Archive for the ‘raptors’ Category
Spotters on the Cape May Bird Observatory Hawk Watch Platform cfe
Actually, it’s more like “Cape May For Two Days”! And yes, it was MORE than worth it.
Those two days centered upon the Cape May Bird Observatory [CMBO] Hawk Watch Platform.
After stopping at CMBO to renew my membership, and pick up a super-comfortable strap for my binoculars, I headed for the lighthouse and the Platform, even before checking into my motel room.
Helpful Cape May Bird Observatory Personnel on Hawk Watch Platform, cfe
CMBO maintains “counters”, “spotters” — professionals of highest caliber, who spot and count birds zooming past in autumn migration. The Platform fronts upon a pond. always graced by swans and frequently dive-bombed by peregrines.
Sunset Swan, Brenda Jones
I immediately recognized the silhouette and mellifluous voice of Pete Dunne, head of CMBO, author of wit, wisdom and experience, and yes, bon vivant. Also, natural teacher. So many facets of my birding knowledge have been inserted or polished by this man, over the years, at sunrise and sunset, and sometimes at 20 degrees with 20-mph-winds. I was overjoyed to reconnect, after my year plus of hurt-hip-induced absence. Pete, watching me walk, exulted, “We live in remarkable times.”
He went on to prove it by mentioning, “I was informed by phone about the nighthawks.”
Here and there, spotting scopes were trained on the skies.
But these pros of the Platform don’t need optics. A black spot miles away can be differentiated, as in Cooper’s or Sharp-Shinned Hawk, and they’ll even tell you how they can tell. Something to do with frequency of flapping. Pete: “It it were a Sharp-shinned, it would’ve flapped by now.”
Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Brenda Jones
But I say, these spotters, these CMBO mentors, are attached to birds by senses which have not even been defined, let alone located. Senses which go beyond eyes and even beyond Swarovskis.
Brilliance is a big part of being on the Platform. And fellowship. I hadn’t realized that (this concentration of) birders are family; that I had missed them to such a high degree.
There’s always humor, and even humility. At one point, Pete said, with a shrug in his voice, “Haven’t a clue….” There was a pregnant pause, followed by, “… bird.”
At the same time, in my two visits that day, early and latest, I was part of a bald-eagle count approaching 30. Even more importantly, –as I learned at early light the next day–, a 268- kestrel day.
There was a bare tree set among cedars, as studded with kestrels as a Christmas tree with ornaments. Every one vivid. Every one fluttering. These raptors swooped out, over and over, –not unlike flycatchers–, in quest of insects, one after another. And kestrels can hover — I never knew that. So vivid that they seemed iridescent, even spangled. What a privilege to be surrounded by them.
American kestrels have been ‘fewing and fewing’ in recent years. Their sacred edge habitat has been increasingly devoured by what others deem progress. I forgot to ask Pete, why there were/are so many right now. But this is one time when why doesn’t matter. Only beauty, power, rarity and presence.
Among the other numbers on Monday (departure day) morning were 109 osprey. Osprey were everywhere Sunday evening, often ‘packing a lunch’ - fish in talons, aerodynamically situated so as not to interfere with flight. 17 sharp-shins. 10 Coopers. 30 Merlin. 5 Peregrine Falcons. and so forth…
I even spotted a tern I didn’t recognize, which Erin-of-CMBO eagerly identified as a Forster’s. She trained the Swarovski scope on this single bird at the end of a wooden dock-like structure to our right. “Only Forster’s terns have that black eye patch now. They’re really fun to identify in autumn.” As David Allen Sibley puts it, “Black eye patch of non-breeding plumage distinctive.” This Platform is where Sibley ‘earned his wings’, with Pete and Clay Sutton, his co-authors of Hawks In Flight, about to be re-issued. All three will be at the Cape May Birding Weekend, to talk and sign this re-issue of Sibley’s first book, before his NYT best-sellers, The Sibley Guide to Birds, and The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior.
Usually, white shrubs and vines surrounding the Swarovski-sponsored Platform are filled with monarch butterflies this time of year. There were fewer than I’ve ever encountered of these orange-and-black long-distance fliers. Even so, I was welcomed to the Platform by one which nearly landed on the bridge of my nose.
Icy yellow, with a tinge of chartreuse, or key-lime pie, the cloudless sulphur butterflies seemed more in evidence here and among the bayberried dunes of Higbee Beach.
One of the butterfly magnet shrubs has the lovely name of High Tide Plant. Elder is another name for it. I’m sipping St. Germain liqueur, late this night, as I bring Cape May back to memory and to life. Pretending I’m a butterfly, nectaring on the elder plant from whose flowers this French specialty is crafted.
I hear Pete observe, “That eagle looks like he’s about to leave for Delaware.”
American Bald Eagle, Brenda Jones
Delaware is very near, here where our River meets the ocean, and the Cape May Lewes ferry carries cars, birders, bicyclists, hikers and just plain tourists from one state to another. The ferry is a grand place for seeking out seabirds who “come to land only when nesting.” (Sibley)
I reluctantly leave the Platform because it’s time to walk The Point. Newly crafted ‘boardwalks’ (they’re not real board) lift birders off the marsh-scape, into the realm of warblers and other treasures. Somehow, they’ve conquered phragmites to an enormous degree, those towering invasive rushes that drive out all the native plants the birds need, not only in migration. In the place of reeds is a meadow or a prairie of New Jersey wildflowers. The air is fragrant with (the invasive) autumn clematis, tiny white starflowers spun along tangles of vines. It’s more interesting than honeysuckle, with mimosa ‘notes’.
Colors on all sides of me include a pinkish bronze (wool grass, which is really a sedge); purple asters; white asters; seaside goldenrod, white ‘rose’ mallows, white boneset, pink marsh mallow, white dotted smartweed, mistflower, wild ageratum, purple gerardia, etc. etc. etc.
I don’t know all these plants - a fine naturalist, the plant equivalent of Pete Dunne, was sitting on a bench and eager to teach me every single species, in English and in Latin. Carl Anderson. He explained that the bayberry-like plants were wax myrtle and hybrids of wax myrtle and bayberry — the leaves on the latter are broader and darker, and bayberries were definitely in the minority. Bayberries are essential fat/fuel to migrant birds. I felt like Alice In Wonderland, having drunk whatever and shrunk to be smaller than most of these flowers.
Birds were few, because it was mid-day. Fish crows ringed the beige lighthouse like a crown of thorns. A single egret minced about the edge of a pond. A sound I never knew, or maybe ever heard, turned out to be a single kestrel in a naked tree just above my head. The closest I’ve ever been to a kestrel.
Kestrel at the Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Morning dawned with a beach walk among black skimmers beyond counting, followed by another couple of hours on the Hawk Watch Platform.
Black Skimmers in Flight, Brenda Jones
Sky Full of Skimmers, the Jetty, Cape May cfe
From ten to twelve thirty, Monday, I floated on the boat, The Skimmer, among Cape May marshes. We were in quest of rare birds there, too. What I best remember is a series of large turtle heads in Turtle Creek, and a very rare Tri-colored Heron before we turned back to the dock.
Leaving for home was almost unbearable.
All the way north on the Parkway, I would hear those Platform phrases, “Over the cedars.” “Really soaring.” “Got ‘im!”
The line I’ll remember most is Pete Dunne’s description of yesterday, to a fellow ’spotter’ who also writes a blog: “Here’s the first line for your blog, Mike. If you weren’t here yesterday, slay yourself now.”
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…)
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
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!
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…
Upon reading “Her Idea of a Beautiful Day”, in My Story As Told By Water, my first thought was, ‘Well, what would be MY idea of a beautiful day?’ Its subjunctive question immediately appeared - ‘What is YOURs?‘ – readers of and cherished commentors upon NJ WILD–, what renders a day beautiful in your life, at this moment in time?
My Story as Told By Water is a riverine memoir by David James Duncan. This man is a modern bard, in prose and diatribe, of the endangered American West, –particularly its rivers, especially of its salmon. Over and over, Duncan teaches, “As salmon go, so go the rivers.” And the indigenous people whose lives since time immemorial have depended upon the rivers and their creatures. With salmon and salmon people go the state, the region, the nation and ultimately the globe. Especially here in the east, we do not GET it about the peril of and the implications of industrial murder of salmon.
Sunfish, Baldpate Mountain Pond, Brenda Jones
Edward Abbey taught us first the evil of dams. David James Duncan blows on Abbey coals. My Story As Told By Water is my favorite title of the genre, the way Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is my favorite opening line of any novel. Young Duncan fell in love with water using a garden hose in his childhood driveway. His first love was abruptly relinquished for the real thing, when the boy fell INTO his first trout stream, discovering crawdads and fish. Duncan’s chapters tango between ever increasing passion for natural waterways, and fury at all who would destroy them. His rage and eloquence increase exponentially in our era of greed-enthronement.
The boy describes having been stunned by his grandmother’s rabid devotion to her job as a real estate agent: “Her idea of a beautiful day was one that increased the likelihood of her selling a house.” Nature, to Duncan’s grandmother, “had an unwashed, unsaved ring to it.”
Needless to say, “a beautiful day” to this author involves water, usually fresh, with the promise of fish. David James Duncan forces me to consider my own definition of a beautiful day. The instant answer is any day with friends, sharing nature with the perfect blend of passion, knowledge, and curiosity. Remarkable food is often involved, and frequently art. But if I had to choose but one factor for “my beautiful day”? NATURE.
I was frankly stunned to discover that “my beautiful day” need not be fair. “A beautiful day” to me is something that hardly ever happens any more — a time of long soft soaking rain. Gentle in quality and quantity, lowering a scrim over the harsh world. Rain that whispers, at most sizzles. This precipitation is neither so white and stiff as was my bridal veil, nor so dense and weighty as Jacqueline Kennedy’s widow’s veil — which cast a pall over my life, and was first worn in the impossible aftermath of this very day, November 22, in 1963. The most beautiful day to me now, in New Jersey, in the year 2008, is rain that tiptoes along the thirsty earth. It simply nourishes seeds, –without dislodging soil, let alone removing pebbles. A beautiful day’s rain never topples trees because of both quantity and intensity, without even factoring in damaging wind. What I require now is rain as it was before global warming.
Lately, as NJ WILD readers know, I’ve learned to be out in what the Brits call “a mizzle of rain.” There’s a blessing in it — tactile, even spiritual. I may prefer the days of rain and fog because they soften the impossible harshnesses of the 21st Century. You also know, nature is my church, and the Towpath and Canal in particular. David James Duncan says it better: “Church became a place where I waited for rain.”
“Pine Drops” hold the rain, by Lauren Curtis
Dear NJ WILD Readers: In the weeks ahead, you’ll be re-seeing posts of the past, before my hip required the surgery I will undergo tomorrow. Our remarkable fine art photographer, Brenda Jones, chose this one to launch the Reminiscence Series.
ENJOY - and HIKE FOR ME
Cezanne-like Ruin at Sandy Hook
NJ WILD readers know the catalyst for most of my New Jersey expeditions — birds.
I thought I went to Sandy Hook for autumn migrants. The Muse had other ideas.
Looking back on my runaway-day, I see that I found more birders than birds. But that’s o.k. I cherish the company of birders. (seeing them as ‘real’ birders, as opposed to this eager amateur.) I treasure birders when not even they can identify the pale mystery hawks over the N.J. Audubon Center on the river side of Sandy Hook.
Up on the North Beach platform, there was more talk of birds than birds. Memories of other days, other seasons. Souvenirs of northbound flights when the experts couldn’t keep up with the sharp-shin count. The day Anne Zeman and I happened to be there for the scissor-tailed flycatcher. Memories of World Trade Center towers, once so visible from those boards, now no more than memory.
We had one desultory red-tail, but Scott Barnes had identified this one last April as resident, not migrant. A string of double-crested cormorants flew low over invisible water. I’m pretty sure we heard yellow-rumped warblers in shrubbery all around the platform. I had to soothe other ‘watchers’ in that they couldn’t see cormorant crests, not even one, let alone double. Bird books annoyingly inform us, concerning those defining field marks, that they are ‘visible only in breeding season.’ Which October definitely isn’t. Not for birds, anyway.
Sometimes, I don’t know what my adventure was about until I download the pictures. Which is how I found out that this journey was about light, not birds. Light and form. Declining light, which somehow magnified form. Even the bunkers were beautiful.
Bunker Bedecked with Woodbine
That day’s paling sun brought new gifts, highlighting structures to which I’ve evidently been oblivious until now. I’ve driven and walked that North Beach area more times than I can count, in all weathers. Most memorably in February, with Sandy Hook Rangers who bear magical keys to secret ‘gardens’ along reaches otherwise verboten. The wrack line is particularly glistening in winter; bunkers even more stark. I try to comfort my pacifist self with the fact that no shot hath been fired at Sandy Hook in anger.
What the sun revealed last weekend was a ruin right out of Cezanne!
I zoomed into a parking place, oblivious to any other drivers as though a peregrine was winging overhead. But this wasn’t about falcons.
It was about light. Light that would not only change, but (as NJ WILD readers know too well about me, this time of year), light that will LEAVE. Abandon us. Plunge us into the underworld for months on end and I will have to remember to stay very far from pomegranates or I’ll NEVER get back to the light.
The Beauty of Ruins
I was hopping all around that building, reaching here, crouching there. — The way my sister and I did that cold April at the Wetlands Institute, where the purple gallinule remained most effectively in hiding for all his vividness. That fauve bird had been seen by experts and amateurs all week, all morning, and would be seen again that evening, but not while Marilyn and I were there. And, I promise you, we left no leaf unturned. Neither of us had seen one in our lives, put together. And we still hadn’t. Crouching, rising, turning returning — that Cezanne Studio look-alike called forth my most assiduous birding behaviors.
Ruined Door, Autumn Hues, Cezanne Door, Sandy Hook Ruin
The color of the door to Cezanne’s studio in Aix is splashed into my soul — exactly the tone of the door above, taken, –yes, in New Jersey.
I’ve lingered at the door of Cezanne’s studio times beyond measure. With my husband on history-wine-and-art pilgrimages. With the Friends of the Art Museum (Princeton) in 1978, on our Romanesque France tour de Provence with legendary Hyatt Mayor, Curator of Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1981, I’d walked those leafy grounds above A, staring at Cezanne’s own views, wishing they’d let me photograph that spill of dried fruit along a windowsill. I did this with my elder daughter, Diane, and our Princeton friends, Hope and Valerie in January. In pivotal 1984, I’d learned that this was the site to which Cher Maitre Paul had returned from painting his iconic Mte. Ste. Victoire, already breeding the cold that would kill this unparalleled artist. That trip involved Diane again, and her younger sister, Catherine. Both lived abroad that year of the strong dollar, one in Paris, one in Bergamo. That time, we shared our beloved South of France with Charlie and Rose Mary, whom I’d introduced that spring. They’d fallen in love, come with us on their ninth date. This year they took me to dinner at Eno Terra to celebrate that 26 years-ago meeting. They’re still glad I did it!
During 1987 and 88, I introduced my Provence (native French who wintered in Cannes) neighbors-of-the-villa, over and over to places in their own land that they did not know, especially Cezanne-territory. All American friends who braved Provence with me, although I’d only had those two years of meagre college French, made pilgrimage with me to Matisse’s chapel. And to Fondation Maeght. But always to Cezanne, and the Restaurant Deux Garcons which mattered so much to M.F.K. Fisher and her two daughters.
So I know the color of Cezanne’s door. It’s exactly the tone of the door above, taken one week ago.
Shadowed Ruin, North Beach, Sandy Hook
Just as on Cezanne’s studio — even the shadows on this building were arresting in beauty and sharpness.
Cezanne-Look-Alike with Woodbine
Finally I tore myself from the structure, and the cascade of Provence memories it had ignited.
I remembered, after all, you’re this Jersey Girl. You’re here to celebrate our own back yard. What else is calling out to you this day?
NORTH BEACH NATIVE SPECIES: Autumn, 2010
If Cezanne had seen what seems like NJ native wild asparagus, aglow, he’d've turned into a Fauve.
What Cezanne would never have seen, is this hot yellow fireplug. Now I ask you, why? But isn’t it merry?
Fire Safety, North Beach, Sandy Hook, New Jersey
American Bald Eagle and Sculler in Lake Carnegie Fog — Brenda Jones
Recently, my sister, Marilyn Weitzel, visited from Chicago. One of the unexpected bonuses of her visit was that I was able to show her the first-year nest of Princeton’s eagles. I had been monitoring wing-exercises by two immature American bald eagles for some weeks, until her arrival. Then other wings, as in airline, took precedence.
“Princeton’s” Eagle, Profile, Brenda Jones - Lake Carnegie
It was nothing short of a miracle, –although I have been taken to task for poetic license on this score –, to find the dark healthy youngsters assiduously flapping, evening after evening, as I slightly altered my homeward commute to include their nest above the D&R Canal and Lake Carnegie.
Friendly Sky of ‘Our’ Eagle, Brenda Jones, above Lake Carnegie
All winter, my sister had been monitoring the two eagle cams, Decorah, Iowa, near her, and our own Duke Farms eagle nest. Hers launched three youngsters, ours two. Marilyn actually witnessed the ‘pipping’, then hatching of the third Decorah egg. I took her along Mapleton to see our eagles’ new nest, apologizing that they’d recently fledged and that we wouldn’t find anything except where they had been.
‘Our’ Eagles in Courting Season, Brenda Jones
On the contrary, in the oddly cup-shaped nest, nestled in the scraggly evergreen, there was one of our newest eagles, calmly adorning a branch on the left. Miracle of miracles, another birder stopped, screeched to a halt, jumped out, tugged out his scope and showed my sister - in her first glimpse through a scope, a close-up view of that white-stippled very dark first-year eagle back. What are the chances of something like that…
Princeton’s 2011 Immature Eagles, Brenda Jones
ZERO, if it weren’t for all your local non-profits, such as D&R Greenway and Friends of Princeton Open Space and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, who saved these waters and lands so that eagles could safely nest, lay eggs, raise and fletch young, and all could fish healthily.
‘Our’ Eagle Gathering Nest Materials, Brenda Jones
Last night, re-reading Aldo Leopold (Lawrenceville School illustrious alum, essentially founder of ecology and the conservation ethic in our time), I came across the word “numenon.” He explains this concept as being “the imponderable essence of a place,” as expressed in some electrifying fauna. For Leopold, numenons could be anything from a mighty and elusive trout in a high Rocky Mountain Stream, to the last grizzly. His legendary essay on shooting the last mature wolf in his Sand country, watching “the green fire die in her eyes”, as one of her several pups dragged a useless leg off into the underbrush, is the most effective on numenons, as well as the most inescapable call for awareness, honor and preservation of wild creatures, I have ever encountered.
One of the Parent Eagles of Princeton, Autumn, Brenda Jones
I suddenly realized, Princeton’s eagles are our numenons.
Here is a too brief reference of some time ago, written on this, yes, miracle in our midst. as immortalized over and over for NJ WILD readers by Brenda Jones.
Scene of Breeding/Nesting Landscape of ‘Princeton’ Eagles — Brenda Jones
As many of you realize, Brenda Jones, photographer, is a key partner in our blogging journeys. I met her, and her art-supportive husband, Cliff, one evening on the D&R Canal Towpath. We were all three tracking the beavers near the Mapleton Road fishing bridge. They introduced me to our beavers, which nocturnal creatures I have since discovered at first light and last, on my own. But nothing matches that first encounter with Brenda and Cliff.
Beaver of Mapleton Aqueduct, Close-Up, Brenda Jones
Ever since, we have shared words and images. Brenda actually undertakes photoquests for me, tied to upcoming posts. Asked for an eagle in straight flight to accompany yesterday’s “Beyond Red, White and Blue,” Brenda quickly dispatched this spectacular view. It deserves its own post.
In addition, Brenda reports on the eagles of Princeton. Miraculously, for years now, they have successfully nested, laid and hatched eggs, and fledged young on the hem of Lake Carnegie, at the wild crossroad of Harrison Street and Route 1. Thank you, Brenda and Cliff!
Princeton’s Immature American Bald Eagles, 2011, Brenda Jones
I just finished reading the present article and see how it ends with your eagle encounter. The juvenile has definitely fledged and my husband had seen the adult and juvenile on the David Sarnoff sign, teasing because there is not way to get a photo from that point, since one can’t stand on Route 1 and we aren’t allowed to walk on the property. But the juvenile may be flying now which is really exciting.
Juvenile Eagle Flying off with Fish, March, 2011 - before 2011’s hatched: Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know I tend to flee to ‘the Brig’ every chance I get, to find out from the birds what season it is.
A week ago, (yes, and again yesterday), I went to the wildlife refuge otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe, with friends new to the place. Afterwards, I ‘turned them loose’ in the Pine Barrens and they sent back images to share.
‘The Brig’ can be ‘lovely, dark and deep’, if one is lucky enough to get in there before the sun rises, molten and seemingly dripping, out of the sea and over its bays and impoundments.
We were somewhat later both weeks, due to the essential stop at the Bakery, for hearty real breakfast (eggs that taste like egg, homemade, hand-seasoned sausage patties, endless mugs of fragrant steaming coffee by a window giving onto Tomaselli [Pinelands] Winery and the historic Smithville Inn.)
The greatest gift of ‘the Brig’, for me, is surprisingly not its birds. Rather, limitlessness!
Dike Road Leads on Forever, by Sharon Olson
New Jersey readers will know that I am not making this up - that my drive down to meet fellow poet, Sharon Olson and her husband, Bill Sumner, at 9 a.m. was smothered in snow, flakes that quickened and thickened at the 206/70 traffic circle.
At ‘The Brig’, there was no more snow. However:
Lone Snow Goose, by Sharon Olson
We thought we were seeing the last snow goose, However, we were wrong. I heard the unmistakable musical muttering of hordes of snow geese. Sure enough, we turned a corner to
White Flecks, Snow Geese by Thousands, practically all the way to Tuckerton -by Sharon Olson
What do they know (about lands north of here) that we do not know.
This weekend, I photographed two snow geese at the Brig - the latest ever:
Last of the Snow Geese, April 9, 2011 (cfe)
April 9 View from Gull Pond Tower (cfe)
Another sense of Brigantine limitlessness.
Plus view of my trusty car, in which I proceed on all these jaunts, safely and comfortably, so I can share them with you.
Brooding Scene of Immature Red-tailed Hawk at Brig, April 9, (cfe)
From the Gull Pond Tower, we saw two (mute) swans at the nest, necks twining in a dance that leaves Swan Lake in the shadows. It may well have been their courtship - an aspect of swan behavior about which I know zero.
I don’t have the kind of camera that can capture distant swans, nor even do a very good job of this majestic raptor. He had all the presence of a golden eagle, clearly claiming this tree on Gull Pond Road, and the wide open spaces behind it over to Leeds Eco-Trail, for his new territory. We hope spring brings him a mate for life, to share the Brig’s bounty, beauty and safety. The red-tail opened and closed this week’s Brigantine adventure.
Great Egret in April Water by Sharon Olson
These images come to me through Sharon’s Picasa account — if anyone can tell me how to enlarge, I’ll be glad to learn. It was a treat coming upon so many great egrets and some greater yellowlegs. In each case, nature wasn’t generous enough to provide other versions (of egrets, of yellowlegs), so we could be absolutely sure of that ‘great’ appendage. I did recognize the song of the greater yellowlegs, however, so we were pretty sure about these singletons on sandbanks.
Here’s Brenda Jones’ Brigantine Egret in Full Breeding Plumage at Brig
With great egrets, one can tell them from snowies because the ‘greats’ move with great serenity and dignity, as do great blue herons. Snowies (whose distinguishing field mark yellow feet are usually hidden in water) move about nervously, stirring up bottom-dwelling nourishment with those ‘golden slippers.’
Three Views - The Mirror, the Impoundment, and (arrggh!) Atlantic City! Sharon Olson
The rear-view mirror reminds me to look back, to marvel that these two new friends took to birding, well, like ducks to water.
Learning the vivid and unique shovelers early on, they took great delight in coming across and calling out the perfect name, from then on. Shovelers are russet and green and blinding white, with spade-like beaks that literally shovel under low-tide mud to find their favorite delicacies.
We were treated to elegant, spiffy (quiet) brant, a red-winged blackbird or two (there should be hundreds, and even the females by now. We did not see (they fan their tails) nor hear their territorial ‘okaleeeeee’ because there weren’t enough blackbirds worth territorializing about!
They were good about opening the bird tally (available in the Edwin B. Forsythe/Brig’s new Visitor Center, and vigorously remembering and marking each species seen. They also took time to fill out the visitor query form, being from Connecticut. Bill explained, “Figure they don’t get too many from our zip code…”
I’m not a lister (as in one who will go anywhere, pay any price, bear any burden to see and tally rarities). I’m a thousand times more interested in finding creatures of New Jersey who migrate through our state, and the occasional accidental. I’m not going to Costa Rica nor even to the Platte for cranes. If I find them at the Brig, or in Salem and Cumberland, that’s another story!
Having new birders fill out the tally afterwards cements all they learned, giving them those species as permanent impressions for all time to come.
I’ll End with the Red Knots, by the late Theodore Cross
whose splendid waterbird images we showed at D&R Greenway Land Trust last year - only weeks after his impossible death
we should be seeing throngs of red knots soon
under the full moon of May
along all-too-slender Reed’s and other Delaware Bayshore beaches
but whom we may no longer see because we have destroyed their sole nourishment
the horseshoe crabs
Sharon Olson’s crisp view of the Horseshoe Crab Alert
at the end of Seven Bridges Road
near the Cousteau Society
in a former Coast Guard Building
if enough of those horseshoe crab signs are posted and heeded
the knots and the turnstones could return
in the meantime, knot populations are down 75%
because of human greed
Only Connect is a mandate I usually honor.
I’ll alter it on this subject:
I’ll insert my conclusion here: If you care about eagles, Preserve and provide stewardship for New Jersey land. Go onto our website, www.drgreenway.org, and donate to save eagle territory. We have preserved 2000 acres in Salem County and are working on 300+ more, as I write.
Realize that “The bald eagle’s official New Jersey status remains state-endangered, and state regulatory protection will remain unchanged by the federal action [delisting bald eagles federally].”
‘Niles’ in these quotes below is the delightful and so-dedicated Larry Niles, who climbs into our Princeton nest to band and evaluate young each year.
Only in writing this for NJ WILD readers did I realize the appropriateness of first discovering Princeton’s courting pair of our nation’s symbol, on the sacred anniversary of the Battle of Princeton.
At end of article is recent report on the state of the eagles in our beleaguered, most populous state.
She presided upon a branch overlooking Lake Carnegie, there where the sculling races culminate. How serenely she awaited her true love, who soon came coursing silently low along the water. He joined her with familiarity and deference. Their presence was as monumental as ancient statues of Egyptian gods and goddesses on thrones, –imposing, eternal, and so right.
Moments later, I heard the thin, unlikely sound of their songs, floating out across that lake, tinted with sundown. Such a fragile sound for such monarchs, yet it carried high, far and wide.
Here are Brenda Jones’ pictures of our eagles - who have since mated, taken up residence, and successfully raised young right in our midst - often from that majestic nest in that scrim of evergreens on the Sarnoff Property right alongside Route 1.
If ever you need reasons to preserve habitat, as we do daily at D&R Greenway Land Trust, think on those courting eagles, and their healthy young sent out into the world, nourished by the fish of the Millstone River and Carnegie Lake.
Eagles court, nest and raise young right now, in the heart of winter. The open water below the Carnegie Dam assures them fish in all weather. This is the best New Year’s miracle of my life.
Consider that not long ago, there was but one nest of eagles in our state, in Bear Swamp, in Salem County - and those eggs always crushed during the incubation process, because our addiction to pesticides, especially DDT, doomed eagles and osprey in New Jersey.
Carry on, nobly, as they do. Preserve and provide stewardship for New Jersey land. Go onto our website, www.drgreenway.org, and donate to save eagle territory. Who ever thought we would have eagle neighbors!
http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/pdf/eglrpt10.pdf for graphs, charts, etc.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife
Endangered and Nongame Species Program
There was a record number of nest failures in 2010.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP)
biologists and volunteer observers located and monitored bald eagle nests and territories. A new
record high of 94 eagle pairs was monitored during the nesting season; 82 of those were active (with eggs).
New Jersey’s Delaware Bay region remained the state’s eagle stronghold, with 40% of all nests located in Cumberland and Salem counties.
Thirteen new eagle pairs were found this season, 11 in the south, one in central and one in northern NJ.
Forty-three (52%) nests were successful in producing 69 young, for a productivity rate of 0.84 young per active nest, which is the lowest rate in 17 years.
Thirty-two (39%) nests failed to fledge young; the outcome of five nests was unknown.
Poor productivity and nest success were attributed to heavy precipitation (snow and rain) during the late winter and spring, as well as some severe wind storms.
In January’s Midwinter Eagle Survey, ENSP staff, regional coordinators and volunteers reported a total of 333 bald eagles, a new record high count. Seventy-five eagles were recorded in northern NJ and 258 in the south. The state’s eagle population would not be thriving without the efforts of the dedicated eagle volunteers who observe nests, report sightings, and help protect critical habitat.
Historic records are incomplete, but one study indicated New Jersey hosted more than 20 pairs of nesting bald eagles in the Delaware Bay region of the state (Holstrom 1985). As a result of the use of the pesticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, commonly known as DDT, the number of nesting pairs of bald eagles in the state declined to only one by 1970 and remained there into the early 1980s. Use of DDT was banned in the United States in 1972.
That ban, combined with restoration and management efforts by biologists within the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP), has resulted in a population increase to 69 active pairs by 2008. ENSP recovery efforts – implemented since the early 1980’s – have resulted in an exceptional recovery as New Jersey’s eagle population has rebounded from the edge of extirpation.
Recovery efforts were multifaceted. In 1982, after the Bear Swamp nest – New Jersey’s only remaining nest since 1970 – had failed at least six consecutive years, ENSP biologists removed the egg for artificial incubation, and fostered the young nestling back to the nest. As a result of residual DDT contamination, the Bear Swamp eggs were too thin to withstand normal incubation. [Bear Swamp is in Salem County.]
Artificial incubation and fostering chicks continued with success until 1989, when the female of the pair was replaced and the pair was able to hatch their own eggs. Increasing the production from a single nest, however, was not enough to boost the state’s population in a reasonable period of time; mortality rates are high in young eagles (as high as 380%), and they do not reproduce until about five years of age.
ENSP instituted a hacking project in 1983 that resulted in the release of 60 young eagles in NJ over an eight-year period (Niles et al. 1991). These eagles contributed to the increase in nesting pairs since 1990.
Bald eagles nesting in NJ face many threats, with disturbance and habitat loss the greatest threats in our state. In addition, contaminants in the food web may negatively affect the eagles nesting in some areas of NJ.
Disturbance is defined as any human activity that causes eagles to change their behavior, and takes many forms, including mere presence of people in nesting or foraging areas. (How about building a megalithic hospital right next-door to their Princeton nest?) In general, people on foot evoke the strongest negative reaction (see Buehler 2000). The problem is that when eagles change their behavior in reaction to people, they cease doing what is best for their survival and the well being of their eggs and young; ultimately, that reduces the survival of individuals and the population.
ENSP biologists work to manage and reduce disturbance in eagle habitats, especially around nest sites. A corps of experienced volunteers, as well as public education and established, safe viewing areas, are essential to this effort. Viewing eagles from safe distances, where eagles continue to act normally, is best for eagles and satisfies our natural desire to see them.
Biologists also protect habitat in a variety of ways, including working with landowners, land acquisition and management, and applying the state’s land use regulations. ENSP is continuing to investigate the impacts of organochlorines and heavy metals in eagles and other raptors nesting in the Delaware Bay region. Bald eagles, ospreys, and peregrine falcons nesting in the region exhibited some reproductive impairment relative to other areas (Steidl et al. 1991, Clark et al. 1998), but recent research indicates problems may be limited to very local areas of contamination (Clark et al. 2001).
ENSP biologists collect samples that allow monitoring of contaminants in eagles during the nesting season, and monitoring nest success is an integral part of this research. ENSP biologists, with the Division’s Bureau of Law Enforcement staff and project volunteers, work year round to protect bald eagle nest sites.
However, with increasing competition for space in the most densely populated state in the nation, it is clear that critical habitat needs to be identified and, where possible, protected. Critical habitat for eagles includes areas used for foraging, roosting and nesting, and is included in the program’s Landscape Project mapping of critical wildlife habitats.
The population of wintering bald eagles has grown along with the nesting population, especially in the last ten years. This growth reflects increasing nesting populations in NJ and the northeast, as each state’s recovery efforts continue to pay off for eagles.
In 2007, a major milestone was reached for bald eagles in the U.S. In recognition of the national resurgence in the eagle population in the lower 48 states, the federal government removed the bald eagle from its list of Endangered Species in August 2007. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will oversee a 20-year monitoring period (through 2027) to watch for and investigate any problems that could compromise the eagle recovery.
The bald eagle’s official New Jersey status remains state-endangered, and state regulatory protection will remain unchanged by the federal action.
4Objectives of the New Jersey bald eagle program:
1) monitor the recovery of the bald eagle in the state by documenting the status, distribution, and
productivity of breeding bald eagles in NJ;
2) enhance nest success by protecting bald eagles and their nest sites;
3) monitor wintering areas and other concentration areas and plan for their protection;
4) document locational data in the Biotics database and apply it to identify critical habitat using
the Landscape Project mapping;
5) provide information and guidance to landowners and land managers with regard to bald eagles
on their properties;
6) increase our understanding of bald eagle natural history in New Jersey.
All known nest sites are monitored January through July. Volunteer observers watch most nests from a distance of 1,000 feet, using binoculars and spotting scopes, for periods of two or more hours each week. Observers record all data including number of birds, courtship or nesting behaviors, incubation, feeding, and other parental care behaviors that provide essential information on nesting status. ENSP staff contact volunteers weekly with an update and are available to discuss observer questions and data. Dates are recorded for incubation, hatching, banding, fledging, and, if applicable, nest failure. A nesting territory is considered “occupied” if a pair of eagles is observed in association with the nest and there is some evidence of recent nest maintenance. Nests are considered “active” if a bird is observed in an incubating position or if eggs or young are detected in the nest.
Observers report other bald eagle sightings to ENSP biologists, who review the information for clues to potential new nest locations. ENSP staff and volunteers investigate territorial bald eagles for possible nests through field observations. When enough evidence has been collected to suggest a probable location, ENSP biologists often conduct aerial surveys of the region to locate a nest.
When necessary, nests are secured from disturbance with barriers or posted signs. ENSP staff works in partnership with landowners and land managers to cooperatively protect each nest.
Volunteers notify ENSP staff immediately if any unusual or threatening activities are seen around the nest site.
The Division’s Bureau of Law Enforcement conservation officers act to enforce protection measures as needed, and provide routine assistance as well.
At select nests, biologists enter the nest site to band young when nestlings are between five and eight weeks old. A biologist climbs the tree and places nestlings into a large duffel bag and lowers them, one at a time, to the ground. A team records measurements (bill depth and length, eighth primary length, tarsal width, and weight) and bands each eaglet with a federal band and a green state color band. A veterinarian examines each bird and takes a blood sample for contaminant analysis. Blood is collected and stored following techniques in Bowerman et al.
5(1994). Samples are stored frozen pending analysis by a technical lab. Nest trees are generally not climbed the first season to avoid associating disturbance with the new site.
Wintering Eagle Survey
The nationwide Midwinter Eagle Survey is conducted every January to monitor population levels. The ENSP contracts New Jersey Audubon Society’s Cape May Bird Observatory to coordinate the survey across southern NJ, and relies on biologist Allan Ambler of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to survey in the upper Delaware River area. ENSP staff coordinates volunteers surveying northern NJ reservoirs. The volunteer effort is aimed at covering all suitable and known wintering habitats, and data are analyzed to track (to the extent possible) the number of individual eagles observed on both days of the survey using plumage characteristics and time/place observed. ENSP biologists compile all results to determine statewide totals and totals along standardized survey routes, which are provided to the Raptor Research and Technical Assistance Center in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. For the sixth year volunteers also mapped eagle activity during the two-day survey; these data delineating critical eagle wintering habitat will be incorporated into the NJ Landscape Project.
Nest Survey [ALARMING cfe]
The statewide population increased to 94 pairs in 2010, up from 84 in 2009. Eighty-two pairs
were known active (meaning they laid eggs). Forty-three nests (52%) were known to be successful in producing 69 young, for a productivity rate of 0.84 young per active nest, which is below the required range of 0.9-1.1 young per nest for population maintenance (Figure 2), and the lowest rate since 1993.
The late winter and spring of 2010 had above-average snow and rain, causing widespread flooding statewide.
The bad weather conditions, including high winds, damaged many eagle nests at sensitive times of incubation and near hatching. Of the eagle pairs that maintained territories but did not lay eggs, eight had known locations; four other pairs that had previously occupied territories were not found.
Most nests were located in the southern part of the state, particularly within 20 km of Delaware River and Bay.
Most nests (61%) were located on private land, while the rest were on state, federal, county and conservation organization lands.