Archive for the ‘New Jersey Pine Barrens’ Category
Filed Under (Birding, Birds, Brenda Jones, Butterflies, Cape May, Delaware River, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ WILD, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Oceans, Pine Barrens, Wildflowers, books, invasive species, native species, raptors) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 15-09-2012
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.”
Filed Under (Birding, Birds, Brigantine Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Garden State, KAYAKING, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ WILD, Nature, New Jersey, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Pine Barrens, South Jersey, Tranquillity, Wildflowers, drought, raptors, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 11-08-2012
Pine Barrens Peat Water, Mullica River cfe
Between drought and development, it is hard for others, even for New Jersey natives, to credit our slogan, “The Garden State.”
NJ WILD readers know, I celebrate New Jersey’s wild beauty wherever and whenever I can find it, even right in my own (near Rocky Hill) rocky hilly foresty yard.
But sometimes, I must go far afield, gulp great ‘draughts’ of New Jersey Beauty.
As. recently, to and from my cherished ‘Brigantine’ - Wildlife Refuge, otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe.
The blessings of visiting ‘the Brig’ are beyond measure, starting with the long silent even winding drive through the Pine Barrens to Smithville and Oceanville. Due east of those tiny pre-Revolutionary towns stretches the 8-mile dike drive among bays and impoundments, rare birds at all times and in all seasons.
Come along with me on last week’s spur-of-the-moment, if not even desperate, flight to beauty.
Queen Anne’s Lace, Mullica River, Pine Barrens cfe
Beyond the dock, fortunate kayakers make their way up the Mullica, without whose Revolutionary waters and watermen, we wouldn’t have a nation:
Mullica Kayakers, cfe
Cloud-Studded Salinity-Managed Waters of Brigantine cfe
FIDDLER CRABS, OUT FOR LOW-TIDE LUNCH, Brig cfe
NEW JERSEY BEAUTY - CLOUD MAJESTY Brig cfe
There were great egrets everywhere, like archangels at the Nativity, as well as black-bellied and American golden plovers, ibis beyond counting, a few skimmers not skimming, and osprey families everywhere we looked — some feeding young, one ‘mantling ‘ - waving mature wings to cool the immature!
Successful Osprey Family, The Brig cfe
Duck and First Marsh Mallows of the Season cfe
Glossy Ibis and Marsh Mallow, Brig cfe
Wild Flowers (water lilies and Sagittaria) and Cranberry Bogs Near Chatsworth, #563,
The Empty, Beauty-Bracketed Route Home cfe
As you can see, beauty and wildness are with you every step of the way to and from ‘The Brig.’
(”The Pretty Way” will have no cars to speak of, even on major holidays. Route 1 South to 295 South to Columbus Exit to 206 South to Carranza Road/Tabernacle to 532 (stop at Russo’s for fresh-made cider doughnuts and very local produce). 532 east to 563 South to (I forget the number -[579?]) left to New Gretna below Chatsworth Route 9 South, moments on GSP, Exit 48 Smithville, back onto Route 9 South below Smithville to left turn to Forsythe Wildlife Refuge after fire station, Lily Lake Road. See Noyes Museum of Art while down there. Eat breakfast at The Bakery in Smithville; any time at Smithville Inn, and Oyster Creek Inn at Leeds Point, if it’s open when you’re there…)
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 (Activism, Adventure, Brigantine Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Cumberland County, Farm Markets, Forests, Henry David Thoreau, KAYAKING, NJ, NJ State Parks, NJ WILD, Nature, New Jersey, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Oceans, Pine Barrens, Preservation, Revolutionary War, Solitude, The Seasons, Timelessness, Tranquillity, Trees, Wildflowers, habitat, protection, raptors, rivers, trails, wild, wildness) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 11-02-2012
Lake Oswego Peace — South of Chatsworth, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Desperately seeking the wild, I’ve returned to my Edward Abbey collection, making my way through his work and others writing about this literary rebel, this self-proclaimed ‘desert rat’. It is essential right now that I live for awhile with ‘Cactus Ed’.
I need his crusty refusals of ‘growth and development’. I require his ecstasy in the face of cactus and rattlesnake. My healing leg ‘walks’ with Ed in these books — in his red rocks and among his cherished junipers, occasionally coming upon desert primrose, respecting the ever-present spider and viper.
But enough of this prickly Paradise. I have my own. And it’s in our state - in the spirit of Abbey, I defy myself to define Paradise, because mine is in New Jersey:
Lake Oswego Summer, South of Chatsworth, Pine Barrens (cfe)
shared with one attuned person or blessedly alone, sometimes with camera
there is sand, and/or marshland
Afloat, Lake Oswego — (cfe)
long silken grasses are kissed and rearranged by very varied tides
birds are ever present or possible: on the ground, in trees, ruffling the leaves, troubling the shrubs. Birds are overhead. They pierce tidal flats. Wings flat out, they harry and raptor. Some murmur, some croak. Everywhere I walk, there are whistlings, whisperings and rustlings. I am ever on the lookout for rails and bitterns, whether I ever find one or not. A bird is downing two snakes in the time it takes to type this (as did a great egret at ‘The Brigantine’ some years ago). A minuscule pied-billed grebe gulps a January frog, as happened a few weeks back.
Thistle Shimmer, Lake Batsto (cfe)
back roads get me to Paradise — hushed roads, where I am often the only car. Road edges are dusted with sugar sand. Forest understory (which must contain evergreen and the luminous black jack oak), switches from laurel to blueberry to fern to pine seedlings and oakthrusts, and back again.
New Jersey Paradise is especially defined by its people - who live by the seasons and the tides. The Abbey in me asserts, “not by the clock; and, by God, not by the Dow Jones Stock Index!”
the roads that lead to Carolyn’s Paradise must hold a beauty of their own, for at least 2/3 of the way. Pine Barrens and Salem and Cumberland County provide such aesthetic conduits, away from commerce, to wildest nature
Idyllic Batsto Lake, Pine Barrens (cfe)
roadways and destinations involve freshwater, saltwater, varying salinities, peatwater, whitewater, the stillness of the bays darkling streams wind alluringly back under the dark pines, tugging at the kayaker in me
the regions I am exploring involve bogs and fens, spongs, groves and copses
rare plants lurk right around the next bend — curly grass fern, swamp pink, carnivorous flowers who must lure insects for protein due to the strange ph of soils in Carolyn’s New Jersey Paradise — sundew, pitcher plant — those ravenous ones… when least expecting it, I am to be knocked over by wild fragrance, such as sweet pepperbush, along the peatwaters of Lake Oswego south of Chatsworth rare lilies bloom in ditches as I drive goldenclub erupts behind a dam I would otherwise despise with Abbey - but it did create this ideal habitat for a plant I’d only known in the splendid nature books of Howard Boyd
Among the Rare Lilies, Brigantine Wildlife Refuge (cfe)
often in my wanderings to and through Paradise, I must come on mosses and lichens and occasional fungi. Although I long to devour each mushroom, this foraging remains virtual, ignorance being quite the barrier where these savories are concerned
Leeds Point - Hard-Shell and Soft-Shell Crabs cfe
quaint names are essential — alongside the back roads and out in front of farms, beside the waters:
“Troublesome Acres” “Heaven’s Way Farm” “Farrier” Dividing Creek “Bears, Bucks and Ducks” Shellpile Bivalve Caviar Ong’s Hat — some of these names go back generations and centuries, and only the locals may know how to find them, by a crumbling foundation or some domestic plant run wild in another kind of wilderness Applejack Hill’s name has been changed, for the tourists, to Apple Pie Hill — Abbey, are you listening? Applejack, of course, — talk about terroir!– was/is New Jersey Lightnin’ — each Piney tending his own still with attention, experience and a shotgun.
Sneak Boat Ready to Sneak - Leeds Point (cfe)
History must have happened in my Paradise — especially Native American and Revolutionary
Here a battle must have been fought and lost, such as the fiery Revolutionary fate of Chestnut Neck.
Here locals must have defied and overcome proud dazzlingly uniformed British, taking their ships and their stores inland from the coast, along the storied Mullica River - without which waters and watermen we would not have a nation today!
Clouds in the Water, Chatsworth Bogs (cfe)
Here salt hay must have been harvested by man and horse in the steamiest of seasons, and great whales tugged ashore and ‘tried’ for their various riches.
Here traitors must’ve conspired, smugglers rowed by night, bootleggers brought contraband ashore to sell and to imbibe.
Leed’s Point - Smugglers’ Haven - Living Fishing Port cfe
Here clammers still tug their rich provender onto deck and into seafood restaurants tethered to waterways, creaking boards hinting of sagas of old, as at Oyster Creek Inn at Leeds Point.
It helps that Leeds Point is the home of the Jersey Devil, whom I am still requesting to meet.
“Ready to Roll” cfe
Intriguing restaurants must be nearby. Farmers’ Markets must be open, and people must be selling the spring’s first asparagus, sliced from that meagre soil, at roadstands with a little box for the money for this treasure beyond price. Russo’s Market in Tabernacle must have its spicy applesauce apples outside in thick plastic bags, next to the honesty box, at the beginning of winter.
Only people who treasure timelessness and tranquillity need apply for such journeys.
A day in the Pines will require about 200 miles of driving, longer if we detour to Tuckerton, formerly Clamtown. Why Tuckerton? Because great and little blue and tri-colored herons may stud the grassy reaches, depending on the tide, as we tool along Seven Bridges Road. Because there’s a place along there, –out on a somewhat suspect roadway–, where one can stop for the freshest clams, unless one has wriggled them out personally, using one’s own toes. Because at the end of this road, (and HOW I LOVE Land’s Ends!), there used to be an island village, now sea-claimed. Here, in season, one can find the vivid oystercatchers in full breeding plumage, turning over the few rocks on the sandy approach to the bay.
Life of the Seasons and the Tides Leeds Point cfe
Because closer to town, one can happen to be there when evergreens are studded with black-crowned night herons, squawk-murmuring to one another as sun drops into autumnal waters.
Carolyn’s New Jersey Paradise has to include kayaking possibilities, for her physical therapist is promising ‘back in the craft’ by April. If so, there is above all the Wading River to paddle and many ‘liveries’ to make these delicate journeys possible. There is always the exquisite Barnegat Bay in Island Beach’s back reaches - those paddles used to be free, with naturalists leading us among the Sedge Islands. There a feast of shore birds includes black skimmers not only skimming, but doing their odd sand squiggle on their bellies, when it’s just too hot.
Black Skimmers in Flight, Brenda Jones
I deeply understand Cactus Ed’s passion for the sere landscape of Arches and Canyonlands. I relish, with him, the silence. I don’t have rock formations in my Paradise, nor the song of the canyon wren and the slither of sidewinder. His Paradise is red and pink and magenta and ochre and burnt sienna and irreplaceable.
Mine is mostly forest green, toasty oak, sometimes ruddy blueberry leaves, interspersed with limitless stretches of flooded cranberry bogs, throwing back the sunset. In the distance, there is salt tang. Close up, there is the sibilance of peatwater.
If Ed had known the Pine Barrens, –especially her crusty inhabitants–, I think he’d've approved. Maybe only if he found it before Arches and Canyonlands. He might’ve kayaked the Sedge Islands, and even boarded the restored oyster schooner down at Bivalve, and helped tug the sails into the sky while singing sea chanteys.
Revolutionary Massacre Site - Alloway Creek, Salem County — (cfe)
He’d probably hang out overnight, black flies and greenheads or no, on the sands of Reed’s Beach when it’s studded with courting, mating horseshoe crabs and whatever red knots and ruddy turnstones remain on our planet.
Bucolic Salem County, where Rebels Countered Redcoats and Prevailed cfe
Paradise — for Ed and for me — seems to require a dearth of humans. It need not be awash in critters, but there needs to be that ever-possibility. Even the new health of New Jersey oysters, “Cape May Salts.” Even the restoration of sturgeon to the Delaware River and elsewhere along this state of three coasts — once so enormous and plentiful that there is a mystery town still known as Caviar along the Delaware Bay.
An essential quality of Paradise, however, is that it cannot be explained.
So, inexplicably, I assert, New Jersey, especially South Jersey (and also Sandy Hook) holds varying versions of Paradise, all of them yours for the seeing. And none of them seasonally-dependent. Go for it!
Salem Preserved cfe
AND, ABOVE ALL, SEE THAT ALL VERSIONS OF NEW JERSEY PARADISE ARE PRESERVED!
Lest, like Thoreau, we find out we had not lived…
Henry David Thoreau re Walden Year(s):
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
Filed Under (Adventure, Amphibians, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Brigantine Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ WILD, Nature, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Pine Barrens, Preservation, habitat) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 09-01-2012
Pied-Billed Grebe Swallowing Frog, January 3, 2012, by Anne Zeman
NJ WILD readers know that my favorite non-Princeton excursion is to the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge (a.k.a. Forsythe), near Smithville and (arrgghh!) Atlantic City. ‘The Brig’ has served as my own wild refuge since I discovered it somewhere in the 1990’s.
Bays and impoundments are threaded by firm sand roads (actually dikes), so drivers may bird in all seasons, in all weathers. Differing salinities allow different plants to grow, providing nourishment and shelter for wild birds. The refuge is supported by duck stamps.
I’ve literally been at ‘the Brig’ in fire and in ice. Fire being controlled burns, to keep dread phragmites (towering blinding reeds that destroy foods and shelter required by wild birds); and ice which sometimes even closes ‘the Brig.’ So I go over to Scott’s Landing and up to Tuckerton, off the Garden State Parkway, but there is nothing like ‘the Brig’.
On the first Monday of 2012, I was given my first post-hip-op trip to this haven with dear friend and consummate birder, (co-founder and co-sustainer of Kingston Christmas Bird Count), Anne Zeman. Her astounding picture opens this post.
No one can ever declare “best local birding day”, but it was definitely a contender. In terms of quality and quantity of sightings, that day was as though we had taken seven trips ’round, instead of the single one my recent surgery dictated.
Great Blue Heron in Snow, Brenda Jones
Before we even reached the Gull Pond Tower, we had a first. We became aware of three great blue herons in water, and one perched overhead (that tree in other seasons holds black-crowned night herons). This primordial scene was right across Gull Pond after our turn. Suddenly, all birds took off as one, arrowing over our car as though shot by Hiawatha. Something significant had spooked these birds who are usually the essence of calm.
With her superb optics, Anne found the reason - a fox, in daytime, prancing toward the pond among shrubs and some debris of fallen trees. Anne has never seen a fox at the Brig - though they sip from her Kingston pond… When I’d stay overnight down there, to be first car in before dawn, and/or last car out, I could follow foxes down woods-enclosed roadways. But, even for me, it’s been a long time between foxes.
Fox Close-Up, Brenda Jones
Anne Zeman, and her husband Mark Peel, are the type of birders who travel avidly to other states and other lands in search of new species. Even so, they remain super-loyal to New Jersey, in particularly their own Kingston, and ‘the Brig’.
Looking back on our day, Mark and Anne remain most amazed by our having found ten species of winter ducks. But this is a contest we cannot call, what was the most astounding.
Our immediate next bird was a pied-billed grebe. This tiny member of the duck family, in water beside the car, [and we still weren't even at the tower], was calmly swallowing an enormous frog. Its prey seemed quite alive - legs kicking and all that. Anne hopes frog was ’still in winter torpor.’ I remain astonished that any cold-blooded creature was ‘findable’ on the second day of January. That saucy little elegant grebe was as matter-of-fact about his brunch as though it were a mere canape. He sailed immediately off, afterwards, in quest of other delicacies.
I’m not going to be able to recreate that day for NJ WILD. It would take seven posts. So I’ll just list our species in order. And you can go see for yourself.
Here’s my secret route, upon which even on major holidays, we are mostly the only car on Pine Barrens roads. US 1 South to 295 South to the Columbus Exit. Go toward town, take 206 (left jughandle) exit (South) and proceed past Contes Farm Market at 70 Traffic Circle. Left (south) on Carranza Road. Left (east) at Russo’s Farm Market onto 532. Right (south) in Chatsworth onto 563. Left (east) onto 679 into New Gretna. South (right) onto 9 which takes you onto Garden State Parkway over Mullica River for moments. Off at exit 48 for Smithville. Back onto 9 South, to Lily Lake Road and Forsythe Wildlife Refuge. Keep these directions for Fourth of July and Labor Day - you won’t believe your solitude, as you meander through the heart of cranberry country to the heart of New Jersey birding in all seasons.
Species list, January 2, 2012 [bolds are duck species]
Bufflehead, Brenda Jones
Red-winged blackbirds, first-year
Red-Winged Blackbird in Usual Season, Brenda Jones
Great blue herons and Anne says yellow-crowned but I couldn’t see crown
PIED-GILLED GREBE EATING FROG
Shovelers - when tipped, legs bright breeding orange
Coots - not only in water but walking on grasses like guinea hens
(notes in here re slate-blue water, opened window allows ‘eau de fox’ to bless us)
oh, yes, American Bald Eagle soaring flapless over Absecon Bay, never moving a feather, out of sight
Northern harrier, harrying grasses with Atlantic City in background
(note - window open, duck laughter makes me jump!)
Green-winged teal — green blindingly vivid as they turned toward eastern light
(window open - familiar cherished sound… could it be… YES!)
Snow geese, like mounds of snow, all over grasses between us and bay and casinos. Their half murmur, half bark alerted us to a few on high. Then more, and more, until the sky was FULL of snow geese. Possibly tens of thousands of them. Muttering, almost meowing, their communication blessed every moment of the rest of our circuit. Overhead, they seemed to be asking of their myriad of relatives on the grass, “Request permission to come ashore.”
Hundreds of shorebirds, doing their flying-as-one-creature routine, then settling and settling onto water - probably dowitchers. Very very far from us, no matter which turn of the road we might be on.
Great black-backed gulls
oh, yes, and robins beyond counting back in woods and lawns at the gate
As we reluctantly finished our exploration, we recounted our day - starting with fox/heron and grebe before even reaching Gull Pond Tower.
“spit full of snow geese.” quipped Anne.
“The queens of today — female mergansers.”
“All those shorebirds”
I, on doctor’s orders, had to walk every thirty minutes. So “walking with the coots was a first.”
“A preponderance of coots” - perhaps most we’ve seen in entire lives…
“A day of shoveler legs”
“Benediction of herons”
“The eagle — a thousand thousand times more important than Atlantic City”
At which point, of all things, on the last bridge between two waters, a fox came prancing right along the side of the road, all dappled in shrub shadow, bright-eyed and literally bushy-tailed, and not at all upset by these human visitors. Anne either saw one fox twice, or two in one day. I saw this one - he seemed to be there for formal farewell.
We called the fox our finale.
Fox Listening for Winter Prey, Brenda Jones
Filed Under (Animals of the Wild, Cape May, D&R Canal & Towpath, Literature, NJ WILD, New Jersey, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Pine Barrens, Preservation, Tranquillity, Trees, books, protection, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 06-10-2011
Pine Barrens Wild Water, cfe
It won’t surprise NJ WILD readers that, for this reader/writer, there is no such thing as too many nature books. The best gift yet arrived last week from sensitive friends, another book case… Most of the ones in my home, however, I have read and re-read, highlighted, underlined, quoted and read again.
For all these full bookshelves, there are never enough nature books for yours truly. One of the nice things about working at D&R Greenway Land Trust is that we have a nature library upstairs. You might think I’ve devoured every page between covers on nature subjects, due to both passion for and insatiable curiosity about Mother Nature in all forms. However, in the course of filing new books in our D&R Greenway library, I discovered two that have nourished me in recent rainy times. One is a compilation of early writings by women on what was then called “Birdwatching.” Report on that experience to come…
A Place in the Woods, by Helen Hoover, was new to me, although I’d read her The Gift of the Deer in the early years of my long-ago marriage. Helen and her husband, “Ade”, “took to the woods” without so much as a wilderness survival course, and precious little familiarity with cooking. They lived there in all seasons between the years of 1966 and 1973. This was not simply Minnesota (whose bitter winters, one entire month without thermometer’s ever rising above ZERO, daunted me as a bride and new mother), but NORTHERNmost Minnesota.
Tantalizingly near to my beloved Lake Superior, these two spent little enough time in or on the lake, most of it in their log cabin and/or summer house, surrounded by towering evergreens. Everything seemed to go wrong, including a bear in the cellar on Helen’s first day alone in the house while Ade made his way to a remote town for mail.
Interestingly, their spirits rarely flagged and their love evidently increased. As did their competency.
Her husband’s pen-and-ink drawings recreate that rugged Eden, even in this, another century time. Helen herself was driven to begin writing articles and books because everyone they’d left behind with their sophisticated Chicago professions kept asking when they were coming home.
For the Hoovers, the woods were home. As for me, here in this Princeton woods, –mostly deciduous but some white pines–. Unlike Helen and Ade, I don’t need all my Tom Brown’s Tracker School skills in order to thrive.
Reading the words of Helen Hoover reminds me why I work for D&R Greenway and why I write these blogs for the Packet and Princeton Patch.
The author declares that their challenges, –especially in winter–, “brought us deep awareness of the strength and courage to be drawn from the steady renewal of the forest.”
Keep preserving New Jersey lands so that we, ourselves, in this region, in this state, may be steadily renewed.
Helen Hoover goes on to reveal [as NJ WILD readers know from earlier posts about, for example, the fox whose snow-tracks delighted me in the worst of last year's ceaseless blizzards,] “helped us understand, within our human limitations, the living creatures who shared the land with us.”
Helen Hoover evokes the past which NJ WILD readers are accustomed to hearing me lament: “In those early days before the power line, lights went out and boats came in early, so that summer nights belonged to the murmur of wind in the pines; the patter of rain; or the booming of thunder; the lonely, lovely voices of the loon.” Even in daunting northern Minnesota, there was quiet summer magic to remember and to miss.
In New Jersey, there are still places where quiet reigns. I write to you about them as often as I can: Salem and Cumberland counties, always; back-bay Cape May; anytime on the Towpath, especially south from Quaker Bridge Road and over toward the Brearley House. The Pine Barrens even on major Holidays. Island Beach, Sandy Hook, especially in but not limited to winter.
Keep on supporting your local land preservation organizations, so that pine-clad, sand-drifted, bird-shadowed, water-blessed New Jersey can continue to exist.
We don’t have to go to northernmost Minnesota to find the wild. We have it right here. PRESERVE IT!
This is the time of the fruition, then the end, of a great love.
Driving dappled lanes home tonight, far from the Pine Barrens, this poem came surging through, begging to be shared with NJ WILD readers.
Rejoice with me, even though this love was not to be durable.
Remember your own powerful loves…
IT ALL STARTED
when we came upon
carpets of stars
cranberries in flower
trembling white below
the ice blue sky
along the hard-packed dikes
formed golden pyramids
on gleaming amber boxes
here to burst all bonds
course among broad acres
of waving stamens
at day’s end we stood on tiptoe
plucking first blued berries
from among the mauve and pink
at the tips of overarching bushes
tucked among hollies and sheep laurel
through thickets and tunnels
we made our way to the sea
mouths awash in warm berries
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
Filed Under (Activism, Adventure, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Brigantine Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Cape May, Climate Change, Environment, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ WILD, Nature, New Jersey, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Pine Barrens, Preservation, South Jersey, Weather, books, habitat, native species, protection, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 22-07-2011
Dike Road to Infinity, by Sharon Olds, Brigantine/Forsythe Wildlife Refuge
Multiple Views to South, Brigantine/Forsythe — Sharon Olds
See bottom of article re this week’s osprey chick rescue, thanks to Citizens United, re Fortescue on Delaware Bayshores. If any of you are at ‘the Brig’ this week, I wish you’d report to me in comments on its many osprey nests.
Vigilant Osprey, Brigantine in May, cfe
NJ WILD readers know I used to write nature articles for the Packet, US 1, West Windsor-Plainsboro News, Jersey Sierran and New Jersey Countryside magazine. For the magazine, an article,”Pinelands by Secret Roads”, was accompanied by a ‘box’ with the following information concerning birding gear.
If you’re nature-starved, as I am, as America fries this climate-changed July, one ideal jaunt is the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, also called Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, at Smithville, north of Atlantic City. It’s ideal in this heat-wave because you can, in fact - for the birds’ sake, are encouraged to, STAY IN YOUR CAR. You’ll be treated to rarities, from my most recent first sandhill-crane spotting to migratory flocks, –yes, certain long-legged shorebirds already flocking, to these protected reaches crucial to the Atlantic Flyway.
‘The Brig’ provides a shimmering eight-mile excursion, taken at 10 to 15 mph, along dike roads between impoundments of varying salinities. The waters are managed so that aquatic plants can grow which provide nourishment and shelter for specific species of water birds. ‘The Brig’ is particularly significant in spring and fall migration (the latter of which starts now.)
Across Absecon Bay, Atlantic City rises like Atlantis, and sometimes mercifully disappears in fog or blizzard… remember blizzards? Next to it is the inexplicable ever-whirring wind farm, smack in the middle of birds’ essential flyways.
Great Egret taking off at Brigantine, by Brenda Jones
Let Atlantic City jolt you into remembering the urgency of land preservation in our state.
Besides being beautiful, ‘The Brig’ is healthy and safe for birds on their critical journeys. It will provide ideal habitat for you, too, in what Europeans call ‘The Dog Days.’ Turn them into ‘The Bird Days’ and watch rare shorebirds, ducks, waders and brilliant fliers such as the northern harrier, from the air-conditioned comfort of your car.
Even in the car, however, staying hydrated is key. The hiker’s maxim is, “A pint an hour under 90; a quart an hour, over.”
Snowy Egret feeding at Brigantine, by Brenda Jones
When you are birding outdoors - the norm - (although I can now find the Princeton eagles from my car), here is the list of gear requested by New Jersey Countryside Magazine:
(the idea is comfort, safety and information/knowledge)
Binoculars or monocular; scope, if your lucky. Light-gathering optics are ideal in early light and last…
Guidebooks: Roger Tory Peterson’s, Audubon Guides, all David Allen Sibley
Water: 1 pt./hour under 90 degrees; 1 quart/hr. over
Hat with beak (hides our eyes from the birds, remember – we appear to them as predators); hat also essential where ticks abide, as they can drop from trees. Hat crucial in searing heat.
Muted clothing that does not rustle or squeak
Wind jacket, wind pants useful to have on hand - but that’s more crucial in winter birding.
Comfortable supportive water-resistant shoes/boots
“Wicking” socks with special padding at heel and foot
Long sleeves, left down (re ticks/Lyme disease)
Long pants tucked in to high socks (ditto)
Excellent insect repellant
Good regional maps - the best is available at Marilyn Schmidt’s Buzby’s General Store, at crossroads of 532 and 563 in Chatsworth, the heart of the Pine Barrens. My dear friend, Marilyn designed and publishes this map of South Jersey/Pinelands, and it’s taught me everything I know about back roads. Her shop is full of guides to birds, plants, foods, lingo, history, churches and gravestones, the Jersey Devil, and so forth. It is also for sale, so here’s your chance to leave hurly-burly behind and live in an historic haven. (It’s on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.)
BIRDING SITES in Pinelands
Brigantine, Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge
Route 47 around Goshen for eagles
Whitesbog bogs for herons, egrets, willets; winter’s tundra swans and snow geese
BEGINNER BIRDS to look for in the Pinelands
Great blue heron – tall, gangly, blue-grey, wades in water, swallows fish and other prey alive, head first
Egrets – rangy, tall, graceful, similar to herons, also wade, also swallow fish whole
Osprey – “fish hawk”– masked, look for untidy osprey nests on platforms; dives, grasps prey in talons, flies off with it, often carries to mate, to chicks, good luck to see “osprey packing a lunch”
Red-tailed hawk – raptor of edges – likes tall trees, broad fields, high flight and strong ‘stoops’ (swoops onto prey) look for sunlight in red tail
Brant – goose-like, elegant, black with white necklace, lovely murmuring sound
Ducks – every color, size, shape and variety at Brig and Smithville ponds, year-round
Osprey in flight, by Brenda Jones
FROM CITIZENS UNITED:
Sometimes your day doesn’t go quite as planned. For Brian Johnson, CU member and Preserve Manager at the Natural Land Trust’s Glades Wildlife Refuge, today was one of those days.
Last night’s high winds led to reports of downed osprey nests in Fortescue which led to a flurry of phone calls and emails, and Brian happened to be closest to the action. He found the fallen natural nest, slogged over 800 yards through the marsh on foot, and was able to retrieve two healthy medium sized chicks. Working with others, Brian identified two foster nests, where he skillfully relocated the birds to new families.
Another much larger nest in Fortescue also blew down, and Brian checked that one, too. Sadly, it was too late for the chicks there, which were crushed by the huge nest when it collapsed on top of them. This nest was in a platform and should have been maintained by human intervention to a smaller size. In this case, the winds took care of that, and the the very same adult osprey that lost their young still had plenty of nest to work with, and seem to have willingly adopted one of the displaced chicks.
Brian has offered to keep an eye on the nest, as this pair of adults has a propensity to build too large. He can downsize it when they are wintering in South America. We aren’t sure who is responsible for this nest but are thrilled with Brian’s willingness to help.
Many thanks to those who helped on the ground and with ideas and information, especially Ben Wurst of Conserve Wildlife Foundation, who provided a great deal of guidance. As it happened, Jane Morton Galetto was at an Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee meeting when she recieved word from CU Trustee Tony Klock who had read about the fallen nests on Facebook in a post by CU member Steve Byrne. Jane conferred about fostering the birds to other nests with Kathy Clark of the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife and Veterinarian Erica Miller of Tri State Bird Rescue, also a CU member, who were at the same meeting. Tony remained in contact with Brian as he rescued the birds and helped identify foster nests.
Thank you for your heroic efforts, Brian, and thanks again to all involved.
Filed Under (Animals of the Wild, D&R Canal & Towpath, Delaware Bayshores, Destruction, Environment, Migratory Flocks, NJ, NJ State Parks, Native Americans, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Pennsylvania, Preservation, habitat, native species, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 28-06-2011
THIS JUST IN: Steve Hiltner’s marvelous Sustainable Jazz Ensemble will be playing at Labyrinth Books every other Friday in July - July 1, 15, 29. Labyrinth is at 122 Nassau, and the music takes place downstairs. Steve’s inimitable humor assures us that “no virgin timbres are harvested for these performances.” Michael Redmond, Lifestyle and Time Off Editor of the Packet, urges, in his Packet Pick: “Be There or Be Square.” The time is 6:30, and BYO is o.k., says the Packet Pick.
On Another Note Altogether, Steve and I are in synch. I have his permission to use his Princeton Nature Notes posting on the beavers of Princeton:
Steve Hiltner, of Friends of Princeton Open Space, writes of a joyous beaver memory within a moonlit pond, hoping that such scenes “can serve as a bridge of kinship between people and nature.” Recently, that bridge was seriously shattered in our community.
I am fascinated to see results, when I Google, Princeton, Beavers, on electronic sites, showing that others are still disturbed that the lovely waters of Pettoranello Gardens proved fatal rather than life-sustaining to our Princeton beavers.
Steve maintains a charming blog, Princeton Nature Notes, which I have quoted here in the past. He officially linked to NJ WILD recently on the beaver tragedy.
Steve is also a superb musician - whose jazz last Friday graced Labyrinth Books, in their summer Friday jazz program. I so enjoyed it many Fridays last year - hearing jazz with friends surrounded by books — what could be better. Keep an eye on the Labyrinth web-site, to see when we can hear Steve’s jazz anew.
I was at the Brandywine Museum that night for Jamie Wyeth’s opening of his farm art. More to come on that after I download pictures from his father’s beloved Kuerner farm site, setting the tone for Jamie’s impeccably rendered farm creatures.
Here’s Steve’s wise reading of the beaver situation. Thanks for linking, Steve, to NJ WILD and to D&R Greenway, which shares your preservation mission in our region.
The killing of two beavers at Pettoranello Pond two weeks ago brought into the spotlight two sharply contrasting views of the animals. Beavers are adorable, and impressive in their craftsmanship. One of my most serene memories is watching a beaver swim peacefully across a moonlit pond. Their approach to living–find an auspicious spot, transform it to your needs, and make a living there–has parallels with ours, and so can serve as a bridge of kinship between people and nature.
Their inclination to change their surroundings, as in the sticks and mud they were using to obstruct water flow under this bridge, also triggers a distinctly negative view of beavers as nuisance animals. People get a pond just the way they want it, plant some pretty trees, and then a beaver comes along, changes the water level and starts eating the trees. That’s what was happening at Pettoranello Pond. Of course, if beavers are stigmatized for changing the environment, imagine what an animal community that could form and hold opinions would be thinking about us.
Beavers have been living in the canal and Lake Carnegie for a long time, and I had been wondering why they hadn’t made it up Mountain Brook to Mountain Lakes and Pettoranello Gardens. Now that they have, I’d expect more will come. My hope would be that some way could be found to accommodate the beavers while keeping the pond level stable and any valuable trees protected. There are devices that allow water through dams without the beavers being aware. In my opinion, the beavers would do Pettoranello Gardens at least one favor by thinning out its thick stands of alder along the water’s edge. If the beaver’s additions to the dam obstructed storm flow, then a spillway for heavy runoff could be dug somewhere along the bank. The pond already has a bypass upstream of it for storm surges.
Filed Under (Adventure, Agriculture, Climate Change, Delaware River, Farmland, Farms, Food, Forests, Migratory Flocks, NJ, NJ WILD, New Jersey, New Jersey Pine Barrens, Pine Barrens, Solitude, Timelessness, Wildflowers, rivers) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 17-06-2011
NJ WILD readers may remember this from the ‘dog days’ of last August. As we endure triple-digit heat days in JUNE, no less (while politicians debate the reality of Catastrophic Climate Change, I find myself newly compelled to seek out dappled roadways.
We, in Princeton and near, are blessed with places where shadows caress windshields and shiny metal hoods of vehicles. Sometimes, we can even drive where trees hold hands over our cars. On Pinelands roads, we may enjoy shadowed beauty and solitude even on Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day and the like.
Come DAPPLE with me!
In this summer of drought, when enormous swathes of corn have turned the color of camels on either side of Route 518 West of Princeton, I have had to develop a new modus operandi for driving. To evade that broiler-sun, I have come deliberately to tool along, up hill and down dale, on the outskirts of towns, and through the middle of small ones, as far as possible from highways, let alone anything named ’super’. I have to go in search of dappled roads.
This searing summer, I have been taught that shade is far more important than elapsed driving time.
When I endured 1988’s Provencal August, I wrote a poem beginning, “the sun strikes its flat sword blade…” I never before knew sun as enemy. As a child, my parents would sing, “Rain, rain, go away. Little Carolyn wants to play.” And this was perennially true. Now I feel I should do penance for this wish — now I find myself singing, “Sun, sun, go away.”
Day after day, “severe thunderstorms forecast”. Night after night, I carry my too-heavy new watering can around the rudimentary garden outside my new apartment on a wooded hill. Sometimes my parched plants cry out for me to repeat this procedure in mornings before work. People near my Canal Road dwelling have been saying, “We to live in a valley, a valley where it always rains on either side of us.” The ground outside is hard as concrete. Water from the golden can skids off the soil like mercury, like a garden snake, hurrying elsewhere, not sinking into roots.
I’ve had to find ways to escape the searing sun. I drive the dappled roads.
Blue Hills Above the Delaware from Hunterdon County
One of my all-time favorite books is William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways. I turn to it over and over, like Thoreau and Beston, Leopold and Abbey. W.L.H.M. took off in a van on the day he lost both wife and job, traveling the blue highways of our land, the ones without ’super’. He sought out cafes, measuring them by the number of photo calendars they displayed near their cash register. He brought to life each bossy waitress, each curmudgeonly fellow traveler at a stool at his side at the counter. Moon was not on a gastronomic quest, as I often am. Rather in search of humans, real people, what we used to call Americans before a certain recent president made ME ashamed to BE one… That simple travelogue held its place on best-seller lists for months. That basic journey sustained me in many a challenging ordeal of life.
“Where ya goin’?,” a fellow feeder asked William L.H. Moon. “Dunno,” he truthfully answered. His interrogator grinned: “Can’t get lost then.”
When I travel the dappled roads, it doesn’t matter if I get lost. On the dappled highways, still green and feathery above, the smokey wash of shadow alters both my car’s blinding finish and my own dessicated mood.
Provence didn’t have shadows. I never realized shade was essential. The most important description of any Inn was “terrace ombragee”. Until I sat at on those shaded terraces, surrounded by white linen and heavy silver and Provencal specialties beneath leather-leaved plane trees, (our sycamores) I didn’t know how priceless is shade. In Provence, I tried and failed to remember a favorite poem, “Glory be to God for Dappled Things.”
This summer, I learn the value of shadows in our own country. Without linen, without silver, sans cuisine.
When you travel ombragee’d roadways, you’ll either be pretty much alone, as in the Pine Barrens. Or you’ll be surrounded by people in a pretty good mood, soothed as shade comes and goes, as the road rises and falls, as trees create sanctuaries of silence.
Dappled roads don’t just funnel one - dappled roads lead somewhere.
As to rivers - the Wading, the Delaware. As to forests — Wharton, Brendan Byrne. As to mountains, so they say, as in Sourlands. Past a funny old road house, beloved of locals. Alongside farmstands, “cucumbers, 50 cents each”. “Our own fresh eggs.”
As you drive along dappled roads in South Jersey, you can check on the blueberry crop, the busy-ness of rented bees among tiny white cranberry blossoms. If you ‘dapple’ West, you’ll study the state of the sorghum crop, and puzzle as to whether corn tassels out later, the closer you get to the Delaware River (my theory. In this year of the drought, the later-tasseling corn is faring better.)
I’d far rather know how the sorghum’s doing, than the latest catastrophe of some celebrity of entertainment or politics (it is becoming more and more difficult to tell the difference.) I can stop thinking, for a few hours, about the perilous migratory journeys of all our New Jersey birds headed toward and over the Gulf.
When you choose dappled roads, even in town, as in Princeton, you’ll pass homes and graveyards of any number of signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the imposing residence of the current governor. Signs exult, “Tree City”. Oxymoronic, to be sure, but I’m grateful for every monarch of old, waving leafily, dreamily above my sheltering car.
When you drive shadowed south Jersey roadways, you course along beside pristine sugar sand. Here and there will be spurts of blinding ferns despite apparent lack of water. This year, you’ll read Smokey Bear signs with exclamation points after the single word “WILDFIRE!”, where fire danger used to be listed as low, medium or high. When you drive shadowed roadways west, you see gleaming silos like cathedrals in the distance. White horses and black-and-white cattle stand so peacefully, lessons in tranquillity. Red barns and redder farmhouses rise like exclamation points in the surrounding text of crops. You’ll clunk over a white covered bridge (as in Sergeantsville).
If I’m lucky, I can take dappled roads BOTH into and out of Sergeantsville, coming and going from my shadow-quest.
Shade will bless you as you pass any number of Washington’s Headquarters, perhaps pondering the fate of America without those stony shrines and their plain but brilliant occupant during the 1770’s and 80’s…
The edges of dappled roads could have been embroidered. This morning, bright sturdy chicory lined my path all the way to Stockton, like blue French knots embroidered by impeccable seamstresses. Here and there, a brook would keep me company, its quiet gleam no match for the bonniness of chicory. Behind the blue ‘knots’, entire fields of white lace, –yes, Queen Anne’s, short and tough yet delicate–, nodded in the half breeze.
An entire field of sunflowers, right west of here on #518, caused homesickness for France, for Arles, for Vincent, sane or mad, but no better chronicler of roadside flowers in the history of art.
Blessed by leaf-flicker, I am far from matters troublous. Weaving through Washington-shrines, I either forget the nightly news, or set it firmly in perspective. Taking the shady roads, I also manage to avoid most who exhibit road rage, although there was one harsh driver at the gas station at dawn for whom the attendant apologized three times. “He is not nice, that one…”
Dappled roads are nice. Good for the soul. Gateways to the beauties of New Jersey of which so many are absolutely unaware, and even the best of us can tend to forget, in hurly burly or in drought.
On dappled roads, embroidered roadways, weekend errands don’t even feel like tasks.
Find the Photographer - Anne Zeman - at her task…