They’re a few longtime Central
Jersey residents, who’ve largely gone unnoticed – that is until now.
The Middlesex County Improvement
Authority (MCIA) is inviting the public to an unofficial meet-and-greet with creatures
like the damselfly, whirligigs and stoneflies Nov. 2, during several
interactive workshops at the Ireland Brook Conservation Area in East Brunswick.
Understandably, Middlesex County
residents may be entirely unfamiliar with their creepy, crawly neighbors, but that’s
just what organizers of “The Stream and Its Critters” workshops are counting
“Now here’s a prime opportunity
to give your children a greater appreciation and understanding of the
environment that surrounds them,” said Freeholder Carol Barrett Bellante, a
liaison to the MCIA. “This is more
than just a hands-on lesson about bugs and wildlife. It’s also a way to underscore our impact on nature’s
delicate ecological balance.”
The free activity, additionally
sponsored by the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission, and
led by the Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation, gives residents the
option of attending one of four sessions that begin between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30
Throughout the day, Eric
Gehring, a naturalist with the Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation,
will guide short tours to the nearby Ireland Brook, where participants will
both safely trap and observe a few of the local inhabitants before releasing
them back into their natural habitats.
“Using a sein net, we’ll collect
macro-invertebrates from the stream, place them in a pan of water and examine
them with magnifying glasses,” said Rick Lear, division head of the Middlesex
County Office of Parks and Recreation. “Different types of insects need cleaner
water than others, so what we find will be a good indication of the stream’s
During these outdoor excursions,
some of the “critters” that may cross any given group’s path include:
- Damselfly: Akin to the dragonfly, this
blue-tinted, carnivorous, airborne beauty feeds on spiders, mosquitoes and
- Whirligig: A type of water beetle that can swim
above and below the stream’s surface and proves difficult to hold, due to the
waxy, water-repellent residue its body secretes.
- Stonefly: Another flying insect that acts as a
barometer for water quality and is one of approximately 3,500 species of its
kind found the world-over, with the exception of Antarctica.
The workshop is open to families
and individuals, as well as youth, 8-years-of-age and older, who are
accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Participants and accompanying adults will be required to sign a “volunteer
agreement and release” form. Only
a few pairs of hip waders, or waterproof boots that extend above the knee, will
be available for rotation to attendees, who wish to venture into the brook’s
shallow waters; so participants are encouraged to bring their own, if feasible.
Planners recommend attendees
dress weather appropriate, bring a water bottle and prepare for a 10-minute or
half-mile walk to the workshop’s site.
These workshops are part of the Days
of Fun on the Raritan River: Things to Do Learn and Share on Our Riverfront
programming, an initiative aimed at highlighting the Lower Raritan River’s many
access points and increasing public awareness on general estuary use and care.
A New York/ New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program
grant awarded to the MCIA and funding from the New England Water Pollution
Control Commission have made this instruction possible.
Respectively, the 1.5-hour
sessions will start at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Visitors
should park at the Riva Avenue entrance of the Ireland Brook Conservation Area.
To register and for detailed
directions, contact MCIA Economic Development Senior Project Manager Denise
Nickel at 609-409-5002 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Middlesex County Improvement Authority