Home Hudson County This Hoboken Resident Hosts ‘Birding Wonder Walks’

This Hoboken Resident Hosts ‘Birding Wonder Walks’

by Hoboken Girl Team
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Hoboken may not be the first spot that comes to mind when you think about birdwatching, but one Mile Square resident is here to show everyone that Hudson County has more wildlife than you might think. Meet Jeff Train, also known as “Mr. Train” — a local teacher who has a passion for birdwatching and showing locals all of the species you can find in the Hoboken area. Some of the HG team had the chance to spend a morning with Jeff and go with him on a ‘Birding Wonder Walk’ around the Mile Square — where we saw 15 different species of birds (yes, we counted) near the waterfront, the Steven’s campus, and a few other spots. Read on for more about Mr. Train and his Birding Wonder Walks in Hoboken, NJ.

The Hoboken Girl: What got you into birdwatching?

birdwatching hoboken jeff train

Jeff Train: Every birder has what is known as a “Spark Bird.”  Mine was a Red-Tailed Hawk my son and I observed while cheering on my wife during a Hoboken Turkey Trot. The raptor perched above us near Pier C nabbed two mice, and proceeded to devour them…all while just a few feet away from us. My son and I were flabbergasted to see something like this in Hoboken. We bought a field guide, and the next day after I picked him up from school we identified our first bird together: a European Starling. We were hooked! Looking back, I see how our Spark Bird is tied to Hoboken. On that day, we discovered that nature thrives in our city, and all you have to do is look for it.

Read More: The Best Hudson County Parks to Bird Watch

HG: What events/ways can people join you?

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JT: People can contact me to book Birding Wonder Walks in Hoboken. Introduce your family to the joys of nature; support mindfulness and team-building with your employees; share a stroll through our city and learn how to bird. My practice combines positive psychology and birding to cultivate curiosity, joy, awe, gratitude, and kindness. My walks are excellent for kids, teens, and adults — and I tailor my activities to my unique audience. I also lead walks with the Hoboken Public Library in the fall and spring, as well as the Hoboken Historical Society.

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HG: What is the first thing someone should do if they’re interested in bird watching?

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Photo Credit: Jeff Train

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JT: Get to know the birds just outside your window. Just because they are common doesn’t mean that they aren’t extraordinary. I’ve learned so much watching the House Sparrows on my sidewalk. They are accessible, they allow super close looks, even if you don’t have binoculars, and they are always engaging in remarkable behaviors. Even now, years into my birding practice, I am still fascinated by the birds who live on my block. You should also get yourself a field guidebook that will help you identify and learn the names and ranges of various birds. I always recommend the Sibley Guide to Birds or the National Geographic Guide. Finally, you don’t need binoculars, but they make the experience vastly more enjoyable and satisfying. Glimpsing the details of a bird up close is truly joyous. There are so many options on the market, and you do not need to spend a lot of money to enjoy this activity.

HG: Can you list the birds you’ve seen locally?

JT: I have so many! Here are a few anecdotes, and I have attached some photos:

birdwatching hoboken

Photo Credit: Jeff Train

I have currently seen 87 species of birds in our city.  Those include common birds like the House Sparrow, American Kestrel, and Mourning Dove, but also birds like: Black + White Warbler, Brant, Cedar Waxwing, Raven, Belted Kingfisher, Wilson’s Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Bald Eagle, Green Hero, and so much more!

birdwatching hoboken jeff train birdwatching

Photo Credit: Jeff Train

Virginia Rail: This is a secretive bird that lives hidden in marshland. One morning while making my way to the garage where I parked, I noticed a bird sitting beneath a car. Immediately, I knew it was a bird that was not typically in Hoboken. I got a little closer and discovered a Virginia Rail. It had been making its way to the Meadowlands and had settled into Mile Square City for a rest!

American Kestrel: During COVID-19, my son and I discovered two American Kestrel chicks that had been evicted from their nest for some reason. We discovered them on a hot summer’s day. As luck would have it, I had made contact with a falcon expert just a few days prior. We consulted with him and, with some quick thinking, we were able to rescue the birds, feed them, and transport them to the Raptor Trust in Madison, NJ. The birds survived and were eventually re-released.

One of the reasons I love birding is because it introduces me to other elements of nature. I never know what surprises await me, and I love sharing those surprises with other Hoboken residents. I have discovered Red Fox napping in the grass, Eastern Red Bats sticking to walls in the midst of migration, Katydids that resemble leaves while walking my dog, and amazing mushrooms towering beside the sidewalk.

 

 

HG: What do you want people to know about wildlife in the area?

jeff train hoboken

JT: There are so many surprises thriving outside of our doorsteps! People tend to believe that the only birds in Hoboken are pigeons and sparrows, and when they think of them, they see them only as pests. But there is a wealth of life in our city that is as rich, diverse, and amazing as the people who live here. We also tend to believe that we need to get into a car and drive 1 hour outside of Hoboken to be immersed in nature. Not true. You can meander through our streets, and every day you have the opportunity to notice nature and discover the joys of nature thriving around us. Once you begin paying attention to the nature around you, your perspective shifts and you begin to feel joy, curiosity, and gratitude that remains with you. For instance, take the Common Tern, a bird that has become a resident of Hoboken. This bird, which feeds on fish, has a colony that breeds on one of the piers in Hoboken. I counted 80 birds this summer, and their ability to thrive here tells us that the Hudson River is remarkably healthy. We are surrounded by an eco-system, and when we glimpse that, we have access to greater appreciation and satisfaction.

See More: The Montclair Hawkwatch: The Ultimate Local Spot to See Hawks

HG: Any other projects you’re working on?

Photo Credit: Jeff Train

JT: I’m the co-founder of Freedom Birders, an organization seeking to bring equity and inclusion to the Birding Community. For me, this means introducing and sharing birding with everyone. It also means that I work to share stories of how birds, people, history, and places intersect.  One of the ways I am bringing Freedom Birding to Hoboken is by sharing and working with others to bring Frederick Douglass’ story more to the forefront in our city. Douglass came through Hoboken when he escaped slavery, but he returned to our city throughout his life and found comfort, friendship, and an intellectual life that helped to shape his thinking. He also saw birds as a sign of freedom and looked at them in moments when he felt despair. I’m also working to make more people aware of the problem of window strikes. More than 1 billion birds die each year due to collisions with windows, and I am working to help Hoboken become a bird-friendly city.

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