Archive for the ‘Cape May’ 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.”
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
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.
Pine Barrens Wild Water, cfe
It won’t surprise NJ WILD readers that, for this reader/writer, there is no such thing as too many nature books. The best gift yet arrived last week from sensitive friends, another book case… Most of the ones in my home, however, I have read and re-read, highlighted, underlined, quoted and read again.
For all these full bookshelves, there are never enough nature books for yours truly. One of the nice things about working at D&R Greenway Land Trust is that we have a nature library upstairs. You might think I’ve devoured every page between covers on nature subjects, due to both passion for and insatiable curiosity about Mother Nature in all forms. However, in the course of filing new books in our D&R Greenway library, I discovered two that have nourished me in recent rainy times. One is a compilation of early writings by women on what was then called “Birdwatching.” Report on that experience to come…
A Place in the Woods, by Helen Hoover, was new to me, although I’d read her The Gift of the Deer in the early years of my long-ago marriage. Helen and her husband, “Ade”, “took to the woods” without so much as a wilderness survival course, and precious little familiarity with cooking. They lived there in all seasons between the years of 1966 and 1973. This was not simply Minnesota (whose bitter winters, one entire month without thermometer’s ever rising above ZERO, daunted me as a bride and new mother), but NORTHERNmost Minnesota.
Tantalizingly near to my beloved Lake Superior, these two spent little enough time in or on the lake, most of it in their log cabin and/or summer house, surrounded by towering evergreens. Everything seemed to go wrong, including a bear in the cellar on Helen’s first day alone in the house while Ade made his way to a remote town for mail.
Interestingly, their spirits rarely flagged and their love evidently increased. As did their competency.
Her husband’s pen-and-ink drawings recreate that rugged Eden, even in this, another century time. Helen herself was driven to begin writing articles and books because everyone they’d left behind with their sophisticated Chicago professions kept asking when they were coming home.
For the Hoovers, the woods were home. As for me, here in this Princeton woods, –mostly deciduous but some white pines–. Unlike Helen and Ade, I don’t need all my Tom Brown’s Tracker School skills in order to thrive.
Reading the words of Helen Hoover reminds me why I work for D&R Greenway and why I write these blogs for the Packet and Princeton Patch.
The author declares that their challenges, –especially in winter–, “brought us deep awareness of the strength and courage to be drawn from the steady renewal of the forest.”
Keep preserving New Jersey lands so that we, ourselves, in this region, in this state, may be steadily renewed.
Helen Hoover goes on to reveal [as NJ WILD readers know from earlier posts about, for example, the fox whose snow-tracks delighted me in the worst of last year's ceaseless blizzards,] “helped us understand, within our human limitations, the living creatures who shared the land with us.”
Helen Hoover evokes the past which NJ WILD readers are accustomed to hearing me lament: “In those early days before the power line, lights went out and boats came in early, so that summer nights belonged to the murmur of wind in the pines; the patter of rain; or the booming of thunder; the lonely, lovely voices of the loon.” Even in daunting northern Minnesota, there was quiet summer magic to remember and to miss.
In New Jersey, there are still places where quiet reigns. I write to you about them as often as I can: Salem and Cumberland counties, always; back-bay Cape May; anytime on the Towpath, especially south from Quaker Bridge Road and over toward the Brearley House. The Pine Barrens even on major Holidays. Island Beach, Sandy Hook, especially in but not limited to winter.
Keep on supporting your local land preservation organizations, so that pine-clad, sand-drifted, bird-shadowed, water-blessed New Jersey can continue to exist.
We don’t have to go to northernmost Minnesota to find the wild. We have it right here. PRESERVE IT!
Early Light on Water, Cape May, NJ cfe
Dear NJ WILD Readers,
Here is an article written but never accepted in the heady days of print journalism, when my nature excursions earned Pate One’s, color, cover leads, and pages and pages of pictures and text.
Commerce, not nature, is in the driver’s seat in our New Jersey these days, not limited to the media situation. There are antidotes, as NJ WILD readers know, especially connected with water, and usually also with birds.
Cape May Bird Observatory Image of Gannet
Cape May, however, came into being through whalers from Cape Cod, a Captain May, in the 1600’s. Most people know her Victoriana and her beaches. However, there are watery stretches where it all still resembles Captain May’s views, and the birding is beyond price. In addition, on the Skimmer, you are with enthusiasts, even scholars - not tourists…
Cape May Victoriana, Christmastime, cfe
One can also take whale-and-dolphin-watching journeys on boats out of the Miss Chris Marina, on your left as you drive into town from the Garden State Parkway.
“Marriage of Air and Water” — Brown Pelican Flying over Cape May Seas: Brenda Jones
Enjoy learning, literally, another side of Cape May. Follow my foote-steps, or boat-steps to experience pristine nature and the stoppage of time…
Your always-traveler, ex-Seasonal-Reporter for any number of local papers… c
Black Skimmers in Flight over the Ocean, Cape May, near the Jetty Brenda Jones
The Skimmer is now boarded at Dolphin Cove Marina across from the Two Mile Beach Unit of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge at the toll bridge on Ocean Drive, Cape May, New Jersey.
The Skimmer Afloat from Cape May Times
CAPE MAY: OUR VENICE
Compare Cape May to Venice? No way! And yet, I couldn’t get this image out of my head on a recent visit to New Jersey’s southernmost point. Both are water-riddled towns whose greatest glory is long past. In the age of sail, adventurers and merchants; captains, crews; soldiers and brigands crowded their wharves. The Adriatic and the Delaware River served as their Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike combined. Traffic coursed in from all points of the compass until masts blocked out the sun. Residents of both locales made their way deftly, by small craft, on sinuous waterways, — probably more readily than we do, today, by land.
Both Cape May and Venice have riveting effects on creativity. Some of the world’s most famous artists (Turner, Monet, Canaletto, John Singer Sergent) immortalized La Serenissima reflected in her glistening tides, in rain on piazzas. In both places, over the decades, photographers have reached new heights. Even though, — in sea-level Italy or New Jersey –, they are probably the lowest they will ever find themselves – absolute sea level and sometimes, in Venice, below… The light of both sea-girt sites is legendary, — sharpening eyes, attunement and focus.
In both towns, I have found writing inescapable as the seawind. I cannot even go out to eat in either location without notebook and pen. We know Venice had that effect on Thomas Mann, Ruskin, and Mary McCarthy, among others. It may be influx and egress of saltwater and that iodized air that give everything there its cutting edge. Even reading among canals becomes richer. To look up to light reflected on high ceilings, to read to the lap of waves, is to be impregnated by creativity. Even fog, a gale, alters everything dramatically –impressions must be incised somewhere, somehow, because of their very fluidity.
Silent Night - Cape May Christmas
Maybe it’s none of the above – maybe the catalyst is Neptune himself. He’s everywhere, you see. Not only beyond the waves, where dolphins leapt onto their tails as we checked into our Cape May Beach Avenue rooms. The very land becomes tidal. It is, after all, a barrier beach. The purpose of such natural features is to protect the land behind it, to roll over and play dead, as it were, breaking the force of those relentless combers. I’ve been at Cape May at sunrise, sunset, moonrise, in fog that pours like swiftly closed theatre curtains. I’ve hiked her beaches in a three-day-blow, when the temperature (45) matched the miles per hour of that nor’east gale. The land itself throbs. That, too, may quicken creativity. All I know is, that there is an electricity in water-ridden, water-riddled landscapes that is only matched on the rim of steaming volcanoes.
I’ve seen but one tide clock in all my Cape May journeys, — the only timepieces that thrill me. I contend that the traveler him- or herself, — in Venice, in Cape May –among those rippling scarves of water, becomes a thrumming tidal clock.
And you can get right out into this, in the part of Cape May which is Venice-accessible to this day, lacking only the singing gondolier. Climb aboard any of the many nautical tour boats. Set out, — no matter whether you’re on flood tide or neap, whether moon is at apogee or perigee –, to discover reaches and creatures inaccessible by other means. (There are kayaks and canoes, rentable at any number of locations in season – for example, 609-884-3351.)
Rare Shorebird Central: Salt Marsh Safaris on The Skimmer - Cape May Times
I recently set off aboard The Skimmer, run by Wildlife Unlimited (609-884-3100 – www.skimmer.com) on their 1:30 p.m. “voyage of discovery into the Cape’s greatest wilderness – Atlantic coastal back bays.”
(photo) http://www.skimmer.com/theboat.htm This 40-foot pontoon craft has a shallow draft, granting access to sensitive and remote reaches of spartina grass and 4000-year-old peat, where nature’s rarities parade with a confidence born of inaccessibility. Cap’n Bob and his wife and full partner, Linda are not only highly trained naturalists. They blend scientific precision with artists’ appreciation of the wild and the beautiful. Each reveals an almost psychic attunement to the most subtly camouflaged birds, shellfish, even minuscule immature fish. In season, three departures illumine each seaside day. In autumn, we were limited to 1:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Had we had time to read promotional literature provided by our motel, we’d have had $2-off coupons in hand, as did many of the (generally repeat) customers who boarded with us on a soft October day. http://www.skimmer.com/coupon.htm brings you an Internet coupon from their very attractive and informative Website.
Skimmer’s Captain Explains Salt Marsh Creatures — Cape May Times
We asked our returning co-passengers, “What brings you back?” “They are so experienced!,” was the lively consensus. It’s more than that. I’ve been on birding tours where experience had conferred upon the leaders only snobbery, a conviction that neither the birds nor their fellow birders were worthy of their input. Linda and Bob bring the finest gift to those who sail with them – enthusiasm. They come to their roles as highly educated as those who attain Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice, plus years of schooling and days of qualifying exams. Together, they’ve plied Cape May backwaters for 8 years, — three times each day in season. Sometimes they sail out of the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. Sometimes they affiliate with the renowned Cape May Bird Observatory. However you find them, drop everything, pick up your finest optics, and set sail upon the Skimmer.
Their Craft is Coast-Guard inspected and approved. A roof protects from raindrops. Side windows are glassless, so warm gear may be in order on windy days. Word is that the salt marshes they explore remain mosquitoless in summer, possibly because of efficient killifish noshing ravenously upon mosquito larvae at the perfect moment.
The theme of the Skimmer’s Captain and First Mate is a passion for wetlands. Although ‘mine’ (Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh) is freshwater tidal and theirs is salt, the bottom line (pun untended) of these regions is fecundity. A little-known fact is that marshes far exceed rainforests in richness, profusion and diversity of life. 90% of human nourishment has its base in beings and plants of the marshes. Stunning news, considering that filling them in was considered the highest good in the very recent past.
Quantitative types get off on these #s and %s. I, however, go to the marshes for beauty, the primal and pristine. Now I see that it’s no longer necessary to drive seven hours, fight my way across the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod in order to find places where life begins. Wide reaches of autumnally golden grasses burst from bittersweet chocolate peat, intersected by shimmering reaches of saltwater – all right here, ‘in our own backyard’.
Aboard the Skimmer, the journey truly is the destination. We nosed imperceptibly out of our slip past a creek owned by a monarchical great blue heron. Around his stately legs pranced ‘a crowd, a host’ of golden Greater Yellowlegs, a shore bird whose smaller cousin (the Lesser) is one of my favorites at Smithville’s Brigantine Wildlife Refuge. We moved out serenely out into the Inland Waterway, Bob regaling us with tales of politicians somehow treated to whales, as well as unaccustomed privacy, at his hands. We passed merry fishermen, up to their chests in saltwater. Bob assured us, — from his own delight in that sport –, that — with the proper gear, one is not cold.
We moved under old bridges that open by gravity to permit passage of tall masts. On later, land-bound, rubber-tired excursions, I realized that the Skimmer had taken us in and around the Wildwoods, Stone Harbor, etc. But it didn’t matter where we were. What counted was the wildlife, — most especially winged –, which Linda found and Bob coaxed the Skimmer quietly over to inspect. In summer, the Skimmer team monitors Cape May’s osprey nests. We were treated to nest population reports for each platform we passed, whether or not any untidy mass of sticks that serves as osprey nursery remained after recent high winds.
Occasionally, we would nudge ashore, walk out on the back ‘deck’ where Bob was already busy netting tidal creatures. Chartreuse shrimp, transparent as lime Jello, flipped in Linda’s careful fingers. Tiny so-ugly-they’re-cute mummichogs (bait fish) curled upon Bob’s palm. Bob described a shrimp soup, made by people in Asia, from just such net contents – “a pound of shrimp is a pound of pure protein. You eat the whole thing. We just pop ‘em in fat, fry them up into shrimp popcorn.”
Dark shadows on inlet bottoms stretched without limit –mussels, exceedingly immature, rich, glistening in the month’s lowest tide. How many? “A gazillion,” our guide insisted. Bob held holey sea lettuce up to the sun. A green so bright it impacts eyes as fingernails on blackboards strafe ears, this ‘lettuce’ is supple, ruffly. Bob insisted it is edible. When I reached out to taste, he said, “No, not from here. (Because of boat traffic on the Inland Waterway).
Cormorant on Long Beach Island Rocks - Brenda Jones
Double-crested cormorants, — already long gone from Princeton –, seemed to be congregating for a last hurrah in Cape May before their long southward stretch. Able to swim 30 mph underwater, they are surpassed in submarine speed and weight by common loons (to which rarities the Skimmer also bore us). A ‘tardy osprey’ circled us lazily, flashing that Lone Ranger mask into lowering light. Black-bellied plovers in winter plumage (no black bellies!) strutted their stuff on the sand. Ruddy turnstones, despite their endangered condition due to overharvest of horseshoe crabs, paraded along a bobbing log. All the spiky grasses were increasingly gilded as the day wore on. In among the gilt posed tall blinding white great egrets and the occasional cindery great blue heron. There was a timelessness out there in Cape May’s back bays such as I usually have to leave this country to enjoy.
Great Blue Heron, Giving Voice - Brenda Jones
On our way back, Bob and Linda took time to educate all passengers on conservation, on the vital nature of marshes, and briefly to tell us of ‘eagling’ aboard in winter… In another season, enthusiasts can seek out bald eagles with Linda and Bob along the Maurice (pronounced ‘Morris’) River, aboard the Skimmer: http://www.skimmer.com/bald.htm
Ironically, however, we were not treated to black skimmers on our voyage. Only at dawn the next morning, in a downpour, did I find diamond-shaped squadrons of these dapper black-and-white shorebirds, arrowing in from the full sea to the beach before our motel. They move as one organism, flashing white, then black, moving now this way, now that. Only when some inescapable signal has been given and received does the entire troupe arrest, descend. I watched long through silvery raindrops, bright beaks welcome on a sodden morning.
Cape May and Venice share one last similarity. They are so completely different in every way from everything we have come to see as normal. Trucks and highways, cell towers and phones, chain restaurants and traffic lights, green overhead highway signs, exit-mentality. Everything that we absorb as heedlessly as an amoeba surrounds grit suddenly becomes the stuff of nightmares in these watery sisters.
What is real is curtains billowing in a sea breeze; a black wing and an orange beak bisecting a waterway, intensified and doubled as are these two cities by their fluid mirrors. Infused by storied pasts, both cities tremble always on the brink of possibility.
Skimming Over Cape May, Brenda Jones
Dike Road to Infinity, by Sharon Olds, Brigantine/Forsythe Wildlife Refuge
Multiple Views to South, Brigantine/Forsythe — Sharon Olds
See bottom of article re this week’s osprey chick rescue, thanks to Citizens United, re Fortescue on Delaware Bayshores. If any of you are at ‘the Brig’ this week, I wish you’d report to me in comments on its many osprey nests.
Vigilant Osprey, Brigantine in May, cfe
NJ WILD readers know I used to write nature articles for the Packet, US 1, West Windsor-Plainsboro News, Jersey Sierran and New Jersey Countryside magazine. For the magazine, an article,”Pinelands by Secret Roads”, was accompanied by a ‘box’ with the following information concerning birding gear.
If you’re nature-starved, as I am, as America fries this climate-changed July, one ideal jaunt is the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, also called Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, at Smithville, north of Atlantic City. It’s ideal in this heat-wave because you can, in fact - for the birds’ sake, are encouraged to, STAY IN YOUR CAR. You’ll be treated to rarities, from my most recent first sandhill-crane spotting to migratory flocks, –yes, certain long-legged shorebirds already flocking, to these protected reaches crucial to the Atlantic Flyway.
‘The Brig’ provides a shimmering eight-mile excursion, taken at 10 to 15 mph, along dike roads between impoundments of varying salinities. The waters are managed so that aquatic plants can grow which provide nourishment and shelter for specific species of water birds. ‘The Brig’ is particularly significant in spring and fall migration (the latter of which starts now.)
Across Absecon Bay, Atlantic City rises like Atlantis, and sometimes mercifully disappears in fog or blizzard… remember blizzards? Next to it is the inexplicable ever-whirring wind farm, smack in the middle of birds’ essential flyways.
Great Egret taking off at Brigantine, by Brenda Jones
Let Atlantic City jolt you into remembering the urgency of land preservation in our state.
Besides being beautiful, ‘The Brig’ is healthy and safe for birds on their critical journeys. It will provide ideal habitat for you, too, in what Europeans call ‘The Dog Days.’ Turn them into ‘The Bird Days’ and watch rare shorebirds, ducks, waders and brilliant fliers such as the northern harrier, from the air-conditioned comfort of your car.
Even in the car, however, staying hydrated is key. The hiker’s maxim is, “A pint an hour under 90; a quart an hour, over.”
Snowy Egret feeding at Brigantine, by Brenda Jones
When you are birding outdoors - the norm - (although I can now find the Princeton eagles from my car), here is the list of gear requested by New Jersey Countryside Magazine:
(the idea is comfort, safety and information/knowledge)
Binoculars or monocular; scope, if your lucky. Light-gathering optics are ideal in early light and last…
Guidebooks: Roger Tory Peterson’s, Audubon Guides, all David Allen Sibley
Water: 1 pt./hour under 90 degrees; 1 quart/hr. over
Hat with beak (hides our eyes from the birds, remember – we appear to them as predators); hat also essential where ticks abide, as they can drop from trees. Hat crucial in searing heat.
Muted clothing that does not rustle or squeak
Wind jacket, wind pants useful to have on hand - but that’s more crucial in winter birding.
Comfortable supportive water-resistant shoes/boots
“Wicking” socks with special padding at heel and foot
Long sleeves, left down (re ticks/Lyme disease)
Long pants tucked in to high socks (ditto)
Excellent insect repellant
Good regional maps - the best is available at Marilyn Schmidt’s Buzby’s General Store, at crossroads of 532 and 563 in Chatsworth, the heart of the Pine Barrens. My dear friend, Marilyn designed and publishes this map of South Jersey/Pinelands, and it’s taught me everything I know about back roads. Her shop is full of guides to birds, plants, foods, lingo, history, churches and gravestones, the Jersey Devil, and so forth. It is also for sale, so here’s your chance to leave hurly-burly behind and live in an historic haven. (It’s on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.)
BIRDING SITES in Pinelands
Brigantine, Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge
Route 47 around Goshen for eagles
Whitesbog bogs for herons, egrets, willets; winter’s tundra swans and snow geese
BEGINNER BIRDS to look for in the Pinelands
Great blue heron – tall, gangly, blue-grey, wades in water, swallows fish and other prey alive, head first
Egrets – rangy, tall, graceful, similar to herons, also wade, also swallow fish whole
Osprey – “fish hawk”– masked, look for untidy osprey nests on platforms; dives, grasps prey in talons, flies off with it, often carries to mate, to chicks, good luck to see “osprey packing a lunch”
Red-tailed hawk – raptor of edges – likes tall trees, broad fields, high flight and strong ‘stoops’ (swoops onto prey) look for sunlight in red tail
Brant – goose-like, elegant, black with white necklace, lovely murmuring sound
Ducks – every color, size, shape and variety at Brig and Smithville ponds, year-round
Osprey in flight, by Brenda Jones
FROM CITIZENS UNITED:
Sometimes your day doesn’t go quite as planned. For Brian Johnson, CU member and Preserve Manager at the Natural Land Trust’s Glades Wildlife Refuge, today was one of those days.
Last night’s high winds led to reports of downed osprey nests in Fortescue which led to a flurry of phone calls and emails, and Brian happened to be closest to the action. He found the fallen natural nest, slogged over 800 yards through the marsh on foot, and was able to retrieve two healthy medium sized chicks. Working with others, Brian identified two foster nests, where he skillfully relocated the birds to new families.
Brian has offered to keep an eye on the nest, as this pair of adults has a propensity to build too large. He can downsize it when they are wintering in South America. We aren’t sure who is responsible for this nest but are thrilled with Brian’s willingness to help.
Many thanks to those who helped on the ground and with ideas and information, especially Ben Wurst of Conserve Wildlife Foundation, who provided a great deal of guidance. As it happened, Jane Morton Galetto was at an Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee meeting when she recieved word from CU Trustee Tony Klock who had read about the fallen nests on Facebook in a post by CU member Steve Byrne. Jane conferred about fostering the birds to other nests with Kathy Clark of the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife and Veterinarian Erica Miller of Tri State Bird Rescue, also a CU member, who were at the same meeting. Tony remained in contact with Brian as he rescued the birds and helped identify foster nests.
Thank you for your heroic efforts, Brian, and thanks again to all involved.
WHEN FAR IS NEAR:
April Scenes An Hour or So from Princeton
GO WITH FRIENDS
SHARE THE GAS
APPRECIATE NEW JERSEY
AND ALL OF THESE PRESERVED!
Beach Where Piping Plovers Will Soon Nest
Cape May Easter 2011
Reading Richard Louv’s newest book, “The Nature Principle”, on the reunion of humans with nature, I come across a phrase that describes all these years of NJ WILD for the Princeton Packet: NEAR IS THE NEW FAR.
Constable Scene - Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach
This is the week I’ve first seen gas at $4 per gallon for regular, the week a friend paid $54 to fill her tank at a reasonable station.
Bluebell Enchantment April 30, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
All along, I’ve been insisting, New Jersey is rich in nearby natural beauty. Maybe now, everyone will listen. Adventure, remember, is right around the corner.
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is just across our beloved Delaware River, in Bucks County, just below New Hope.
Trillium/Bluebell Apotheosis - Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve today
Island Beach is less than 100 miles from here, just below Bay Head, Mantoloking and Lavalette.
Surf Fisherman, Bay Head, NJ - yesterday
Sandy Hook is just over a new bridge from Atlantic Highlands.
Tasha O’Neill and I in Bahrs (Restaurant) Window Across Bay from Sandy Hook -
two weeks ago
Each offers something rare, something I require - land’s end. Above all, Cape May is land’s end, for humans and for birds in migration. Even the Cape May Bird Observatory is under 100 miles from my door. I do all as day trips, but stayed this time in Cape May at the dear Jetty Motel - from which we can walk the beach at low tide to Cape May Lighthouse and the Hawk Watch Platform.
When we climbed these steps, ospreys were everywhere, fishing madly.
Kettles of vultures swirled overhead.
Kettles of vultures swirled overhead
one mute swan settled onto her nest in the reeds
full breeding plumage of one great egret lofted on the wind
and one peregrine zoomed
The peregrine falcon is the symbol of my April - for peregrinations are wanderings. Short nearby nature journeys restore the soul, as I’ve written and written. Richard Louv repeats and repeats this mantra. Nature is no luxury. It is essential. The wild is neither remote nor extraneous. It, too, is essential. You can find wild nature in this state in a matter of minutes - even right along our Towpath. But a sense of adventure remains imperative.
Wouldn’t you think I’d been far, far from here? Instead:
Lenni Lenape Ancient Dugout Canoe
behind Bahrs Restaurant, on hem of Sandy Hook
wouldn’t you think I’d've been down South to find this sign last Friday?
FIRST ASPARAGUS OF THE SEASON
CAPE MAY COUNTY
We bought the asparagus from a woman who’d just picked it an hour ago on her farm.
Farmstand of Asparagus, Sweet Potatoes and Hydrangeas
Simple Seaside Supper at the Jetty Motel
New Friends Near Barnegat Bay, Island Beach - yesterday
New Fiddleheads Unfurl in Freshwater Pond near Ocean, Island Beach
Hopper Scene, Island Beach
Lobsterman’s Relic - Barnegat Bayshore, Island Beach
Island Beach is a true barrier beach, never built upon, pruned only by sea winds sometimes laden with salt, sand and/or snow. History is everywhere there - fishermen, brigands, frigates, smugglers, Indians gathering clams, early whalers - as in Cape May. Silence reigns at Island Beach. True Pine Barrens plants burgeon. Ferns unfurl magically in fresh peat water, only yards from the tumultuous ocean.
New Jersey WILD
On all of these nearby nature adventures, the spirit is renewed.
Majestic Trillium, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, this morning
Christmas Eve Gifts, Cape May
NJ WILD readers know that I have to flee holidays which had been jewels in our family crown, in our Braeburn years. An ever-rewarding site for these flights is Cape May, especially at Christmas.
I am eager to share images from my recent three nights there, indeed Silent Nights! Many forms of magic were mine in that quiet place at the tip of New Jersey — worth even being the only car (other than one policeman, until Atlantic City area) on all four Northbound and Southbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway yesterday.
Well, I’m always praising and blessing our Garden State - so how could that drive have been anything but blessed. I moved out of the southern storm, over into my beloved Pine Barrens, where snow turned from cornmeal to Wondra flour to nothing at all - and home before OUR Nor’easter began.
Feeling triumphant, like a mountainclimber, my car the only one bedecked in the ermine of snow on the northern half of my journey.
Enjoy the storybook quality of my Cape May Wanderings, in electrifying seaside light and, yes, gale-force winds.
Typical Cape May Welcome
Here I was given what I hadn’t realized I deeply needed: time-travel. Time itself marches to a different drummer, in Cape May.
HOW TO CREATE HAPPY VISITORS, CAPE MAY
‘My’ Dear Jetty Motel, at the Sea, Wreathed for Christmas, 09 - Welcomed Me Again 2010
Pilot House, Garlanded for Christmas
DOUBLE CHRISTMAS, CAPE MAY
Breakfast, Lunch, etc., Cape May
NJ WILD readers know I am no shopper. However, there may be no more enticing place to shop than the pedestrian-dedicated roads that led from my Congress Hall superb lunch, out into December’s dazzle last week. I was disappointed for the first time in Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, on many levels - should’ve gone to George’s across the road, where the locals hang out and even an absolute stranger is welcomed like a neighbor.
I’m also no fan of Dickens — too grim, life’s grim enough. Yet, inexplicably, there were scenes with a timelessness I could only describe as Dickensian — [explanations welcome].
SEE WHAT I MEAN?!
Storybook Shoppes of Cape May
No, I actually didn’t shop - unless you call collecting images ’shopping’. I was pretty greedy, beauty-wise. But Cape May never disappoints my insatiable quests for the aesthetically memorable. Even the stacked chairs were stunning:
Restored Congress Hall — Surpassed Gastronomic Memories and Expectations
Named for the eras when Presidents fled the miasma of Washington D.C. in summertime, for their own health and that of their families — for Cape May’s healthy breezes, Congress Hall is remarkably restored, and gratifyingly successful in its ‘new incarnation’. My first lunch in quality, beauty and service was so spectacular that I returned there all three days, including Christmas Dinner.
Radiant Christmas Turkey, beside Trimmed Real Tree, near Fireplace at Congress Hall
Let’s face it, Nature is the reason I drove to our very own Land’s End. And it did not disappoint!
Mother Nature’s Christmas Decorations
First Two Days’ Gale:
Cape May Gale
Interestingly, my first Cape May days this year were either naturalist’s hell or naturalist’s paradise, depending on the naturalist. 41-mph wind gusts were the norm. Even so, there was such exhilaration in being by the sea, in December, out on the sands, geared and goggled and booted and not spurred, but carrying my colleague, Bill Rawlyk’s splendid Zeiss binoculars. Dark shapes huddled on Lily Lake, next to the Cape May Bird Observatory, shapes which metamorphosed into Canada geese, mallards, then hooded mergansers(!) and my first scaups, probably lesser - but either way, so vivid, even startling. If I hadn’t made a return visit to this church-by-the-sea, of last year’s Christmas flight, I’d not have found myself circling the lake which held so many winged gifts.
Christmas Eve Church by the Sea, 
Churches, of course, cradle the meaning of Christmas. My church, however, as NJ WILD readers know, is outdoors.
Silent Night, Holy Night, Cape May
Last year, they hadn’t even shoveled the Hawk Watch Platform. We risked life and limb to go in search of a few winged creatures in that impossible glaze.
Not Even Shoveled –
This year, it was bone dry at the Platform, but also fully lacking anything on the wing the first two days. My third visit held a Christmas miracle of the first order, and I don’t expect anyone to believe me.
Because I had Bill Rawlyk’s Zeiss binoculars in hand, I swept that empty sky. Suddenly my gaze was arrested by a design like DNA/RNA against the clouds. Very flat, very dark, broad raptors, a full thirty of them, without once flapping even a feather, rode thermals higher and higher and higher until completely out of view. Nearly as flat as bald eagles, and too high to check the characteristic ’slight dihedral’, exhibiting their characteristic ‘flight’, although not strictly speaking flying, I may have ‘had’ a kettle (swirling mass riding thermals) of golden eagles. More in that one encounter than in my whole life put together. I’ll never know, because, as so often outdoors in Cape May in winter, I was alone. But not alone. By no means alone. Whatever those serene and steady thermal riders may have been, I was in sacred company.
Day’s End, Land’s End, Christmas, Cape May
Brenda Jones Immortalizes Moonlight Migration of Geese
I should apologize to NJ WILD readers. For, impassioned as I am about our New Jersey, I am not Thoreau, not Leopold, not Beston, let alone the redoubtable John Muir. I need all their gifts to convince most people that New Jersey is worthy of constant nature exploration and preservation. I need their inspiration, to say nothing of their eloquence, as I ponder the miracle of autumn migration through and from our state.
In my ‘other life’, I spent summers in a small cottage in Chatham, Mass., where rare birds came to us. The insistent questions of my daughters led to my buying and seriously memorizing the first Peterson’s Guide (to the birds).
Every August, as shore birds begin to move South, I am reminded of our Chatham life. Without it, I’d not have turned into birder or amateur (”avocational”, in the words of Packet Editor Michael Redmond naturalist. I miss our daily strides — at least one and sometimes three–, to Harding’s Beach Light.
We’d go at low tide, for the swift-walking pleasure of hard-packed sand. We’d return by the high road, among beach heather and horned larks. Down at the point, among streamlets and packed peat, we’d come across the vivid oystercatchers and hideous but endearing sea robins. We could hold a blue-eyed scallop on a flat palm as we waded, marveling at all those eyes. Then tenderly tuck him back into lapping waters, where he’d would squirt brilliantly away. I miss tough Scrabble by firelight, moonlit wading, reading while Hudsonian Godwits tiptoes around our beach towels. I miss my most expected young love, a bard, himself, who added lustre the Cape never required. I miss staying up there alone in a hurricane so I could learn what it’s like. (That one turned out to be wilder after the storm, than during.)
Henry Beston’s Cape Cod Cottage Before Blizzard of ‘78
When this mood comes upon me, I have to re-read Henry Beston. The girls and I would make pilgrimage each year to his weathered Outermost House at Nauset - [until the blizzard of 78, that is, washed it into true outermostness.]
Beston managed what I longed to do, to see the seasons round on that upraised arm out into the North Atlantic, experience Mother Nature at her most sublime and often furious.
Right now, he was doing what I’d be doing then, as I lengthened our stays into September — watching bird migration. Chatham taught us curlews and phalaropes, immature common eiders and long-tailed jaegers. On our beach I learned how furiously crows protest the presence of eagle.
Eagle Intent, by Brenda Jones
Henry writes, “Early in September, Hudsonian curlews arrived at the Eastham Marsh. To see them, I began going to Nauset through the meadows, rather than by the beach.” He could hear them “calling, each to each”, as Eliot has written of mermaids. “And then there would be silence,” Henry Beston notes. “And I would hear the sound of autumn and the world.”
He writes of the first of the warblers, an invasion of juncos, a ’sparrow hawk’s’ successful capture and devouring of one of the latter.
Watching these arrivals, Beston wonders “where it was that she forsook her familiar earth for the grey ocean, an ocean she perhaps had never seen. What a gesture of ancient faith and present courage such a flight is, what a defiance of circumstance and death — land wing and hostile see, the fading land behind, the unknown and the distant articulate and imperious in the bright arterial blood.” He names and treasures all the sparrows, then announces, “Mid-October and the land birds have gone.”
Barrow’s Goldeneye in Flight over Delaware River by Brenda Jones
Beston goes into raptures over what comes next: “Now come the sea fowl, and the wild fowl to the beach, from the lonely and darkening north… Over the round of earth, down from the flattened summit, pour the living stream, bearing south the tribes and gathered nations, the flocks and families… There are many streams [of migrant birds], and it is said that two of the greatest bear down on Cape Cod.” He goes on with his watery image, inevitable upon that spit of sand he then called home: “These streams immix their multitudes, and south to New England moves the great united flood, peopling with primeval life the seacoasts and the sky.”
In these very weeks, when you are driving about in New Jersey, keep a sharp eye on the skies and on wires, where migrants are staging for migration. Attune your ears — song you have not heard since spring breeding season may recur in your yard, as has the peewee here this week. Waken on purpose in the middle of the night, ears as well as eyes to the sky. Most non-raptors migrate at night, filling the airwaves and radar that tracks them, with the music of their passage. Beston also dares to reveal, “I hear birds talking.”
Tune your ears to absences, as well. I haven’t heard the miraculous towhees who successfully bred on my hill, not for a number of weeks.
Oystercatcher at Barnegat Light, Brenda Jones
If you can get yourself down to the Delaware Bayshore, look not only up but out, over the reeds and phragmites that fringe South Jersey rivers. Swallows and purple martins by the YES hundreds of thousands float/drop in just before sundown. Evening after evening, these blue-black relatives will bend the reeds, then ‘do a flycatcher’ out for one last insect before dark. Any day now, they’ll all lift off in a blue-black river, coursing southward, southward.
Brenda’s Swallowtail on Purple Loostrife
You’ve seen them, but do you know what they’re up to, the butterflies? The yellow tiger swallowtails and the ubiquitous but so endangered monarchs (by genetically engineered crops involving poisons that murder their caterpillars.) They’re setting out for regions beyond belief, Mexico among their winter havens. In Cape May and at the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House at the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, I have watched delicate volunteers weigh and band monarchs before the impossible journey. Weight, gender and a site code are entered on minuscule tags that do not interfere with flight. These experts teach us much we could not know, including the fact that the females have thicker dark stripes, to keep the eggs warm. To Henry Beston suddenly realizes that “the strangest and most beautiful of the migrations over the dunes was not a movement of birds at all, but of butterflies.”
Henry did not have to fret as we do this year, over ceaseless drought that has made nectar scarce, nectar needed for their voyage.
Let alone dread that the travelers will land in oiled marshes, where they need to buttress themselves nutritionally for their long flights to Mexico and South America.
I cannot summon words effective enough to convey my passion for New Jersey and all her treasures, especially what the Lenni Lenapes called ‘The Winged’ in these autumnal days and nights. You’ll just have to go out there and see for yourselves. Then write ME about it.
Henry and Henry and Aldo and John, I salute your miraculous ways with words!
not news to NJ WILD readers:
“…approaching tipping points”
“cumulative impacts of multiple
CAPE MAY - WHAT WE STAND TO LOSE FIRST [cfe]
For several months now, books I’ve taken out of the Princeton Public Library have centered upon catastrophic climate change. This just out, via Science Magazine, echoes everything I’m reading, the pages of notes I’m inscribing.
We cannot remain ostriches. It’s not just the oil in the Gulf. The ocean — our amniotic fluid—is being destroyed. Never forget that the oceans spawn air currents, their temperatures launch hurricanes and cyclones, the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream moderates temperatures in the northernmost sections of Britain and Europe, and is thawing polar ice.
This isn’t ‘just’ about water.
At least NJ WILD readers will be informed.
We have turned the planet into the Titanic, and captain and crew are saying, “What iceberg?”
Instead of optimism, I MUST say, “Be worried. Be Very Worried.”
Previous NJ WILD posts cover what one can do.
Be that 1.
Buy planet-friendly appliances and bulbs
PROTEST increasing addiction to dirty coal
Science Daily, June 19 2010 reports on the effects
of climate change upon the world’s oceans:
now changing at a rate not seen for several
The growing atmospheric concentrations of man-
made ‘greenhouse gases’ are driving irreversible,
dramatic changes to the way the ocean functions,
with potentially dire impacts for hundreds of
millions of people across the planet.”
[how tragic that they only mention humans!]
two of the world’s leading marine scientists,
one from University of Queensland, Australia;
one from University of North Carolina, Chapel
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the
report and Director of The University of
Queensland’s Global Change Institute, says the
findings have enormous implications for mankind,
particularly if the trend continues.
He said that Earth’s ocean is equivalent to its
heart and lungs. “
Quite plainly, the Earth cannot do without its
This study reveals worrying signs of ill health.
“It’s as though the Earth has been smoking two
packs of cigarettes a day!”
[for a very long time, and it already has cancer,
metastasizing at our hands, at our indifference]
He went on to say, “We are entering a period in
which the very ocean services upon which
humanity depends are undergoing massive change
and in some cases beginning to fail,”
“Further degradation will continue to create
enormous challenges and costs for societies
He warned that we may soon see “sudden,
unexpected changes that have serious
ramifications for the overall well-being of
including the capacity of the planet to support
“This is further evidence that we are well on the
way to the next great extinction event.”
[the extinction you witness may be our own...]
The “fundamental and comprehensive” changes to
marine life identified in the report include rapidly
warming and acidifying oceans, changes in water
circulation and expansion of dead zones within
the ocean depths.
These are driving major changes in marine
ecosystems: less abundant coral reefs, sea grasses
and mangroves (important fish nurseries); fewer,
smaller fish; a breakdown in food chains; changes
in the distribution of marine life; and more
frequent diseases and pests among marine
Report co-author, Dr John F. Bruno, an Associate
Professor at The University of North Carolina, says
greenhouse gas emissions are modifying many
physical and geochemical aspects of the planet’s
oceans, in ways “unprecedented in nearly a million
“This is causing fundamental and comprehensive
changes to the way marine ecosystems function,”
Dr Bruno said.
“We are becoming increasingly certain that the
world’s marine ecosystems are approaching
These tipping points are where change accelerates
and causes unrelated impacts on other systems,
the results of which we really have no power or
model to foresee.”
The authors conclude: “These challenges
underscore the urgency with which world leaders
must act to limit further growth of greenhouse
gases and thereby reduce the risk of these events’
Ignoring the science is not an option.”
The above story is reprinted (with editorial
adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Global Change Institute.