NJWILD readers know that, certain times over the near-decade of this blog, the Packet has done something so that I cannot enter images again. This is now. Maybe this blog has to be my essay collection, and NJWILDBEAUTY for the very easy, quick, cooperative WORDPRESS will become the repository of photographs to convey NJ’s essence.
Often, I take new birders on their very first trip to ‘The Brig’. The Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, near Smithville and (of all things!) Atlantic City, is an 8-mile dike-road excursion into bays and impoundments, the latter of which have managed salinities. Except when Sandy raised the parts per million of salt in the impoundments to the exact level of the bay, different plants grow on each side, attracting different wildfowl.
One can count on peace, beauty, serenity, and rarities.
If you log onto NJWILDEAUTY, the home-page photograph of clouds and water is the essence of the Brig, except that it doesn’t have any birds in it.
That’s never the case, however.
Our latest excursion took place on Friday. The ‘beginner’ is a natural, and our (Prius - ideal birding vehicle because silent when stopped) vehicle’s driver is at the upper end of both skill and persistence.
First steps onto the Leeds Eco-Trail out toward the bay brought us the expected red-wing, ospreys on the nest, the sound then sight of marsh wrens in shrubs, and the impossible, almost-never-seen KING RAIL!
Perhaps even more amazing was to see the nest of the marsh wren, woven like a vertical football, out of mud and rushes, in among the shrub’s thin top branches. It seemed like pottery one might find in the most arid stretches of Indian country out west.
To see this nest, since I cannot give you a picture of it, thanks to the wonders and frustrations of modern technology, open The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior to WRENS, and David has painted this exact, and hardly ever seen, phenomenon.
That book is really essential, after his splendid Sibley Guides to Eastern Birds - which is the size to fit in your cargo-pants pocket. This is a tome, as is his first Bird Guide — masterpieces that held sway at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list for months when they came out. David and other experts fill the pages of Bird Life and Behavior with essential details of habitat, plumage, feeding, breeding, nesting, perils, etc. There was a time when I kept one copy in my trunk and one next to my bed. I gave my sister the trunk-copy, and the other, well-thumbed, highlighted and notated, is here in the study.
The best way to become a birder is to get OUT there in (preserved) nature, and see them.
The next most important step is reading the guides, on the trail and back home afterwards
The background essential act is reading books by birders, such as Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway; Wild America by Roger Tory Peterson (who changed American bird identification from shooting them to studying field marks) and the Briton James Fisher, as they zoomed across some of Canada and most of America in search of our specialties. Decades later, Pete and Linda Dunne followed many of their tire tracks, with Linda photographing their Featherquest.
That’s enough for the library for now.
NJWILD readers, what books would you suggest to someone new and determined?
Thanks for reading, for birding, and above all for preserving New Jersey land, as with D&R Greenway Land Trust and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. Without habitat, remember, no birds!
We are in the midst of the Sixth Extinction — the most catastrophic, wide-ranging and even violent in natural history. Read Elizabeth Kolbert’s best seller on this topic, and do everything you can to slow this dire process.
Turkey Tail Fungus, Marsh, Winter 2014 cfe
We always called it “The Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh,” this northernmost freshwater tidal wetland in our 3-coasted state. Powers that be have changed its name to “The Abbott Marshlands”, to honor Dr. Charles Conrad Abbott, whose early archaeology in what we might call New Jersey’s Everglades, put our state on the map decades before modern day scientists would confirm that Indians used our Marsh 10,000 years ago.
The Great Beech, downed by Hurricane Sandy, en route to Beaver Point cfe
I’ve been told the Indians named Spring Lake for the spring which caused it.
Beaver Lodge, Marsh cfe
I’ve been told that the beavers dammed this water, birthing the lake.
First Willows, Spring Lake cfe
On trail walks with experts, walks beyond counting, I’ve explored in all seasons and relished all seasons in a wetlands that seems like a dream, in the heart of our state capitol. I once met Governor Corzine at Drumthwacket. He had called a Poets’ Night, with an opulent reception. Basically, none of us knew why we’d been invited. I decided to use that night to teach him and his aides about the Marsh. He was convinced, called the (already indoctrinated) aides to his side, said, “Get me to this Marsh.” I’ll never know if he did. However, I do know that, as I strongly suspected, even though it is minutes from government buildings, he knew nothing of this New Jersey jewel. My motive was that our governor could walk the Marsh and ponder the imponderables, immensely supported by beauty of this magnitude.
Botanist Mary Leck, one of D&R Greenway’s founders and still on our Board, served as Professor of Botany at Rider for decades. She specializes in the Marsh, and has discovered and named species beyond counting, starting with jewelweed ages ago. Her husband, famed ornithologist Charles Leck, is also a professor emeritus, with Rutgers, in the field of Environmental studies, as they do not have a department of Ornithology.
Beaver Close-Up by Brenda Jones — taken in D&R Canal near Aqueduct, Princeton
Clyde Quin and Warren Lebensperger are the men I call “Godfathers of the Marsh.” They grew beside and within it. Talked to its denizens, evaded the shots of one of the more notorious. They walked where the Indians walked, and tell tales of Lenni Lenape remnants. They also know where the owls nest, where eagles raise their young, every fox den with its multiple entries and exits, and the swan havens. Clyde and Warren, Mary and Charles are quiet and wise, gently wry, thoroughly brilliant and natural teachers. To walk with them is paradise — and easily achieved. Google either Friends for the Marsh, or Friends for the Abbott Marshlands. Join them many weekend mornings around 9 a.m. One time, with Charlie and Mary, we watched a snake wake to spring. Clyde taught me how to see turtle noses in the lake. In May, orioles are everywhere. In a May of many tent caterpillars, cuckoos were everywhere.
Goose Trails, Spring Lake cfe
Mary and Charles’ favorite time in the Marsh, however, is winter. “We can see the beavers’ breath.”
Weeds on Tiptoe, Spring Lake cfe
Well, I haven’t seen beaver breath. But on a recent winter walk, with Linda Arntzenius of Town Topics and poetic fame, we found a spectacular beaver lodge. And on Easter, with a friend from Toms River, we stood transfixed, in daytime, (beavers are nocturnal) as a beaver swam determinedly past at the bridge exiting the woods, heading toward the lake.
Beaver Snacks — “Let the Chips Fall Where They May” cfe
NJWILD readers have ‘heard me and heard me’ urge walks in nature in all seasons. I’m threading this love song to the Marsh with pictures from Linda’s and my excursion. Imagine, if it’s that gorgeous when frozen solid, when the trails were only one foot(e)fall wide! because of snow and ice, how glorious it is now that the turtles are up and sunning and swans are nesting.
Spring Lake — Where Turtles Will Lurk cfe
Go to the Marsh. Support Friends for the Marsh and D&R Greenway, who preserved this haven.
Honor Nature in our time before climate change wipes away its glories.
Swan with Cygnets, Marsh, by Brenda Jones
Pole Farm Barn, before restoration by cfe
In this spring’s erratic weather, it is a blessing to squeeze in even a brief walk anywhere out there in wild nature.
My move to Lawrenceville has brought me within less than a mile of the “Pole Farm”, off Cold Soil Road. Entering by the red barn, newly designed and managed trails and significant historic signage tell the story of that new park and lead the walker on, on, on.
Last night, I began at 6:30. The sky was occluded, but light beckoned beyond the tree line.
Peepers were deafening. These tiny frogs had a very late start in their mating rituals this year. They’ll cry out, in bell-like tones, piercing, actually, from any vernal pond. Luckily, the re-designers of the Pole Farm understand the value of these temporary pools, which will never have fish, and therefore provide safe haven for salamander and frog eggs, laid the first rainy but not freezing night of spring.
Peepers are no larger than a quarter and impossible to see. They are also impossible to ignore — to the point that you almost want to cover your ears if you’re nearing them. They, however, don’t like the sound of human footfalls, and will silence as you arrive.
Redwing at Sunset, Pole Farm by Brenda Jones
Overhead, cranky redwings seemed almost dutiful in their territorial sounds.
Shrubs along the fine hard gravel path are still only beginning to pop buds, even though it is now May.
There are always the nicest people on Pole Farm paths. It’s as though it is our wild secret garden. Just being there creates fellowship.
I paused at the strong handsome bird blind, reading the very good descriptions of bird field marks and songs, then hurried on.
In the distance, clouds the color of chinchilla billowed, with honey light behind them. Pure Turner, and I wanted to get closer and closer to that sunset.
Bucolic Beauty, Pole Farm, before restoration by cfe
However, what’s this? Not rain! Not again! Not after yesterday’s deluge that turned both Cold Soil and Rosedale into rivers, then lakes, and the bottoms of rivers the next day!
Pole Farm in Rain
Walk home faster.
Rejoice in peepers, redwings and Turner sunset.
Plan the next hike. Sunday. After lunch in my new home, with friends of long standing.
Pole Farm Trail Before Restoration by cfe
As NJ WILD readers know, when ‘the world is too much with me’, I escape in book and memory to France.
Lately, I have been suffused with the savory memory of my solo excursion into a Truck Drivers’ Restaurant, a Relais de Routiers in Vernon, France, near Monet’s Giverny.
I had taken the train from the Gare du Nord in Paris, in order to see Monet’s gardens, on the last day of October, the last day it was open that year.
In France, of course, EVERYthing shuts down at the sacred hour of lunch. So one does not disembark from the train and go straight to Monet’s home. No, one seeks food.
Across from la gare/the train station, was the Relais de Routier, a rest-stop restaurant for truck drivers. The word ‘relais’ probably goes back to days of riding horseback and traveling by stage. Tired horses were exchanged at relais. And, probably like our taverns in the Pine Barrens, voyagers were refreshed with foods.
I opened the door into a dark room full of people who are, as the French say tres, tres content. The dim room was abuzz with a quiet hum. The long tables with their firmly starched thick white linens reminded me of the Last Supper, even to Da Vinci’s folds. Down the middle of each table ran a row of alternating bottles of red and white wines, all opened, all without labels. Seated everywhere were men in the blue of the laborers.
The burly proprietor came graciously to me, wrapped in his immaculate white apron, ties circling the ample waist more than one time, black shoes gleaming. He showed no surprise that I would enter, nor expect to eat there, though I was the only woman.
He ushered me to a central chair, at the central table. Everyone in the restaurant was already savoring his first course, a beautiful mosaic of a terrine. Sitting down, looking around silently, I thought of American truck stops, of their eternal hamburgers and French fries.
My table companions were quick to pour me a glass of white, a glass of red - for, obviously, there would be courses for these natural appreciators of cuisine.
The pink and ivory terrine gleamed, encircled with what seemed the crown of a French king, wrought of golden aspic. It nestled in a leaf of hearty yet quintessentially soft butter lettuce. A hefty pottery pot of gherkins (minuscule pickles) and another of the very tiny white onions, was soon proffered by my fellow diners.
My entire being was one great smile.
I always love being in French restaurants in France, where that lovely language cascades all around me, as though I were sitting under the gentlest of waterfalls.
But there were further riches to come. The proprietor proudly served the most bountiful (and what proved to be the most succulent) pot au feu (dare I profane it by calling it beef stew) of my life. The meat had been simmered most tenderly for hours, obviously with plenty of large bones in the crock, for the flavor of purest deepest darkest richest beef pervaded all. That meat was so tender, you could cut it with a spoon. There were liquidities and richnesses in that dish such as I have never known, or may have known in long-ago childhood when food wasn’t ruined yet for commercial reasons in our country. Plump bright carrots and luminous potatoes of a buttery gold were shot full of beef flavor, yet held their own.
After we all relished this feast came a delicate salad such as I had known in Manhattan years at Cote Basque, La Caravelle and the Four Seasons. The French do not toss their salads. They “fatiguer” them - meaning, turn them more gently than a new-born, in the perfect coating of perfect proportions of wine (of course!) vinegar and olive oil and a touch of Dijon mustard, impeccably combined. The leaves stood up tall, glistening as though in sunlight. Each bite of lettuce was an epiphany and I don’t even like salad.
After the salad came the cheese course. A hush fell over that table of truck drivers, who had been so cordial all along. Even the crew by the bar and jostling the pinball machine seemed to catch the reverence with which the local cheese, Camembert, was welcomed. Golden perfection, runny yet firm, pungent, fragrant — this local cheese, for this was, indeed, Normandy.
But another surprise awaited. O, I forgot to mention, there wasn’t any menu. The truck drivers trusted the proprietor and I trusted the truck drivers.
Of all things, dessert arrived, and it was oeufs a la neige: “Eggs in the Snow”: egg-shaped tender snowy meringue with a delicate coating of the most subtly flavorful custard.
I could not believe my taste buds, nor the gossamer quality of that meringue, the silken custard, the flecks of tiny vanilla bean, coating my spoon, filling my being with flavors and scents. Every truck driver finished every droplet of that delicacy.
As I thanked my table companions for their welcoming fellowship, I realized, “Carolyn, never before and never again will you have a meal of this quality with such special people.”
I went to the proprietor and managed to tell him in my very American-accented French, “I have eaten oeufs a la neige at Cote Basque and Caravelle in New York, the creme de la creme of restaurants in that town. No one’s version equals yours. I am amazed and grateful.”
My table companions and I filed out of that bright/dark room into full Normandy sunlight and the high clouds of Boudin’s and Jongkind’s canvases — they to their trucks, I to my Monet afternoon.
They could repeat the experience.
When I was a teen-ager, a new top hit song, [I believe by Pat Boone], was “April Love.” When it came out, this song had no special meaning for me. However, it was in April, that my first love reached out to me in a very unusual way.
Each weekend, I worked at Shrine of the Little Flower Rectory, for Father Charles E. Coughlin. He had chosen me from all the girls in Shrine of the Little Flower High School. From 7 til 3 every Saturday and Sunday, I answered phones and welcomed people to the rectory. Father Coughlin, for all his political infamy [about which I knew nothing at that time], was by then a simple parish priest of extraordinary eloquence. Most calls were to find out when he was speaking.
I have never known why, –considering that I was such a tabula rasa–, Father C would frequently have one of the Franciscans take the desk, inviting me to his palatial dining room. (I always thought King Arthur’s in Cornwall looked like that). We would share a sumptuous breakfast or magnificent Sunday dinner. It was at his table that I first tasted figs, first savored garlic in the best roast pork of my life. We talked and talked, and I have no idea about what!
One April Saturday, I was studying at my desk in the Rectory, when Tom, –steady boyfriend of my best friend, Sally–, suddenly popped in. He sat himself down, as though we did this all the time. Tom, in effect, talked of cabbages and kings. I went along, baffled by the purpose of his visit.
Finally, he blurted, “John (his best friend) would like to know if you would consider going with him to the antique car show tomorrow.”
I laughed out loud. Just that week, Sally, Tom, John and I had been listening to a nun drone on, –and pretty much take all the life out of–, the Priscilla and John Alden story.
Tom looked surprised at my laughter. I sat back in my desk chair, –like an executive at a major conference–, answering, “Tell him, ‘Speak for yourself, John.’”
It was Tom’s turn to laugh, and he went outside shortly thereafter to drive to John’s house. Tom’s car was the envy of Detroit - where everything was factory-made and identical and ever more huge in the 50’s with wings and fins and chrome and bumpers. In Detroit, you either loved cars and wanted to know everything about them, or fled them, ignoring all. I was in the latter school. Tom’s response to the uniformity was to fiddle with his willow green Chevy convertible. He would proudly use words I didn’t know, like manifolds, cams, lowering this, speeding up that. Well, it was a hot rod. To me, the best thing Tom did to that car was to take a Ford grill — I guess that’s what you called it. A horizontal bar of chrome with a circle in the middle that looked like a propellor to me. He inserted it in the front of that Chevy. You cannot imagine how shocking that was in a town where you were either a General Motors person or a Ford person. Now I see that Tom made the first hybrid.
Off he went, cruising faster than usual, the legendary Woodward Avenue. To John’s house.
The phone rang,. I answered, “Shrine Rectory.”
“This is John. Tom tells me I”d better ask you myself, if you would go to the antique car show with Tom and Sally and me tomorrow.”
“Yes, I will, John,” I responded. “The only trouble is, I don’t know anything about cars.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he reassured me.
Which is how I came to be cruising Woodward the next day, en route to the car show, with Sally and Tom in the ice-green hybrid, the most popular boy in our school at my side.
You have to picture Shrine girls, in their ghastly shiny navy blue serge uniforms, brilliantly designed to make every lovely teen look hideous, dumpy and frumpy. No lipstick. Horrible uniform blouses with cuffed sleeves at the most unattractive point of the arm, and those round “Peter Pan” collars that were so hard to iron without wrinkles. I personally had to wear ghastly Oxfords, though most of the girls didn’t have whatever was purportedly wrong with my feet. They could wear, at least, handsome thick wool socks and shiny penny loafers with real new pennies in them. Add to this that I was (well, it won’t surprise anyone) a bookworm. School was just an interruption to reading. Even though I went to all those basketball games - Tom’s father was our coach — I couldn’t stand the sport. Nothing I did was cool. Nothing about me would have lured anyone.
John was the most independent person in that school. He simply refused to play any sport. John had his own jazz band. He had to play in the (pathetic) classical orchestra in order to borrow the school’s bass for his weekend music with buddies.
John made the first stereophonic high fidelity system in our school, and I was invited as the only girl, to its inauguration. “The guys” didn’t dare protest. I remember trains and ping pong balls coming out of the left of the room and zooming to the right. I also remember the Dukes of Dixieland and Benny Goodman (a movie had made his music popular again) throbbing through John’s recreation room.
He absolutely loved to read, which was frowned upon by almost all, as decidedly ‘out of it’. Since John’s parents were both dentists, he could buy books to supplement the rotten collection that passed for Shrine of the Little Flower library. There was something named The Index which forbade most worthwhile books. I used to take the complete Sherlock Holmes home every year and read it from cover to cover. I was that desperate. John loaned me Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
We studied together. He helped me with math, which seemed absolutely superfluous to me, but was essential in that school He pretended that he wanted me to help him with English, which he certainly didn’t need. John, like Father Coughlin, was naturally eloquent. He could talk anyone in the school into anything, even though he wasn’t on teams.
What he and I loved best was dancing. The Lindy (we called it jitterbug) and the Charleston were our fortes, but he could dance a superb fox trot and even waltz. Not Viennese — this was the Midwest, remember. But that would come later in my life, with someone from Switzerland.
One night, late in spring, John stopped studying, turned to me and announced, “I’m going to tell you something I’ve never said to anyone in my life.”
I had no idea what he meant.
Sitting there with his books and papers open on his lap, John declared simply, “I love you.”
I was stunned, yet not surprised.
But I had to tell John something like, “I care a great deal about you. But I cannot say that.”
“It doesn’t matter,” repeated John.
Soon thereafter, in chapel (we had to attend Mass every morning before school), the three pews of Junior girls rose as usual to go to Communion. There was a gasp in the church, but I didn’t know why. Boys didn’t go to communion. It wasn’t the in thing to do, by any means. Imagine my surprise to kneel at the altar, and realize Johnny (he’s allowing this nickname by now, to me alone), at my side. He kept that up from then on.
One day that spring, we were all in English class again. My favorite, and his. Shakespeare was the topic. Macbeth the play. For some reason, I had been allowed to wear ‘flats’ instead of the clunky Oxfords that day. I was in the front row, right in front of the nun. My right leg was crossed over my left, and every fiber of my being caught up in Macbeth.
Suddenly, one of the boys in that class snatched my dangling flat and flung it out the upstairs window.
Nuns didn’t punish boys. Only girls. My being barefoot in class would have been a transgression beyond belief.
In a flash, Johnny, without so much as a by your leave, dashed down the aisle and out that classroom door. There was a cathedral hush in that schoolroom. Even the nun couldn’t speak.
Suddenly, the classroom door was flung open. Johnny dashed up the aisle to the front of the room. He actually knelt and put that slipper on my foot.
Needless to say, after that, I could heartfully say to him, “I love you.”
We were together junior year of high school to junior year of college. He came back to me, when I moved to New York after graduation. After his first year in medical school at University of Michigan.
The last thing we did together in Manhattan was to see West Side Story, right after it opened. It was a Wednesday Matinee. Then I took him to the set of ABC Studios, where I was the food stylist doing some complex thing for General Foods on live television with no retakes and fake foods like you wouldn’t believe.
Neither of us wanted to part, but New York had changed me. Medical School gave John his life — he became the head of a Radiology group in Mississippi. And a gentleman farmer — odd that farms matter so much to me now - but to neither of us in the Shrine years.
But Medical School interfered with growth in other regions.
I didn’t know this — but Johnny did. He had always been there, out in front, protecting me, teaching me, leading me. I hadn’t meant to change.
We reconnected in the 1980’s by letter and a couple of phone calls.
Johnny wrote in that first letter, “You are my first love and I love you still. Everything I became in my adult life, I owe to you.”
The song, “April Love” has a line about “sometimes, an April love, can suddenly brings showers. Rain to grow the flowers for your first bouquet.”
Our April love never brought showers. Nowadays, people would say, “We were on the same page.” This would have been quite literally true, loving the same literature so passionately. Longing for the Paris of Hem and Fitz and Gertrude and Alice (think Midnight in Paris recently… O, I hope he saw that!). Planning to discover Paris together.
I was to make that town my own over and over again, with my husband, Werner, with and without our daughters, with Sally Patton of Princeton when she lived in a garret and studied cuisine at La Varenne, the top site for such a gastronomic quest. Visiting Pat Cooke of Princeton when she lived in St. Cloud, above Paris. Tromping it in running shoes, jogging parts of it, making it my own in new ways. Eating alone in cafe’s on the Quai Voltaire especially, where I should have eaten with Johnny. Following every rue, with rue, that our Paris dreams never came true.
Our last phone call held a remarkable revelation from this fine, this noble man.
“There’s something I have to tell you, that you’ve never known…”
“What’s that, Johnny?”
“My first two wives were named Carolyn. My third is the age you were when I saw you the last time.”
It’s April now. My April love still nourishes me. I hope it continues to sustain this wonderful person.
His last letter to me revealed, “You are the only person who’s ever called me Johnny.”
Eagle/Gull Contest Above Lake Carnegie, Aqueduct, Princety by Bill Dix
NJ Wild readers know I have been extremely concerned about reports of an injured, even a dead American bald eagle, not far from the nest of ‘our’ Princeton eagles. The mysterious aspect of these reports is that none of the viewers either took a picture of the bird on the street, nor called 1-877-WARN DEP, as instructed on the yellow signs near ‘our’ eagles’ nest. Nor did they reach out to any nearby municipality, — Princeton, Plainsboro or West Windsor, to find out who the animal control officer is with regard to Mapleton and Seminary - there at a crossroads of towns and counties.
Therefore, we will never know if an eagle was indeed dead, as precisely reported.
And we will never know why the bird had fallen.
IF YOU COME UPON AN INJURED RAPTOR, THERE ARE STEPS TO BE TAKEN. First of all, take pictures and immediately call the Mercer County Wildlife Center in Titusville. While it is illegal even to possess a feather of a raptor, let alone the entire bird, it is legal to transport a found bird to the Wildlife Center. They have seven (7!) vets on call, and trained volunteers, who are experts at evaluating harmed animals in our region. If the animals dies, these experts perform necropsies, so that the cause of death is known.
The phone number of the Mercer County Wildlife Center is 609 303 0552.
No, a necropsy doesn’t bring a dead animal back to life. But learning the cause of its demise can help other wild creatures.
Think outside the box, when you encounter a harmed animal. Consider the greatest good.
Call the experts.
‘Our’ Princeton bald eagles have indeed been seen “performing incubation exchanges.” They’ve been photographed successfully fishing and returning to the nest.
I only know officially of one egg — but there could be more.
These creatures are our brothers and sisters. We are their keepers. Be vigilant. Be responsible. Call the experts.
NJ WILD readers know I cherish all seasons. Yes, even winter!
You also know I make nature excursions most weeks, in quest of her wild beauty. I don’t necessarily seek any particular season.
However, I discovered a photo file called “Desperate for Spring.” It takes place at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, — across our Delaware River, below New Hope. As I wrote on my new WordPress blog, NJWILDBEAUTY, re Bowman’s: “Visit. Join.”
Walk Bowman’s cold early spring trails with me now, and see why.
Start with the ugliest plants as winter leaves, which I’ve also seen this winter at Sandy Hook, and would see at Island Beach, had I braved that wondrous park since Sandy: This is to show you that this isn’t the only bitter winter in recent memory.
Recumbent Prickly Pear Cactus, Bowman’s, March ‘09
Fallen Leaves to Nourish Spring Growth, Bowman’s, March ‘09
Better Luck Next Week! — Bridge over Pidcock Creek on Medicinal Trail March ‘09
First Spring Herald Emerges from Oak Duff, Bowman’s, March ‘09
More Desperate for Spring Even Than I — Bowman’s, March ‘o0
First Flower of Spring, Skunk Cabbage, Bowman’s, March ‘09
And that wasn’t a snowy winter. Two people I know have seen skunk cabbage emerging nearby (D&R Greenway Preserves near Princeton.) This plant is exothermic — has been measured, inside the spathe at 60 degrees. Can melt ice and snow. But it’s having a hard time this year.
Now walk Bowman’s trails with me a little later — and see what lies ahead for us. I usually go every other week, from March’s own emergence, onward. Not this year.
An Ignition of Skunk Cabbage, Bowman’s, early spring
Emergence of Royal Ferns, Bowman’s, Early April
Bluebells, Ferns, Mayapples, in April at Bowman’s
Now, walk with me a little later in the serenity of Bowman’s (deer-fenced) woods and trails. Her flowers are only native. To Bowman’s, this means, here before “Contact” — with Europeans…
Eponymous Twinleaf - Bowman’s Shop Named After This Spring Ephemeral
Bluebells Already — Early May
Beech Drops in the Beechwood, Early May
I’ve given you early Bowman’s, so that you can experience the adventure, even before the yellow lady’s slippers, the sea of bluebells up to your knees, the toad trillium, the awakening of snakes, the bellowing of frogs…
Beech drops may be the ideal culmination of our sprinquest. For they may be the ultimate emblem of hope. These tiny tendrils actually have minuscule magenta flowers at their tips. They are found only in beech groves (which also create neat microclimates, if there are enough beeches.) Beechdrops grow from very old dead beech trunks below the surface of the ground. Without chlorophyll, almost invisible, they grow, they flower.
As Spring is doing, even as we share these trails.
Tasha O’Neill’s Great Blue Heron in Blizzard, Lake Carnegie
Friends are kind enough to care that I write two nature blogs — NJ WILD for the Packet, and NJWILDBEAUTY for WordPress. They send images for my readers.
As a life-long writer, I really resist admitting that a picture is worth ten thousand words. But it’s true.
For example, the above masterpiece, in the midst of one of our recent blizzards, from Tasha O’Neill.
While Tasha was out there stalking birds, she also captured the beautiful red mill, home of Robert and Sheila von Zumbusch, which punctuates the Carnegie Lake dam landscape:
Tasha O’Neill’s Red Mill Alongside Carnegie Lake Dam
Just this week (It’s March 14 today), Bill Dix, one of Tasha’s fellow photographers, who also has had his work exhibited at D&R Greenway Land Trust, where I work, found one of ‘our’ eagles, healthy and victorious. Bill also gives permission to me to use his own masterpiece:
Bill Dix Eagle and Gull
Word is that this is part of a fishing contest, and that gull is none too happy.
NJ WILD readers know my thesis in these blogs is that you can find and even exult in wild nature right in our own back yard. These images took place along the D&R Canal, near the D&R Towpath.
Think PRESERVATION, HABITAT, WATER QUALITY. Rejoice that these situations are being addressed by land trusts in our region.
D&R Greenway was founded twenty-five years ago to save land along the canal and towpath. Around 18,000 acres have been preserved in this, our most populous state. In this, the state likeliest to be completely built out, according to a Rutgers University Study, in a couple of decades or sooner.
Build-out is as dire as catastrophic climate change.
Princeton Eagle by Brenda Jones
As NJ WILD readers know, Janette wrote of finding a dead eagle near the nest of the Princeton eagles.
This took place at noon on a Friday.
The following morning, at 11 a.m., Ron from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on the Delaware River below Lambertville stopped, with two other cars, to study a dead eagle. Janette saw her carcass, she said, on Seminary Drive. Ron saw his on adjacent, perpendicular Mapleton Road.
No one photographed the eagle carcass.
No one took the carcass to a wildlife center, nor called 1-877-WARN-DEP, as instructed on the yellow signs that cordon off the Princeton eagle nest, to alert to problems with the nest or the birds.
A dead goose was soon reported, evidently so many times, that officials had to go and remove it to stop all the calls.
There were no calls anywhere admitted from any official stations, including Animal Control Offices of Princeton, of Plainsboro, of West Windsor.
Mark Johnson, Animal Control Officer of Princeton, did admit to a reporter on Saturday that he had learned “that one of the Princeton eagles is dead.”
No one has seen the carcass since Saturday at 11 a.m.
The official Princeton Eagle Nest Observer reported that the two Princeton eagles were seen at their nest, performing “incubation exchange” as they should be. One egg was officially reported in the nest.
On the following Saturday, a fellow birder, Mary Wood, and I did see one of our Princeton eagles sitting proudly, even sternly, in that odd deep nest that looks like a hummingbird’s or an oriole’s, not an eagle’s.
That is all I know.
It amazes me that this blog, sent on the Monday after Janette saw the eagle carcass - and she KNOWS eagles, for “they fly over our yard all the time, I SAW the white head”, has resulted in zero comments.
Are we all that indifferent to the plight of our nation’s symbol in our town.
If there was an eagle carcass (Ron of the rehabilitation center tends eagles, feeds and heals them), then a possibility is that a usurper attempted to take the place of one of the Princeton eagles; that it was successfully fended off, and ‘ours’ (for they belong to themselves, to Nature) are healthy and carrying on as the brilliant parents they have always proved to be.
But we will never know. Because no one took a picture. No one called any of the official agencies. No one proved that this tragedy, indeed, took place.
We are our brothers’ keepers. The eagles are our brothers and sisters. Attention must be paid.
We must do everything in our power to preserve ideal, healthy habitat for our eagles and other wild creatures. And that includes keeping poisons out of the D&R Canal. And that includes calling officials the minute you suspect any problem with rare and endangered species above all.
American Bald Eagle Profile by Brenda Jones
I want to be wrong. I want nothing of this blog to be true. I want man’s inhumanity to other species and to the planet itself, especially its waters, especially its habitat, especially the D&R Canal and Towpath, not to be the reason that we may have lost one of the Eagles of Princeton.
NJ WILD readers don’t know that I’ve been having ‘the dickens of a time’ with the Princeton Packet, getting NJ WILD listed anew as one of their blogs. “My back’s been up” for two full months, over non-responses. This is due to the fact that the Packet has been firing people right and left, leaving whoever is still there completely in the lurch. Communication is a lost art, and I haven’t been faithful in checking comments on NJ WILD, even though I’ve been preparing new posts. Which surely add lustre to the Packet’s reputation. However, lustre is irrelevant.
January’s Eagle, by Brenda Jones
I have been writing for the Packet since 1978. I have been keeping NJ WILD for them since Ilene Dube asked me to in 2008! And I cannot get answers, let alone solutions.
American Bald Eagle with Sculler by Brenda Jones
Therefore, I didn’t see this dire comment until an hour ago. I will now start making calls to officials. I will, of course, being faithful to my faithful NJ WILD followers, tell you anything useful that I learn.
American Bald Eagle of Princeton Over Lake Carnegie by Brenda Jones
In all my years of keeping this blog, this is the saddest comment that has ever come my way:
Princeton’s Mated Pair of American Bald Eagles in Winter by Brenda Jones
The writer is Janette Stubelt, and I seem to have no way of reaching her directly. I thank you, Janette, for your care and concern. With all my heart, I want you to be wrong.
This is the time of the egg-laying of eagles. No matter which one of ‘our’ pair it is, there will be no hatchlings, no fledglings in Princeton this year. I cannot think of a greater tragedy, for the birds, for birders, for Princeton. So long as they soared above us and successfully raised young each year, Princeton appeared a healthy environment. With one of our sacred pairs of eagles lying dead on the road near the Seminary, the truth about man’s inhumanity to other species, and man’s inhumanity to the Planet itself, is revealed.
Hi, I am writing because this morning I saw an eagle lying dead on the side of Seminary Road in Princeton. I am not sure if it was hit by a car but there were no feathers spread around it like I would imagine if it was hit. It was so sad to see such a great creature lying there. Not sure if there is someone to call about it.
Princeton’s Immature Eagles of Lake Carnegie by Brenda Jones
What the young are doing is called ‘branching’ — preparation for flight
Yes, the NJ Department of Fish and Wildlife, which I will call right now. Of course, I had to leave a message. Which I did. They gave me several Wildlife Management Areas to call, none of which is Mercer County, and some of which sites I’ve never heard, though I’ve lived in NJ since 1964.
Immature Eagle of Princeton Flying Off with Fish — Victoire! by Brenda Jones
Yes, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, which I will call next. David Wheeler is not available. For Assistance, Press Zero Now. Silence. Left message here.
Eagle Lift-Off, Carnegie Lake, Princeton, by Brenda Jones
Yes, the Cape May Bird Observatory, of which I am a member. Yet another message left.
Yes, the Cornell Ornithology Lab, of which I am a member. There, again, I must leave a message.
I have been pursuing this since four p.m. on Monday, March 3.
I will now call the Princeton Packet and see what happens! No one is available. Please leave a message.
Sally Stang called back, and is forwarding my information to the appropriate people.
What We Will Not See This Year — “Immature Eagles of Lake Carnegie, side-by-side, by Brenda Jones
I called Town Topics, and who should be there but Linda Arntzenius with whom I explored the Marsh on Saturday. She will call Mark Johnson, who is in charge of wild creatures in Princeton.
I will write Brenda Jones, my friend and our superb photographer of animals and birds, whose sister is in toxicology in our region. If that eagle was brought in for analysis, Brenda’s sister will know. She’s the one who knew, long before we did, that the so-called “aggressive coyote” near Drake’s Corner Road by no means was ill.
I’m sending this out now. I don’t know anything more than I did at 3 p.m., when I happened to come across the ‘comment’ about the eagle.
Turkey Vulture Close-Up In Flight, by Brenda Jones
I cherish vultures. I do not wish them ill. They keep our land so clean, so steadily. They soar so beautifully. I hate to admit that I hope this bird was a vulture, and not one of our long-mated (they mate for live) eagles of Princeton.
If this is true, March is the cruellest month!
American Bald Eagle, Gathering Nest Materials, by Brenda Jones