Archive for the ‘Animals of the Wild’ Category
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.
Filed Under (Animals of the Wild, Birding, Birds, Brenda Jones, Brigantine Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Climate Change, Destruction, Disaster, Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Environment, Global Climate Change, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ WILD, New Jersey, Oceans, Preservation, Weather, Winter, protection) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 12-12-2012
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?
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
Filed Under (Adventure, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Brenda Jones, D&R Canal & Towpath, KAYAKING, NJ WILD, Nature, Preservation, Solitude, native species, protection, rivers) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 07-07-2012
Eagle and Sculler, Lake Carnegie, by Brenda Jones
My NJ WILD readers know that my key reason for hip replacement was to get into (and OUT of) a kayak, as often as i like, to paddle as long as I like. Thanks to Dr. Thomas Gutowski, this impossible dream has been realized.
The first return took place at dusk on Lake Carnegie, thanks to the generosity of a new friend who carried the kayaks on his head high over the arched footbridge to the still lake. Now I have kayaked, alone and with others, five or six times on the D&R Canal south of Alexander. (www.canoe.nj.com)
A major blessing of all these sojourns, –beyond no longer being crippled–, is solitude. Each morning south of Alexander, whether alone or with friends, ours are the first prows on the water. For the Lake Carnegie idyll, although Saturday evening, there wasn’t another human in sight until we returned to the put-in. Our sole companion was a majestic great blue heron, mincing along in shadowed undergrowth to our right for the entire journey. Kayaks render one nearly invisible to wildlife. Even basking turtles don’t unbask as we pass.
Basking Turtles, D&R Canal, Brenda Jones
The D&R Canal and Towpath are right here in the middle of Princeton. For seven years, I worked with people at a College Road East firm, who would ask over and over, “Now where IS that canal, anyway?” Stunned, I’d reply, “Well you can’t really get into town without crossing it.” Sad to say, corporate types don’t have nature and history antennae out as they go about their daily rounds. They’d usually follow my answer with, “You go there ALONE?!”
Those who do possess and use antennae, know that this haven for walkers, paddlers and rowers exists, thanks to preservationists, –an eastern hem to the fabric of our town. Rich in natural beauty and significant human and industrial history, that canal was the reason for the founding and thriving of many New Jersey municipalities. It also provides drinking water for those not blessed with wells in our region.
Long ago, in a poem, I described the Canal and Towpath as “nurse, haven and muse.” She’s far more than that now, once I’ve learned to know her by water. It’s a treat to be dwarfed by her flowers, to skiddle along beside her turtles or pause so as not to disturb the swimming water snake. It’s birders’ heaven in spring, when warblers and other rarities territorialize along through the Institute Woods. And sometimes, near the Aqueduct, one sees ‘our’ American bald eagles, dashing osprey and gilded orioles doubled in still water.
Osprey Over Millstone Aqueduct, Brenda Jones
Last week’s kayaking began by renting a ‘loon’ at Princeton Canoe and Kayak at Alexander Road by the Turning Basin. After a work week assailed by interruptions, there was nothing more refreshing and essential than the absolute silence, which descended like incense, or an invisible cloak, as soon as I moved beyond the swallows of the Alexander Bridge. As their wings literally part my hair, I am alerted to the reality that I was in a new dimension.
Each time I emerge from bridge shadow, escaping tire whirr and creosote pungency, I bless the magic of my new (yes!) kayaker’s hip: “You may find you like it better than the original,” mused my miraculous surgeon.
Beauty and nature are my major lures on the canal. Timelessness is tied with these two factors/ I am entirely under my own power. No one cares when I return. I can sally or dally or bend at the waist and plunge forward or coast beneath tree dapple or sit still under an oriole.
Baltimore Oriole, Cloudless Sky, near D&R Canal, Brenda Jones
On first trips, I made sure to dip my right hand into that canal water and baptize that scar, as I had done at the Delaware River on Bull’s Island. I was letting that leg know, at hip’s entry, “You, who carried me to beauty, nature and history times beyond counting, are restored to full function and new adventures.”
My professional life can tip me over too much into the quantitative, the numeric and the scheduled. I suspect I am not alone in this.
Kayak time counters those tendencies, restores me to my primal most vital self.
Last week’s kayak experience, for example, at first disappointed by its constellation of absences. Yes, my hair was parted by swallows under the bridge. But, after that traditional beginning, there was no bird song, and no sightings until the ubiquitous territoriality of the common yellowthroat, claiming the middle of my route.
Not a spurt of cardinal flower, –crimson as the bird or the prelates for which it is named, awaited me in any of its usual shadowed nooks. I suspect the scouring removals of Irene and Lee.
Veery in Spring Greenery, Brenda Jones
No wood thrush at entry or turnaround. Even the red-winged blackbirds were silent. And those usual scolds, the jays.
It’s too soon for white and pink fluted blooms of marsh mallow, and all that remains of blue and yellow flags are pointy tall green spires of their sheltering leaves. Everything was green, green, green.
The emptiness was so all-permeating that I was forced to acknowledge that absence was the gift of that day’s canal drift.
Just then, a shrub to my right began moving in an uncharacteristic way. As though birds were fighting in it — but we’re beyond breeding season for most save goldfinches. Suddenly, I realized I was seeing graceful legs, rounded buttocks, and that diagnostic white flag tail of deer. Right down by the water, she was blissfully and purposefully breakfasting. I was near enough to see the shine on her planted hooves.
Doe, a deer… Brenda Jones
That day brought no herons, neither green nor blue. Nor the oven bird’s ‘teacher teacher teacher’ — most treasured gift of the Institute Woods, if I’m early or lalte enough.
Not even Constable clouds filled the canal — to be cleaved by the slender prow.
I turned around, (partly because of griddle heat), deciding to see how many strokes I could paddle without stopping. All these months, I realized, I’d been taking it easy out there, because of the so-called ’surgical leg’. I was way up into the 100s, when I had to speak to careless canoeists — in order to discover on which side of them I might safely progress. So I forget my tally, but it was impressive, and it didn’t hurt me, not then, not ever.
We are so blessed to live in a canaled town. Just cross the Delaware and look at that rooty, clunky, uneven towpath, alongside Pennsylvania’s empty canal, strewn with rocks and weeds.
I don’t know why New Jersey knew enough to preserve and sustain its canal, although D&R Greenway where I work, was a major part of that (before my time). I only know I’m deeply grateful.
Canal time fills memory’s treasure chest, for sustenance throughout the weeks ahead.
Wordsworth said it best, about daffodils:
“For oft, when on my couch I lie / in vague or pensive mood / and gaze upon that inward eye / which is the bliss of solitude / and then my heart with rapture fills / and dances…”
Your heart, too, can dance upon canal waters. Just show up at Princeton Canoe and Kayak and set OUT.
North from the turning basin goes under the Dinky tracks and all the way to and through the aqueduct at Mapleton and beyond. It’s the busy way, with walkers, bikers, other water craft, and sometimes ‘our’ eagles. South is the quiet way, most likely, but not guaranteed, to provide nature’s rarities.
Full or empty, creature-wise, canal-time fills the soul.
Filed Under (Adventure, Amphibians, Animals of the Wild, Birding, Brenda Jones, Hamilton Trenton Bordentown Marsh, Indians, Lenni Lenapes, NJ WILD, Native Americans, Preservation) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 13-05-2012
Baltimore Oriole with Fishing Line for Nest Brenda Jones
Most people don’t even know there IS a Marsh in the middle of Trenton (and Bordentown and Hamilton). Let alone the northernmost freshwater tidal wetland, which surges and empties in synch with the tides of the ocean, as amplified by the nearby Delaware River. Let alone that ‘The Marsh’ is Oriole Central this May!
Most people don’t know that the Marsh has mattered to the Lenni Lenapes for at least 10,00 years, that artifacts proving this have been found there over the centuries. That the Lenapes at first didn’t live there, but connected with each other and other tribes in spring, in autumn, en route to or from hunting lives to gathering times at the Shore. That Route #195, which noisily curves above and through the Marsh, began all those centuries ago as the Indians’ footpath to ocean gathering time.
Baltimore Oriole, Full Breeding Plumage - Brenda Jones
For sure, what most people don’t know is that, if you’re in love with orioles, as well as other rarities among our NJ birds, go to the Marsh right NOW! The earlier in the day the better, though late light is good, too. Go with anyone brought there to lead tours for the Friends for the Marsh (www.marsh-friends.org), such as Charles and Mary Leck, Lou Beck and John Marin, among others. Orioles will welcome you immediately, perhaps even before the mute swans glide over to enchant you. Not only Baltimore orioles, but also orchard orioles.
Baltimore Oriole in All His Glory Brenda Jones
If you’re with Charlie, Mary, Lou and John, you’ll be informed that the vaguely chartreuse oriole is a first-year orchard oriole. You may know, from other Marsh trips, –when Orchards and Baltimores conveniently perched on the same empty branch so that you could compare and contrast, as in English class–, that Orchard example will, next year, be the hue of a toasty chestnut.
Spring Lake was named by the Lenni Lenapes, because spring-fed. It may well have been formed by the beavers, who still generously inhabit watery stretches, in what Charlie calls, “Beaver Condominiums”
Beaver Close-Up, from D&R Canal in Princeton — Brenda Jones
There’s a trail map at entry of what is also called Roebling Park. You can hike over a small bridge (see beaver dam, which is different from lodge, to your right) into woods with well blazed trails. And/or turn left at the lake and circle it very slowly, binoculars on everything from posts to vines to tulip trees (Indians carefully burn-hollowed these trunks for canoes) to towering cottonwoods to shrubby arrow-wood viburnum (Indians used this wood for arrows) to dead trees, otherwise known as snags, perfect perching posts for avian visitors and nesters.
Great Blue Heron Brenda Jones
This morning, starting at 8 a.m., an enthusiastic group decided that birding is more important than Mothers’ Day. Birding-by-ear was the name of the game from the start. I’ll try to remember what was seen and heard, so you can pretend you were with us.
To get there yourself, take Route 1 South to South Broad Street Exit at Arena; when exit T’s, that’s South Broad/206 South, there by the River Line Train holding pen. Left is south onto Broad, past Lalor. Turn right at the light (Sewell) after the two green church steeples. Drive through tiny neighborhood until Sewell T’s at the Marsh. Turn left/down and park next to the lake. Miracles of peace, beauty and birding await.
Red-Winged Blackbird in Full Breeding Plumage — Brenda Jones
Mute swans; orchard oriole; red-winged blackbirds; yellow warblers; common yellowthroats; blue-grey gnatcatchers; solitary sandpiper (only there were 2 of these (really rare creatures); great blue heron; mallard pair; beaver lodge; beaver dam; Carolina chickadee with insect in mouth, waiting for us to pass so it could pop into its nest in post hidden by vines to feed young.
Osprey At (Much Heftier) Nest — Brenda Jones
Osprey on scrungy nest on top of hideous power tower, male arriving with outsized nest material, matrimony on his mind. Flock of cedar waxwings, conveniently in emptily dead tree. Warbling vireos everywhere, proving their name.
Cedar Waxwing — Brenda Jones
Red Admiral butterflies, the lepidopteral stars of Spring 2012, first ON parking lot, where everyone could get ‘a good look’ at it, resting mid-flight on the gravel. The next red admiral was on a tree that had been graffitied — on a large 0 after a peace sign. Those with cameras were ecstatic. Those without will never forget those juxtapositions. At the shore, such as Cape May and ‘The Brigantine’ about which I write so often, people recently saw 40,000 migrant red admirals. Warning — they’re not red - they’re orange — but that’s pretty much the norm in nature nomenclature. Remember how orange the redstart is, and to me the red knot is terra cotta…
American Redstart by Brenda Jones — If you ask ME, it’s orange!
We saw a toad upon whose species — the experts could not agree. It was right in the clover by the lake, and still as a stone. Henslow’s? American? I didn’t hear the outcome, because I was on the trail of overhead orioles, irresistibly posing in the full sun we weren’t supposed to have.
Now, answer me. Would you believe a saga like this took place in Trenton. Does all day every day, depending upon the season. Several times, those of us who are riveted by bouquet de fox were stopped in our tracks by fox pungency.
I didn’t take my camera - but Brenda Jones, of course, has pictures of some of our species. I’ll put them in for you.
Put yourSELVES into the Marsh.
And support it, through Friends for the Marsh and D&R Greenway Land Trust, where I work — who preserved and maintain those 1200 crucially moist acres, buffering temperature and drought/flood conditions, and serving as nursery and migrant corridor for species beyond counting.
Although botanist Mary Leck and ornithologist, Charlie Leck, have, indeed counted and you can find the species count for plants, animals, amphibians (fish?), and, of course, birds on www.marsh-friends.org.
Never forget that www.drgreenway.org keeps green New Jersey green
D&R Canal Above Mapleton Aqueduct by Brenda Jones
Where D&R Greenway Began its Preservation Miracles…
Yesterday’s nature excursion felt inevitable and blessed. A friend had said, “Let’s go somehwere, ANYwhere, Sunday,” and I’d agreed. The next morning I called with the suggested site, and her response was an immediate “Let’s Do it.”
I’m not going to reveal the destination to NJ WILD Readers. And I won’t put pictures in today. If anyone guesses, pix will miraculously appear…
This was the first return to one of my favorite New Jersey nature preserves, since the right leg had begun to buckle, (too long before November 9’s miraculous surgery.)
We were in yet another place of blessed silence, with some interestingly characteristic sounds way off in the distance, whose sources we occasionally attained.
This haven may be New Jersey’s most pristine, though not exactly virgin. Nothing has been built there since creation. Exceptions include one plain but grand-ish early 1930’s house, and its support building; the entry road;two public buildings; two interpretive centers; a Coast Guard Center (recently restored), and trails, trails, trails.
This is normally a place of splendid birds. However, even in yesterday’s unlikely heat, this adventure was not about birds.
A joy of this setting is that one walks between dunes, adorned with original trees, shrubs and undergrowth, pruned only by the wind. Humans on those paths are well protected from wind, en route first to Bay then to Ocean, depending on mood and conditions.
These healed legs walked in dense forest. They trod on crunchy oak leaves and slivers of bayberry, all the most irresistible caramelized hue. Despite new hip, and sometimes using trekking poles, I made it through loose sand and packed sand, up hill and down dale. I was shaded by high bush blueberry, then holly, even exuberantly healthy bayberry, and some swamp maples fully abloom in spring red.
I could walk most swiftly on the damp sands of bayside. I bent to capture its brackish water, smoothing cool droplets along the ever-shrinking surgical site — its briny baptism. Its Delaware River christening took place two weeks ago.
Before the day was out, I’d climbed over driftwood, then tiptoed noiselessly among pine needles. We’d sped alongside a split-rail fence, where I pretended its shadow was a horizontal board, balancing with arms wide and flat like child quick-walking a wall.
I’d studied flotsam and jetsam, nature’s and man’s, the human detritus appealingly battered by its watery journey. One seemed a sand-strafed, salt-soaked prow of an ancient ship, entangled in rough hand-tied fishnet.
I’d sought boardwalks over sand, where we could walk at a faster clip. I’d eagerly climbed shifting trails between dunes. In rising and falling pathways through thickets, bayberry grew higher than our heads. We marveled at the profusion of cedar berries. Some of these native New Jersey evergreens seemed bluer than the clearing sky overhead. Hollies towered, also laden.
Everything everywhere was wild, convoluted. When man leaves nature alone to this degree, what remains is rich cover for wild creatures. To say nothing of magic for the occasional human.
We spoke aloud favorite words evoked by each trail - “grove”, “copse”, “thicket” and “cove” high on our list.
The osprey nest was still empty, but towering and sturdy despite winter’s storms.
In a scruffy garden, we came upon two enormous whale bones, weathered and bleached, curving to infinity. My exploring friend is teaching a course in Moby Dick for Princeton’s Evergreen Forum, so this discovery was apt. I ran my fingers along its significant length and heft, realizing that the new health of my own bones permitted this indelible ritual-by-the-sea.
Only rarely did I lift optics to study winged creatures. I regretted the absence of gannets and long-tailed ducks beyond the farther waves. I couldn’t look fast enough to ascertain whether the handful of sharp flying white birds with black wing tips could be an uncharacteristically small flock of snow geese flying to northern homes because all waters must be open.
Two peak experiences involved dunes. One was right out of Robinson Crusoe, a thread of bare footprints, deep and obviously content, even exultant, in pristine sand.
The other, a rosary of fox tracks, interspersed with shattered clamshells. Here the fox pranced. Here and here, he skidded, as did we on the sand traiil.
An unexpected sight was a child-sized sand-angel. The kind we used to make in snow. Remember snow? The child might have been three years old, arms incising effective wings. Above the smooth round head, with determined fingers, the angel-maker had inscribed a halo.
I inadvertently brought back, in the heels of my walking shoes, enough sugar sand to pour into a tiny plastic sack. The sound of sand in plastic is very nearly “a tintinnabulation of the bells”.
But I couldn’t bring home the sussurus of waves. Nor the serenity of that single silhouetted fisherman all in black. He wasn’t really after fish. Rather, deeply and gracefully absorbed in being the only human on the beach.
To evoke our day, my cache of sand would require a shard or two of clamshell, an array of pine needles, one or two super-ruddy oak leaves and ditto bayberry, a holly berry or two, a spurt of broken dune grass, a grey-green fanlet of lichen, and, of course, beach heather.
But this is a park, and a sacred one at that. As always, the mantra is, “Take nothing but photographs”
Where was I?
Filed Under (Activism, Amphibians, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Brenda Jones, Edward Abbey, Farm Markets, Forests, Hamilton Trenton Bordentown Marsh, Henry David Thoreau, Indians, Lenni Lenapes, Literature, Local Food, NJ WILD, Native Americans, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, Preservation, Sourland Mountains, The Seasons, Trees, Wildflowers, books, habitat, native species, protection, rivers, wild, wildness) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 04-03-2012
“…unreconstructed and necessary wildness…” Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
Enraged Osprey of Carnegie Lake, Brenda Jones
Michael Pollan in general, and his Botany of Desire, in particular, is one of those authors everyone means to read. I hear protestations of intention all the time, always tinged with a kind of wistfulness. Recently, Public Television gave people a visual taste of this man’s paradigm. For me, the visual alone never suffices.
I’ll go so far as to insist that Pollan is an author to re-read. His subject matter is so unexpected (apples and ‘cyder’, marijuana, tulips and potatoes) and his thinking so original. It’s worth taking Pollan in hand, even if you don’t give a fig about nature. Just for the privilege of journeying with him.
Fierce Flight (Great Blue Heron), Brenda Jones
And savoring his pithy phrases, such as “Plants are the true alchemists.” His lament that now, “It is as though nature is something that happens outside,… as if we are gazing at nature across a gulf.” As he sets out in a canoe in quest of Johnny Appleseed’s seminal (couldn’t resist) journeys, Pollan relishes trusting in the river to take him wherever he wants to go.
WILD DELAWARE RIVER, Brenda Jones
In my case, re-reading The Botany of Desire reveals a delicious (pun intended) emphasis upon the WILD.
Trenton’s Apple Bounty, cfe
People can and do tease me for prating of the WILD in New Jersey. In the first segment of The Botany of Desire, Pollan takes an even more unlikely tack — seeking the wild, as did Thoreau, through apples. One of his theses is that Appleseed’s success came because he was not peddling mere fruit, but ‘cyder’ to the pioneers.
West Windsor’s Apple Bounty — cfe
Michael sets the tone with phrases such as “A handful of wild apples came with me” (on his Johnny-Appleseed-Quest.) He insists that “sowers of wild seeds are to be prized.”
Cedar Ridge Preserve Meadow, cfe
Cedar Ridge Wild Mushrooms — cfe
Pollan laments that “we live in a world where the wild places where wild plants live are dwindling.” You’ve heard this line from me in ‘posts’ beyond counting, coupled with urgings to support your local land trusts, especially D&R Greenway, to preserve New Jersey’s wild remnants and to plant New Jersey Natives wherever we can.
Baldpate View, Ted Stiles Preserve, Brenda Jones
Let Michael define “the best of all possible worlds”: “WE’D BE PRESERVING THE WILD PLACES THEMSELVES.”
The next best possible world: “ONE THAT PRESERVES THE QUALITY OF WILDNESS ITSELF.”
Female Harrier Aloft, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Male Harrier, “The Grey Ghost”, in ice at Pole Farm — Brenda Jones
The generating thesis of NJ WILD is that the wild exists right in our own back yards:
Wild erupts with the whiff of fox along mown paths of The Griggstown Grasslands. This lovely lofty set of trails, with its compelling Sourlands and Watchung views, awaits but a mile or two north of me on Canal Road, before/beside Griggstown’s Causeway.
Fox Alert, Griggstown Grasslands, Brenda Jones
The wild surprised me last week In burgeonings of wildflowers, deep in the duff of the forest floor, on Bull’s Island in the Delaware. These petite fleurs lifted up the blinding waxy yellow of buttercups. 8 to 10 petals rayed out from yellow centers. These premature spring heralds were nevertheless inviting pollinators. On my hike, they seemed like pieces of eight flung onto the leaf-strewn forest floor.
Why call a delicate plant WILD? Because they arrived there on their own, blooming despite winter on the calendar, pushing through flood detritus that resembled the graphite dust of Thoreau’s pencils. A key quality of the wild is RESILIENCE — New Jersey specialty!
Sourland Mountain Rocks and Water, Brenda Jones
WILD in New Jersey, for me, requires Lenni Lenapes. The land was tended by these peaceful tribes, at least 10,000 years ago. Their vanished presence is palpable on many of my hikes, most especially among Sourlands boulders. Also on trails near Mountain Lakes House, and at Ringing Rocks just across Delaware at Upper Black Eddy. In each case, majestic boulders that render Stonehenge puny rest exactly where they were revealed by water wind and time, before time. The huge stones are frequently encountered in a massive ring. I FEEL Indian councils there, planning tribal actions for the season about to begin. Seasons which, for Lenni Lenapes, triggered travel either to or from hunting to gathering.
Mink at Play, Brenda Jones
In the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh, the Lenapes convened with selected other tribes, before leaving central Jersey hunting grounds for Shore gatherings. This journey and the seasonal constellation of other indigenous peoples was triggered by natural phenomena. Spring’s took place when pickerel weed pierced still waters like arrows.
New Jersey’s Apple Bounty, cfe
Michael Pollan plants a wild tree in his own home garden. His hope - “that such a tree will bear witness to unreconstructed and necessary wildness.”
What can you do about wildness right now, as elusive winter gives way to spring?
Go in search of it.
Buy only native NJ species for your gardens.
Read Michael Pollan
well, you know….
REMEMBER, WILD IS ALL ABOUT HABITAT!
Rare Box Turtle, Camouflaged in Natural Habitat - Cedar Ridge cfe
Generously support D&R Greenway and other Land Trusts, preserving New Jersey’s wild wherever it exist.
Filed Under (Animals of the Wild, Brenda Jones, Brigantine Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, D&R Canal & Towpath, Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Hamilton Trenton Bordentown Marsh, NJ WILD, New Jersey, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Preservation, South Jersey, protection, raptors) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 26-02-2012
Summer’s Great Egret at ‘The Brig’ - viewed in February 2012 cfe
Your NJ WILD ‘reporter’ proved her passion for the wild yesterday. A birding friend and I rode to the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge in the face of winds in the 40-50-mph range. We knew birds wouldn’t be ‘up’ in such gusts and gales. However, we could find snow geese, no matter what - and we’d both read the hotlines reporting ten tundra swans a-swimming…
There was only supposed to be 10% chance of precipitation. En route, we drove through snow enough to require wipers. Inky skies to the west could have presaged tornadoes or hurricane. If you know birders, you know that we continued.
There may be nothing more thrilling then Pine Roads in snowfall. The great privilege is being the only car on those stunning routes — #532 out of Tabernacle, #563 down through Chatsworth…
As though the pines themselves were holding up branches to say “Enough,” we were suddenly treated to dazzle-light through generosities of crisp green needles. Light made its way even through oak leaves the hue of caramel. Sacred sugar sand sifted and drifted along the sides of every roadway, (except that brief interruption of the GSP), so that our journey truly became destination.
Brig Vistas in Summer cfe
Until, that is, we crossed the first bridge into the Brig. Then the refuge and its creatures took center stage.
(This haven is the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge - named for a Republican who saved major swathes of forest and water in the southern and eastern reaches of our beleaguered state.)
In waters at entry four ring-necked ducks floated, then flew — more vivid than we had realized. For the first time, we reconsidered our duck hierarchy of beauty. For a few hours, yesterday, wood ducks took second place.
Wood Duck Splendor, Brenda Jones
Barely three car-lengths onto the Gull Pond Road, we were stopped in our tracks. In a pine that holds summer’s black-crowned night herons, a pale form rearranged itself into a great blue heron. It did not look happy in those winds that caused even the Prius to shudder. My friend’s Swarovskis soon found another great blue form, tucked deep into a pine to our left. When my far lesser binoculars could find it, shadow rendered this heron even more blue. Something whizzed over our windshield - paper-clip legs out behind revealing a third great blue. I don’t remember now how the fourth one materialized, but we were in a near superfluity of herons.
Miserable Heron in Snow, Millstone River, Brenda Jones
I haven’t seen many around here in Princeton this winter– but Anne Zeman and I had been ‘given’ four herons here January 2. That day, the fab four had been chased from piney haven by a feisty young fox. No fox yesterday. However, of all things, a great egret stood proudly among all the blues, whiter than the snow that had surrounded us an hour earlier. February is not egret time!
Summer’s Great Egret, Brenda Jones
Buffeted Heron, Spring 2011, Brenda Jones
We pulled ourselves away from these wonders, down to the gull tower. There was no climbing in gusts, which my Chicago sister reports soared to 61 mph not far north of us. My friend and I could barely open the car doors against this form of wildness. But it was thrilling to be out in it. Earlier, at the Visitor Center, this new hip and I had to jog against wind so strong it felt as though I could lean on it like a mattress.
But Mary had to get her scope on those tundra swans. On another body of water, for comparison’s sake, we were given a pair of mute swans, orange beaks blinding in windswept light. These two are paired, as are the ones in our Marsh of Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown. But the tundras floated as though on a bathtub, as one, all in a row. Their beaks were purest black and spade-like. Individually and collectively, the tunderas remained elegant and serene upon wind-pleated waters, although not so commanding as nearby mute swans. In the foreground, a flotilla of coots enhanced the elegance quotient, in velvety formal attire, white beaks gleaming.
Coot in Millstone, Brenda Jones
I popped back into the car to escape the winds, as Mary focused her scope on the twenty tundras.
Suddenly, a large flat-winged bird was coming straight at me. Its image filled the entire car window. It was so close and so large, I was only aware of shape, and its harrier-like motion over water (not a typical place for the harrier). Mary confirmed that this was no harrier. Rather the American bald eagle. Virtually eye-to-eye, he and I.
Eagle Diving For Thanksgiving Dinner, Lake Carnegie - Brenda Jones
Only he seemed unfazed by those winds. For long moments, he stayed virtually motionless, in the hover position we know so well in kingfisher and hummingbird. But this hovering, especially when he lowered his landing gear, seemed of far greater duration.
Our Nation’s Symbol, Brenda Jones
Then the eagle landed (sorry about that) in a short bright green shrub. Like a film star of my parents’ day, he studiously gave us his best profile. There is no carat measurement sufficient to measure, let alone honor, such gold. Over and over he posed as the Great Seal of the United States.
Then the eagle leapt into air, as if to say “WHAT wind?”. He returned to harrier-mode over grasses, and abruptly ’stooped’. Meaning, he’d found prey. Whatever it was (likely rabbit), must have been hugely satisfying, for we were never to see ‘our’ eagle rise from its pink-gold wildly rippling dining room.
As Mary reluctantly drove on, we each marveled: “This whole trip was worth it for the eagle scenes alone!”
Red-Tailed Hawk along D&R Canal, Brenda Jones
Our next gift was a red-tail in a tree, head turned attentively toward where there had been an eagle. I suddenly realized that a cluster of American crows had flown abruptly past, right before I’d come eye-to-eye with an eagle. Crows are known to mob this raptor. These crows were in pure flight mode in every sense of that phrase.
The stars of the day, however, glory-wise, were Northern pintails. That chic sharp angle at the neck is really thin. But in dazzle-light, we found their cravats nearly blinding. The pintails were even beautiful upside-down. They were everywhere along the impoundments. Counting was out of the question.
Isolate images stand out even now - the great black-backed gull, nicknamed, ‘The Minister’, feasting on a live crab, morsel by morsel. The crab writhing.
Sudden wind-driven incoming tide wrinkling the saltwater until it seemed furiously crumpled foil.
Brooding brackish impoundments to our left resembling lava, even to blue-black hues beneath the sunglinted waves.
In all that turbulent expanse, shovelers stood out as still points. Vibrant rust-to-orange, blinding white and darkest forest green, there is no more handsome fellow than drake shovelers, — handsome as opposed to elegant, like the pintails, who looked dressed for an embassy ball. Shovelers, with their almost comical spade beaks, usually are nervously working the bottoms of runnels at low tide, scooping up nourishment for all they are worth.
We noticed that Canada geese are still in flocks, not romantically paired (as were the mute swans).
Mute Swan in the Stony Brook, Brenda Jones
Miracles continued to appear. More buffleheads than we could count, in open water between the Brig and Tuckerton. Over and over, the little black and white bobbers were rendered nearly invisible by tumultuous waves.
Dapper Bufflehead, Princeton, Brenda Jones
There’s no such thing as enough buffleheads, so Mary and I continued, despite the gale, to the ineptly titled “Experimental Pond.” If ever you’re going to find irresistible diving ducks, it’s there. I went into jogging mode anew, after having struggled to open the car door against Nature herself. All that I found were four Canada geese, so I jogged back again - exultant that this new femur knows how to do that.
Mary was outside the car, in the face of all that wind, calling out, ‘Eagle, eagle!” Her wondrous optics had found our original monarch of a raptor high overhead, no more than a dot above. We stood there until our faces were well sun-and-wind-burned, watching him play the wind. Talk about mastery.
American Bald Eagle, Over Carnegie Lake, Brenda Jones
On the way home, we both wondered why everyone isn’t a birder. To think that anyone could experience such a treasure hunt, a mere 80-or-so miles south and east of Princeton, anytime he or she wants. All you have to do is take the Pineroads south, and live in a state that knows about preservation.
Support your local land trust, wherever you are. Mine, of course, is D&R Greenway. I and my new hip return there in the morning, for the first time since November 9 surgery, to take up my mission newly. It’s never BEEN more URGENT!
Filed Under (Adventure, Agriculture, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Brenda Jones, Hamilton Trenton Bordentown Marsh, Lenni Lenapes, NJ WILD, Native Americans, Nature, New Jersey, Preservation, Sourland Mountains) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 17-02-2012
Mute Swan, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know me pretty well by now, all 1600 page-views of you per week. You know I have NO patience with developers, under any name. That New Jersey is my haven, and I’ll pay any price, bear any burden to bring her glories to the fore, well beyond our (three - unique) shores! That preservation is the name of the game, not only in our state. That local sustainable real food from real nearby farmers is the way to health and life as a state and as individuals. And so forth.
What you may not realize is that winter has become my favorite season. Partly because winter finally reveals the intense abstract beauty of New Jersey’s trees. Partly for winter’s subtleties — it’s a real challenge to find life and color in this season, which only renders nature’s vibrancy-for-all-seasons all the more spectacular.
I particularly cherish winter in New Jersey preserves. Rabbit tracks leading me a merry chase in new-fallen snow in Plainsboro Preserve. Moss blinding as patches of green sequins alongside my favorite Sourland Mountain Trail, off Greenwood Avenue, even in January. Bluebirds swirling around my head and shoulders on the grassy northern reaches of Griggstown Grasslands last Monday. In fact, at Plainsboro and Griggstown Grasslands, my friend and I could hardly hear ourselves whisper “bluebird!” over their merry insistent chattering song.
Bluebird, Brenda Jones
Now, as new hip enters its 13th week of miraculous healing, I’ve returned to the Marsh, as in Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown. This time, I could walk on my own, with the trekking poles - not lean on my long-suffering, never-complaining friend’s right arm. This time, I could walk not only one edge of Spring Lake (named by the Lenni Lenapes for the spring which formed it), but circumnavigate the lake. We were out so long and mesmerized by so many signs of winter life, that we returned actually sunburnt. In February.
(This warmth, while easing my recovery, never ceases to alarm me for the sake of glaciers, polar bears and corals, among other natural phenomena. If it’s twenty or so degrees warmer than usual now, how is it going to be around here in August?)
Even so, I can’t pretend I am not relishing benevolent days in the woods.
Spring Lake was literally awash in winter gifts. Regal mute swans seemed to pose in a perfection of light, as we began to hit our stride. A lone gull floated like a bathtub toy, accented by irresistible coots, whose tiny white beaks never seem large enough to capture, let alone gulp aquatic foods. An elusive raft of ducks had the elegance and elusive ways of ring-necks. Between their fast-swimming-away shyness and the bird books’ admitting “ring nearly impossible to see”, we could not confirm that guess. Home again, Sibleys in hand, it’s very likely we were granted ring-necked ducks, but we shall never know.
Wood Duck, Brenda Jones
Color accents impossible to believe among the almost funereal array of coots were the glowing wood ducks. Kindly men of the Marsh, Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger, rigorously tend to wood duck and bluebird nests each year, –raising the boxes, tallying hatchlings, cleaning them when breeding is over, and putting them back in place in time for boxes to make up for a serious deficit of sturdy hollow old tree trunks. I don’t know whether ‘our’ Picasso-esque wood ducks are Clyde’s and Warren’s summer residents, or simply passing through. It doesn’t really matter. The wonder is the privilege of “woodies”, right in the middle of Trenton, on a winter’s day.
Nuthatch with Seed, Brenda Jones
We were mightily enlivened, not only by the birds of Spring Lake. Our tangly walk was also studded with tinier avian creatures among the underbrush. Feisty nuthatches bopped down fattest lake-side trunks. A fugitive white-throated sparrow fed right alongside us as though it encountered humans every day of the year.
White-Throated Sparrow, Brenda Jones
The day’s auditory miracle was the whuff whuff whuff of air in swan wings, as pair after pair arrowed over us. My friend, originally from Britain, had never heard this rarity. We were blessed with it by more pairs than we could count, the entire time we circled that lake.
At the rim of other water, an almost blue jay, though uncharacteristically silent, puzzled for awhile. Until it took off down, not up, uttering that kingfisher rattle that never ceases to stop me in my tracks. Kayaking on the canal, when you hear that tattoo, look toward the sound, then down, not up. For kingfishers fly toward water, their main food source. The females of this species are the more colorful.
Belted Kingfisher in Flight, Brenda Jones
My energy was high, my new hip cooperative. We almost skipped over the little bridge and into the Marsh woods itself. Here and there, we’d go off-trail, scuffing through leaves. These feet, all to recently, all too accustomed to hospital corridors, managed roots and leaves and stones and mosses, until a certain measure of caution intruded, saying, probably enough for today.
Never enough for my spirit.
But it will have to do.
And meanwhile, our Marsh proved to me anew, how very much life there is in winter.
We could not have taken that walk, and those native species could not have safely swum and fed in that Marsh, had not D&R Greenway Land Trust and Friends for the Marsh done all in their power ‘then and now’ to preserve and provide stewardship for this critical freshwater tidal wetland.
Through Science Daily Environmental Headlines
Photos by Brenda Jones
Fish for Lunch, Lake Carnegie Cormorant — Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers are accustomed to my deep concern and sometimes, frankly, rage, re humans’ destruction of the environment. This is particularly true in terms of CO2 emissions and the increasing warming of our climate and rising of our seas.
Now I learn yet another peril, due to too much carbon dioxide in our world. It’s driving fish crazy.
Great Egret Fishing, Brenda Jones
(Is this to become a scene from the past?)
Not only birds eat fish, remember…
Being the only state with three coastlines, this should really concern us:
Carbon Dioxide Is ‘Driving Fish Crazy’
ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2012) — Rising human carbon dioxide emissions may be affecting the brains and central nervous system of sea fishes with serious consequences for their survival, an international scientific team has found.
In their latest paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Prof. Munday and colleagues report world-first evidence that high CO2 levels in sea water disrupts a key brain receptor in fish, causing marked changes in their behaviour and sensory ability.
“We’ve found that elevated CO2 in the oceans can directly interfere with fish neurotransmitter functions, which poses a direct and previously unknown threat to sea life,” Prof. Munday says.
Prof. Munday and his colleagues began by studying how baby clown and damsel fishes performed alongside their predators in CO2-enriched water. They found that, while the predators were somewhat affected, the immature fish suffered much higher rates of attrition.
“Our early work showed that the sense of smell of immature fish was harmed by higher CO2 in the water – meaning they found it harder to locate a reef to settle on or detect the warning smell of a predator fish. But we suspected there was much more to it than the loss of ability to smell.”
The team then examined whether fishes’ sense of hearing – used to locate and hone in on reefs at night, and avoid them during the day — was affected. “The answer is, yes it was. They were confused and no longer avoided reef sounds during the day. Being attracted to reefs during daylight would make them easy meat for predators.”
Other work showed the fish also tended to lose their natural instinct to turn left or right — an important factor in schooling behaviour which also makes them more vulnerable, as lone fish are easily eaten by predators.
“All this led us to suspect it wasn’t simply damage to their individual senses that was going on — but rather, that higher levels of carbon dioxide were affecting their whole central nervous system.”
The team’s latest research shows that high CO2 directly stimulates a receptor in the fish brain called GABA-A, leading to a reversal in its normal function and over-excitement of certain nerve signals.
While most animals with brains have GABA-A receptors, the team considers the effects of elevated CO2 are likely to be most felt by those living in water, as they have lower blood CO2 levels normally. The main impact is likely to be felt by some crustaceans and by most fishes, especially those which use a lot of oxygen.
Prof. Munday said that around 2.3 billion tonnes of human CO2 emissions dissolve into the world’s oceans every year, causing changes in the chemical environment of the water in which fish and other species live.
“We’ve now established it isn’t simply the acidification of the oceans that is causing disruption — as is the case with shellfish and plankton with chalky skeletons — but the actual dissolved CO2 itself is damaging the fishes’ nervous systems.”
The work shows that fish with high oxygen consumption are likely to be most affected, suggesting the effects of high CO2 may impair some species worse than others — possibly including important species targeted by the world’s fishing industries.