History of the Monmouth County Audubon Society


How it all began

by Jane Headley

It was some time in 1964. A group of people who had moved to Monmouth from northern New Jersey to work at Bell Labs missed birding with their old group, the Watchung Nature Club. The group included Fred and Sybil Rolf, Courtney and Molly Norwine. I was  approached at work by Courtney who was looking for more birders to try to start a club in Monmouth County. Gradually other interested persons joined us, including local newspaper columnist William F. Sanford from
the [now defunct] Red Bank Register. His nature column attracted still others, including George Seeley; Mr. and Mrs. Walt Hufnagel; Mr. and Mrs. Ted Engberg; a Middletown schoolteacher, Margaret Lopez; a local lawyer, John T. Lovett III (who helped incorporate the group on May 19, 1965 as the Monmouth Nature
Club), A. Thomas Hallowell; Mr and Mrs. G. Winkoop, an early president; Lester Hochgraf, Frederick A. Wood, and others.

Howard and and Janice Mason, who you know as our long-standing treasurer, and many of our present leaders came along a bit later in the 1970s. Around that time we nearly broke up the organization due to lowering membership and a desperate need for new leadership.

Our early meetings / programs were held in the auditorium at Monmouth Mall, and Audubon films were shown at Leonardo School in Middletown. These films were silent, with an accompanying talk by the filmmaker. Some of the more memorable early programs included
Otto Heck and his owls; Steven Kress and his Maine Puffin Project, which MCAS supported; Leonard Lee Rue III and his live cougar (on a chain); and the live
Osprey rescued at a local beach and brought to the meeting on his way to a rehabilitator.

By 1974 we’d become the Monmouth County Audubon Society and were meeting in Red Bank at Trinity Episcopal Church. We continued to meet there for more than 30 years until we moved to Fair Haven a few years ago.

Our newsletter, The Osprey, was started in October 1971 as a one- or two-page mimeo newsletter and blossomed
into the present computer-generated and printed periodical of today.

The years passed, and many others joined the Monmouth County Audubon Society. We became affiliated with the National Audubon Society and have accomplished many things, such as sponsoring Audubon Adventures educational material for classrooms; scholarships for college-bound students; Osprey nesting platforms at several locations; interpretive signage at Sandy Hook; and a wildlife blind at the North Beach pond at Sandy Hook.

I also remember Bob Henschel’s December bird quiz programs. Bob would bring slides, and the crowd guessed
something different about each bird. The competition was most often won by teenaged member Scott Barnes, now a senior naturalist with NJ Audubon and one of our

For the many enjoyable and educational hours spent on bird walks by our many leaders, thank you leaders for all
your good work. Keep it up!

Jane is one of our founding members.