Jersey City Birds calendar celebrates a year of wildlife spotted as local birding community thrives
Shopping for wall calendars may be a less common end-of-year tradition in the age of digital calendars and smartphones, but if you have an affinity for birds and Jersey City, your search for the perfect calendar ends here.
Swans, goldfinches and oystercatchers decorate the pages of the fourth edition of Lorraine Freeney’s Jersey City Birds calendar, a passion project celebrating local birds and the hundreds of residents who have developed a hobby of spotting and identifying them.
Freeney created Jersey City Birds as an online community to share photographs when she began following a pair of red-tailed hawks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Facebook Group has since ballooned to more than 1,200 members, and Freeney officially established Jersey City Birds as a nonprofit this year, which she plans to use as an advocacy tool for bird protection.
It is just one of a network of community groups that unite around the wildlife that migrates through the urban area yearly.
The annual calendar, which Freeney initially created as a gift for friends and family, now features photographs from multiple members of the city’s birding community and can be purchased online.
“The point of the calendars at this stage is to raise awareness of the birds that live in and migrate through Jersey City and hopefully show how important it is to protect their habitats and reduce the challenges they face,” Freeney said.
The August page features a young red-tailed hawk perched on a Hudson County Sheriff’s vehicle as the bird was learning how to fly, a moment that Freeney recalled catching the attention of many passing by who formed a crowd around the scene. October features a blue-gray gnatcatcher, a four- or five-inch-long bird that Freeney captured in Lincoln Park West.
“They’re extremely active and quick and so being able to get a clear image of one is kind of a challenge for me,” Freeney said. “I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Popular birding spots in the county include Liberty State Park and Lincoln Park West in Jersey City, the Mill Creek Marsh Trail in Secaucus and, in Bayonne, Gregg Park, Rutkowski Park and the waterfront walkway bordering Bayonne Golf Club.
Birders enthralled by the wildlife in Hudson County have been sharing photographs online, meeting up for walks and advocating for environmental causes for years now.
The Bayonne Nature Club hosts two weekly bird walks as well as shoreline clean ups and gardening. Couple Pat Hilliard and Mike Ruscigno founded the group about 15 years ago when they retired. Hilliard said the group spotted more bald eagles in Bayonne this year than in recent years.
“There’s so many nice parks, and they’re easy access,” Hilliard said. “Bayonne’s surrounded by water. To see birds, just find water.”
Freeney said she discovered an interest in birds growing up with her father in Ireland and upon moving to the United States was able to acquaint herself with an almost entirely new ecosystem of birds.
Moving into her home neighboring Lincoln Park was an opportunity to spend more time with the array of birds she had discovered there. She said she frequently speaks to residents shocked to learn that ospreys and hummingbirds can be found in Jersey City.
“I feel that my job here is to document what I see,” Freeney said. “It doesn’t have to be a fantastic image. It just is a way of helping people become attuned to what’s around them.”
Hanging a Jersey City Birds calendar in the kitchen has become an annual tradition for Hudson County Sierra Club Program Chair Steve Krinsky, who organizes bird walks with Freeney and Jersey City’s Feminist Bird Club.
“I’m not a photographer so I love it when other people do the hard work of taking the pictures and sharing them,” Krinsky said.
The Jersey City Birds 2024 calendar may be purchased online at https://www.mixbook.com/photo-calendars/all/jersey-city-birds-2024-33193779?vk=16fXIg22yx5V2t6QiPY3.