Archive for the ‘Oceans’ 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?
Rainbow Before Sandy, The Berkshires cfe
NJ WILD readers know, at October’s wild end, I was led to the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts. i was only to stay two days. My purpose was to hike in wooded hills and re-experience the finest arts at the Clark Institute, the Williams College Museum and Bennington’s, As complex 2012 wound down, mountains, art and limitless vistas had become more essential than usual.
Sandy had other ideas.
Green Mountain Trees Await Sandy cfe
My brief mountain getaway stretched to more than a week, with no heat or water in this Princeton dwelling, and major trees down along routes I needed in order to return home.
Long-time friends from corporate America laughed in unison when I referred to myself as a refugee. But what else are you when you can’t go home?
The mountains had many messages for me, which I assiduously reported in my journal.
Sandy Approaches Williamstown cfe
Above all, ‘Sandy’ is far too trivial a name for a natural event of that magnitude. Even though this Storm King lived up to its moniker, burying Jersey Shore cars well inland in sand like blizzard drifts.
Though cradled in the Green, the Berkshires, the Catskills and in the shadow of Mt. Greylock, this Jerseyan was haunted by a Shore town’s name, “Sea Girt.” Girdled by the sea. I do not know the fate of that oceanside haven, but it probably is not good. The truth is, we could change the name of New Jersey to Sea Girt.
NJ WILD readers have ‘heard’ me all these years, insisting, “It’s not Mother Nature, Folks. It’s US!” This has now been demonstrated to the entire world, irrevocably, inescapably. On the heels of a political campaign in which catastrophic climate change and environmental perils, let alone carbon footprints played no role.
Are we facing the truth now? Or are we all caught up in REBUILD and THE NEW NORMAL?
What ‘Sandy’ revealed was the fate of all our coasts.
What Sandy scrawled was the signature of sea-level rise.
Vanishing glaciers mean more water in oceans, which means more ‘fuel’ for storms whether rain, snow or wind.
Where I Read Storm News, Williamstown: The Chef’s Hat cfe
In the mountains, reading local papers and the New York Times, welcomed like a local, comforted as the refugee I had become, the scariest reality had to do with my beloved trees. One estimate, early on, was that we lost, in those few Sandy hours, 2 million trees. Think “2 million carbon sinks” everyone, two million living, breathing entities that used to absorb the CO2 we insist on pumping into the greenhouse called Earth.
What the mountain newspaper asserted was, “This was not a storm of floods nor even of winds — this was a case of trees-turned-weapons.”
Sandy Fury North Williamstown cfe
Drive anywhere, without even leaving Princeton. Toppled tree roots tower over dwellings of increasing magnitude. Even Morven itself is dwarfed by roots of the downed conifer in its front yard. Get out of the car to meet friends in the most privileged enclaves. Hear the tumultuous ripple of ‘tarps’ over roofbeams. Try to speak and hear above the roar of chain saws and tree-devourers.
Calm Before Storm, Bennington VT cfe
Sandy is no respecter of history, pedigree, address, or life station.
Years ago, I completed Tom Brown’s Tracker School. Ralph-the-Seneca was one of the participants, needing to learn Indian ways, especially foraging for wild foods, as intensely as I did. Ralph had been brought there to teach us the art of bow-making. At the end of making fire, Ralph took me aside, in the opening of a sturdy barn. “We are poisoning Mother Earth,” he intoned solemnly, back in 1983. “And she will do what any healthy animal does under those circumstances. She will vomit us out.”
Although I was far from Tracker School and our beloved Jersey Shore - in fact, from New Jersey’s three unique coastlines — that battered Shore, the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay, i experienced Ralph’s prophecy’s being fulfilled.
Climate change has never been a factor of ‘belief’! It’s here, now, big-time. Are we big enough to face it?
Sandy Approaches Williamstown, Mass, bearing Rainbow cfe
All through my unexpected refugee time in Massachusetts mountains, –held there by hurricane, downed trees on the routes home, and no power at home–, I NEEDED to re-read Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
A friend has since loaned me her teaching copy. My craving has proved powerfully apt.
As the storm approached even the Berkshires, Vermont’s Green Mountains, crept toward Melville’s Greylock, I found myself wondering, if Will were here, how would he cover it? The answers were swift in arriving:
SANDY IN WILLIAMSTOWN cfe
His headline would read, “The world has suffered a sea change, into something rich and strange.” As ever, the profundity of Will’s long-ago lines surges far beyond mere words into prophecy itself.
These sea changes on our shores (remember, New Jersey is unique in having three shores) are not merely of this storm, nor of this season.
Whether we find Sandy’s legacy ‘rich’ is a moot point. There is no question about change, and sea as agent. And man with his ceaseless carbon emissions the ultimate deus ex machina, far beyond Caliban, in this drama.
The earth, that “brave new world”, WAS “rich” before our depredations. Now, the emphasis, on all our coasts and well inland, even to towering waves off Michigan and Illinois/Chicago, must be on “strange”.
And, unlike Shakespeare’s, many of our changes are permanent, and all are harbingers.
As though Shakespeare were interviewing residents of the Jersey Shore, he has Sebastian observe, “Foul weather?” “Very foul,” Antonio replies. They speak of their boat and their sailing companions as having been “sea swallowed.”
WE are being sea-swallowed.
SANDY OVER GREEN MOUNTAINS cfe
Shakespeare’s tempest was called forth by the mage, Prospero, and carried out by his willing air sprite, Ariel. Our storms were well beyond Ariel, with more and more severe tempests waiting in the wings. There is no Prospero to halt ours.
What we had with Sandy was dress rehearsal for sea level rise. Where the waters went for a few hours is the land they’ll claim permanently, with every passing day of glacial melt and warming (therefore expanding) seas.
Ironically, since we had a snowstorm on the heels of the “Super Storm,” Will includes Trinculo’s noting, “Another storm brewing.” Trinculo further describes, “yond same black cloud — alas, the storm has come again.” As I concluded up in the mountains, this unwilling voyager concludes, “I will here shroud ’til all the dregs of the storm be passed.”
Calm Before Storm, Bennington, Vermont cfe
In another part of the island, Shakespeare/Prospero is deep in conversation with said Ariel, who refers to “the never-surfeited sea.” New Jersey waits between maw and paws of our never-surfeited sea.
Reporter Ariel paints the picture: “The powers delaying, not forgetting, have incensed the sea and shores.” The spirit exits to a stage direction, “He vanishes in thunder.”
In “The Tempest” , as in our recent lives, the storm of election was tangled with flying evergreens, sea spume, housing debris, sand-smothered vehicles. During Sandy as in our 21st-century lives, politics and literal seachange are inextricable. Trinculo frets, “If the other two be brained like us, the state totters.”
Reading Shakespeare’s tempestuous masterpiece, to the sound of buzz saws on all sides and the roar of tree-devouring-devices, I realize anew that this spectacular writer was far more than author. Like the hero of the Tempest, Will was a prophet.
In a chant which I picture as in Lear, delivered high on a hill with turbulent slatey clouds ripping about on all sides, Prospero describes the storm he called forth:
“I have bedimmed the noonday sun, called forth the mutinous winds. And twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault have I given fire and riven Jove’s stout oak with his own bolt. The strong-based promontory have I made shake, and by the spurs pluck’d up the pine and cedar. Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let them forth my my so potent art.”
Those harrowing lines describe our own town. I could declaim them before the forest outside my window on Canal Road, which lost six majestic tree between house and driveway. I could carry this volume and read it to uprooted monarchs among Battle Road mansions. I could pace up and down, choosing descriptions to share with century-old conifers flung about like ninepins and jackstraws all along the Ridge.
One cannot set out in any direction without evidence of the effects of the winds of sea change. One can often not drive down a local street, even now, without passing strangles of lowering wires, phalanxes of utility trucks, spilling workers to begin their feverish heroic tasks.
But none of this is cure. Most of it is palliataive. Some areas near to us, including sacred wildlife refuges, may never open again. Who knows how many sea birds perished? What will the ospreys do, when they return to breed, with all their platforms sea-swallowed?
Up in the mountains, I read that the destruction of this storm was not a catastrophe of wind and water, as that which Prospero and Ariel had called forth. Ours is a tragedy of trees turned weapon.
As a poet, I find poetic justice in this reversal of roles.
Our storm, also unlike Prospero’s, included the deaths of dear and valued neighbor Bill Sword, II.
Our storm birthed shipwrecks beyond counting — some of them literal; many of them, former houses, built upon sand, upon barrier island sand.
In “The Tempest”, everyone’s life changed once the waters stilled and the people gathered. In “The Tempest”, reason and magic prevailed. Wounds were healed, lovers united, voyagers set out anew upon that sea for home.
We are home. We are drowning our home.
It’s up to us whether we change our planet for the better. But now, we are all Caliban, stumbling about having drunk the spirits tossed ashore by wind and wave, complaining, altering nothing.
To mix metaphors, egregiously, we are all Nero, fiddling while our planet burns.
It’s not Ariel out there surging salt waves into baywater, rivers, creeks and streams.
It is we, who have turned from tending earth as did the Indians, to using it, exploiting it, sea-changing the planet for all time. We, who have turned from citizens to consumers, and will not be stopped.
We must all become Prospero, create sea change within ourselves, still the water, still the swallowing sea.
Window View After Sandy - Berkshires, Williamstown cfe
Spotters on the Cape May Bird Observatory Hawk Watch Platform cfe
Actually, it’s more like “Cape May For Two Days”! And yes, it was MORE than worth it.
Those two days centered upon the Cape May Bird Observatory [CMBO] Hawk Watch Platform.
After stopping at CMBO to renew my membership, and pick up a super-comfortable strap for my binoculars, I headed for the lighthouse and the Platform, even before checking into my motel room.
Helpful Cape May Bird Observatory Personnel on Hawk Watch Platform, cfe
CMBO maintains “counters”, “spotters” — professionals of highest caliber, who spot and count birds zooming past in autumn migration. The Platform fronts upon a pond. always graced by swans and frequently dive-bombed by peregrines.
Sunset Swan, Brenda Jones
I immediately recognized the silhouette and mellifluous voice of Pete Dunne, head of CMBO, author of wit, wisdom and experience, and yes, bon vivant. Also, natural teacher. So many facets of my birding knowledge have been inserted or polished by this man, over the years, at sunrise and sunset, and sometimes at 20 degrees with 20-mph-winds. I was overjoyed to reconnect, after my year plus of hurt-hip-induced absence. Pete, watching me walk, exulted, “We live in remarkable times.”
He went on to prove it by mentioning, “I was informed by phone about the nighthawks.”
Here and there, spotting scopes were trained on the skies.
But these pros of the Platform don’t need optics. A black spot miles away can be differentiated, as in Cooper’s or Sharp-Shinned Hawk, and they’ll even tell you how they can tell. Something to do with frequency of flapping. Pete: “It it were a Sharp-shinned, it would’ve flapped by now.”
Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Brenda Jones
But I say, these spotters, these CMBO mentors, are attached to birds by senses which have not even been defined, let alone located. Senses which go beyond eyes and even beyond Swarovskis.
Brilliance is a big part of being on the Platform. And fellowship. I hadn’t realized that (this concentration of) birders are family; that I had missed them to such a high degree.
There’s always humor, and even humility. At one point, Pete said, with a shrug in his voice, “Haven’t a clue….” There was a pregnant pause, followed by, “… bird.”
At the same time, in my two visits that day, early and latest, I was part of a bald-eagle count approaching 30. Even more importantly, –as I learned at early light the next day–, a 268- kestrel day.
There was a bare tree set among cedars, as studded with kestrels as a Christmas tree with ornaments. Every one vivid. Every one fluttering. These raptors swooped out, over and over, –not unlike flycatchers–, in quest of insects, one after another. And kestrels can hover — I never knew that. So vivid that they seemed iridescent, even spangled. What a privilege to be surrounded by them.
American kestrels have been ‘fewing and fewing’ in recent years. Their sacred edge habitat has been increasingly devoured by what others deem progress. I forgot to ask Pete, why there were/are so many right now. But this is one time when why doesn’t matter. Only beauty, power, rarity and presence.
Among the other numbers on Monday (departure day) morning were 109 osprey. Osprey were everywhere Sunday evening, often ‘packing a lunch’ - fish in talons, aerodynamically situated so as not to interfere with flight. 17 sharp-shins. 10 Coopers. 30 Merlin. 5 Peregrine Falcons. and so forth…
I even spotted a tern I didn’t recognize, which Erin-of-CMBO eagerly identified as a Forster’s. She trained the Swarovski scope on this single bird at the end of a wooden dock-like structure to our right. “Only Forster’s terns have that black eye patch now. They’re really fun to identify in autumn.” As David Allen Sibley puts it, “Black eye patch of non-breeding plumage distinctive.” This Platform is where Sibley ‘earned his wings’, with Pete and Clay Sutton, his co-authors of Hawks In Flight, about to be re-issued. All three will be at the Cape May Birding Weekend, to talk and sign this re-issue of Sibley’s first book, before his NYT best-sellers, The Sibley Guide to Birds, and The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior.
Usually, white shrubs and vines surrounding the Swarovski-sponsored Platform are filled with monarch butterflies this time of year. There were fewer than I’ve ever encountered of these orange-and-black long-distance fliers. Even so, I was welcomed to the Platform by one which nearly landed on the bridge of my nose.
Icy yellow, with a tinge of chartreuse, or key-lime pie, the cloudless sulphur butterflies seemed more in evidence here and among the bayberried dunes of Higbee Beach.
One of the butterfly magnet shrubs has the lovely name of High Tide Plant. Elder is another name for it. I’m sipping St. Germain liqueur, late this night, as I bring Cape May back to memory and to life. Pretending I’m a butterfly, nectaring on the elder plant from whose flowers this French specialty is crafted.
I hear Pete observe, “That eagle looks like he’s about to leave for Delaware.”
American Bald Eagle, Brenda Jones
Delaware is very near, here where our River meets the ocean, and the Cape May Lewes ferry carries cars, birders, bicyclists, hikers and just plain tourists from one state to another. The ferry is a grand place for seeking out seabirds who “come to land only when nesting.” (Sibley)
I reluctantly leave the Platform because it’s time to walk The Point. Newly crafted ‘boardwalks’ (they’re not real board) lift birders off the marsh-scape, into the realm of warblers and other treasures. Somehow, they’ve conquered phragmites to an enormous degree, those towering invasive rushes that drive out all the native plants the birds need, not only in migration. In the place of reeds is a meadow or a prairie of New Jersey wildflowers. The air is fragrant with (the invasive) autumn clematis, tiny white starflowers spun along tangles of vines. It’s more interesting than honeysuckle, with mimosa ‘notes’.
Colors on all sides of me include a pinkish bronze (wool grass, which is really a sedge); purple asters; white asters; seaside goldenrod, white ‘rose’ mallows, white boneset, pink marsh mallow, white dotted smartweed, mistflower, wild ageratum, purple gerardia, etc. etc. etc.
I don’t know all these plants - a fine naturalist, the plant equivalent of Pete Dunne, was sitting on a bench and eager to teach me every single species, in English and in Latin. Carl Anderson. He explained that the bayberry-like plants were wax myrtle and hybrids of wax myrtle and bayberry — the leaves on the latter are broader and darker, and bayberries were definitely in the minority. Bayberries are essential fat/fuel to migrant birds. I felt like Alice In Wonderland, having drunk whatever and shrunk to be smaller than most of these flowers.
Birds were few, because it was mid-day. Fish crows ringed the beige lighthouse like a crown of thorns. A single egret minced about the edge of a pond. A sound I never knew, or maybe ever heard, turned out to be a single kestrel in a naked tree just above my head. The closest I’ve ever been to a kestrel.
Kestrel at the Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Morning dawned with a beach walk among black skimmers beyond counting, followed by another couple of hours on the Hawk Watch Platform.
Black Skimmers in Flight, Brenda Jones
Sky Full of Skimmers, the Jetty, Cape May cfe
From ten to twelve thirty, Monday, I floated on the boat, The Skimmer, among Cape May marshes. We were in quest of rare birds there, too. What I best remember is a series of large turtle heads in Turtle Creek, and a very rare Tri-colored Heron before we turned back to the dock.
Leaving for home was almost unbearable.
All the way north on the Parkway, I would hear those Platform phrases, “Over the cedars.” “Really soaring.” “Got ‘im!”
The line I’ll remember most is Pete Dunne’s description of yesterday, to a fellow ’spotter’ who also writes a blog: “Here’s the first line for your blog, Mike. If you weren’t here yesterday, slay yourself now.”
Black Skimmer Aloft, Cape May, by Brenda Jones
What do you do when your favorite Motel, even weeks ahead, only has one night in which to welcome you? It’ll be nearly three hours down, ditto back.
But the birds are migrating.
And the ocean beckons.
Shimmering Beachwalk, Cape May cfe
And I haven’t been on the Hawk Watch Platform since a year ago Easter, since this has been ‘The Year of the Hip.’
But my legs work now. I can carry my suitcase upstairs to my sea-facing room. I can walk on sand again.
My camera is not exactly rusting from disuse, but close.
Cape May Hawk Watch Platform after 2009 Blizzard cfe
The Hawk Watch Platform of Cape May Bird Observatory is officially open. Raptors are soaring. Shore birds staging. Monarchs might be nestled throughout the ivory blossoms of the high tide plant.
I have two good books, in a field new to me, food philosophy.
Seaside Seafood Supper, Inside Jetty Motel cfe
There won’t be enough time for all my favorite restaurants. But I’ll literally make a stab at it.
Osprey of May in Cape May, over CMBO Hawk Watch Platform cfe
And Monday morning, before turning north, I’ll be on the Skimmer again. This is a flat-bottomed craft that noses in and out of Back-Bay Cape May. Its knowledgeable Captain and Mate know where all the rare birds wait. Whether or not the ospreys have left, they’ll know how many young each nest produced. They’ll use delicate dip nets to introduce us to marshwater creatures, tenderly returning them as soon as we’ve memorized the names.
Everything will be shimmering.
And I’ll have new reasons to be glad of having endured this mightily successful hip replacement.
In a way, I’ll be migrating, for a too-brief interval.
Cape May vistas new and old will fill my treasury for the months ahead.
How Cape May Light Looks in Winter - CMBO image from Hawk Watch Platform
And probably, I’ll return, as is my wont, for Christmas.
The Jetty Motel is my favorite — go there. You’ll be made to feel like family. And, offshore, this time of year, hordes of black white and orange skimmers wait somehow, coming in for landings at sunrise, like the breakfast flock in Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Only vivid.
Make Cape May YOUR own…
Whale Watchers, Cape May, Brenda Jones
SALEM COUNTY’S BUCOLIC HISTORY - ALLOWAY CREEK cfe
NJ WILD readers know my favorite places to travel are the wild ones of New Jersey, –especially central and southern–, particularly near water, salt and fresh.
Often in quest of birds, rare yet plentiful.
You also know that the places I choose are havens on many levels.
However, I may not have emphasized enough that one can visit NJ WILD sites, even on major ‘Holidays’, without crowds.
Hancock House Historic Outbuilding - Revolutionary Site — cfe
If you pull up NJ WILD, it has a search feature. Write in ‘Brigantine’ or ‘Pine Barrens’; ‘Sourlands’ or Sandy Hook; Bull’s Island, the Delaware River, Island Beach, etc. You’ll be given a string of posts on their wild beauty, and directions are often part of the saga. For deepest solitude, plan birders’ hours — first light and last light.
In general, Take The Pretty Way, the back roads.
Salem Preserves — cfe
Tomorrow, a friend and I will launch her new Prius into Salem and Cumberland Counties. We’ll be treated to golden stretches of marshland; to shimmering rivers with splendid Indian names, such as the Manumuskin. We’ll ride on and laugh at the sound of Buckshutem Road. We’ll wonder, as you always must down there, where on earth will we eat? Of course, there’ll be the freshest of Jersey Fresh produce on weathered stands in front of farmhouses of other centuries. Of course, we’ll slide coins into Trust Boxes, as we settle agricultural jewels into our sustainability bags to take home.
We’ll see rare birds, especially eagles. Salem County held our only productive eagle nest during the grim DDT years, which my county (Somerset) is about to reinstitute, as it ‘adulticizes’ mosquitoes in the week ahead. Now, I am not kidding, in Salem and Cumberland Counties, we could see more eagles than we can count.
American Bald Eagle Floating - Brenda Jones
Osprey Claiming Nest, Brenda Jones
Cabbage Whites Nectaring — Brenda Jones
Especially ditto purple martins, but they had all left the Brigantine the last time I was there, weeks ahead of schedule. Theory is that our drought hinders the insect population to such a degree that martin migration is over. I’ll know tomorrow. If not, there could be hundreds of thousands of them, bending the marsh grasses, then darkening skies, along the Maurice River.
Alloway Creek, site of British Massacre of Colonial Soldiers, Salem County — cfe
Look up these sites, and find them for yourselves. There won’t be anyone else on most of the roads to the unknown, actually usually forgotten, Delaware Bay.
Salem County, Tranquillity Base cfe
It’s impossible for me to believe scenes of great white sharks off Chatham, Massachusetts. That priceless working fishing port served as my essential haven throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. It was a place of weathered grey cottages with white shutters, pink roses on the picket fences. Its winding Oyster River used to be famous for that bivalve, possibly my favorite food. Anything in the waters there was food for us, not the other way ’round!
Daily beach walks from our [Nantucket] Sound-side front door to Harding’s Beach Light revealed rarities, from the red-necked phalarope circling and circling in the Sound to the Hudsonian godwits who pranced around us as we set out. The morning I showed the girls the long-tailed jaeger in the Peterson’s Guide — hovering over a dune — we found one doing exactly that down by the Light. The morning after I read of crows mobbing eagles - to look for raptors when one hears that cacophony — I watched crows drive an American bald eagle all the way back from the Light to Harding’s Woods. I recall it only took the eagle 5 or 6 wingbeats to cover what stretched for us for an hour or more. Down on the hard sand at low tide, back on the high road with the heather and horned larks — all creatures were blessings in Chatham.
Life in Chatham was simplicity itself, a barefoot existence, –full of sweetness in those who shared our cottage and the very local foods we ate, especially Nickerson’s Fisheries fish.
In all our long restorative summers, I never recall the ‘S-word’. Even when we went whale-watching off Provincetown, I remember shearwaters as much as whales. But no sharks. Of any sort. Never, flying from “Chatham Municipal” to Nantucket or the Vineyard. No sharks in headlines, either. “Clam Wars” were all the rage in Chatham summers.
Great White Shark, David Watts, Seapics
Let alone seals!
How can seals have become the norm in Chatham on Cape Cod? How can it be that they lure great white sharks this often and this close to shore?
My NJ WILD readers know my stand on (the increasingly ignored, as increasingly experienced) climate change. So you know my theory - ocean currents changed by melting glaciers and altered temperatures bring sharks closer to shore, and not only in Chatham. And not only this summer…
Change your carbon footprint before it is absolutely too late! What does it take to waken us?
[The two nameless photos have no credits on Internet...]
Meanwhile, here are two new poems triggered by shark news. The first one describes shark alerts along the Jersey Shore, when we summered at Normandy Beach.
lifeguards taught us
how to tell the difference
between sharks and dolphins
high in their whitewashed towers
they’d raise firm hands to
of dolphin fins
beyond the ninth wave
of shark fins
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
June 21, 2012
there are two great whites
off the coast of Chatham
coursing among infamous shoals
which keep her fishermen
but for one tide
Chatham, haven in the grim years
place of my poet love
as these behemoths
beyond the ninth wave
they are somehow
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
June 24, 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…
Cape May Lighthouse, NJ
Titmouse in Snowstorm, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know, my favorite time to be anywhere is off-season. In 2009 I had chosen to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Cape May.
My key birding/hiking/art and travel buddy, Janet Black, and I had this urgent need to flee the commercial madness which had come to overwhelm this once sacred season. The fiercest concern, on all channels during this week’s blizzard, was not health or safety - but o, dear! — people can’t get to the malls! Christ was not born to turn balance sheets from red to black.
We went to seek the elemental, even the primal.
I, personally was starved for limitlessness.
We both needed birds, — handsome birds, large birds, unexpected birds, birds dealing boldly and successfully with elements, putting humans to shame. Birds making us catch our breath over their beauty, their fearlessness, their deft way with the wind. Somewhere out beyond the first lines of waves, long-tailed ducks were bobbing and feeding. Sometimes, if we were very lucky, elegant gannets arrowed right over our heads, or threaded their way above the crests.
Yes, we knew the trails, the hot spots, from Sunset Beach to Cape May Point to Higbee Beach. We’ve put in our time on and near the hawk watch platform, normally abuzz - it would be still for Christmas.
Cape May Bird Observatory post captures their Hawk Watch Platform post-blizzard
We knew where to hike (from the jetty to the light) in a benevolent season, when we were sometimes accompanied by ruddy turnstones, living mosaics hopping along beside us as we stride.
We knew where the peregrine stooped (’stooped’ is the birder’s word) upon tasty prey, from an anachronistic bunker to a freshwater pond, as sedate mute swans ignore the entire drama.
Killdeer and Snow
from Cape May Bird Observatory post, post-storm
We knew where monarchs clustered in autumn, on a shrub called “high tide plant.” We had favorite dune trails where we’d seen loons visibly change their plumage before our eyes.
But neither of us knew what Christmas meant at New Jersey’s Cape, let alone what it means to the birds.
We packed foul weather gear - we’ve used it before for Cape May Birding Weekends of 20 mile an hour winds and I swear 20 degrees, although it couldn’t have been - it was the end of May…
We packed our binoculars and our Sibleys - well, they’re always in the trunk. Being writers, books and notepads went first into those suitcases. Janet’s memoir vied with her poetry. My NJ WILD held pride of place - no competition for it, these days, not even from the poetry muse.
We both fled the Victorian, sought out the rustic, the local, and above all, the maritime and the avian.
Down at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, at the birds’ jumping-off place to cross the Delaware Bay, the prime activity would neither be shopping til you drop, nor counting down to Christmas.
Out on the windswept beaches, spirit would be near at hand. Shore birds would do their Holy Ghost thing.
Though we did not see the Christmas star, something was being born. I called it Hope.