birds like this Grasshopper Sparrow.
I took this photograph last summer, so I can’t use it for my current photography project. This little fellow was perched on a fence surrounding a horse enclosure not far from my home. I live in a part of New Jersey that has several large horse farms where racing horses are bred, raised, and trained. These farms offer large tracks of open grasslands that support populations of grassland birds, like the Grasshopper Sparrow.
The weather and my job have conspired against me these last few days and I haven’t been able to do much photography. But I have received several requests from the New Jersey Audubon to participate in this year’s surveys. The announcements always come out around the first part of March, so I know Spring can’t be too far away. I can almost hear the little wing beats of the birds migrating north from their winter homes in South America or the islands of the Caribbean Sea. Hopefully, they will find a little patch of a New Jersey pasture to set up housekeeping for the summer. If so, I’ll try to count and photograph them and keep you informed of my progress.