Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category
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
SALEM COUNTY’S BUCOLIC HISTORY - ALLOWAY CREEK cfe
NJ WILD readers know my favorite places to travel are the wild ones of New Jersey, –especially central and southern–, particularly near water, salt and fresh.
Often in quest of birds, rare yet plentiful.
You also know that the places I choose are havens on many levels.
However, I may not have emphasized enough that one can visit NJ WILD sites, even on major ‘Holidays’, without crowds.
Hancock House Historic Outbuilding - Revolutionary Site — cfe
If you pull up NJ WILD, it has a search feature. Write in ‘Brigantine’ or ‘Pine Barrens’; ‘Sourlands’ or Sandy Hook; Bull’s Island, the Delaware River, Island Beach, etc. You’ll be given a string of posts on their wild beauty, and directions are often part of the saga. For deepest solitude, plan birders’ hours — first light and last light.
In general, Take The Pretty Way, the back roads.
Salem Preserves — cfe
Tomorrow, a friend and I will launch her new Prius into Salem and Cumberland Counties. We’ll be treated to golden stretches of marshland; to shimmering rivers with splendid Indian names, such as the Manumuskin. We’ll ride on and laugh at the sound of Buckshutem Road. We’ll wonder, as you always must down there, where on earth will we eat? Of course, there’ll be the freshest of Jersey Fresh produce on weathered stands in front of farmhouses of other centuries. Of course, we’ll slide coins into Trust Boxes, as we settle agricultural jewels into our sustainability bags to take home.
We’ll see rare birds, especially eagles. Salem County held our only productive eagle nest during the grim DDT years, which my county (Somerset) is about to reinstitute, as it ‘adulticizes’ mosquitoes in the week ahead. Now, I am not kidding, in Salem and Cumberland Counties, we could see more eagles than we can count.
American Bald Eagle Floating - Brenda Jones
Osprey Claiming Nest, Brenda Jones
Cabbage Whites Nectaring — Brenda Jones
Especially ditto purple martins, but they had all left the Brigantine the last time I was there, weeks ahead of schedule. Theory is that our drought hinders the insect population to such a degree that martin migration is over. I’ll know tomorrow. If not, there could be hundreds of thousands of them, bending the marsh grasses, then darkening skies, along the Maurice River.
Alloway Creek, site of British Massacre of Colonial Soldiers, Salem County — cfe
Look up these sites, and find them for yourselves. There won’t be anyone else on most of the roads to the unknown, actually usually forgotten, Delaware Bay.
Salem County, Tranquillity Base cfe
Drama in Your Own Backyard
Fox Listening for Vole, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know my enthusiasm for everything wild, everything nature in our state, which is far more beautiful, natural and wild than anyone realizes.
Fierce Great Blue Heron, Brenda Jones
You’re also pretty familiar with my choice in reading: anything about nature, especially New Jersey, and always lately, catastrophic climate change. Now even the Weather Channel is admitting that “This year, everything is a record.” Of course, they’re still blaming that on Mother Nature, not on human greed…
Never lose sight of the importance of countering climate change - particularly for the sake of New Jersey’s wildflowers and elegant pollinators:
Cabbage White Butterfly Nectaring, Brenda Jones
On the subject of that partnership, a new publication crossed my D&R Greenway Land Trust desk this week. It’s the spring newsletter of The Native Plant Society of New Jersey: www.npsnj.org. They were kind enough to give inside front cover placement to a vivid description of our April Native Plant Sale here, which was so well attended and patronized. Princetonians are eagerly taking to heart our Native Plant Nursery’s lessons on natives in the home garden.
Dogbane/Indian Hemp Brenda Jones
Pamela Ruch authored the newsletters column, titled Learning Tolerance for Native Weeds. Her first line grabbed me: “Keeping a field journal is a discipline that does not come easily to me.” Frankly, it never occurred to me. Even though a birder, I am not ‘a lister’, what the Brits call ‘a twitcher’. But wouldn’t it be grand to have a notebook chronicling the arrival of each flowery sign of spring, against which to compare next year and next year and next year? Admittedly, it could give evidence of catastrophic climate change. But how valuable and pleasurable such a diary would be! And the process carries hidden benefits at many levels.
Pamela discovered that “observing, drawing, putting details into words,” she made surprising discoveries. Such as the fact that many of the plants that we term ‘weeds’ are native plants, not to be sneezed at, pun intended.
Yellow Warbler with Insect, Brenda Jones
Your plants that feed the insects feed the birds and their young…
NJ WILD readers have ‘heard’ me ad infinitum on the value of native plants. Our Stewardship Staff here at D&R Greenway spend hours ‘in the field’ in all seasons and most weathers save ice, removing invasives and planting natives.
Black Swallowtail Among the Loosestrife (Invasive…), Brenda Jones
One of the main reasons for doing so is that native plants evolved with our regional animals and insects. Our Stewardship Staff has taught me that, if you see leaves uneaten in the fall, they’re invasives and of no use to the creatures who evolved to be nourished and sheltered by them.
Other reasons include the fact that natives can withstand drought, as intensifying climate change renders this facet more and more crucial.
Natives can better deal with other extremes, as well, such as needing less water and less nourishment, because they were ‘born’ to these soils.
The one factor with which natives cannot deal is invasives, who crowd out everyone by a whole ‘raft’ of means and measures. Who, having no enemies here, soon eliminate even young hardwoods. Japanese stilt grass alone can prevent the hardwood forests of our future.
Native plants attract pollinators, such as butterflies, worthy rivals of the vivid flowers upon which they suckle, then go on to propagate.
Courting Cabbage Whites, Brenda Jones
Our compromised bees need the flowers of native plants, as well
Birds need natives as nest sites, as well as food suppliers.
Puffed December Mockingbird, with Berries, Brenda Jones
Migrant birds depend upon inner compasses, forged millenia ago. You could see birds as winged GPS systems. Birds chose their routes in ancient times, based on the presence, for example, of native berries.
Ripe native fruit, signaled by early red leaves, provides crucial calories/stamina/sustenance/energy for autumn migration.
Birds count upon native insects, who count on native plants in spring migration, and to feed vulnerable young after successfully breeding here.
Home gardens can be as important as woods and fields to certain avian species.
And, according to Native Plant Society of New Jersey’s columnist, Pamela Ruch, if you keep a Field Journal of your garden, you’ll make discoveries: What the French call la richesse, richness, of plants will be revealed, that you never otherwise might have known. She writes, for example, of discovering, describing and researching wild lettuce, which provides pollen for bees and seeds for finches.
Pamela reports a major advantage of Field Journaling: “I took away a more thoughtful posture toward my landscape.” She vows not to focus so exclusively upon her “garden vision that I would refuse [natives] space to provide for the many creatures, seen and unseen, that live among us. I will also try to refrain, starting now, from calling them ‘weeds’.” …Noble discoveries and declarations which any of us can emulate, for the betterment of the natural world in New Jersey.
Golden-Shafted Flicker Feeding Young, Brenda Jones
What Pamela teaches is that, what seem weeds to us are life preservers for wild creatures. Even aged and compromised trees, become cradles for life.
Pamela ought to know: She serves as horticulturist at Morven Museum and Gardens, where the Stocktons presided before and after our sacred Revolution. You’ll likely see the fruits of her studies and labors if you visit Morven for a quiet, historic celebration of Fourth of July.
Lambertville Fourth of July, 2010, Brenda Jones
You may also meet and even purchase native species here at D&R Greenway’s Native Plant Nurseries — sometimes we sell between our major seasonal sales; and always at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve below New Hope.
“Dr. Pierce [through DNA research] discovered that the New World species [of Nabokov's Blues] shared a common ancestor that lived about 10 million years ago. But many New World species were more closely related to Old World butterflies than to their neighbors. Dr. Pierce and her colleagues concluded that five waves of butterflies had arrived from Asia to the New World — just as Nabokov had speculated.“By God, he got every one right,” Dr. Pierce said. “I couldn’t get over it — I was blown away.””
[P.S. -- Nabokov was also a poet on the subject. cfe]
Legendary author, Vladimir Nabokov, remained an unsung hero in the realm of his beloved science, during his lifetime, despite decades of impeccable research under the most daunting conditions, and “despite the fact that he was the best-known butterfly expert of his day and a Harvard museum curator.”
Nabokov was an early ‘voice crying in the wilderness, OF the wilderness,’ in this country and others. He saw, heard, felt and deplored ceaseless destruction of habitat for all butterflies, especially ‘his’ blues. You’re used to my pleading with you to save HABITAT HABITAT HABITAT. I by no means have Nabokovian clout, but all of you, as a committed and energized network, can heed Vladimir’s warning, as well as my pleas.
Your NJ WILD author literally met Vladimir Nobokov’s cherished Karner Blue (exquisite petite rare blue butterfly) on a nearby walk with scientists and preservationists. Held on Mapleton Preserve, off Mapleton Road, near our D&R Canal and Towpath, this rich excursion was arranged by Kingston (New Jersey’s) Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands.
I’ve since been ‘devouring’ butterfly books because of D&R Greenway Land Trust’s current exhibition, THE BEAUTY OF BIODIVERSITY: Birds, Bees & Butterflies. (Available to view on business hours, business days, One Preservation Place, Princeton 08540, through March 25.) www. drgreenway.org
One of the most memorable of my butterfly adventures recently pulled me through many a snowstorm - Nabokov’s Blues. Written by a ‘Dream Team’ of admiring and highly respected colleagues, this tome is seeing to it this superb writer is now and finally receiving honors ever due and rarely conveyed. Over and over, I marveled at Nabokov’s persistent, impeccable science and inspired guesses, long before the arrival of DNA as tool for species identification. Now the world is coming to see things his way.
My friends, alert to my enthusiasm over this book, send this recent NYT Article.
Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution Is Vindicated
By CARL ZIMMER
Published: January 25, 2011
Vladimir Nabokov may be known to most people as the author of classic novels like “Lolita” and “Pale Fire.” But even as he was writing those books, Nabokov had a parallel existence as a self-taught expert on butterflies.
He served as [ill paid! cfe] curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, collected insects across the United States. Nabokov published detailed descriptions of hundreds of species.
[Despite his family's having been hounded, --first out of his native Russia, and then out of Europe because of the rise of Nazism... cfe] In a speculative moment in 1945, Nabokov came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned their having arrived in the New World from Asia, over millions of years, in a series of waves. Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime.
But, in the years since Nabokov’s 1977 death, his scientific reputation has steadily grown. Over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about Polyommatus blues evolution [and distribution cfe].
On Tuesday, in [a paper delivered at... cfe] the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, it was reported that Nabokov had beenabsolutely right. “It’s really quite a marvel,” declared Naomi Pierce of Harvard, a co-author of the paper. Nabokov inherited his passion for butterflies from his parents. When his father was imprisoned by the Russian authorities for his political activities, the 8-year-old Vladimir brought a butterfly to his father’s cell. As a teenager, Nabokov went on butterfly-hunting expeditions. [He would ... cfe] carefully describe specimens he had caught, imitating the scientific journals [the boy] read in his spare time.
Had it not been for the Russian Revolution, which forced his family into exile in 1919, Nabokov said that he might have become a full-time lepidopterist. In his European exile, Nabokov visited butterfly collections in museums.
[As his literary fame expanded... cfe] Vladimir Nabokov used the proceeds of his second novel, “King, Queen, Knave,” to finance an expedition to the Pyrenees. There he and his wife [and key field collaborator], Vera, netted over a hundred species.
The rise of the Nazis drove Nabokov into exile once more in 1940, this time to the United States. It was there that Nabokov found his greatest fame as a novelist. It was also there that he delved deepest into the science of butterflies.
Nabokov spent much of the 1940s dissecting a confusing group of species called Polyommatus blues. He developed forward-thinking ways to classify the butterflies based on differences in their genitalia [as discerned through meticulous dissection... cfe].
Nabokov argued that those thought closely related species [based on wing patterns and color - butterfly dissection seems to have been pretty rare in V.N.'s lifetime...cfe] were only distantly related.
At the end of his 1945 paper on the group, Nabokov mused [upon ways in which they had evolved and dispersed themselves... cfe]. He speculated that they had originated in Asia, moving over the Bering Strait, journeying south all the way to Chile.
Allowing himself a few literary flourishes, Nabokov invited his readers to imagine “a modern taxonomist straddling a Wellsian time machine.” Going back millions of years, he would end up at a time when only Asian forms of the butterflies existed. Then, moving forward again, the taxonomist would see five waves of butterflies arriving in the New World. Nabokov conceded that the thought of butterflies making a trip from Siberia to Alaska and then all the way down into South America might sound far-fetched. But it made more sense to him than an unknown land bridge spanning the Pacific. “I find it easier to give a friendly little push to some of the forms and hang my distributional horseshoes on the nail of Nome rather than postulate transoceanic land-bridges in other parts of the world,” he wrote.
When “Lolita” made Nabokov a star in 1958, journalists were delighted to discover his hidden life as a butterfly expert. A famous photograph of Nabokov that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post when he was 66 is [taken as though... cfe] from a butterfly’s perspective. The looming Russian author swings a net with rapt concentration. But despite the fact that he was the best-known butterfly expert of his day and a Harvard museum curator, other lepidopterists considered Nabokov a dutiful but undistinguished researcher. He could describe details well, they granted, but “did not produce scientifically important ideas.”
Only in the 1990s, did a team of scientists systematically review his work and recognize the strength of his classifications. Dr. Pierce, who became a Harvard biology professor and curator of lepidoptera in 1990, began looking closely at Nabokov’s work while preparing an exhibit to celebrate his 100th birthday in 1999. She was captivated by his idea of butterflies coming from Asia. “It was an amazing, bold hypothesis,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, my God, we could test this.’ ”
To do so, she would need to reconstruct the evolutionary tree of blues, and estimate when the branches split. It would have been impossible for Nabokov to do such a study on the anatomy of butterflies alone. Dr. Pierce would need their DNA, which could provide more detail about their evolutionary history.
Working with American and European lepidopterists, Dr. Pierce organized four separate expeditions into the Andes in search of blues. Back at her lab at Harvard, she and her colleagues sequenced the genes of the butterflies and used a computer to calculate the most likely relationships between them. They also compared the number of mutations each species had acquired to determine how long ago they had diverged from one another.
There were several plausible hypotheses for how the butterflies might have evolved. They might have evolved in the Amazon, with the rising Andes fragmenting their populations. If that were true, the species would be closely related to one another.
But that is not what Dr. Pierce found. Instead, she and her colleagues found that the New World species shared a common ancestor that lived about 10 million years ago. But many New World species were more closely related to Old World butterflies than to their neighbors. Dr. Pierce and her colleagues concluded that five waves of butterflies came from Asia to the New World — just as Nabokov had speculated.
“By God, he got every one right,” Dr. Pierce said. “I couldn’t get over it — I was blown away.”
Dr. Pierce and her colleagues also investigated Nabokov’s idea that the butterflies had come over the Bering Strait. The land surrounding the strait was relatively warm 10 million years ago, and has been chilling steadily ever since. Dr. Pierce and her colleagues found that the first lineage of Polyommatus blues that made the journey could survive a temperature range that matched the Bering climate of 10 million years ago. The lineages that came later are more cold-hardy, each with a temperature range matching the falling temperatures.
Nabokov’s taxonomic horseshoes turn out to belong in Nome after all.
“What a great paper,” said James Mallet, an expert on butterfly evolution at University College London. “It’s a fitting tribute to the great man to see that the most modern methods that technology can deliver now largely support his systematic arrangement.”
Dr. Pierce says she believes Nabokov would have been greatly pleased to be so vindicated, and points to one of his most famous poems, “On Discovering a Butterfly.” The 1943 poem begins:
I found it and I named it, being versed
in taxonomic Latin; thus became
godfather to an insect and its first
describer — and I want no other fame.
“He felt that his scientific work was standing for all time, and that he was just a player in a much bigger enterprise,” said Dr. Pierce. “He was not known as a scientist, but this certainly indicates to me that he knew what it’s all about
Brenda Jones Immortalizes Moonlight Migration of Geese
I should apologize to NJ WILD readers. For, impassioned as I am about our New Jersey, I am not Thoreau, not Leopold, not Beston, let alone the redoubtable John Muir. I need all their gifts to convince most people that New Jersey is worthy of constant nature exploration and preservation. I need their inspiration, to say nothing of their eloquence, as I ponder the miracle of autumn migration through and from our state.
In my ‘other life’, I spent summers in a small cottage in Chatham, Mass., where rare birds came to us. The insistent questions of my daughters led to my buying and seriously memorizing the first Peterson’s Guide (to the birds).
Every August, as shore birds begin to move South, I am reminded of our Chatham life. Without it, I’d not have turned into birder or amateur (”avocational”, in the words of Packet Editor Michael Redmond naturalist. I miss our daily strides — at least one and sometimes three–, to Harding’s Beach Light.
We’d go at low tide, for the swift-walking pleasure of hard-packed sand. We’d return by the high road, among beach heather and horned larks. Down at the point, among streamlets and packed peat, we’d come across the vivid oystercatchers and hideous but endearing sea robins. We could hold a blue-eyed scallop on a flat palm as we waded, marveling at all those eyes. Then tenderly tuck him back into lapping waters, where he’d would squirt brilliantly away. I miss tough Scrabble by firelight, moonlit wading, reading while Hudsonian Godwits tiptoes around our beach towels. I miss my most expected young love, a bard, himself, who added lustre the Cape never required. I miss staying up there alone in a hurricane so I could learn what it’s like. (That one turned out to be wilder after the storm, than during.)
Henry Beston’s Cape Cod Cottage Before Blizzard of ‘78
When this mood comes upon me, I have to re-read Henry Beston. The girls and I would make pilgrimage each year to his weathered Outermost House at Nauset - [until the blizzard of 78, that is, washed it into true outermostness.]
Beston managed what I longed to do, to see the seasons round on that upraised arm out into the North Atlantic, experience Mother Nature at her most sublime and often furious.
Right now, he was doing what I’d be doing then, as I lengthened our stays into September — watching bird migration. Chatham taught us curlews and phalaropes, immature common eiders and long-tailed jaegers. On our beach I learned how furiously crows protest the presence of eagle.
Eagle Intent, by Brenda Jones
Henry writes, “Early in September, Hudsonian curlews arrived at the Eastham Marsh. To see them, I began going to Nauset through the meadows, rather than by the beach.” He could hear them “calling, each to each”, as Eliot has written of mermaids. “And then there would be silence,” Henry Beston notes. “And I would hear the sound of autumn and the world.”
He writes of the first of the warblers, an invasion of juncos, a ’sparrow hawk’s’ successful capture and devouring of one of the latter.
Watching these arrivals, Beston wonders “where it was that she forsook her familiar earth for the grey ocean, an ocean she perhaps had never seen. What a gesture of ancient faith and present courage such a flight is, what a defiance of circumstance and death — land wing and hostile see, the fading land behind, the unknown and the distant articulate and imperious in the bright arterial blood.” He names and treasures all the sparrows, then announces, “Mid-October and the land birds have gone.”
Barrow’s Goldeneye in Flight over Delaware River by Brenda Jones
Beston goes into raptures over what comes next: “Now come the sea fowl, and the wild fowl to the beach, from the lonely and darkening north… Over the round of earth, down from the flattened summit, pour the living stream, bearing south the tribes and gathered nations, the flocks and families… There are many streams [of migrant birds], and it is said that two of the greatest bear down on Cape Cod.” He goes on with his watery image, inevitable upon that spit of sand he then called home: “These streams immix their multitudes, and south to New England moves the great united flood, peopling with primeval life the seacoasts and the sky.”
In these very weeks, when you are driving about in New Jersey, keep a sharp eye on the skies and on wires, where migrants are staging for migration. Attune your ears — song you have not heard since spring breeding season may recur in your yard, as has the peewee here this week. Waken on purpose in the middle of the night, ears as well as eyes to the sky. Most non-raptors migrate at night, filling the airwaves and radar that tracks them, with the music of their passage. Beston also dares to reveal, “I hear birds talking.”
Tune your ears to absences, as well. I haven’t heard the miraculous towhees who successfully bred on my hill, not for a number of weeks.
Oystercatcher at Barnegat Light, Brenda Jones
If you can get yourself down to the Delaware Bayshore, look not only up but out, over the reeds and phragmites that fringe South Jersey rivers. Swallows and purple martins by the YES hundreds of thousands float/drop in just before sundown. Evening after evening, these blue-black relatives will bend the reeds, then ‘do a flycatcher’ out for one last insect before dark. Any day now, they’ll all lift off in a blue-black river, coursing southward, southward.
Brenda’s Swallowtail on Purple Loostrife
You’ve seen them, but do you know what they’re up to, the butterflies? The yellow tiger swallowtails and the ubiquitous but so endangered monarchs (by genetically engineered crops involving poisons that murder their caterpillars.) They’re setting out for regions beyond belief, Mexico among their winter havens. In Cape May and at the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House at the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, I have watched delicate volunteers weigh and band monarchs before the impossible journey. Weight, gender and a site code are entered on minuscule tags that do not interfere with flight. These experts teach us much we could not know, including the fact that the females have thicker dark stripes, to keep the eggs warm. To Henry Beston suddenly realizes that “the strangest and most beautiful of the migrations over the dunes was not a movement of birds at all, but of butterflies.”
Henry did not have to fret as we do this year, over ceaseless drought that has made nectar scarce, nectar needed for their voyage.
Let alone dread that the travelers will land in oiled marshes, where they need to buttress themselves nutritionally for their long flights to Mexico and South America.
I cannot summon words effective enough to convey my passion for New Jersey and all her treasures, especially what the Lenni Lenapes called ‘The Winged’ in these autumnal days and nights. You’ll just have to go out there and see for yourselves. Then write ME about it.
Henry and Henry and Aldo and John, I salute your miraculous ways with words!
Pennsylvania Vista - Carousel Farm cfe
NJ WILD readers know that I sometimes stray across my beloved Delaware River (windows open so I can take in her aura through almost all senses) to Bucks County. When I lived there, from 1981 through 1987, I explored every back road.
Carousel Farm Welcome
Even so, I was not aware of Carousel Farm — where animals for Broadway shows thrived on rolling fields between performances. Many theatre people peopled Bucks County in those days, from Hammerstein onward — this may be the Bucks County connection. Today, those supple hills bloom every summer, lavender to the horizon, its scent on the air and the sound of happy bees in my ears.
A Visitor Enjoys the Lavender (a cloudless sulfur butterfly)
This July (2010) was clearly stressing these purple stalks, even though (I know from my life in Provence) they are drought-tolerant to the max. Soaking hoses twined among sage-green foliage, as yet another 90-+-degree day surrounded my excursion companion and me.
Espaliered Apples Ripen
Carousel’s products are what drew me there in the first place. Their fragrance is that of French lavender, not the less pungent, too-sweet English scent. And their creams actually soften skin, lasting for hours, unlike too many ‘hand lotions’ which only coat then vanish.
Here are scenes of July 2010. Wander lavender fields with us:
Looking from Arbor toward Stable
Lavender Farm’s Private Haven
“Vive La France” in the middle of Bucks County
The Quiet Garden - a fine place to write poetry…
The Good Life, Carousel Farm Donkeys
Carousel Farm Beauty and Precision
(the stable is so clean, it smells only of oatmeal…)
Nobility of Yesteryear, Carousel Farm
Cloudless Sulfur [Butterfly] Sips
Stable and Espaliered Fruit
Lavender Abundance - ‘Lavender Fields Forever…’
WHY SAVE FARMS!
Tomorrow, I am returning to the Carousel, to the scent of lavender brushed by hot summerwinds, to the buzz of very happy bees, to Pennsylvania’s soft rolling hills outside Doylestown. Here’s how it was last time. How will tomorrow be different? Stay tuned…
NJ WILD READERS know how I am about preserving and utilizing farmlands…
Provence-in-Pennsylvania : Carousel Farms Lavender
Carousel Farms Barn
When is a farm more than a farm? When it’s a source of lavender, –the color, strength, extent and fragrance of lavender fields of my beloved Provence. Near Doylestown, Pennsylvania, we are privileged to have not one but TWO lavender farms to visit.
For beauty alone, these sites are worth the journey. For scent alone, –admittedly arriving on gentle Pennsylvania breezes, not upon the strafing mistral. One is Peace Valley Lavender Farm, the other is called Carousel.
The pictures are of Carousel Farm, taken last September. This haven is named for stage animals kept there for use on Broadway and at the Met, in those heady years when New Hope and Doylestown were star-studded, literally.
Algonquin Round Table bons vivants visited, bought homes, a remarkable coterie of our most successful artists and writers, residing and createing in Bucks County. They brought along friends, enemies, lovers and family for inspiration in the country. And when they needed live creatures for all those Broadway plays, from Carousel Farm they would come.
Nowadays a man from Crete, whose air is Provencal, instead tends various lavender species. A splendid photographer, from him, you can buy not only true lavender oil, la vraie essence, but also soaps, candles, hand and body cremes [that really nourish the skin while imparting my favorite scent upon earth], as well as this superb photographer’s book of remarkable scenes.
All this and all organic! Open only on Saturdays from 9 - 5, I made the excursion because I’ve bought Carousel Farms lavender products, in Frenchtown, in Clinton, and always been amazed (1) that the scent is that of Provencal lavender; and (2), the products work! http://store.carouselfarmlavender.com/index.html
His lavender products, of two French and two English species of the flower, do not simply just smell good and feel good. Hours later, my hands and arms and anywhere else are still soft, even gleaming.
One of my favorite products, –bought from a farm wagon last September, in addition to creams and real lavender oil–, is their lavender candle. One burns it after certain cooking tasks, such as making soup or bacon… NJ WILD readers know that I love cooking and cooking aromas, but not several hours later. Carousel Farms’ lavender kitchen candle, –studded blossoms of real lavender embedded in opulent wax, in its square tin with the handsome Carousel label–, solves that dilemma.
5966 MECHANICSVILLE RD, MECHANICSVILLE PA. 18934
PLEASE ENTER FROM ENTRANCE ON SHEFIELD DRIVE
Here is the all-too-humble owner’s description from his website:
The Carousel Farm, first established in 1748, has had many lives over the centuries, –once a dairy farm, later a horse farm and, in the mid-20th century, an exotic animal farm.
When we moved to the farm 7 years ago, our challenge was to put our unique imprint on the farm, maintaining its rural beauty, yet enhancing it with something beyond.
Our farm, with its fieldstone farmhouse, 18th-century stone barn and rolling fields broken only by fieldstone walls, seemed the perfect place to replicate the South of France.
Our fields, now over four years old, are nothing short of amazing. Despite our initial worry that the harsh Northeast climate might not be ideal for the project, after testing the soil we carefully selected four varieties of plants, both French and English, and the plants are flourishing.
We have over 15,000 organically-grown plants, each one planted, pruned and harvested by hand. The beauty of our fields is attested to by the many of local painters and photographers who spend their days drawing inspiration from the fields.
Good for the Bees, Good for the Butterflies
As you can tell, we are proud of our lavender fields, but perhaps we are most proud that, despite the striking natural beauty of Bucks County, we have found a way to enhance this historic community with something at once rural, beautiful, unique, and–yes–all organic!
All Organic Means, Good for the Bees
Old Ways Are Best, Where Real Farming is Concerned
What Prepared Birders Do at the Brig… cfe
UNEXPECTED BIRDING - TO HAVE ADVENTURES, GO WHERE ADVENTURES ARE…
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, FROM INTERNET - GIFT OF A TRAFFIC JAM
The plan, on a perfect May Friday, was to zip down to Island Beach for a day of hiking in dunes. I planned to nip across New Jersey on what had been a Lenni Lenape trail - from the sites of hunter months to summer sites of gathering.
From Route 295, almost empty, even quiet, Route 195 beckoned. The connection happens above my beloved Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh. This wetland beckons, shimmering and simmering in the hot months, lushly green, freshwater yet tidal, right off 295. I made the big swoop, –that circle that can revel herons, above waters I have kayaked from Bordentown Beach up along Crosswicks Creek to Watson’s. But, instead of kayak currents, I plunged into a river of trucks long as houses, –dwarfing all cars, not only mine, and none of them moving. It was 7-something in the morning, and I was face-to-face with a Berlin Wall, a Great Wall, a Hadrian’s Wall of stopped vehicles. No Island Beach for me.
It took nearly a half hour to reach 195’s first exit, 206 South through Bordentown. Some powers beyond vision and sound had a different plan for me - back to the Brigantine (Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge near Smithville/Oceanville) for the third time in a week.
206 is never easy, least of all the Bordentown parts, which is why I never get on til Columbus when I KNOW I’m going birding. I nearly became a Buick sandwich between another house-sized truck and a series of smaller impetuous ones. The monster suddenly stopped right in the middle of 206, acrid smoke from his tires filling my car, as drivers behind me refused to let me out and around the obstruction. I was not in a good mood.
Somewhere after Columbus, however, cross as I was, sights that mean I am on my way to the Pinelands lifted my grouchy heart. A faded red barn presided above a broad, fresh-tilled field, –reminder of agronomy, promise of harvest. It could have been a canvas by Hopper or Homer (Winslow), that striated color testifying to time before Route 206.
Angling left onto Carranza Road, first drifts of sugar-sand softened the harsh edges of my journey. In Michigan, we’d have to drive all day to get to white sand alongside the road. I decided to save Russo’s Farm (for provisions) for the trip home, turning blessedly east (where the ocean is) onto 232.
My heart lifted, even though right at that moment, my sister was visiting a new kind of doctor - physiologic, electronic? — I can’t remember that strange term muddied by boundless concern. Her atrial fibrillation has returned. Can this new physician jump start my sister to normalcy? Will I ever again take Marilyn to Russo’s for morning’s hot donuts and a small crisp cup of cider?
My own heart lift, however, took place beside burgeoning chunks of thick dark New Jersey loam, turned perhaps yesterday, bursting with fertility. I’m not used to our soil’s being dark. This field is probably Russo’s, who sell foods they (and we, if we like) gather in rich surrounding farmland. I’m guessing Russo’s still knows the worth of manure, hence this color and heft. A sign warns, Tractors Next 3 Miles. My favorite kind of sign.
FRESH JERSEY ASPARAGUS, reads another hand-lettered sign. OUR OWN STRAWBERRIES. There is pride in the lettering and will be health in my feasting, later this weekend.
Sudden spurts of pink reveal laurel in the woodlands, at peak bloom — a good two weeks ahead of schedule. This is beautiful and not good. NJ WILD readers know why- catastrophic climate change can be so seductive. If the plants open before the pollinators are here, then what - for the plants? What for the insects? What for orchards, for cranberries about to spurt with flowers like stars? Will bee-visits coincide?
Pinewoods stretch on all sides. Their understory changes as abruptly as if a set designer with a straight-edge had measured and declared, “Just here and no farther” for the ferns. “Bring on the blueberries now.” “We need a laurel or two for contrast.”
My leaden heart lifts and lifts, in the pines. There may be no light I cherish more than earliest through ferns in pinewood. Abruptly blueberry shrubs glimmer throughout the depths. Those medium tall dazzlers at road’s edge are Black Jack Oaks, pugilistic leaves thrust at a scrimmed sky. It is supposed to be nearly 90 today, which is why I had headed for dune hikes. This sky, behind a warehouse full of communion veils, could go either way - sizzle or drizzle. We shall see. Sand and pines. Pines and sand. Paradise enow!
I don’t want my sister going to the electro-cardiologist. I want her on the seat beside me, binoculars at the ready, because she’s the one with the ‘hawk eyes’ and I’ll just keep pushing us forward to the Brig.
Am I running away or running toward? Or both? From too many people, too many interruptions, from a world where trucks can keep me from the ocean, for sure. To birds in migration, indeed. I pass a small sign next to a rustic building: CORPORATE CENTER! From a world where corporate centers are the rule, above all. To tranquillity in solitude. To beauty. To the wild. To a preserve that has brought me some of the most memorable nature encounters of my entire life - thanks to Republican Edwin B. Forsythe, wherever you are, and to New Jersey.
My very first Brigantine birds are ospreys, one on the feeding platform, one on the struts of the nest platform. Meaning that this pair is no on eggs, as most others are now at the Brig. Meaning, they may be immatures, ‘practicing’, as birders say. Almost every osprey platform at the Brig is occupied this year! On most, one partner is flat-to-invisible on the nest, the other vigilantly nearby, should any marauder appear and threaten those vital eggs.
My Osprey were Tranquil and Domestic - Brenda Jones’ is Enraged!
[As I will admit to a camouflaged cameraman many hours from now, "I think everyone else is the real birder. I'll have to go home, ask friends who ARE, what that eerie marsh sound could have been." Buzzy and booming, subtle, --almost heard, almost imagined. I've heard so few rails, few bitterns in my life -- it could have been one of these elusive miracles of this preserve...] The Brig is very forgiving to beginning birders.
Dunlin (’via Sharon’) From Internet
My sister would’ve liked this. I’m way out on the new Leeds Eco Trail. Its raised platform rises high and dry above glossy and fecund mud. On this jaunt, these gleaming mudflats are studded with dark feisty fiddler crabs. Tidal reaches probed by dunlins on all sides. Ruddy as turnstones on the back, black-bellied as the larger plovers I hope to find later, I’ve never been so aware of dunlins at Brig before. It is so easy to be distracted by rarities.
Saucy Cormorant, Brenda Jones
There is enough water for two comorants to play hide-and-seek, making me laugh out loud, all by myself. Now you see them, now you don’t. When I bring first-time birders down here, they are sure those black birds (half submerged so much of the time) are drowning!
Hieroglyphic ibis with scimitar beaks arrow over and over, without sound. The ibis cluster in iridescent flocks I cannot count. Their fluorescent greens, so visible in Cape May’s sandy setting last week, all but vanishing among springing marsh grasses.
Low Tide with Fiddler Crabs Carolyn Foote Edelmann
In a slender runnel, a natty semi-palmated plover slurps meal after meal. He constantly turns his pristine head, eyeing possible feasts-in-the-mud, with first one eye, then the other, as do robins. The plover’s snappy black ascot remains unbesmirched. To my right, amidst leftover tide are three possible godwits, but I didn’t know I was coming so I don’t have my Sibley! Nobody should ever go to the Brig without Sibley. [Mine is signed from the time we walked the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh in fall migration with David, as a fundraiser for D&R Greenway Land Trust.] It was pretty dog-eared even then, But Sibley’s s not doing me any good back at home by the computer.
Willets scream, “I’m the WILLET!, I’m the WILLET!” on every side. They fan grey wings, revealing black patent-like feathers in flight. Willets to every compass point, patently furious with all those ibis on the their traditional New Jersey marshland feeding ground.
At the end of my day, will I decide that the best part was driving more slowly than the tiger swallowtail butterfly? The whole palette is the sharp green of Ireland, a country I’ve yet to see. The sky remains hazed blue, with blowing and drifting clouds, thin-to-vanishing. Yellow mustard claims both sides of the roadways, beyond wire cages where turtles have laid eggs - most likely terrapin. On yellow flower spikes, black butterflies no larger than my thumbnail sip spring nourishment.
Turtle Egg Protection at Brig (inside car - didn’t open windows because of insects) cfe
Out of the car, discussing whether those tall dun-colored shorebirds could possibly be the godwits reported on our hotlines all week (I had seen the bar-tailed here last week - but didn’t know which godwit it was til I read NJ Audubon…), I discover what the Jersey Devil really is - the no-see-um, crowds and clouds and hordes of the almost invisible voracious critters. When I apologize for getting back in my car “because of the bugs,” the woman with the bird book almost smirks: “This isn’t buggy!”
Ah, here, now, along the dike road going due east, in a landscape almost void of gulls and/or terns, I am granted my rarity-wish-of-the-day - the black-bellied plover. Several of them pass in stately dance, imperious as monarchs consorting with the commoners, all their breeding plumage in finest array, intensity, as blinding as patent leather in sudden full sun.
I turn north, driving more slowly than the great egret. It had one fish in its long gullet, then speared and swallowed another (still alive, swimming humps revealed all along the elegant white passageway), and then another. I never noticed smugness in an egret before.
Brenda’s Hunting Egret in Brig’s Primordial Ooze
I stop and call my sister, watching the coast and plunge of silent terns. Here among the yellowness of mustard are purple spurts of something in the pea family, and her favorite flower, fountains of egret-white daisies. She likes the new doctor, who has to give her such bad news. Of the two forms of atrial fibrillation, hers is the more dangerous. Another cardioversion (electrical intervention) is called for, and ablation (don’t ask! something to do with burning parts of the heart’s electrical system) may be down the road. He gives her pamphlets on her rarity, not the type we seek together or separately, and a web-site that is useful. He tells her, “Live your life with caution, but do not change it. I don’t want you living in fear.”
It is no accident that I hear this in the kingdom of the grasses and the tides. Everything at the Brig, even more obviously than at Island Beach, is cyclical, seasonal, tidal, changing. I have to believe that she, the ideal patient, will win through with the help of her two cardiologists. Two cardiologists?! Who wants even one?
Two more black-bellied plovers march into view, stopping all the cars along the dike road. They are frankly tremendous in their presence. I’d rather see plovers than doctors. So would she.
LOW TIDE AT THE BRIG FROM THE DIKE ROAD cfe
Eerie juxtaposition — Atlantic City in my rearview mirror, two egrets and a cormorant out the windshield.
Two ducks glide west along a fuller tide - imperious as the plovers. Eye stripes give the ducks a seductive look, appropriate, since they are in full breeding plumage. I guess canvasbacks, but darn it, where’s my Sibley? Who ever heard of sultry ducks?
A mourning cloak butterfly near me is so large, by comparison, that he blocks out a cormorant. Symphony in black. I find myself tempering my car’s speed to that of the ducks - I coast out in front, wait for them to swim into view, coast anew. There are worse ways to spend a day, to absorb medical news.
Brenda’s Raucous Heron - mine were still and hungry…
I think about how solitary great egrets seem to be. Where and when do they court and breed? As if to underscore my bafflement, one flies softly, slowly toward me, so low that its wings absolutely meet those of its watery twin, a softest kiss of wingtips.
Egret Vigil - Atlantic City Behind Him- cfe
Laughing gulls at the Brigantine are generally silent. My theory is that people don’t eat here, so these gulls have not learned screamingly to beg for hand-outs. Predation is mostly a silent task. The laughing gulls are comical, after the dignity of the oystercatcher, all alone in an impoundment. Both share vivid hues of black (like a brand new record in my father’s time) and white (freshest snow by moonlight) and red (an oystercatcher’s beak looks “like a ripe carrot stuck on a snowman”, says a cherished friend upon whose trail I happened in Cape May a week ago.) There, the resemblance ends - and, well, the laughing gull is more the color of a rotund Burgundy than a carrot, actually… The oystercatcher moves with deliberate grace. Laughing gulls, especially in twos, flitter along bustly as dowagers elbowing their ways to the best seats in church, a kind of righteous shiver to the shoulders in the passage. I wonder if laughing gulls gossip.
Whimbrel, From Internet
All of a sudden, I am treated to the best of the day — a pair of whimbrels to my left. On this final turn of the dike road, people tend to speed up. No one else saw the oystercatcher, which I discovered while seeking the mate of a lone osprey on the nest but upright and agitated, ‘arms’ up like the Winged Victory at the Louvre. No one even slowed where the whimbrels wait. I love those curved beaks- memories of our Chatham (Mass.) cottage all those heaven-summers.
Among white waterlilies, a mute swan sleeps. And it is over. I’ve strung out my dike tour so long as I can. Time to hit the pineroads home, if I’m to be back on dread highways before Rush Hour. On Old New York Road, laurels are everywhere — like lighthouses gleaming from nameless islands, across a trackless sea of evergreen blackness, at the dark of the moon. Rhododendrons rise in tiny yards, but there is no contest. Iris flutter in a light afternoon breeze.
I stop as I’d always meant to do to photograph the storied Mullica River at Green Bank. People actually live on this river, with high porches upon which some are sitting and reading at three in the afternoon on a May Friday, watching the glimmer. Do they sense hints of Revolutionary times when patriots rowed with muffled oars, taking products from Pine Barrens forges toward the Delaware River and George Washington and Valley Forge during dire winters? Where patriots trapped and boarded and captured British brig after brig, boldly advertising sale of ‘the stores’ in Philadelphia (those hotheads!) papers? Maybe. Maybe not.
Peaceful Mullica River, May 2010, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
I’ll take ‘my’ Brig, whose stores are rarities of the finest kind (name of a clipper ship I once knew way up in Maine) — wild and on the wing and as free as those patriots fought so we could be, we could remain…
Remember, always, none of these adventures could have taken place if New Jersey hadn’t preserved ‘The Brig’ and built and maintained those bays and impoundments!
Magnolias and Lilies cfe
AMONG THE LILIES, BRIG, MAY cfe