Archive for the ‘Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge’ Category
NJ WILD readers know that it is my practice, –even my life–, to drive to natural havens, especially in New Jersey and nearby Pennsylvania. There I restore soul and muse at nature’s fonts.
You may have wondered at my long visual silence here. I haven’t known how to write about the depredations of Sandy, about this anthropocentric chaos we humans are increasingly calling forth, with such heedlessness.
Today, a series of Sandy Damage Images literally flooded me, as I tried to eat lunch, in a place where business was happening all around me. Sandy, –as was his/her recent way with us–, intruded, dominated.
This could be termed a prose poem. Whatever it is, I am haunted, yes INUNDATED, by Sandy Souvenirs. And I’m not even addressing what it did to birds and bird habitat. This is Sandy’s impact upon a birder, this birder.
WHAT is its impact upon YOU?
“ENDURING ABSENCES” - SANDY SOUVENIRS
nests of yellow disaster tape, tangled at crossroads
tree roots dwarfing buildings
macadam bike trails cracked, sea-braided
heavy-duty doors ripped from industrial-strength hinges, –wildly flung
sand swirls like blizzard aftermaths
boardwalks to nowhere
red fire hydrant top only emerging from tall swathes of deep sand
cars where boats belong
boats where cars belong
refuge pick-up trucks upside-down in new water
red Xs on former birding sites on Audubon hot line lists — enduring absences
trees throughout Pleasant Valley more horizontal than vertical, — snow-exaggerated
ghost of a clam shack at old Leed’s Point
sea-grass from the wrack line high in Scott’s Landing woods
Brigantine’s dike road severed
salinities in freshwater-, in Brigantine’s brackish, impoundments equaling bay
palisades of orange cones
‘NO VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT”
trail sign flat across a Bowman’s path, — posts upended, concrete dislodged
trail itself a rushing stream that may never yet be staunched
echoes of ironic names:
where are the havens?
Cormorants Swim Where Brenda Jones and I Birded By Car…
NJ WILD readers know, if they know anything about me, how precious is the birding refuge, ‘The Brig’, A.K.A. Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge to me, as a birder, and far more profoundly, as a spiritual being.
It’s where I restore myself when “the world is too much with me”, more and more frequently these days. Far more important than I, however, ‘The Brig’ is a key stopover on the Atlantic Flyway, rich in rarities at all times. Perhaps never more precious than in winter, when winged creatures elsewhere can be scarce.
Duck Flight Before Storm, Brenda Jones
Everyone also knows that un-hurricaned Sandy destroyed great swathes of our beloved New Jersey’s three coastlines, especially The Shore, especially at and in and near Atlantic City.
One of the eeriest factors of being at ‘The Brig’ is that you see all those gambling towers through the migrant flocks. My happiest times at ‘The Brig’ are when I can’t see Atlantic City, because of fog or whatever.
I have been down at the Brig in fire, fog and ice. I can never believe that anyone would rather be in those towering prisons of glass, those cacophonous, frenzied places, rather than in the seamless peace of the marshy reaches of The Brigantine.
Great Egret, Great Peace of Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, Brenda Jones
I can’t drive it’s dike road any more, because it has been severed by uncategorized-storm-Sandy.
Cormorants swim where I used to bird by car.
All those carefully managed impoundments with their specific salinities, to nourish certain aquatic plants and shelter and feed certain waterfowl, are fouled. The Bay, –Absecon Bay, whatever its salinity in the storm and ever since–, has surged in. The Brig, as we know it, is no more.
Grebe Swallowing Frog, Brigantine Wildlife Refuge December Drama — Anne Zeman
I’m going down there for Christmas, ‘come hell or high water’. Certain walking trails are open, and birds don’t watch the Weather Channel. I’ll check out Leed’s Point, where the Jersey Devil was purportedly born and which thrives as a tiny old-world fishing village, at least until Sandy. Herons frequently soar in and land on Leed’s Point pilings. I’ll drive the bumpy sand road to and from Scott’s Landing, always remembering encountering hunters with their ‘bag’ of bloodied snow geese there, late one autumn. Odd, I’ve never read a recipe for snow goose. How neatly they were lined up along the sand… below the targets, silhouettes that teach hunters the differences among birds on the wing at various distances.
Snow Geese In Flight, Brenda Jones
How Snow Geese Look when they hear shots…. cfe
In the meantime, this is some of ‘The Brig’s’ reality. God KNOWS what’s happened at my other major havens - Island Beach, south of ruined Bay Head, Mantoloking, Seaside and so forth, and Sandy Hook, up by the Highlands and too many rivers….
Serenity and Tumult, Bay Head, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
NJ WILD BEAUTY, ISLAND BEACH Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Pristine Barnegat Bay, which rose to meet the Atlantic… Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Winter Realities, Normal Sandy Hook, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Sandy Hook, Bay Side, After a Hard Winter Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Brigantine Serenity from Leed’s Eco-Trail Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Cloudscape, Summer, Brigantine Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Glossy Ibis and Marsh Mallow’s First Bloom, Brigantine Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Update as of Friday, December 7 at 10 a.m.: The Wildlife Drive in Galloway remains closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Songbird Trail, including the portion that uses the Wildlife Drive, will be closed December 10 through 14 due to a refuge hunt. Other hiking trails in Galloway are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, including the Akers Woodland Trail, Leed’s Eco-trail, and foot access to Gull Pond Tower.
The Visitor Information Center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.weekends. All fees have been temporarily waived.
Scott’s Landing Boat Launch is open. Barnegat Observation Platform is open. The deCamp Wildlife Trail in Brick Township is open for the first 2000 feet. Holgate remains closed.
The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats are actively protected and managed for migratory birds. Forsythe is one of more than 500 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. Units of the system stretch across the United States from northern Alaska to the Florida Keys, and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The character of the Refuges is as diverse as the nation itself.
Wish me well on my Christmas pilgrimage. Far More Important, wish the birds well no matter man’s depredations.
Do whatever you can, wherever you are, even in those 90 countries who, for some reason, read NJ WILD about our dear state, to preserve refuges in your region.
And pay attention to catastrophic climate change. It’s no myth. It’s not a subject for believe. We have seen, to borrow the Pogo line, catastrophic climate change, and it is us.
What Sandy did was dress rehearsal. Sandy scrawled the signature of inevitable sea level rise for all the world to see. Sandy was not a one-time event. Sea level rise will not undo itself, as do hurricanes in time. Although not in damage.
Our world is changed forever.
Sandy didn’t change it.
What are you doing about it?
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…)
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!