A successful turnout for a Migration Day celebration at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center Saturday increased the public's understanding of birds and may have inspired some young "birders" to take up the hobby.
Every year, parks hold seminars to educate people on birds, migration and local ecosystems, and officials discuss some of the best ways to find and identify different bird species in nature.
"For me, birding is like a treasure hunt," said Morris County Parks Environmental Education Superintendent Jenny Gaus-Myers. "We gave high fives this morning after the [successful] adult bird walk."
Those who came paid $2 for admission and had the opportunity to take part in educational games and visit a number of stations. The activities highlighted what certain birds eat, what their feathers and eggs look like and what makes them different from mammals or reptiles. Attendees learned about bird migration and took guided bird walks, which were held for adults in the morning and for children in the afternoon.
"It's a great thing to do with your kids," said Kate Goldberg, a Summit mother of two boys that she brought to the event. "They are learning and having fun outside."
Goldberg's children learned plenty at the event.
"I learned I [had the wingspan of] a red-tailed hawk," said six-year old Brandon Goldberg. And nine-year old Jordan Goldberg said he learned "that birds do not migrate because of the weather."
At the Beginning Birder's seminar held at 11 a.m. Gaus-Myers refuted a number of misconceptions about birds, telling the public that most birds actually go south for the winter because of fruit or insect food sources—not because of the cold weather. Birds that eat seeds generally stay in one place all year round.
New Jersey is considered an important place for migratory birds, according to Gaus-Myers. It is directly in the middle of a migratory route known as the Atlantic Flyway that a number of different species of birds pass through or settle in during the year.
She noted that binoculars are key for any aspiring bird watcher and that the best reference books are the smaller ones that can easily be packed into a backpack for a hike. She also said books that feature artist renderings of birds, rather than photographs, make it easier to identify different types of species.