Archive for the ‘NJ WILD’ Category
Long ago, I chronicled the Blizzard of ‘78, from my Princeton house on Braeburn, off Snowden. A year later, the Packet published the entire journal, with pages of professional photographs of that crippling storm. Our girls accepted the fact of its seriousness when the word came that QBM (Quaker Bridge Mall) was closed. Adults did same when they heard that IBM was…
Here, I chronicle officials’ translation of the storm out my windows above Canal Road, near Rocky Hill. Iconic phrases and images unfurl, and I have to stop my professional writing to get this down. Never did I expect to become a stormwitness anew, on a blog. Also, for the Packet.
Oddest of all, with two storms causing this weekend’s ordeals, and another ‘in the wings’, not one reporter in all these hours mentioned the word ‘climate,’ let alone ‘climate change’, let alone carbon dioxide, carbon footprint, carbon emissions, glacial melt… Nor any of the wise and courageous scientists who’ve been telling us for decades that this scenario is inevitable. How they love to blame it all on Mother Nature!
What one reporter dubbed, “A Winter Wallop - gonna be a Big One”, started here in the dark of Friday.
It all began as ‘snrain’, barely visible, yet palpable, before first light. ‘Our’ blizzard wasn’t ‘due’ until 3 p.m., but no one told the storm gods. Even though I could not see whatever was falling, it was dropping clumps on the paving stones like the sticky Lux flakes my mother used to use for hand-washing.
Our weekend forecast — emphasis on END — has gone from 38 and partly cloudy to rain to wintry mix to 9 inches before Saturday is over. With these words, my excursions to havens are systematically cancelled.
There is still no visible snowfall. Yet, in this dusk-like dawn, streaks spurt past, white and fast as comets.
[I'm reading about Yellowstone in Audubon: "There are things you learn, riding the bus between wolf sightings." It's been a long time between wolf-sightings. This hideous forest beside which I dwell, this former healthy woodland destroyed by Mr. and Mrs. McMansion next door, would be bearable, if there were wolf sightings, or even coyote. But it's too narrow, too deep, too studded with invasives, offering no appeal to predators nor prey, repelling me. I try on different names for it, The Ugly Forest, Ruination Woods. Can a super snow storm gild this pitiful lily?]
All light is sucked out of the world now — not only the woods blurred, but also sky, the very ground itself. Its as though my windows have cataracts.
At least when it blows and is this far below freezing, Trap Rock cannot burn asphalt, searing and closing my lungs, enlarging my heart, as Solstice X-ray revealed, to my terror.
Audubon writes of “a shape-shifting flock” of wolves. This is a shape-shifting storm.
Now I can see ‘flakes’ - but they’re more like shards and fragments, something left over from diamond-grinding. If the New England adage is true: “Little Snow: Big Snow; Big Snow: Little Snow”, we are IN for it. In other words, when a New England snowstorm starts with minuscule flakes, the storm itself will be enormous.
Geese on high, invisible, not frantic — peaceful regular ‘barks.’
It’s 25 and grim, 70% humidity. When I’m outdoors, whatever’s falling feels like rain on my face and hands.
Well, so much for forecast. While boiling eggs in case of power outage, I turn on Local on the 8’s to learn we could now receive 10″ on the day that was s’posed to be partly cloudy and mid-thirties and WE were going for our first post-Sandy exploration of Island Beach. Not in a Nor’easter…
The officials, despite that “ten inches”, insist we are having rain in Somerset/Somerville. OK, rain that sounds like thousands of popcorn kernels dropping on this hill, hissing and dropping.
In the Boston area, this storm sounds like it could be worse than the Blizzard of ‘78, which was always my benchmark, and seems to have become so, now, in official parlance.
Locals still insist ours here is rain and 34 or 35 - when it’s below thirty and rattling. On the deck, this NOT- rain is bouncing back up.
Now we’re hearing of travel bans in Boston, and Jim Cantore and Al Roker are on Boston Commons. Not for a bird walk, not for a swan ride, not even to jog or write or hear poetry. To be battered by winter’s worst.
Mayor Bloomberg is on in Manhattan, telling people to “Stay home, cook dinner, read a good book.” This gets translated later by commentators into everything from “read a book” (evidently doesn’t have to be good) and “order takeout.”
Worst of the Bloomberg exchanges is insistence that “there are no problems with gasoline.” I have this same note in my Sandy journal, from mayors and governors, insisting! And in Princeton, I came home on the heels of Sandy to gas lines spilling for blocks onto highways, police with red lights flashing monitoring our local gas stations! Within the hour of Bloomberg’s reassurance, with this snowstorm, there are gas problems on Long Island.
Now, whatever is coming down out my front door sounds like a really violent sandstorm, pelting against the building, against glass, fizzing through evergreens. Relentless, ceaseless.
I”ve been working on the book on Stuart Country Day School’s 50 years, relentless and ceaseless myself. I squint out windows to figure out what’s really happening.
Leaving the computer, I hear a television reporter speak of “sleet stinging my face.” Another describes rising wind and cold as “stinging to the bone.” Our local officials still call it rain.
There’s something worse to me than precipitation during storms. It’s the ruination of the English language. It’s being called ‘guys’ every few minutes. It’s having reporters in the field on all stations say “Back to you guys in the studio,” when it’s two women in dresses too tight and too short, decrying their professional status as scientists, as meteorologists, and most definitely not GUYS! The other ordeal is having to absorb the new redundities. Chefs tell us to ‘reduce down’. Snow monitor speaks of “eroding away.” “Gather together, cobble together” set my teeth on edge. [Re weather today, the two storms,] Everything merges together.” Normally, I can avoid these desecrations, but not during storms. Latest — “We’ll return you back.”
I learn what I should know, “the lighter the snow, the higher the snowfall amounts.” The usual 10 - 1 ratios of rain to snow are off in this one, because whatever’s falling wherever is very very wet and heavy. “More like 1 to 3″, says the expert. Being innumerate, this is only of passing interest to me.
I have a friend who’s a self-admitted “connoisseur of snowflakes”, and nothing has fallen yet that is worthy of him.
“Already we can’t see down to the blacktop,” a girl in a puffy parka somewhere near Long Island observes; “and we still have two hours to go.” That means to the official beginning - ours still being 3 p.m., tho pelting since before purported sunrise.
One of my favorite phrases in this storm is “Waiting for the Wind.” Actually, I don’t want wind, because of all the tall trees, conifers and deciduous, in which this dwelling is set. We lost five big ones to Sandy, and there are trees beyond counting out there that could fall in any direction.
Now Governors and Mayors repeat each other’s theme song, “STAY HOME.” Christie, about whom I shall say nothing not storm-related, commands, “Do everything slowly. Be smart and be safe. Watch this storm but don’t get into the middle of it. STAY HOME.” But he does not order actions nor inactions of ordinary citizens.
Connecticut roads are about to shut down. In Bedford, L.I., “We’ve hardly seen any cars here.” “Storm isn’t the problem, outages are.” This reporter already measures 4 inches. Later she will lose her yardstick down a snow-hidden open drain.
Another favorite line: “Ya know it’s gonna be bad when the coffee shop closes.”
Our report remains, “Cloudy. Periods of rain. A few snow showers. Mid-30’s” My noisy outdoor conditions remain, including thermometer resolutely below 30 since pre-dawn.
Officials outside report, “Icy pellets coming down. Not seeing many on roads. A lot of slush” Rye, N.Y.
One daft reporter: “Transportation may become an issue.”
“Snow is coming down harder and icier. It’s expected to worsen.”
(In New England, I’ve known for hours if not days, winds can reach 70 m.p.h.)
“Flooding on Route 35 and spin-outs on the NJTPK at Route 18″ — which is New Brunswick, which is a half hour north of here. My thermometer is now down to 26, with 80% humidity, and something that feels like drizzle but makes noise.
Officials: “It’s a good idea to bring all pets indoors.” They say this, this late in the day? People need to be told this?
“Wind chill in Boston tonight may be zero.” On the Commons, it is plain that sideways snow is painting ides of trunks of trees. Officials speak calmly of two to three feet of snow in places in MA, CT, NH, RI, ME. States begin “banning vehicular traffic.”
There is an image of the Mass Pike, Route 90, without one single car on it. This is afternoon on a Friday.
Lightning is reported off the Jersey coast.
Jim Cantore, on the Commons, shakes his head, side-by-side with Al Roker, as their snow fizzes sideways, “This is the real deal.”
Reporters everywhere warn “very very slick” “Roads bad. Sidewalks may be worse.”
We can’t see the Brooklyn Bridge for the snow. Later, the same will be true of the Empire State Building.
Re NYC, “Everyone wants to get out of Dodge.” The reason is given, “to avoid the worst of the storm.” But there doesn’t seem any place around here where that would be possible.
I-84 shut down. “Connecticut very bad - 100 crashes.” “LIE shut down.” Re MTA, “10 inches or 40 mph winds will jeopardize service, … likelihood of suspension.” AmTrak suspended. Buses on Route 9 in NJ cancelled. All MTA buses and Mayor Bloomberg’s plows have chains on tires. I think I heard same re EMT vehicles. Forget flying!
“Dangerous and Icy — GET HOME and STAY HOME.”
Views of many snow-smeared towns reveal streetlights on in daytime.
I keep feeling how ghastly all these perils and predictions must be for people who lost family and friends, homes, towns, swathes of trees to Sandy, 100 brief days ago.
Newark is bleak, black, empty. Not only flights outside but people inside La Guardia not allowed. I think equally true of JFK, but not shown images there.
“It’s just snow now. The mix is over.”
Observer in Brooklyn, re predictions, “I think they’re overdoin’ it.”
As power outages begin, officials warn about high winds and bucket trucks, to say nothing of critical snow removal for access — meaning days before electric companies, although primed, can even begin to repair.
“New England is already reeling.”
A reporter describes “phalanxes of snowplows.”
“We’ll be working throughout the night.”
“Please slow down.”
“Numbers getting really big.”
“Everyone into snow now.”
Radar rotations, –even chief meteorologists admit, on many different channels–, “almost look like a tropical system.”
Wasn’t Sandy also a marriage of two storms? Or was that Irene? Or both? I do know Sandy was followed by a severe New Jersey snowstorm that in some shore towns wreaked hardship to match or even surpass the hurricane/superstorm. Al Roker dubs this a “Snowicane.”
After all these hours, officials say, “It’s beginning to ramp up.”
More and more complaints that it’s “so wet and heavy.”
“Colossal stoppage of transport.”
Power company trucks from as far away as Ohio
Hurricane-force winds on Nantucket
“Gonna be a wild night.”
“Long Island’s gonna be the bull’s eye.”
“It’s like a snow machine turned on high.”
People “walked to these restaurants because it’s not safe to be out on the roadways.”
“Driving is horrendous.”
“We’re not even halfway done with this storm.”
But I am - I’m going in to Stanley Kunitz, to read his deep and stellar prose and poems celebrating his seaside garden in Provincetown. And, though my beloved Cape looked really compromised on all those rainbowed rotation maps, I’m not going to think about storms…
NJ WILD readers know that it is my practice, –even my life–, to drive to natural havens, especially in New Jersey and nearby Pennsylvania. There I restore soul and muse at nature’s fonts.
You may have wondered at my long visual silence here. I haven’t known how to write about the depredations of Sandy, about this anthropocentric chaos we humans are increasingly calling forth, with such heedlessness.
Today, a series of Sandy Damage Images literally flooded me, as I tried to eat lunch, in a place where business was happening all around me. Sandy, –as was his/her recent way with us–, intruded, dominated.
This could be termed a prose poem. Whatever it is, I am haunted, yes INUNDATED, by Sandy Souvenirs. And I’m not even addressing what it did to birds and bird habitat. This is Sandy’s impact upon a birder, this birder.
WHAT is its impact upon YOU?
“ENDURING ABSENCES” - SANDY SOUVENIRS
nests of yellow disaster tape, tangled at crossroads
tree roots dwarfing buildings
macadam bike trails cracked, sea-braided
heavy-duty doors ripped from industrial-strength hinges, –wildly flung
sand swirls like blizzard aftermaths
boardwalks to nowhere
red fire hydrant top only emerging from tall swathes of deep sand
cars where boats belong
boats where cars belong
refuge pick-up trucks upside-down in new water
red Xs on former birding sites on Audubon hot line lists — enduring absences
trees throughout Pleasant Valley more horizontal than vertical, — snow-exaggerated
ghost of a clam shack at old Leed’s Point
sea-grass from the wrack line high in Scott’s Landing woods
Brigantine’s dike road severed
salinities in freshwater-, in Brigantine’s brackish, impoundments equaling bay
palisades of orange cones
‘NO VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT”
trail sign flat across a Bowman’s path, — posts upended, concrete dislodged
trail itself a rushing stream that may never yet be staunched
echoes of ironic names:
where are the havens?
One of the proofs of fine writing is that reading it triggers writing in others. My friend, food writer, Pat Tanner, is somewhat surprised at all the buzz generated by her recent article on last meals. Interviewing local chefs, the results were far-ranging, wise, funny, challenging, with intervals of blessed simplicity in this complex world. I couldn’t put Pat’s story down.
Then I literally picked up my pen (remember pens?) and began a list of jewel-like food memories. if I could command the best foods of my life now, time and money and distance being of no matter, here is what I’d call forth. But forget this last meal fad — don’t wait! — to experience any or all of these, if you can.
What neither of us expected was that I could bring the little list along to our Petite Christmas supper this week, read it to Pat and trigger memories of her own, with her family, in the presence of sublime food.
To begin, the Malossol caviar, served aboard the S.S. France, scooped with a ladle, in quantity equal to freshly home-made ice cream, from a massive silver, crystal-lined bowl. This was April, 1964 - my husband and I sailed on the anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking and my Michigan friends were sure we would do likewise. Caviar was our first food on the France, and this was my first time to speak French with a Frenchman.
The next course of gem-like food is a tie:
Either Truffe sous les cendres, with Diane and Catherine and Werner, at Fernand Point’s La Pyramide in Vienne — truffle perfume permeating the puff pastry that had somehow survived having been cooked, as the French say, ‘in the chimney’, under the cinders:
« Une mise en bouche ou entrée idéale à partager en amoureux si vous possédez une cheminée. Les truffes, non pelées, sont enveloppées dans une fine bardes de lard et du papier cuisson, et cuisent à l’étouffée sous la cendre. Quand vous ôtez la papillote c’est déjà un bonheur olfactif splendide et la suite est tout aussi superbe. »
This is by no means Fernand’s recipe. He had perished by the time we were there, but Madame Point ruled with an iron hand, and the emporium of superb cuisine had lost not a jot of its lustre from our 1964 experience. This was summer, 1970. Madame Point was not at all pleased to see a seven-year-old and an eight-year-old arrive. But their eagerness for and knowledge of her husband’s menu items, and the swift skill with which they dispatched their meal, artichokes in particular, won her heart. At the end, she and some of the chefs bowed the girls out, giving them little chocolates to take across the street to the Inn.
The other contender, which runs neck and neck with the truffe, is my first fresh foie, so lightly seared, with but a soupcon of sauce, based in golden late afternoon light at Auberge Des Templiers in the Loire Valley. Silk. That is the only word to describe the texture of that foie, and I have yearned for it ever since. This was our Fourth-of-July trip, taking the girls ultimately to the Normandy Beaches for the Bicentennial we wouldn’t have had without those sands, in July 1976.
With no place in this menu, Wellfleet oysters must be included. Anytime. Anywhere. Also Chincoteagues. Belons and Marennes, in Normandy or Brittany, with a local Muscadet, served with those thin circles of sour rye (sans seeds) and a white porcelain dish of creamiest Buerre de Charentes.
The main course is the same, but two sites contend.
Filet de boeuf, Sauce Marchand de Vin, at the Relais St. Germain, on the left bank, in Paris, April, 1964. It was Mothers’ Day, and the girls, at 6 months and 18 months, were home with my Mother. Werner chose this Relais to bolster me, missing those babies. We thought we’d never go to Europe again, that we had to do so right now, before he entered practice. We could walk to the Relais from our hotel, the Scandinavia, whose address I think was vingt-sept rue de Tournon. We had to memorize it for cab-drivers…
The identical entree may have been the gastronomic triumph — in Tournus, in the heart of Burgundy’s cote d’or, at lunchtime. Only this beef was the legendary Charolais. For the sauces, no contest.
Pommes Souffles, Antoine’s, New Orleans, on Spring Break 1958.
Dessert - no contest — the miniature fraises bois (wild strawberries not so large as my little fingernail, explosions of flavor) at Joseph’s, our first night in Paris, April, 1964.
I see I haven’t spoken much about wine. Chateau d’Yquem, with no food, tasting with Alexis Lichine and Tony Wood, his American representative, at the chateau in 1964. This same golden elixir with the fresh foie at Auberge des Templiers in 1976.
Muscadet with oysters, indeed.
Any Montrachet with the caviar, or champagne chosen by the sommelier.
The red wine that comes first to mind is Chateau Pichon-Longueville. There were some splendid Chateauneuf-du-Papes when we were in and near Avignon, but oddly I do not recall the food.
Autumn Dawn Majestic Tree, Brenda Jones
D&R Canal Approaching Storm, Martha Weintraub
Sourlands Mossy Monarch, Brenda Jones
As I type the title of my Christmas musings on our lost trees, three hefty deer in their no-nonsense winter coats, process like wise men out of these woods. Well, what’s left of woods…
My NJ WILD readers know I am a literal tree-hugger. I talk to them, too. I work for them constantly, at D&R Greenway Land Trust, preserving scarce open land in almost-built-out New Jersey.
It is a particular grief to leave the house each day, no matter where I’m headed. My journey of bereavement begins with stumps and (inexcusably still tumbled) segments of five monarchical trees on this property. Going to Morven to decorate D&R Greenway’s Holiday tree, my car was dwarfed by towering roots of a toppled conifer, which blessedly fell away from the home of the signer of the Declaration. In my seven miles to work, I daily drive alongside vistas of wisted and shattered and snapped and flattened formerly healthy trees. Trees tossed in piles like pick-up sticks. Trees without tops. Roots higher than McMansions. Slaughtered trees.
People keep using the phrase “war zone” to describe the effects of Sandy and the Snowstorm. But the fallen soldiers are trees. In Massachusetts, from whence I could not return during Sandy, I read of “trees as weapons.”
What is oddest about the downed giants everywhere is that they seem venerable healthy specimens. They are not spindly saplings. It’s as though the heart has gone out of the old trees on all sides, that they have ‘given up the ghost.’
Up til now, trees were beauty to me. I go to to trees to be uplifted, inspired and consoled.
The Solace of Trees, Titusville Brenda Jones
Trees have spirits, some so palpable that I can tell male from female energy, and have named some. For example, the beech at D&R Greenway I’ve christened Sylvia. After all, Sylvia Beach (pun intended) went to Paris and Shakespeare and Company from Princeton.
I cannot do justice to the trees I so mourn. To the corpses I see all over everywhere, on hill and especially The Ridge and in dales and along streams, and even fifty-five treasures on the ground at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Trees have closed some trails there, perhaps forever. Trees have altered waterways there, so that Gentian may not open again.
Of course, we are spewing the CO2. We are altering climate, winds, glaciers, water temperatures, currents, seasons, migrations, coastlines. We are felling these trees.
Felled trees, by the way, no longer act as ‘carbon sinks’ - what ghastly engineer dreamed up that term?
Let others speak for me:
Robert Louis Stevenson, my first favorite poet: “It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
Carnegie Lake Winter Trees, Brenda Jones
Susan Fenimore Cooper: “Of the infinite variety of fruits which spring from the bosom of the earth, the trees of the wood are the greatest in dignity.”
Minnie Aumonier: “There is always Music among the trees, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”
Marcel Proust (that city person!): “We have nothing to fear and a great deal to learn from trees — that vigorous and pacific tribe which, without stint, produces strengthening essences for us, soothing balms, and in whose gracious company we spend so many cool, silent and intimate hours.”
Marcel was right for a long time, until the increasing occurrence and severity of major storms due to catastrophic anthropogenic climate change.
Yes, we had nothing to fear from trees– yet in our very own town, one of its most special citizens, Bill Sword, Jr., lost his life in the storm to a tree. A man of generosity, integrity, honor and great spirituality is no longer among us.
Is fate’s timing of Bill’s death meant to warn us that something far beyond trees is imperiled?
Could the trees, themselves, be sacrificing themselves to send us this urgent message?
I often think this about whales and dolphins, stranding along our coasts.
Where Sandy swirled is the signature not only of the earth changes we are engendering pell-mell.
It is also the signature of Inevitable sea-level rise. Where Sandy clawed, the sea will claim.
There isn’t going to be normal any more.
Tree carcasses are not normal.
How interesting that this ghastly landscape has been created the cusp of the season in which we decorate and even sing to trees….. O Tannenbaum….
Cormorants Swim Where Brenda Jones and I Birded By Car…
NJ WILD readers know, if they know anything about me, how precious is the birding refuge, ‘The Brig’, A.K.A. Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge to me, as a birder, and far more profoundly, as a spiritual being.
It’s where I restore myself when “the world is too much with me”, more and more frequently these days. Far more important than I, however, ‘The Brig’ is a key stopover on the Atlantic Flyway, rich in rarities at all times. Perhaps never more precious than in winter, when winged creatures elsewhere can be scarce.
Duck Flight Before Storm, Brenda Jones
Everyone also knows that un-hurricaned Sandy destroyed great swathes of our beloved New Jersey’s three coastlines, especially The Shore, especially at and in and near Atlantic City.
One of the eeriest factors of being at ‘The Brig’ is that you see all those gambling towers through the migrant flocks. My happiest times at ‘The Brig’ are when I can’t see Atlantic City, because of fog or whatever.
I have been down at the Brig in fire, fog and ice. I can never believe that anyone would rather be in those towering prisons of glass, those cacophonous, frenzied places, rather than in the seamless peace of the marshy reaches of The Brigantine.
Great Egret, Great Peace of Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, Brenda Jones
I can’t drive it’s dike road any more, because it has been severed by uncategorized-storm-Sandy.
Cormorants swim where I used to bird by car.
All those carefully managed impoundments with their specific salinities, to nourish certain aquatic plants and shelter and feed certain waterfowl, are fouled. The Bay, –Absecon Bay, whatever its salinity in the storm and ever since–, has surged in. The Brig, as we know it, is no more.
Grebe Swallowing Frog, Brigantine Wildlife Refuge December Drama — Anne Zeman
I’m going down there for Christmas, ‘come hell or high water’. Certain walking trails are open, and birds don’t watch the Weather Channel. I’ll check out Leed’s Point, where the Jersey Devil was purportedly born and which thrives as a tiny old-world fishing village, at least until Sandy. Herons frequently soar in and land on Leed’s Point pilings. I’ll drive the bumpy sand road to and from Scott’s Landing, always remembering encountering hunters with their ‘bag’ of bloodied snow geese there, late one autumn. Odd, I’ve never read a recipe for snow goose. How neatly they were lined up along the sand… below the targets, silhouettes that teach hunters the differences among birds on the wing at various distances.
Snow Geese In Flight, Brenda Jones
How Snow Geese Look when they hear shots…. cfe
In the meantime, this is some of ‘The Brig’s’ reality. God KNOWS what’s happened at my other major havens - Island Beach, south of ruined Bay Head, Mantoloking, Seaside and so forth, and Sandy Hook, up by the Highlands and too many rivers….
Serenity and Tumult, Bay Head, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
NJ WILD BEAUTY, ISLAND BEACH Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Pristine Barnegat Bay, which rose to meet the Atlantic… Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Winter Realities, Normal Sandy Hook, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Sandy Hook, Bay Side, After a Hard Winter Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Brigantine Serenity from Leed’s Eco-Trail Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Cloudscape, Summer, Brigantine Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Glossy Ibis and Marsh Mallow’s First Bloom, Brigantine Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Update as of Friday, December 7 at 10 a.m.: The Wildlife Drive in Galloway remains closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Songbird Trail, including the portion that uses the Wildlife Drive, will be closed December 10 through 14 due to a refuge hunt. Other hiking trails in Galloway are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, including the Akers Woodland Trail, Leed’s Eco-trail, and foot access to Gull Pond Tower.
The Visitor Information Center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.weekends. All fees have been temporarily waived.
Scott’s Landing Boat Launch is open. Barnegat Observation Platform is open. The deCamp Wildlife Trail in Brick Township is open for the first 2000 feet. Holgate remains closed.
The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats are actively protected and managed for migratory birds. Forsythe is one of more than 500 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. Units of the system stretch across the United States from northern Alaska to the Florida Keys, and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The character of the Refuges is as diverse as the nation itself.
Wish me well on my Christmas pilgrimage. Far More Important, wish the birds well no matter man’s depredations.
Do whatever you can, wherever you are, even in those 90 countries who, for some reason, read NJ WILD about our dear state, to preserve refuges in your region.
And pay attention to catastrophic climate change. It’s no myth. It’s not a subject for believe. We have seen, to borrow the Pogo line, catastrophic climate change, and it is us.
What Sandy did was dress rehearsal. Sandy scrawled the signature of inevitable sea level rise for all the world to see. Sandy was not a one-time event. Sea level rise will not undo itself, as do hurricanes in time. Although not in damage.
Our world is changed forever.
Sandy didn’t change it.
What are you doing about it?
Rainbow Before Sandy, The Berkshires cfe
NJ WILD readers know, at October’s wild end, I was led to the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts. i was only to stay two days. My purpose was to hike in wooded hills and re-experience the finest arts at the Clark Institute, the Williams College Museum and Bennington’s, As complex 2012 wound down, mountains, art and limitless vistas had become more essential than usual.
Sandy had other ideas.
Green Mountain Trees Await Sandy cfe
My brief mountain getaway stretched to more than a week, with no heat or water in this Princeton dwelling, and major trees down along routes I needed in order to return home.
Long-time friends from corporate America laughed in unison when I referred to myself as a refugee. But what else are you when you can’t go home?
The mountains had many messages for me, which I assiduously reported in my journal.
Sandy Approaches Williamstown cfe
Above all, ‘Sandy’ is far too trivial a name for a natural event of that magnitude. Even though this Storm King lived up to its moniker, burying Jersey Shore cars well inland in sand like blizzard drifts.
Though cradled in the Green, the Berkshires, the Catskills and in the shadow of Mt. Greylock, this Jerseyan was haunted by a Shore town’s name, “Sea Girt.” Girdled by the sea. I do not know the fate of that oceanside haven, but it probably is not good. The truth is, we could change the name of New Jersey to Sea Girt.
NJ WILD readers have ‘heard’ me all these years, insisting, “It’s not Mother Nature, Folks. It’s US!” This has now been demonstrated to the entire world, irrevocably, inescapably. On the heels of a political campaign in which catastrophic climate change and environmental perils, let alone carbon footprints played no role.
Are we facing the truth now? Or are we all caught up in REBUILD and THE NEW NORMAL?
What ‘Sandy’ revealed was the fate of all our coasts.
What Sandy scrawled was the signature of sea-level rise.
Vanishing glaciers mean more water in oceans, which means more ‘fuel’ for storms whether rain, snow or wind.
Where I Read Storm News, Williamstown: The Chef’s Hat cfe
In the mountains, reading local papers and the New York Times, welcomed like a local, comforted as the refugee I had become, the scariest reality had to do with my beloved trees. One estimate, early on, was that we lost, in those few Sandy hours, 2 million trees. Think “2 million carbon sinks” everyone, two million living, breathing entities that used to absorb the CO2 we insist on pumping into the greenhouse called Earth.
What the mountain newspaper asserted was, “This was not a storm of floods nor even of winds — this was a case of trees-turned-weapons.”
Sandy Fury North Williamstown cfe
Drive anywhere, without even leaving Princeton. Toppled tree roots tower over dwellings of increasing magnitude. Even Morven itself is dwarfed by roots of the downed conifer in its front yard. Get out of the car to meet friends in the most privileged enclaves. Hear the tumultuous ripple of ‘tarps’ over roofbeams. Try to speak and hear above the roar of chain saws and tree-devourers.
Calm Before Storm, Bennington VT cfe
Sandy is no respecter of history, pedigree, address, or life station.
Years ago, I completed Tom Brown’s Tracker School. Ralph-the-Seneca was one of the participants, needing to learn Indian ways, especially foraging for wild foods, as intensely as I did. Ralph had been brought there to teach us the art of bow-making. At the end of making fire, Ralph took me aside, in the opening of a sturdy barn. “We are poisoning Mother Earth,” he intoned solemnly, back in 1983. “And she will do what any healthy animal does under those circumstances. She will vomit us out.”
Although I was far from Tracker School and our beloved Jersey Shore - in fact, from New Jersey’s three unique coastlines — that battered Shore, the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay, i experienced Ralph’s prophecy’s being fulfilled.
Climate change has never been a factor of ‘belief’! It’s here, now, big-time. Are we big enough to face it?
John James Audubon China Cup, Formerly at Mill Grove, by Tasha O’Neill
On a scintillating autumnal Sunday, two Princeton friends and I recently crossed the Delaware, then the Schuylkill Rivers, on pilgrimage to John James Audubon’s first American home — Mill Grove.
Mill Grove, by Tasha O’Neill
Over near Valley Forge, this mansion (referred to as ‘farm home and barn’ in professional literature) presides high on a wooded slope over Perkiomen Creek. In these woods, John James Audubon, fresh from Napoleonic France, encountered and grew enchanted by the birds and animals of his new country.
Birds as Audubon Painted Them, formerly at Mill Grove, by Tasha O’Neill
One of our first (and often controversial) naturalists, this man remains our most superb avian artist. No one equals his composition, exact depictions of vital habitat, even drama.
Chair of Audubon’s Era, Formerly at Mill Grove — Tasha O’Neill
One autumn, in a cave on the property, this young man tied silver threads onto phoebe legs, America’s first bird-banding. He would watch in delight as the migratory silver-marked pair returned the following spring.
Here the graceful Frenchman successfully courted neighbor Lucy Bakewell, his lifelong love. As his wife, through her gifted piano teaching, Lucy supported John James throughout major physical and financial perils. Without her loyalty and persistence, letters of encouragement, and financial acumen, we would not have the spectacular The Birds of America. This double-elephant folio edition, in which John James rendered birds life-size, was engraved and hand-painted by brilliant colorists in London between 1826 and 1839.
Ice Skates of Audubon Era, Tasha O’Neill
Each set cost $1000, by subscription, in 1827-1839. Each set is, today, beyond price. One resides at Mill Grove, glowing like crown jewels in its locked glass case.
After John James’ (to me premature) death, Lucy went on to found the society we know as Audubon. She dared protest and bring to a stop the killing of birds to decorate hats, dresses. suits, and fill curio cases, of women of her time. With this petite, determined woman, preservation took a giant and reverberant leap.
Strung Eggs and Sketches, Formerly at Mill Grove, Tasha O’Neill
Mill Grove is a dreamy place, suffused with river mists, dappled by lofty trees. My hiking and birding friends and I began our Sunday visit with a peaceful interlude on what had been the front (waterway-facing) porch. Rocking, as John James may have, we scanned woods, water and horizon for winged creatures. After our long [Pennsylvania Turnpike] journey, we were granted timeless contentment. On John James’ porch, we were transported far from 21st-century strife.
Somewhere on the property are remnants of the lead and copper mine to which this young man was consigned as manager by his father back in Napoleon’s France. My theory is that the lad’s arrival on these shores was to keep him out of the Emperor’s ‘hands’ and armies.
Reading of Audubon’s voyages in quest of bird, and later of mammal subjects for The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, it’s clear that this man required the outdoors. It’s hard to imagine that immigrant, –famous for silks, satins and skating–, spending significant time in a lead and copper mine. As a manager, here and in Kentucky, he was not a success. But his images of birds and their habitat have never been surpassed.
Fireplace, Mill Grove, Audubon Bedroom, Tasha O’Neill
We were warmly welcomed in the outstanding gift shop; questions answered as needed before, during and after our visit; treated to a lively video setting the stage for Audubon’s Mill Grove existence. Particularly helpful is Nancy Powell, Senior Curator. Their Staff will even advise and/or send restaurant and hotel information (two excellent choices mere blocks from Mill Grove’s gate.) We came home with books, Audubon note cards, and handsome items of clothing, some portion of which sales support the Center’s preservation and education mission.
Former Set-Up of Audubon Bedroom, Mill Grove Tasha O’Neill
Many programs are run in all seasons to educate and delight the public. HIkes, lectures, Important Bird Area programs, Backyard Birding presentations, even birding-by-canoe on the Perkiomen, are among the possibilities. If I lived nearer, I would be at Mill Grove every month. They also present sequential art exhibitions by nature artists of today.
Tasha O’Neil’s splendid interior pictures render scenes from our early springtime visit some years ago. Photographs are not permitted inside, because of the fragile nature of this superb art. So I cannot give you my scenes of Sunday’s riveting interior experience.
Mill Grove literature informs that, due to a series of owners, nothing at Mill Grove actually belonged to Audubon. Today’s interior rooms are not set up as they were when Tasha and I were there, officially, for a journalistic assignment, with permission to photograph. The artist’s presence, however, remains palpable throughout.
This week, we were all enthralled with this aura, as well as the Center’s informative and even playful artistic and scientific displays on three floors.
Lively murals tell the story of Audubon’s travels in search of knowledge and images, painted by Philadelphia artists George Harding and John Hanlen in the 1950’s.
Kentucky Scenes, Upstairs Mural, Tasha O’Neill
The property belonged to the Herbert J. Wetherill family, until transferred to Montgomery County, PA, in 1951. “The Audubon Shrine and Wildlife Sanctuary” was rechristened “The John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove,” “a Montgomery-County-owned historic site under the daily management of the National Audubon Society”, in 2003.
Raptor and Large Strung (Turkey) Eggs by Tasha O’Neill
On Tasha’s and my visit, we were so enthralled by interior ‘richesse’, that we never had time for a hike. This time, we purposely accomplished the aesthetic/historic and the natural. We enjoyed dappled interludes in woods John James would have explored, although not on trails!
As birders, it’s gratifying to know that birds who had been injured and rehabilitated are utilized for teaching by the Audubon Center. Staff and volunteers have been precisely trained to care for and handle these birds, brought to them by licensed rehabilitators. Schools and other public settings are the richer for these avian experiences.
Tasha O’Neill Former Scene, Mill Grove, Turkey, Eggs, and Sketch
It is sobering though, –walking the woods between John’s and Lucy’s homes (though still present, hers is not open to the public–), to consider the significance of Mill Grove’s woods, waters and creatures. Without this site, the world have been denied John James’ spectacular art and natural history.
Species thriving today could well have vanished with the dodo and the passenger pigeon, were it not for the love of John James’ life, Lucy Bakewell Audubon.
John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
Museum and Gift Shop Hours
Closed Mondays and Major Holidays
1201 Pawlings Road
Audubon, PA 19403
Paul Winter Image, from Internet
Where but Princeton would the best of music and the best of poetry meet in a sacred space, to further the preservation of priceless open land in our state? On Wednesday, October 10, the sublime smooth jazz of the Paul Winter Consort will weave around the powerful global poetry of Jane Hirshfield.
Each enhancing the music of the other, music as notes and words as notes will soar to the apex of Princeton University Chapel and beyond, beginning at 7 p.m.
Princeton University Chapel Image from Internet
The beneficiary of this unique event, followed by a Meet-the-Artists Reception and Signing at Firestone Library, is D&R Greenway Land Trust. The non-profit’s preservation and stewardship accomplishments began in 1989, tallying over 23 miles-and-counting in this, our most populous state.
Poets and students in our time have thrilled to the Paul Winter Consort’s poetic evocations at the Dodge Poetry Festival, all those years in Waterloo Village, and now and soon again, in Newark. Coleman Barks and Jane Hirshfield, both, have experienced Consort Magic integrated into their work (and that of ancient poet, Rumi, translated and evoked by Coleman.) At Waterloo, ‘the big tent’ seemed to levitate during these juxtapositions. In Princeton University Chape, as during Winter’s Solstice Rituals at St. John-the-Divine in Manhattan, apses and naves seem to surge with sacred waters, the venerable stones themselves seem to take on volume, as known yet always unexpected Consort tones surge and ebb around visitors.
Firestone Library Image from Internet
The Consort concert in the chapel begins at 7 p.m. The Meet-the-Artists Reception and Signing in Firestone Library takes place from 8:30 - 9:30.
This will be a night of the blending of paradigms, all for the cause of nature.
Tickets, supporting D&R Greenway’s Preservation and Stewardship Mission, may be phoned in at $!5 (Open Seating) and $35 (Reserved Seating) to Princeton University Ticketing. 609-2584TIX, or 258-48489 between 12 and 6. CDs and Books will be on sale at the evet. For $75 Reserved Seating, followed by the Meet-the-Artists Reception and Signing in Firestone Library, phone D&R Greenway at 609-924-4646. OK to leave message with credit card details and phone and address information.
Note, performance is in the Chapel off Washington Road, on the University Campus, not at D&R Greenway. Ticket information will be mailed upon receipt of funds. Checks are made out to D&R Greenway Land Trust and mailed to One Preservation Place, Princeton 08540.
Poet Jane Hersfield was graduated in Princeton University’s first class to welcome women. She describes herself, as a freshman, as “that entirely naive and deeply shy young woman.” Jane muses upon what her freshman self would have thought, had she been told that “I would be returning to read my poems in such a space, [University Chapel], let alone in the company of the transcendentally gorgeous Paul Winter Consort, whose music makes a chapel all on its own.”
Baffled, as are many of us, that “the acutely felt environmental awareness of spring 1970 remains still under-realized,” Jane expresses gratitude that Scott and Hella McVay and D&R Greenway are bringing this event into being.
“For me, [she focuses on] the awareness of the interconnection of all life on this planet, and the sense of responsibility that emerges from that awareness,” which Jane Hirsfield terms “polestar things.”
Paul Winter generously ‘piped’ D&R Greenways Poets of the Trail to the podium, when the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail opened upon the land trust’s grounds in Greenway Meadows.
Never did his saxophone sound more sweetly than upon that golden evening, beneath century-old trees, with wind and birds on the wing as accompaniment. 48 poems await visitors on that trail, any time, whether or not D&R Greenway is hard at work in its 19th-century (Robert Wood Johnson’s) working barn. The evocative trail rises among stately sycamores, opens out into warm-season grasses. It curves along a gentle ridge from which the Sourland Mountains are visible, then turns and returns to an oak that could be the sister of the Merer Oak. The trail is punctuated with rustic benches for contemplation.
Jane Hirshfield’s Zen consciousness is right at home on the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail in Greenway Meadows. Her voice and presence will lend new and unique echoes to the mellifluous notes rising from Paul Winter and his Consort.
As with his music with the whales, the cause of nature will be furthered in the chapel on October 10 - do join us!
HERE IS OUR OFFICIAL ENTIRE RELEASE:
Princeton University Chapel October 10 for D&R Greenway Fund-raiser
Paul Winter Consort and Poet Jane Hirshfield
Princeton, NJ – D&R Greenway Land Trust invites the public to hear Paul Winter, with his Consort, interweaving their iconic music with the soul-stirring words of poet Jane Hirshfield, on Wednesday, October 10. ‘Music and Poetry of the Earth’ will unfold in the Princeton University Chapel, beginning at 7 p.m. Jane Hirshfield’s books and the Consort’s CDs will be available for purchase after the performance. A meet-the-artists reception in Firestone Library will follow, from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. Reception fees benefit the preservation mission of D&R Greenway Land Trust. [www.drgreenway.org – 609-924-4646]
Tickets for reserved performance seating, –which include the Meet-the-Artists Reception, where books and CDs will be signed, cost $75. Reservations are available directly through D&R Greenway Land Trust:(609) 924-4646. Credit cards are accepted for phone orders, or checks made payable to D&R Greenway Land Trust. For [non-reception] performance seating, ($35) and ($15) General Admission seating, call Princeton University at 609-258-9220. To order $35 and $15 tickets on-line: http://www.princeton.edu/utickets/, or arrange in person at the Frist Campus Center Ticket Office, Monday-Friday, from noon-6 pm.
‘Music and Poetry of the Earth’ is co-sponsored by the Princeton University Chapel, the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, and Scott & Hella McVay. Scott McVay is a co-founder of the Dodge Poetry Festival, where the Paul Winter Consort traditionally performs with poets. Winter and Hirshfield first performed together at the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival. Hirshfield will be a featured poet at the Festival at NJPAC in Newark, October 11 and 12.
Coming to Princeton is a natural for Jane Hirshfield, who graduated in Princeton University’s first class that welcomed women. Inspired by both Eastern and Western poetry, Hirshfield’s work utilizes a short form, hinging on a singular turning point or moment of arresting insight. “It is a pleasure and a privilege to join the Paul Winter Consort and broader community in support of D&R Greenway and its work in preserving and making available open space in central New Jersey,” says Hirshfield.
Paul Winter declares, “I am excited about performing in the magnificent chapel, with its magical acoustics.” The realm of this stellar musician has long embraced cultures and creatures of the entire earth, explaining his attunement D&R Greenway’s mission: “I have admired their work since I had the privilege of playing at the opening of the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail there in 2010. I feel a deep resonance with this well-run organization’s efforts to preserve land in central New Jersey — more than 17,000 acres! My collaborations with the McVays go back to the ’70s, with our mutual interest in whales and poetry. This we have celebrated during twenty-five years of collaborations at the Dodge Poetry Festival.”
Paul Winter, Paul Winter Consort
Paul Winter credits the songs of the humpback whales for opening the door for the six-time Grammy-award winning Consort, in the late 1960s, to what he refers to as “the greater symphony of the Earth.” Since then, the extraordinary voices of whales, as well as those of wolves, eagles, elk, loon, and a score of other creatures have become part of the Consort’s celebrations, awakening people to the plight of endangered species. Winter’s tours and recording expeditions have taken him to fifty-two countries and to wilderness areas on six continents. The musician has traveled on rafts, dog sleds, horses, kayaks, tug-boats, and Land Rovers. The Consort’s new work, launched last spring, Flyways, celebrates the immense bird migration from Africa through the mid-East to Eurasia.
As artists-in-residence at the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, New York’s St. John the Divine, the Consort has for three decades presented annual Winter and Summer Solstice Celebrations, as well as the ecological liturgical work, Missa Gaia/Earth Mass. Winter has performed in major concert halls around the world, including Washington’s National Cathedral, the Grand Canyon and the Negev Desert.
Poet Laureate Kay Ryan describes Jane Hirshfield as “a writer who demonstrates in every possible way that this life matters.” During her twenties, she was a full-time student of Zen for eight years, three of them in a monastery in silence. She is featured, with W.S. Merwin, –recent U.S. Poet Laureate–, and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in the PBS special, The Buddha. Hirshfield has authored nine collections of poetry; an anthology of women poets in praise of the sacred; and a group of essays on entering the mind of poetry, among other works. Jane Hirshfield is a powerful reader of poetry and interview subject. She has been featured in two Bill Moyers PBS television specials, Fooling With Words and Sound of Poetry. In 2012, Hirshfield was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
“Tree” from Given Sugar, Given Salt (2002), Jane Hirshfield
It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.
Even in this
you will have to choose.
That great calm being,
This clutter of soup pots and books –
Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.
The Princeton University Chapel
Completed in 1928, the Princeton University Chapel is the third largest university chapel in the world. The Tudor Gothic building underwent a $10 million restoration in 2000-2002. There are more than 10,000 square feet of stained glass, as well as wood carvings and stonework. The chapel is listed as one of the great acoustic spaces of the U.S. and Canada, by the American Choral Directors Association.
D&R Greenway Land Trust
Founded in 1989, the mission of D&R Greenway Land Trust is to preserve and protect a permanent network of natural lands and open spaces, creating conditions for a healthy and diverse environment. It provides the public with appropriate access to these lands, encouraging active lifestyles and a greater appreciation of the natural world. D&R Greenway Land Trust also works to inspire a conservation ethic, promoting policies, educational programs and partnerships that result in a public commitment to land preservation and stewardship. In its 23 years, the Land Trust has preserved 243 properties, or 17,126 acres, valued at over $360 million. For more information, visit www.drgreenway.org
Carolyn F. Edelmann, Community Relations Associate
D&R Greenway Land Trust
“In wildness is the preservation of the world”
Packet Nature Blog: NJ WILD: www.packetinsider.com/blog/nature/
Princeton Patch Post: The Nature of Princeton
Spotters on the Cape May Bird Observatory Hawk Watch Platform cfe
Actually, it’s more like “Cape May For Two Days”! And yes, it was MORE than worth it.
Those two days centered upon the Cape May Bird Observatory [CMBO] Hawk Watch Platform.
After stopping at CMBO to renew my membership, and pick up a super-comfortable strap for my binoculars, I headed for the lighthouse and the Platform, even before checking into my motel room.
Helpful Cape May Bird Observatory Personnel on Hawk Watch Platform, cfe
CMBO maintains “counters”, “spotters” — professionals of highest caliber, who spot and count birds zooming past in autumn migration. The Platform fronts upon a pond. always graced by swans and frequently dive-bombed by peregrines.
Sunset Swan, Brenda Jones
I immediately recognized the silhouette and mellifluous voice of Pete Dunne, head of CMBO, author of wit, wisdom and experience, and yes, bon vivant. Also, natural teacher. So many facets of my birding knowledge have been inserted or polished by this man, over the years, at sunrise and sunset, and sometimes at 20 degrees with 20-mph-winds. I was overjoyed to reconnect, after my year plus of hurt-hip-induced absence. Pete, watching me walk, exulted, “We live in remarkable times.”
He went on to prove it by mentioning, “I was informed by phone about the nighthawks.”
Here and there, spotting scopes were trained on the skies.
But these pros of the Platform don’t need optics. A black spot miles away can be differentiated, as in Cooper’s or Sharp-Shinned Hawk, and they’ll even tell you how they can tell. Something to do with frequency of flapping. Pete: “It it were a Sharp-shinned, it would’ve flapped by now.”
Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Brenda Jones
But I say, these spotters, these CMBO mentors, are attached to birds by senses which have not even been defined, let alone located. Senses which go beyond eyes and even beyond Swarovskis.
Brilliance is a big part of being on the Platform. And fellowship. I hadn’t realized that (this concentration of) birders are family; that I had missed them to such a high degree.
There’s always humor, and even humility. At one point, Pete said, with a shrug in his voice, “Haven’t a clue….” There was a pregnant pause, followed by, “… bird.”
At the same time, in my two visits that day, early and latest, I was part of a bald-eagle count approaching 30. Even more importantly, –as I learned at early light the next day–, a 268- kestrel day.
There was a bare tree set among cedars, as studded with kestrels as a Christmas tree with ornaments. Every one vivid. Every one fluttering. These raptors swooped out, over and over, –not unlike flycatchers–, in quest of insects, one after another. And kestrels can hover — I never knew that. So vivid that they seemed iridescent, even spangled. What a privilege to be surrounded by them.
American kestrels have been ‘fewing and fewing’ in recent years. Their sacred edge habitat has been increasingly devoured by what others deem progress. I forgot to ask Pete, why there were/are so many right now. But this is one time when why doesn’t matter. Only beauty, power, rarity and presence.
Among the other numbers on Monday (departure day) morning were 109 osprey. Osprey were everywhere Sunday evening, often ‘packing a lunch’ - fish in talons, aerodynamically situated so as not to interfere with flight. 17 sharp-shins. 10 Coopers. 30 Merlin. 5 Peregrine Falcons. and so forth…
I even spotted a tern I didn’t recognize, which Erin-of-CMBO eagerly identified as a Forster’s. She trained the Swarovski scope on this single bird at the end of a wooden dock-like structure to our right. “Only Forster’s terns have that black eye patch now. They’re really fun to identify in autumn.” As David Allen Sibley puts it, “Black eye patch of non-breeding plumage distinctive.” This Platform is where Sibley ‘earned his wings’, with Pete and Clay Sutton, his co-authors of Hawks In Flight, about to be re-issued. All three will be at the Cape May Birding Weekend, to talk and sign this re-issue of Sibley’s first book, before his NYT best-sellers, The Sibley Guide to Birds, and The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior.
Usually, white shrubs and vines surrounding the Swarovski-sponsored Platform are filled with monarch butterflies this time of year. There were fewer than I’ve ever encountered of these orange-and-black long-distance fliers. Even so, I was welcomed to the Platform by one which nearly landed on the bridge of my nose.
Icy yellow, with a tinge of chartreuse, or key-lime pie, the cloudless sulphur butterflies seemed more in evidence here and among the bayberried dunes of Higbee Beach.
One of the butterfly magnet shrubs has the lovely name of High Tide Plant. Elder is another name for it. I’m sipping St. Germain liqueur, late this night, as I bring Cape May back to memory and to life. Pretending I’m a butterfly, nectaring on the elder plant from whose flowers this French specialty is crafted.
I hear Pete observe, “That eagle looks like he’s about to leave for Delaware.”
American Bald Eagle, Brenda Jones
Delaware is very near, here where our River meets the ocean, and the Cape May Lewes ferry carries cars, birders, bicyclists, hikers and just plain tourists from one state to another. The ferry is a grand place for seeking out seabirds who “come to land only when nesting.” (Sibley)
I reluctantly leave the Platform because it’s time to walk The Point. Newly crafted ‘boardwalks’ (they’re not real board) lift birders off the marsh-scape, into the realm of warblers and other treasures. Somehow, they’ve conquered phragmites to an enormous degree, those towering invasive rushes that drive out all the native plants the birds need, not only in migration. In the place of reeds is a meadow or a prairie of New Jersey wildflowers. The air is fragrant with (the invasive) autumn clematis, tiny white starflowers spun along tangles of vines. It’s more interesting than honeysuckle, with mimosa ‘notes’.
Colors on all sides of me include a pinkish bronze (wool grass, which is really a sedge); purple asters; white asters; seaside goldenrod, white ‘rose’ mallows, white boneset, pink marsh mallow, white dotted smartweed, mistflower, wild ageratum, purple gerardia, etc. etc. etc.
I don’t know all these plants - a fine naturalist, the plant equivalent of Pete Dunne, was sitting on a bench and eager to teach me every single species, in English and in Latin. Carl Anderson. He explained that the bayberry-like plants were wax myrtle and hybrids of wax myrtle and bayberry — the leaves on the latter are broader and darker, and bayberries were definitely in the minority. Bayberries are essential fat/fuel to migrant birds. I felt like Alice In Wonderland, having drunk whatever and shrunk to be smaller than most of these flowers.
Birds were few, because it was mid-day. Fish crows ringed the beige lighthouse like a crown of thorns. A single egret minced about the edge of a pond. A sound I never knew, or maybe ever heard, turned out to be a single kestrel in a naked tree just above my head. The closest I’ve ever been to a kestrel.
Kestrel at the Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Morning dawned with a beach walk among black skimmers beyond counting, followed by another couple of hours on the Hawk Watch Platform.
Black Skimmers in Flight, Brenda Jones
Sky Full of Skimmers, the Jetty, Cape May cfe
From ten to twelve thirty, Monday, I floated on the boat, The Skimmer, among Cape May marshes. We were in quest of rare birds there, too. What I best remember is a series of large turtle heads in Turtle Creek, and a very rare Tri-colored Heron before we turned back to the dock.
Leaving for home was almost unbearable.
All the way north on the Parkway, I would hear those Platform phrases, “Over the cedars.” “Really soaring.” “Got ‘im!”
The line I’ll remember most is Pete Dunne’s description of yesterday, to a fellow ’spotter’ who also writes a blog: “Here’s the first line for your blog, Mike. If you weren’t here yesterday, slay yourself now.”
Black Skimmer Aloft, Cape May, by Brenda Jones
What do you do when your favorite Motel, even weeks ahead, only has one night in which to welcome you? It’ll be nearly three hours down, ditto back.
But the birds are migrating.
And the ocean beckons.
Shimmering Beachwalk, Cape May cfe
And I haven’t been on the Hawk Watch Platform since a year ago Easter, since this has been ‘The Year of the Hip.’
But my legs work now. I can carry my suitcase upstairs to my sea-facing room. I can walk on sand again.
My camera is not exactly rusting from disuse, but close.
Cape May Hawk Watch Platform after 2009 Blizzard cfe
The Hawk Watch Platform of Cape May Bird Observatory is officially open. Raptors are soaring. Shore birds staging. Monarchs might be nestled throughout the ivory blossoms of the high tide plant.
I have two good books, in a field new to me, food philosophy.
Seaside Seafood Supper, Inside Jetty Motel cfe
There won’t be enough time for all my favorite restaurants. But I’ll literally make a stab at it.
Osprey of May in Cape May, over CMBO Hawk Watch Platform cfe
And Monday morning, before turning north, I’ll be on the Skimmer again. This is a flat-bottomed craft that noses in and out of Back-Bay Cape May. Its knowledgeable Captain and Mate know where all the rare birds wait. Whether or not the ospreys have left, they’ll know how many young each nest produced. They’ll use delicate dip nets to introduce us to marshwater creatures, tenderly returning them as soon as we’ve memorized the names.
Everything will be shimmering.
And I’ll have new reasons to be glad of having endured this mightily successful hip replacement.
In a way, I’ll be migrating, for a too-brief interval.
Cape May vistas new and old will fill my treasury for the months ahead.
How Cape May Light Looks in Winter - CMBO image from Hawk Watch Platform
And probably, I’ll return, as is my wont, for Christmas.
The Jetty Motel is my favorite — go there. You’ll be made to feel like family. And, offshore, this time of year, hordes of black white and orange skimmers wait somehow, coming in for landings at sunrise, like the breakfast flock in Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Only vivid.
Make Cape May YOUR own…
Whale Watchers, Cape May, Brenda Jones