Archive for the ‘Amphibians’ Category
When both branches of the Millstone River, at #518 and Canal Road, show more pebbles than water
When you can see white rocks, like rip-rap, ringing islands and fringing land along the Delaware River
When the Mississippi River, in an aerial view, is more beige than blue - with surf-like curves of blonde sand like corn-row haircuts and her barges cannot carry full loads, and their pilots describe “the new river”, “the unknown” river when the Mississippi has turned from “The Big Muddy” to “The Big Sandy”
When a meteorologist shows you a pie chart that is 90% hot red, 10% blue - (pie chart representing the year 2012; blue sliver cold extremes; all-conquering red being heat extremes) and she terms this a mere “anomaly”
It’s time to face the C-words: CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE.
When Terhune Orchards reports most fruit crops coming in one month early at least
When any farm stand showed you that our strawberries not only began early, but finished bearing early
When corn was head-high by the Fourth of July, some even tasseling out, now browning, then blackening with ceaseless drought
It’s time to admit “the times are out of joint” weather-wise, as we have been warned for decades, re our ceaseless unremediated carbon emissions
When there is no more soft rain, but only monsoon-blinding-downpours on the heels of waterless weeks
Pollan and Hansen and Gore have alerted us for decades that extremes are the toll we pay for carbon excesses
When hours of thunder and lightning don’t even dampen paving stones out my study window
When trees along local highways, in July, sp0urt yellow brighter than highway stripes and it’s not flowers
It’s time to FACE IT
Not only is the weather severely out of balance in our time — it may well be past the famous tipping point.
What we are experiencing on all fronts is the logical outcome of runaway consumption, ice-cap melt, glacial melt, and so forth and so on, ad infinitum the sky IS falling and nobody’s drawing correct conclusions, let alone turning excess around
As your NJ WILD reporter, I cannot rhapsodize about nature, today, let alone insert pretty pictures.
Nature is turning into a corpse before our eyes, and we’re talking about the equivalent of curls and manicure upon a corpse.
Yes, I’ve been to what’s left of her beauty, a forest here, a river there, kayaking on the canal.
I feel no better than Nero, fiddling while my beloved Nature burns, sometimes quite literally up in flames…
Who is doing WHAT to turn this around?
(to paraphrase Pogo re meeting the enemy) — There is extinction on the menu, and it is us.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?
Grebe Swallowing Frog, Brigantine, by Anne Zeman
Natural End for Frog - Nourishing Another Species
NJ WILD readers remember that, when Ilene Dube insisted I begin this nature blog for the Packet, she urged the presence of poetry.
You also know that the focus of my life is preservation, carried out professionally at D&R Greenway Land Trust. It has taken us 23 years to save 23 New Jersey miles.
Every day, all over our state, carnage of this magnitude is taking place, often in the guise of restoration, as at the Pole Farm - although no mention is made upon their signs of the importance of this ‘new habitat’ for wild creatures.
Sometimes my rage takes the form of verse. This, in my world, represents a heightening of fury — prose mere distillation. See what YOU think..
naturalists alert me
that this very week, at midnight,
crept out of winter
left glistening egg clusters
ripening like grapes
in old furrows and new ponds
I know where the frogs spawn
throughout these fields and woods
but heartless engineers
have studded nature’s nurseries
with rip-rap and coarse gravels
torn earth gapes
raw treads scar refuge trails
The Pole Farm has become
yesteryear’s moist furrows
sacred vernal ponds
reduced to memory
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
Baltimore Oriole with Fishing Line for Nest Brenda Jones
Most people don’t even know there IS a Marsh in the middle of Trenton (and Bordentown and Hamilton). Let alone the northernmost freshwater tidal wetland, which surges and empties in synch with the tides of the ocean, as amplified by the nearby Delaware River. Let alone that ‘The Marsh’ is Oriole Central this May!
Most people don’t know that the Marsh has mattered to the Lenni Lenapes for at least 10,00 years, that artifacts proving this have been found there over the centuries. That the Lenapes at first didn’t live there, but connected with each other and other tribes in spring, in autumn, en route to or from hunting lives to gathering times at the Shore. That Route #195, which noisily curves above and through the Marsh, began all those centuries ago as the Indians’ footpath to ocean gathering time.
Baltimore Oriole, Full Breeding Plumage - Brenda Jones
For sure, what most people don’t know is that, if you’re in love with orioles, as well as other rarities among our NJ birds, go to the Marsh right NOW! The earlier in the day the better, though late light is good, too. Go with anyone brought there to lead tours for the Friends for the Marsh (www.marsh-friends.org), such as Charles and Mary Leck, Lou Beck and John Marin, among others. Orioles will welcome you immediately, perhaps even before the mute swans glide over to enchant you. Not only Baltimore orioles, but also orchard orioles.
Baltimore Oriole in All His Glory Brenda Jones
If you’re with Charlie, Mary, Lou and John, you’ll be informed that the vaguely chartreuse oriole is a first-year orchard oriole. You may know, from other Marsh trips, –when Orchards and Baltimores conveniently perched on the same empty branch so that you could compare and contrast, as in English class–, that Orchard example will, next year, be the hue of a toasty chestnut.
Spring Lake was named by the Lenni Lenapes, because spring-fed. It may well have been formed by the beavers, who still generously inhabit watery stretches, in what Charlie calls, “Beaver Condominiums”
Beaver Close-Up, from D&R Canal in Princeton — Brenda Jones
There’s a trail map at entry of what is also called Roebling Park. You can hike over a small bridge (see beaver dam, which is different from lodge, to your right) into woods with well blazed trails. And/or turn left at the lake and circle it very slowly, binoculars on everything from posts to vines to tulip trees (Indians carefully burn-hollowed these trunks for canoes) to towering cottonwoods to shrubby arrow-wood viburnum (Indians used this wood for arrows) to dead trees, otherwise known as snags, perfect perching posts for avian visitors and nesters.
Great Blue Heron Brenda Jones
This morning, starting at 8 a.m., an enthusiastic group decided that birding is more important than Mothers’ Day. Birding-by-ear was the name of the game from the start. I’ll try to remember what was seen and heard, so you can pretend you were with us.
To get there yourself, take Route 1 South to South Broad Street Exit at Arena; when exit T’s, that’s South Broad/206 South, there by the River Line Train holding pen. Left is south onto Broad, past Lalor. Turn right at the light (Sewell) after the two green church steeples. Drive through tiny neighborhood until Sewell T’s at the Marsh. Turn left/down and park next to the lake. Miracles of peace, beauty and birding await.
Red-Winged Blackbird in Full Breeding Plumage — Brenda Jones
Mute swans; orchard oriole; red-winged blackbirds; yellow warblers; common yellowthroats; blue-grey gnatcatchers; solitary sandpiper (only there were 2 of these (really rare creatures); great blue heron; mallard pair; beaver lodge; beaver dam; Carolina chickadee with insect in mouth, waiting for us to pass so it could pop into its nest in post hidden by vines to feed young.
Osprey At (Much Heftier) Nest — Brenda Jones
Osprey on scrungy nest on top of hideous power tower, male arriving with outsized nest material, matrimony on his mind. Flock of cedar waxwings, conveniently in emptily dead tree. Warbling vireos everywhere, proving their name.
Cedar Waxwing — Brenda Jones
Red Admiral butterflies, the lepidopteral stars of Spring 2012, first ON parking lot, where everyone could get ‘a good look’ at it, resting mid-flight on the gravel. The next red admiral was on a tree that had been graffitied — on a large 0 after a peace sign. Those with cameras were ecstatic. Those without will never forget those juxtapositions. At the shore, such as Cape May and ‘The Brigantine’ about which I write so often, people recently saw 40,000 migrant red admirals. Warning — they’re not red - they’re orange — but that’s pretty much the norm in nature nomenclature. Remember how orange the redstart is, and to me the red knot is terra cotta…
American Redstart by Brenda Jones — If you ask ME, it’s orange!
We saw a toad upon whose species — the experts could not agree. It was right in the clover by the lake, and still as a stone. Henslow’s? American? I didn’t hear the outcome, because I was on the trail of overhead orioles, irresistibly posing in the full sun we weren’t supposed to have.
Now, answer me. Would you believe a saga like this took place in Trenton. Does all day every day, depending upon the season. Several times, those of us who are riveted by bouquet de fox were stopped in our tracks by fox pungency.
I didn’t take my camera - but Brenda Jones, of course, has pictures of some of our species. I’ll put them in for you.
Put yourSELVES into the Marsh.
And support it, through Friends for the Marsh and D&R Greenway Land Trust, where I work — who preserved and maintain those 1200 crucially moist acres, buffering temperature and drought/flood conditions, and serving as nursery and migrant corridor for species beyond counting.
Although botanist Mary Leck and ornithologist, Charlie Leck, have, indeed counted and you can find the species count for plants, animals, amphibians (fish?), and, of course, birds on www.marsh-friends.org.
Never forget that www.drgreenway.org keeps green New Jersey green
D&R Canal Above Mapleton Aqueduct by Brenda Jones
Where D&R Greenway Began its Preservation Miracles…
“…unreconstructed and necessary wildness…” Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
Enraged Osprey of Carnegie Lake, Brenda Jones
Michael Pollan in general, and his Botany of Desire, in particular, is one of those authors everyone means to read. I hear protestations of intention all the time, always tinged with a kind of wistfulness. Recently, Public Television gave people a visual taste of this man’s paradigm. For me, the visual alone never suffices.
I’ll go so far as to insist that Pollan is an author to re-read. His subject matter is so unexpected (apples and ‘cyder’, marijuana, tulips and potatoes) and his thinking so original. It’s worth taking Pollan in hand, even if you don’t give a fig about nature. Just for the privilege of journeying with him.
Fierce Flight (Great Blue Heron), Brenda Jones
And savoring his pithy phrases, such as “Plants are the true alchemists.” His lament that now, “It is as though nature is something that happens outside,… as if we are gazing at nature across a gulf.” As he sets out in a canoe in quest of Johnny Appleseed’s seminal (couldn’t resist) journeys, Pollan relishes trusting in the river to take him wherever he wants to go.
WILD DELAWARE RIVER, Brenda Jones
In my case, re-reading The Botany of Desire reveals a delicious (pun intended) emphasis upon the WILD.
Trenton’s Apple Bounty, cfe
People can and do tease me for prating of the WILD in New Jersey. In the first segment of The Botany of Desire, Pollan takes an even more unlikely tack — seeking the wild, as did Thoreau, through apples. One of his theses is that Appleseed’s success came because he was not peddling mere fruit, but ‘cyder’ to the pioneers.
West Windsor’s Apple Bounty — cfe
Michael sets the tone with phrases such as “A handful of wild apples came with me” (on his Johnny-Appleseed-Quest.) He insists that “sowers of wild seeds are to be prized.”
Cedar Ridge Preserve Meadow, cfe
Cedar Ridge Wild Mushrooms — cfe
Pollan laments that “we live in a world where the wild places where wild plants live are dwindling.” You’ve heard this line from me in ‘posts’ beyond counting, coupled with urgings to support your local land trusts, especially D&R Greenway, to preserve New Jersey’s wild remnants and to plant New Jersey Natives wherever we can.
Baldpate View, Ted Stiles Preserve, Brenda Jones
Let Michael define “the best of all possible worlds”: “WE’D BE PRESERVING THE WILD PLACES THEMSELVES.”
The next best possible world: “ONE THAT PRESERVES THE QUALITY OF WILDNESS ITSELF.”
Female Harrier Aloft, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Male Harrier, “The Grey Ghost”, in ice at Pole Farm — Brenda Jones
The generating thesis of NJ WILD is that the wild exists right in our own back yards:
Wild erupts with the whiff of fox along mown paths of The Griggstown Grasslands. This lovely lofty set of trails, with its compelling Sourlands and Watchung views, awaits but a mile or two north of me on Canal Road, before/beside Griggstown’s Causeway.
Fox Alert, Griggstown Grasslands, Brenda Jones
The wild surprised me last week In burgeonings of wildflowers, deep in the duff of the forest floor, on Bull’s Island in the Delaware. These petite fleurs lifted up the blinding waxy yellow of buttercups. 8 to 10 petals rayed out from yellow centers. These premature spring heralds were nevertheless inviting pollinators. On my hike, they seemed like pieces of eight flung onto the leaf-strewn forest floor.
Why call a delicate plant WILD? Because they arrived there on their own, blooming despite winter on the calendar, pushing through flood detritus that resembled the graphite dust of Thoreau’s pencils. A key quality of the wild is RESILIENCE — New Jersey specialty!
Sourland Mountain Rocks and Water, Brenda Jones
WILD in New Jersey, for me, requires Lenni Lenapes. The land was tended by these peaceful tribes, at least 10,000 years ago. Their vanished presence is palpable on many of my hikes, most especially among Sourlands boulders. Also on trails near Mountain Lakes House, and at Ringing Rocks just across Delaware at Upper Black Eddy. In each case, majestic boulders that render Stonehenge puny rest exactly where they were revealed by water wind and time, before time. The huge stones are frequently encountered in a massive ring. I FEEL Indian councils there, planning tribal actions for the season about to begin. Seasons which, for Lenni Lenapes, triggered travel either to or from hunting to gathering.
Mink at Play, Brenda Jones
In the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh, the Lenapes convened with selected other tribes, before leaving central Jersey hunting grounds for Shore gatherings. This journey and the seasonal constellation of other indigenous peoples was triggered by natural phenomena. Spring’s took place when pickerel weed pierced still waters like arrows.
New Jersey’s Apple Bounty, cfe
Michael Pollan plants a wild tree in his own home garden. His hope - “that such a tree will bear witness to unreconstructed and necessary wildness.”
What can you do about wildness right now, as elusive winter gives way to spring?
Go in search of it.
Buy only native NJ species for your gardens.
Read Michael Pollan
well, you know….
REMEMBER, WILD IS ALL ABOUT HABITAT!
Rare Box Turtle, Camouflaged in Natural Habitat - Cedar Ridge cfe
Generously support D&R Greenway and other Land Trusts, preserving New Jersey’s wild wherever it exist.
Sourlands Rocks and Water, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know that an essential facet of my hip recovery is walks with friends in nature.
#1, I require nature. #2, doctors and physical therapists require “extension of the surgical leg.” #3 - my pilgrimage now focuses upon stamina.
My forever quest is beauty, but you KNOW that. NJ beauty in particular!
I can walk well, amazingly. However, lumpy trails require the arm of a friend. I told a friend recently, “I’m Shanghai-ing friends to walk trails in right weather.” She retorted, “I’m Shanghai-able.” Fay Lachmann is always “Shanghai-able,” so we made my first return to the Sourlands last week, on a cold and sunny day.
(As Fay helped me recreate this excursion for all of you, Google’s recent NJ WILD readership numbers astonished– 1600 page views a week ago, 1330 last week — I am grateful to each and every one…)
Sourlands Winter Palette, Brenda Jones
The Sourlands’ first winter gift was the richly sustaining palette of this season. Being but a spectator of, not a participant in art, I find myself limited in trying to recreate those tones for you:
What stands out is the array of artsy colors - taupe and puce. Food tones - toast, caramel, burnt toast. Chestnut and walnut and literal hickory nuts from the ragged grey shagbarks on either side. Some beech leaves had already paled to the Devonshire cream tones of April, just before they let go to fertilize themselves.
The most stirring experience remains the darkness of stark trees — jet black, even blue-black as in childhood ink, charcoal, obsidian… Their sculptural qualities were as thrilling as any blockbuster MOMA exhibit.
We were bathed in surprising roseate tones, drawn to various gildings. Of course, always and ever, evergreen bursts.
Alongside the trail, moss erupted in full springtime exuberance, — blinding, St. Paddy’s Day green. Dazzling, sparkling, sun somehow caught in every pouf, and I use that soft word deliberately. Winter not usually being connected with softness…
Brenda’s mosses were a little more subdued, in next-day light.
Moss Abundance, Sourlands, 2012 - Brenda Jones
To the left of our Sourlands trail we came upon a grove of Christmas fern. So named because it can be enjoyed in winter — not usually after Christmas, name or no name. But, January - this was impossible. Each cluster was larger than a peck, smaller than a bushel. Almost waist-high, tendril tips had not even been licked by Jack Frost.
That Christmas fern glen was full of life, –the way I’m always determined to stay in winter, not always succeeding. The ferns were cushiony, bountiful, cradling.
On our right, we came upon first ice miracles. Temperatures had dropped to single digits that week, without undue warming. (Well, NJ WILD readers know that to me, all winter warming is undue and dangerous.)
Due to gelid nights, what would otherwise be vernal (spring) ponds, were solid enough to support minuscule figure skaters. Pond rims were awash in scrolls, as though some master had etched the art of the ’20s and ’30’s onto fine crystal. In fact, Rene Lalique himself or Louis Comfort Tiffany must have spent hours adorning the pools of our Sourland woods. Think Chrysler Building or Empire State — particularly their interior artistry — we were given that level of scrollery.
In the middle of the first small pond, with its Lalique edges, some abstract artist had had his way with the center — it was harsh, yet endearing. Against water the color of patent leather pumps, star slashes created a starry starry night, in daytime. We couldn’t walk away from this beauty. I could almost hear Antiques Road Show experts raving about this rare mastery in winter woods.
Smiling Rock, Sourlands, in another season — Carolyn Foote Edelmann
(We have most photographs courtesy of our splendid fine-art photographer, Brenda Jones. I raved so about this hike that Brenda and her husband, Cliff, took to the trail first thing the next day. They did not come upon Lalique ice. But Brenda captures mood, design, palette, and hardy beauty of this region in her own sensitive/powerful way.
As you enjoy her scenes, remember that D&R Greenway Land Trust has been exceptionally active in preserving and linking Sourlands open space. Support your local land trusts!)
Our next nature delight, –in this season so many deem empty–, was a splendid array of turkey tail fungus on adorning a venerable log. Brenda was as stirred by this as we, without having been ‘tipped off’. I wanted to see what would speak to her.
Brenda Jones’ Turkey Tail Fungus on Downed Log
The trees on this Sourlands trail do not form a monoculture. However, beeches were the stars of our day. Elephant-toned trunks even sported knobby circularities, evocative of elephant legs. I never understand why people are disposed to carve into that silk-satin skin of large beeches. One tree had been particularly scarred. The cynic in me snaps, “The tree will outlive the relationships!”
I frankly hugged that beech, apologizing for human heedlessness.
But someone else had been working over the beech trunk– someone who’s supposed to: the yellow-bellied sapsucker.
No, we didn’t see the bird. But his or her tiny holes ringed the trunk at several levels. Were this insect-season, [which it soon well may be, at the rate we're going, climate-wise], winged protein would be attracted to sap that rises to these beak-sized openings. Attracted and doomed, insects would provide two forms of nourishment to other birds, not limited to sapsuckers.
Distant Woodpecker, Brenda Jones
Brenda and Cliff probably heard, as well as found, this member of the woodpecker family, to send along to you. This is the red-bellied woodpecker, in my experience more often heard than seen; — and, if seen, in woods far more dense than this.
The yellow-bellied sapsucker was not to be viewed by Brenda nor by us - Sibley describes them as “long-winged, rather delicate, quiet and inconspicuous.” Indeed. Fay and I do not remember having heard nor seen any birds, not even vultures on high on that luminous day.
We met few other hikers, all as stunned as we by downed mature trees on all sides, –trees beyond counting. The October snowstorm, Hurricane Irene and who else, Lee?; well, nowadays, virtually any rain or wind, had swooped through this stretch (in Fay’s words, “as though a giant’s huge hand had swept them all to the ground.” If so, those giants had been seriously enraged, as though crashing all dishes off a table after an insuperable quarrel. Humans have warmed climate to such a degree that the ‘water table’ never returns to normal. Soaked ground does not hold trees well, even without wind. If nature is the giant, She has every reason for rage at those who will not slow CO2 emissions while there’s still time, IF there’s still time…
Unabraded Sourlands Trail, Brenda Jones
The trail under our feet, also, had been abraded and even in some cases washed away. At some points I had to walk over rocks — something we hadn’t covered in physical therapy. Nor had I been taught to balance on grey drainage tubes, that until 2011 had always been deep beneath the trail - not in place of the trail, as now.
Even so, being on that road was high privilege.
“There’s a Long, Long Trail A-Winding…”, Brenda Jones
Normally, I’d've gone off to the right on the streamside trail, for the crossing of which I had bought my treasured trekking poles long long ago. And beside which, deep in the forest, I’d come upon my first ever (terrestrial) box turtle. The brook trail loops back in a leisurely manner, around to join our road. The waterside walk would, however, be too rough for me, eight weeks post-op.
Another place I turn off, normally, is to the left, farther along, which takes us to enormous Sourlands boulders. I feel Indians in council among those Stonehenge impersonators, predecessors… And wish that I were among them…
Retracing steps, back to the car, we were bowled over anew by swathes of Lalique ice on either side. Silenced by such elegance in the midst of this hardy woods, we became increasingly aware of the hush on all sides. You would never know that highways, commerce and hunters lurk on all sides of this high haven. Thank our lucky stars for local preservationists, individuals, groups, and the Hopewell Community.
Dappled Sourlands, in another season, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Finishing my return to the Sourlands, I realized that it is for this, as much as for kayaking, that I had asked Dr. Thomas Gutowski to replace my crippled hip November 9.
Birthday, Christmas and New Year, rolled into one, I can be, anew, a pilgrim in nature.
(Find Sourlands Mountains Preserve sign and some parking to the right, off Greenwood Avenue, a right turn from #518, at Hopewell’s Dana Building)
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
Coursing Waters, Brenda Jones
The most impactful response I have seen to Hurricane Irene comes from Jim Waltman, Executive Director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. Since 1949, this farsighted, crusading organization has assiduously and effectively taught us about the power, importance and threatened condition of water in our region. They have taken giant steps at every possible level to safeguard our waterways.
Now, due to accelerated climate change, it could be seen as ironic that Jim has to teach us how to protect ourselves from water!
I wrote Jim Waltman, immediately upon seeing his “Lessons from Hurricane Irene” in a number of print publications. He graciously gave me permission to share it with NJ WILD readers here and abroad. At the last tally, people are reading of nature in our region in ninety countries. Jim and the Watershed Association are masters at communication, so it is an honor to be able to extend their reach somewhat on this urgent issue.
With Jim Waltman’s kind permission. [bolds mine cfe]
Your water. Your environment. Your voice.
Lessons from Hurricane Irene
A message from the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association
By: Jim Waltman, Executive Director
By any measure, Hurricane Irene was a monster. Like much of New Jersey, our watershed was hammered by rain, wind, power outages and flooding. Damages from flooding occurred in almost every corner of our 265-square-mile watershed, and in all 26 towns within our region of central New Jersey. The boroughs were hit particularly hard, with large portions of Manville, Millstone and Hightstown under literally feet of water.
The Millstone River and Stony Brook both reached all-time record high levels in various places, each merging with the Delaware & Raritan Canal for a portion of their journeys, and numerous lakes spilled over their banks. Our hearts go out to the thousands of people who lost property, businesses or, worst of all, loved ones in this storm.
Normal Autumn Waters, Brenda Jones
As we near the end of yet another wet week, those of us at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, central New Jersey’s first environmental group, feel an even greater than usual urgency.
While Hurricane Irene was a true “outlier,” –an enormous storm that would have caused massive flooding and damage no matter what we did to prevent it–, climate scientists are telling us that our region is most likely going to continue to get wetter and wetter (except of course during periods of prolonged drought, which are also likely to become more severe). This means that, –unless we change our mindset, behaviors and policies–, we may be living our future.
However, hope is not lost. Together we can make a difference:
First, we need to stop making the problem worse. Ill-conceived developments near streams and within wetlands, not only damage our supply of clean water and destroy important wildlife habitat, they also dramatically increase the risk of flood damage to homes and businesses.
‘Our’ Towpath After an August Deluge cfe
Since 1949, the Watershed Association has sought to reverse that tide. In Cranbury, we are working closely with the Township Committee, Planning Board and Environmental Commission to secure a new ordinance to prohibit new development and [prevent] the clearing of native vegetation near streams. We are working with Hopewell Township to secure a new ordinance to protect our forests, which help absorb and slowly release rain and snow, and hold soil in place with deep root systems that stabilize streambanks and reduce erosion.
We also need to recommit ourselves to preserving open space along stream corridors and steep slopes as a means of both reducing floodwaters and keeping people out of harm’s way from future Irenes.
Water Fury, Brenda Jones
Second, we need to start fixing the mistakes of the past. Developments built before any significant regulation to contain stormwater can be retrofitted to retain runoff and allow it to percolate into our water supply. For example, the redevelopment of the Princeton Junction train station in West Windsor offers the opportunity to fix flooding issues there caused by acres and acres of impervious paved parking.
Peaceful Skies, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association Trail Walk, cfe
In nearby Princeton we are working to investigate what can be done to reduce the flooding of Harry’s Brook. It’s not too late to correct past mistakes.
We also need to recognize that it makes sense to move or remove some structures that were built near water bodies and have been repeatedly damaged by flooding. The state’s “Blue Acres” program, a cousin of the more familiar Green Acres Program, provides funding to purchase such flood prone properties. With bold action, we can prevent unmitigated development from contaminating and depleting our surface and ground water, and creating additional flood hazards.
We wish those still suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Irene a quick and full recovery.
Interviews with Executive Director Jim Waltman are available upon request.
firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview.
The Hobbit Tree - Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association Trail Walk cfe
The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is central New Jersey’s first environmental group, protecting clean water and the environment through conservation, advocacy, science and education.
FRUITS OF HABITAT PRESERVATION, COURTESY OF BRENDA AND CLIFF JONES
Essence of Spring - Robin at Hobler Park
NJ WILD readers know how Brenda’s stellar work enriches this blog, year-round, from the beginning.
Beaver Close-Up, from when we met
When I met her, Brenda and her faithful “field collaborator” husband, Cliff, all three of us seeking the beavers of Mapleton (between Princeton and Kingston.)
You may not realize that Brenda’s art has now graced the 1900 barn walls of D&R Greenway Land Trust in two art exhibitions- Birds Bees and Butterflies, and now, Born of Wonder: Childhood and Nature. You may stop by on business hours of business days to see her art in our Marie L. Matthews Galleries, and to purchase it to take home.
One of her Baltimore Oriole Pictures - it’s pulling snagged fishing line for its nest
Brenda’s first gallery appearance was in Birds Bees & Butterflies. She brought nine works, tried to take home three at the end. However, someone had seen her Baltimore oriole, so she had to ‘turn right ’round’ and bring it back, with new art for the current show. We sold many of her early works twice (she’d make prints and have her uncle frame them.) The first work to sell at Born of Wonder, Childhood and Nature, was Brenda’s of the great blue herons feeding their great blue offspring! We sold a painting from this show for four figures last night at the Poetry Walk; and most of the art in the Upmeyer Room was sold at the April 8 opening. However, the art will be up and available through July 15.
Mocking Bird this week at Hobler Park
And you’ve had the pleasure of her artistry, free, all along!
Diving Kestrel, right near home
Brenda and Cliff go on nature quests, beauty quests as often as they possibly can. She sends them to me, and you are the richer for it.
American Kestrel From the Back
Spring finally came to Brenda and Cliff this week - look at these amazing images, from Hobler Park (right here in Princeton at the corner of the Great Road and 518! - I’ve written about it for you - the images of Hobler that I find could be states away, Ohio, for example, plain and sturdy barns and silos, acres of wildflowers, and no Princeton in sight! It’s a great place to go in autumn because high, oddly enough. The light stays longer at Hobler. From Heinz refuge down below the Philadelphia Airport. From Baldpate Mountain (in our state, and D&R Greenway’s had a hand in the preservation and stewardship of that land and those trails, under our new Chairman of the Board, Alan Hershey, who so energetically also heads New Jersey Trails.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, formerly ‘Myrtle’
With such simplicity, such memorable images arrive:
Here are the latest photos.
Kestrel & Mockingbird–Hobler Park
Hermit Thrush, Snapper Turtles and Yellow-rumped
(formerly called) Myrtle Warbler–John Heinz Philadelphia;
Robin & Groundhog–Baldpate
Enjoy, Everyone! cfe
Hermit Thrush at John Heinz Preserve, near Philly Airport
Brenda and Cliff have the gift of being in the right place at the right time — as when this majestic representative of ancient times, decided to take a stroll. It seems early for egg-laying journeys, but who knows? The snapper knows…
Snapping Turtle at John Heinz
We can relax now - Brenda and Cliff have brought us spring!
As has every Preservationist, such as D&R Greenway Land Trust and allies,
who does whatever it takes to save scarce New Jersey Land.
It has taken us/D&R Greenway 23 years to preserve 23 miles (and counting).
23 miles of HABITAT!
Hermit Thrush of John Heinz Refuge
reportedly Henry David Thoreau’s favorite bird and birdsong
WHAT IS SPRING TO YOU?
What with snow, rain, sleet, hail, gales and floods, I am in serious Towpath deprivation. Only a few hours ago, I saw our little Griggstown Causeway and the Blackwell’s Mills Causeway highlighted in orange on the Weather Channel, as sites for the Millstone River flood stage to be reached and even passed.
Many nights this week, I drove warily home — eyeing remaining inches between expanding waters and that fragile Towpath barricade. If the waters enter the canal, they cover Canal Road, and I am left high, if not dry. For ages after floods, the path becomes too skiddy for my comfort. In ice, it’s out of the question.
How normal it used to be for me to walk the Towpath many times each week. I know cool sections for the blazing days; and where to catch the slightest breeze across still water. Over the years, the Towpath has revealed best walks to escape cold winds. She’s divulged the parts holding most light for post-work walks. Once my sister and I made Thanksgiving for two, put the turkey in, walked to the dam and back and the feast was ready.
Now, I can’t remember the last time I set foot(e) upon that cushiony “Trail Between Two Waters.” That’s the name of one of my Towpath poems. Good thing no editor’s waiting for poetic material from me this winter!
Homesick for the Towpath, that’s my reality.
Let’s peek at some April picture, see why I am pining:
WHAT I REALLY MISS - KAYAKING ON THE D&R CANAL!
Here’s an early April walk toward Lawrenceville, below Quaker Bridge Road, ultimately through the jungley bits to Brearley House. The closest I’ve been to that storied site lately is wearing my dark green cozy sweatshirt: I DIG HISTORY AT THE BREARLEY HOUSE. I’m big on memories, but memory is not enough!
EVEN A LATE SPRING BRINGS TOWPATH BEAUTY
At D&R Greenway, last week, Jim Amon, our Director of Stewardship, called me from ‘high in the Sourlands.’ He was out monitoring trails, every sense attuned to laggard spring. When I answered, Jim exclaimed, “Just the person I wanted to reach! Can you hear them?” Silence… “Hear whom, Jim?” “Wait, I’ll walk a little closer. But not too close. I don’t want them to stop…” And then I heard that miraculous clicking, what I’ve sometimes described as Tom Sawyer dragging a stick along the picket fence, very fast. “The wood frogs!”
WOOD FROG EGG MASS, SOURLANDS, SPRING 2011, JIM AMON
Appropriate, this privileged exchange just now. Without Jim Amon’s serving as head of the D&R Canal Commission for three pivotal decades, we wouldn’t have this treasure. Jim’s vigilance preserved its beauty, purity (our drinking water), generous sight lines. His determination and persistence resulted in that that glorious metal virtual canal bridge soaring over US 1 in Lawrenceville.
In those days, no one would have faced down developers so stringently as Jim, forbidding metastases of McMansions at the hem of the canal, our “Ribbon of Life.”
DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to preserve the D&R Canal Commission, in beleaguered New Jersey, everyone!
Nobody’s ever called up and given me wood frogs, although friend/ornithologist, Charlie Leck, did report first redwings in the Marsh the week before. I’d begged him in D&R Greenway’s lobby, “Charlie, what’ve you seen that’s spring?”
Jim Amon took a superb photograph of wood frog eggs, laid during a recent (tardy, if you ask me!) warm rain. I’ll try to download and upload for you. The first time I ever met wood frogs, who make that clickety sound for a mere two weeks usually, was on this Brearley House walk. A stranger kindly and eagerly told me what was creating our watery chorus.
The Way to Brearley House from D&R Canal and Towpath below Quaker Bridge Road
I DIG HISTORY AT THE BREARLEY HOUSE
LIVING HISTORY - BREARLEY HOUSE
I love walking my Illinois sister, Marilyn, to this site. Michigan, where we grew up, was founded in 1837. Neither she nor I ever lose(s) the thrill of finding dates that begin with 16- and 17-. And we don’t have to drive to Salem and Cumberland Counties to find those dates designed into the bricks of venerable houses.
WHAT EYES HAVE SEEN WHAT SIGHTS THROUGH THESE OLD PANES?
Easy answer - nearly barefoot Colonial soldiers in winter, making their way on mud-turned-to-ice, after the two victories at Trenton, to their next victory at Princeton, January 3, 1777. Without that handful of days and that ragtag-and-bobtail army, we wouldn’t have a nation. Their determined feet trod the grass I walk, seeking Brearley images.
OUR CANAL - AS BEAUTIFUL AS FRANCE - ON THE WAY TO LAWRENCEVILLE
Without Jim Amon, and others I’ve described as “ardent preservationists”, the entire towpath could be desecrated as it is near Quaker Bridge Road.
Stay vigilant, everyone. Preserve the D&R Canal Commission. And walk this magical trail, even in laggard spring.