The Wild Side of Jersey City

Seals, bald eagles, and snowy owls probably aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think of Jersey City. But the incredible work of John Dunstan, who started the social media page “Wild Jersey City”, proves that our city isn’t just a great place for humans to call home, but for the natural environment as well. A diverse list of wildlife is present and thriving across the city. They, too, call Jersey City their home and are a valuable part of our urban ecosystems.

 

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The Beginning of “Wild Jersey City”

When he isn’t working in construction to remodeling homes and apartments, you can find Jersey City resident John Dunstan at Caven Point in Liberty State Park, observing the beauty of Jersey City’s urban wildlife. John was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, and moved to Jersey City in 1983. It wasn’t until John lived in Jersey City that he developed an interest in nature, “largely, an interest in photography opened up a window into the wildlife that coexists in the urban margins,” said John. 

John got started on Flickr, where he produced short wildlife videos and later developed them into short documentaries. “It’s something I enjoy doing; it opens my eyes to the world beyond my narrow existence,” said John. His short films have been featured internationally and in local festivals, including the Golden Door Film Festival. This laid the groundwork for John to take the next step in his passion for photography and launch his Wild Jersey City social media pages.

A visit to Wild Jersey City’s social media takes you into a world with which many residents are not familiar. We are reminded that we share this city with so many diverse species. “It’s the juxtaposition, the backdrop of the city, perhaps the thought that we don’t have to choose between concrete or nature, we can have both,” said John.

 

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Keep Your Eyes Open

John has photographed many incredible birds such as turkey vultures, long-eared owls, cooper’s hawk, black skimmers, and ospreys. These incredible birds of prey can be found on the beach at Caven Point in Liberty State Park. The area is typically closed for nesting season in the summer months but is an important foraging area for migrant snowy owls, northern harriers, and rarities such as the goshawk.

 

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Residents can also enjoy wildlife at Lincoln Park.  The Lincoln Park Wetlands Restoration area includes more than 42 acres of tidal habitats that were restored. A popular spot to enjoy birdwatching, migrating warblers, kingfishers, and falcons can often be seen perched in a large tree nearby. 

 

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And we’ve barely scratched the surface! The Hudson River supports a wide variety of aquatic species. Many delight in seeing Harbor seals lounging at the south end of Caven point in Liberty State Park. Seals are now spotted occasionally swimming into the Hudson River area, indicating our water is becoming cleaner. 

 

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Become a Community Scientist with Greener JC

With the vibrant urban ecosystem that surrounds us in Jersey City, residents can also take part in helping to identify the species that live amongst us. Greener JC is a non-profit environmental action organization committed to supporting a more sustainable future in Jersey City. The organization has many initiatives, including their Jersey City Urban Ecology Study, which provides an opportunity for residents to explore the city and assist in documenting biodiversity with an app called iNaturalist. It’s easy to use and helps you identify wildlife, whether you are walking in local green space or watching birds out of your window.

Matt Trump, Vice-Chair of Greener JC, encourages residents to get involved by becoming community scientists.  “A community scientist can be anyone! All you must be is interested in exploring the natural world around you.  Once someone sparks your curiosity, there is a whole new layer of our city to discover.  It’s amazing to see people, especially children, get excited about nature and care about their local parks.” In 2020, 195 community scientists identified 765 species in over 2,000 observations in Jersey City. 

If you’re interested in becoming a community scientist, please visit Greener JC’s website. Instructions on how to download the iNaturalist app and make observations that contribute to the Jersey City Urban Ecology study can be found here

 

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A Voice for the Wildlife!

Residents can also raise their voices in the community to protect wildlife. Matt explains how “The most important factor for wildlife in the city is habitat.  Residents who care about wildlife should be advocates for green spaces, both big and small in Jersey City.”

Ways you can advocate for green spaces include encouraging the planting of native plants, including trees, shrubs, and wildflowers around our local parks and near our homes. Native plants are a critical source of food and habitat for our city’s wildlife. 

 

Approaching Wildlife: Tips from Liberty Humane Society

Living in proximity to wildlife, you will often come across many animals. It’s important to always appreciate wild animals from a distance and know the signs for when to report an injured or sick animal. The Liberty Humane Society’s dedicated animal control officers are the main point of contact if you have found an injured or sick stray animal which includes wildlife, and can be reached at 201.547.4888.

For additional tips on keeping our wildlife safe and when to reach out for help, please visit https://www.libertyhumane.org/wildlife.

 

Keep Jersey City Wild! How to Support the Organizations

Be sure to keep up with @wildjerseycity, @libertyhumanesociety, @greenerJC on Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates on events and incredible wildlife photography!  

Don’t miss John Dustan’s short documentary. The wildlife of Liberty State Park. It’s amazing! 

 

Arati Patel
Author: Arati Patel