Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category
Cormorants Swim Where Brenda Jones and I Birded By Car…
NJ WILD readers know, if they know anything about me, how precious is the birding refuge, ‘The Brig’, A.K.A. Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge to me, as a birder, and far more profoundly, as a spiritual being.
It’s where I restore myself when “the world is too much with me”, more and more frequently these days. Far more important than I, however, ‘The Brig’ is a key stopover on the Atlantic Flyway, rich in rarities at all times. Perhaps never more precious than in winter, when winged creatures elsewhere can be scarce.
Duck Flight Before Storm, Brenda Jones
Everyone also knows that un-hurricaned Sandy destroyed great swathes of our beloved New Jersey’s three coastlines, especially The Shore, especially at and in and near Atlantic City.
One of the eeriest factors of being at ‘The Brig’ is that you see all those gambling towers through the migrant flocks. My happiest times at ‘The Brig’ are when I can’t see Atlantic City, because of fog or whatever.
I have been down at the Brig in fire, fog and ice. I can never believe that anyone would rather be in those towering prisons of glass, those cacophonous, frenzied places, rather than in the seamless peace of the marshy reaches of The Brigantine.
Great Egret, Great Peace of Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, Brenda Jones
I can’t drive it’s dike road any more, because it has been severed by uncategorized-storm-Sandy.
Cormorants swim where I used to bird by car.
All those carefully managed impoundments with their specific salinities, to nourish certain aquatic plants and shelter and feed certain waterfowl, are fouled. The Bay, –Absecon Bay, whatever its salinity in the storm and ever since–, has surged in. The Brig, as we know it, is no more.
Grebe Swallowing Frog, Brigantine Wildlife Refuge December Drama — Anne Zeman
I’m going down there for Christmas, ‘come hell or high water’. Certain walking trails are open, and birds don’t watch the Weather Channel. I’ll check out Leed’s Point, where the Jersey Devil was purportedly born and which thrives as a tiny old-world fishing village, at least until Sandy. Herons frequently soar in and land on Leed’s Point pilings. I’ll drive the bumpy sand road to and from Scott’s Landing, always remembering encountering hunters with their ‘bag’ of bloodied snow geese there, late one autumn. Odd, I’ve never read a recipe for snow goose. How neatly they were lined up along the sand… below the targets, silhouettes that teach hunters the differences among birds on the wing at various distances.
Snow Geese In Flight, Brenda Jones
How Snow Geese Look when they hear shots…. cfe
In the meantime, this is some of ‘The Brig’s’ reality. God KNOWS what’s happened at my other major havens - Island Beach, south of ruined Bay Head, Mantoloking, Seaside and so forth, and Sandy Hook, up by the Highlands and too many rivers….
Serenity and Tumult, Bay Head, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
NJ WILD BEAUTY, ISLAND BEACH Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Pristine Barnegat Bay, which rose to meet the Atlantic… Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Winter Realities, Normal Sandy Hook, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Sandy Hook, Bay Side, After a Hard Winter Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Brigantine Serenity from Leed’s Eco-Trail Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Cloudscape, Summer, Brigantine Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Glossy Ibis and Marsh Mallow’s First Bloom, Brigantine Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Update as of Friday, December 7 at 10 a.m.: The Wildlife Drive in Galloway remains closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Songbird Trail, including the portion that uses the Wildlife Drive, will be closed December 10 through 14 due to a refuge hunt. Other hiking trails in Galloway are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, including the Akers Woodland Trail, Leed’s Eco-trail, and foot access to Gull Pond Tower.
The Visitor Information Center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.weekends. All fees have been temporarily waived.
Scott’s Landing Boat Launch is open. Barnegat Observation Platform is open. The deCamp Wildlife Trail in Brick Township is open for the first 2000 feet. Holgate remains closed.
The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats are actively protected and managed for migratory birds. Forsythe is one of more than 500 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. Units of the system stretch across the United States from northern Alaska to the Florida Keys, and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The character of the Refuges is as diverse as the nation itself.
Wish me well on my Christmas pilgrimage. Far More Important, wish the birds well no matter man’s depredations.
Do whatever you can, wherever you are, even in those 90 countries who, for some reason, read NJ WILD about our dear state, to preserve refuges in your region.
And pay attention to catastrophic climate change. It’s no myth. It’s not a subject for believe. We have seen, to borrow the Pogo line, catastrophic climate change, and it is us.
What Sandy did was dress rehearsal. Sandy scrawled the signature of inevitable sea level rise for all the world to see. Sandy was not a one-time event. Sea level rise will not undo itself, as do hurricanes in time. Although not in damage.
Our world is changed forever.
Sandy didn’t change it.
What are you doing about it?
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.
SEEKING CHRISTMAS IN NEW JERSEY
Little Caboose That Could, Bordentown, (from the Christmas of 2009)
With rain pelting down, highways clogged, people on either side of cash registers surly, I cannot help but ask, “But, where is Christmas?” One thing I have always known - Christmas is not at the malls. This time of year, we can change that spelling to ‘The Mauls’. I must go searching for Christmas, and right now, in NJ:
Baubles of Yesterday - Mystery Destination, NJ
I have searched for Christmas before: Married, with daughters, my Swiss husband and I would travel in quest of Christmas, seeking to evade the mercantile, to recapture sweet, even tender Christmases of his childhood and mine. Some of the most memorable:
Carolers in sleighs at Waterville Valley. Snow sifting down upon their down jackets. Swiss chocolates and quaint gilt-trimmed, native-Swiss-scened Christmas cards upon our pillows when we came in from Midnight Mass. Snow and sweetness everywhere.
Walking Aspen streets to the scent of woodsmoke, mountain stream singing that year’s carols outside our town condominium. Red and gold vintage popcorn wagon, spilling white kernels, while an ink-sky spilled the next day’s powder. In restaurants , firelight on copper, warmth in every welcome.
“Froeliche Weinachten!” – the (non-written) Swiss language wish for a blessed Christmas, mingling with “Au Guri” in Italian and Happy St. Stephen’s Day, (more important than New Year’s) in the Christmas-card town of Zermatt, [where Werner was right at home at last, but which he'd never visited until we found it in 1964.]
But this is New Jersey. Where do we go to find Christmas here? (Not to celebrate Christmas - that’s another story, to be told), but to feel it?
Where better than a town whose residents helped give us two Trenton and one Princeton victories for Christmas in 1776 and 1777, whose residents gave us and continued to nourish Independence?
My simple nearby answer - Bordentown. Where everything still breathes of long ago.
My Christmas recipe calls for a very large dose of history; an aura of peace; warmth of welcome; and sparkly diversions I find nowhere else. It is enhanced by vintage bookstores, and art galleries and purveyors of jewelry of other days. My Christmas always involves feasting, — easy, relaxed, memorable, casual or opulent, even reasonable, in Bordentown.
Bordentown’s Bon Appetit - The Storied Farnsworth House
In Bordentown, history peals forth like Christmas bells.
Bell of Bordentown
NJ Wild readers know, I crave above all Revolutionary history. Thomas Paine is the Revolutionary of choice in Bordentown. This is the only place anywhere in the world, in which the man whom the Founding Fathers credited with forging the Spirit of ‘76 ever owned property.
Thomas Paine Statue, High on a Bordentown Hill, where we lost a Revolutionary Battle
Rights of Man - Jefferson Credits This Book with The Spirit of ‘76
Patience Wright - Sculptress - Lived Here
America’s first sculptress, who took her 1700’s fame and sailed to London where she perpetuated her fame, increased her skill and success. Her son, Joseph, became a renowned painter. One Patience Wright sign suggests she may have been a spy… In which case, she, also, secured the rights of man.
Bordentown’s Restorations are Stunning, Even When Trees are Bare
Cleaved Bonaparte Tree and Architectural Dig, Point Breeze
Strolling Bordentown’s brick sidewalks (I convince myself each brick came from the brickworks at the nearby Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh, where I love to hike and bird, especially after new snowfall.) Charles Lucien Bonaparte, –when he lived on the Bluffs above the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh–, discovered and named new species in the Marsh. He would send news of such creatures as the mourning dove, named for his wife, Zenaide, and the Cooper’s hawk to scientific colleagues all over Europe. His species discoveries, and who knows what from that consummate politician, his Uncle Joseph, traveled under sail, from the confluence of the Delaware River and the Crosswicks Creek, at Bordentown.
View of the Confluence of our Delaware River and the Crosswicks Creek
From Bordentown’s River Line Train Station
Here lived a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Frances Hopkinson, who also created the Great Seal of New Jersey, and his son, Joseph, who wrote Hail Columbia.
Frances and Joseph Hopkinson House
Here Clara Barton founded her free school, the tiny building still crowning a triangle of land not far from Jester’s Cafe.
Clara Barton’s School
Jester’s Cafe, a Warm Welcome In All Seasons
Warm Welcome of Summer
Venerable Bricks: Quaker Meeting House
Quaker Meeting House, with early Bordentown mural on side wall hidden here in shadow
Old Bordentown Mural near Quaker Meeting House
Nearby is the Point Breeze land on top of the Bordentown Bluffs, where Napoleon ordered his brother Joseph, former King of Spain and of Naples, to live but not to rule, because so convenient to Philadelphia, New York and Europe, under sail.
View from the Bonaparte Estate, Point Breeze
Next to the Farnsworth House is the impressive John Bull memorial, first steam engine in America, which pulled the legendary Camden and Amboy Railroad across Farnsworth Avenue — the railroad that carried Abraham Lincoln to his Inauguration and his grave. See what I mean about gliding through time’s veil?
Please, Santa? Bordentown for Christmas….
River Line Trenton Sign (Trenton is one stop north — through the Marsh)
This Way to Camden and Walt Whitman’s House
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
Olga Sergyeyeva’s Fine Art Photography evokes my beloved D&R Canal and Towpath.
Olga Sergyeyeva’s Masterpieces evoke autumn along my “Dear Canal and Towpath”:
Here is a poem which Rich Rein, founder of US 1 Newspaper, published when they honored me with an entire calendar (2006) of my canal and towpath photographs. They were slides — remember slides? So I cannot add those images to this post. But I can give you the culminating poem - perhaps the first - to grace a US 1 Calendar.
I have lived beside you
into you, my tears have dropped
walked out to where it seemed I saw
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
As a child, a favorite in my Childcraft book of children’s poetry, had to do with, guess what! - nature. The American robin was the not-very-imaginative state bird of my Michigan. So this ‘jingle’ really spoke to me back then, in little Lathrup Village, near Detroit:
The north wind doth blow
and we shall have snow
And what will the robin do then,
But sit in the barn
to keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing
And what does the cardinal do ‘then’, do when north winds increasingly take over our world? A very brief answer from Brenda Jones is:
Brenda Jones Finds Cardinal Puffed Up for Winter
One of the most amusing/diverting/compelling aspects of my late-life hobby of birding is that one is always/always learning. Just when you get all the colors down, a first-year bird shows up and throws you back into uncertainty. Black-capped chickadee calls were easily mastered, and then the Carolina chickadee moved north with its more nervous vocalizations. Shapes were pretty much early in my learning process, for some reason. But, as you may have noticed, shape tends to change significantly on cold, let alone winter-windy days. Puffing their feathers adds air to down as ideal insulation.
Scenes I couldn’t get out of car in storm to capture yesterday…
[Images from Pre-Christmas Solo Trip Through Pine Barrens]
After the Cranberry Harvest, 2010 cfe
Who would’ve thunk it — that my long-planned rendezvous with a fellow poet and her husband in the Pine Barrens would be compromised by snow?!
I finally made the executive decision that this wasn’t about weather - it was about friendship. Off I went to breakfast by 9 at the Bakery in Smithville, with these friend who had driven all the way from Connecticut to learn the Barrens and the Brig (Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge), almost literally ‘come hell or high water.’
Autumn Cranberry Harvest Full Swing, Chatsworth cfe
Snow plunked itself all around me, beginning at the 206/70 Traffic Circle, a.k.a., Red Lion. Pinelands legends have it that the ‘red lion’ was the catamount/panther, before we extinguished that member of NJ “charismatic megafauna”. Word has it that these ‘mountain lions’ have been heard and seen in nearby Montgomery, “but that’s another story!”
Lee Cranberry Bogs above Chatsworth, November cfe
Driving to Sharon and Bill, even before that snow began, rain had fallen blinding and deafening as a blizzard. Fog along 295 had been was denser than all we’d experienced during “The King’s Speech.” I’d groused, blinking as though to banish all that obscurity, “In these conditions, we wouldn’t be able to see an albatross!” Of all things, the first of our many exchanges at table was a copy of The Hackensack Riverkeeper newsletter, which fell open to an albatross… [These sorts of events are becoming more and more the norm - I refuse to relegate them to the realm of coincidence. ]
The last time I’d set out to bird Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, we went from snowdrops by the hundreds to snow geese in the tens of thousands - only a few weeks ago. That is very late for snow geese. What looked like drifts upon drifts upon sand had been snow geese. The snow drops had still been blooming, as I left Princeton, yesterday. Conclusion — snowdrops are not signs of spring, rather of the possibility of spring. Maybe they’d also presaged snow geese… (yes - 1000’s still on Brigantine grasslands, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)
En route, as rain gave way to snow and back again, the possibility kept rising of my having to turn around. I dreaded the storm’s development into my December 26th Pine Barrens journey north - first of our ceaseless blizzards. My new baseline - “Well, it could be worse. It could be the December 26 blizzard.”
Thinking of trying to justify this journey, I kept asking myself, “Why the Pine Barrens? What is their lure/allure? What do they do for you that a good book doesn’t do? That no other place in New Jersey quite does?”
Haines Bog Pump House Near Chatsworth cfe
Part of their miracle is that here, people still live (as in parts of my beloved Normandy, Brittany and Cornwall), by the seasons and the tides.
Part of the miracle is that the Pine Barrens look like Northern Michigan. Only we never dared drive to the upper part of the Lower Peninsula, let alone the Upper Peninsula in winter. What I love about Pinelands journeying is that, from the moment I turn onto Carranza Road toward Tabernacle from 206, sand sifts below row upon row of evergreens. To attain this wonder in Michigan would take an entire day! It’s 80 miles for me to the restoration of Pinelands sands…
The farther I progressed, the more I could not consider turning ’round, leaving the beauty that lines Pine Barrens roads. The miracle of being the sole car in sight for mile after mile after mile is also forever food for this poet’s soul.
At the Chatsworth Volunteer Fire Station, I pulled off and wrote lines upon lines of the colors and scenes. I used the only piece of paper at hand - gas station receipt from back at that snow-drenched traffic circle. ($3.35 - not bad!) But I wrote all over the figures - who CARES!
Cranberries Through Flooded Bog, near Chatsworth cfe
What I was asking myself was “Why the Pine Barrens?” Why do you have to return and return, and why do they so restore you, even in weather that had the Weather Channel doing 30-minute live updates? I don’t have the answer. But here are some of the clues.
wind-strafed sand, right beside the road — pale, then increasingly darkened by ’severe weather system’
obsidian trunks of pitch pines, gleaming in downpour
oaks holding tenaciously to tough toasty leaves
petite new pines, tawny against new char of welcome controlled burns
old country lanes with names with real meanings - Heaven’s Way Farm, Farrier, Moss Mill, Mink Path, Miller’s Lane where a real miller lived, the faded sign to the vanished New Gretna House, Allen’s Clam Bar…
bog not cultivated, therefore not flooded, vines the hue of very old, very good port
flooded bogs, waters well over ditches, up to lip of road
nobody else on road, not even a pick-up truck - my ‘Heaven’s Way’
yellow buildings of Lee cranberry growers, red of Haines, generations of excellence and expertise
winter’s palette on all sides - jet black, ochre, palomino, greige
bleached sandlanes angling off, luring into forest primeval - only locals drive on sugar sand
sandtrails eqaually enticing, as covered with rosy-brown pine needles, as my car had been with snow
grasslands below bridge over Mullica River completely drowned - everywhere, everywhere water, and it’s not even full-moon tides
grasses at exit — color of vintage camelhair coats on 50-yard-line at Princeton Games, Palmer Stadium
burgundy accents, then claret, next ruby, always charcoal — intensified by new downpour
peaty pinestreams winkling away to right, to left, color of fresh-hewn slate
“Fresh Eggs for Sale” — “2nd House” — $2.00
silver canoes cheek-by-jowl at Mick’s, waiting as I had been, for actual spring, but now I’m newly in love with winter with these tones
tidy stacks of chunky wood in stocky short pieces, the signs hand-lettered squiggly: “Firewood Campers”
fenced horses staunchly standing, shaking snow mixed with rain from darkening coats
great blue heron, airborne pencil box with pencils (legs) sliding out back, ponderous rowing flight carrying it over full and fishless bogs
no eagle on post where Anne and Mark and I had watched previous Pine Barrens sunset turn white head pink
(and the last shall be first…)
Don’t DARE fall into the pit opened before us hour after hour by the Weather Channel — They would have us decide, “That’s it for global warming!” Worse, they would have us conclude that this winter is the fault of Mother Nature, our enemy!
On the contrary, every book on catastrophic climate change that I have ever read insisted, back in the last century, that melting glaciers because of CO2 emissions will alter ocean temperatures, ocean currents, aligned air currents, weather patterns, and bring us ever more severe storm in terms of quantity and violence of precipitation, and, indeed, in frequency.
It’s not Mother Nature, folks. It’s us!
Why has the author of NJ WILD become a hikeless hermit?
2011 VIEW FROM LIVING ROOM WINDOW
NJ WILD readers must be wondering why I’m not exhorting everyone to GET OUT THERE on winter excursions. You may remember that last year I gave you Brenda Jones’ Fox on Ice (Lake Carnegie), insisting that nature miracles won’t come to you - we have to go to them.
FOX TRACKS BY MY BEDROOM WINDOW
Well, I was wrong. Even though I cannot even OPEN my front door, deer, rabbits and foxes have come close enough to touch.
ANDROMEDA AND THE NIGHT VISITORS:
Below Study Window
I’ve even seen the red fox frolic in new snow, while working at my computer.
But for me, NATURE IS NO SPECTATOR SPORT. I NEED TO BE OUT THERE, breathing the air the creatures breathe. Spirits uplifted by their very wings, their winged gait.
SNOW A FOOT+ HIGH ABOVE STUDY DESK
I don’t believe the scene above, either, and I lived it. Snow outside was so deep that it reached the sill, rising and rising til over a foot in depth. That tall black thing is not a shadow. It’s snow that just kept expanding upwards. These are not drifts. This is snowfall. I can’t go anywhere.
Only the Beginning
In this winter of my discontent, despite living on top of a hill, I have been snowed in to the greatest degree in life memory. Having grown up in Michigan, and spent nearly five frozen years in Minnesota, I have never seen snow this deep! More significantly, I have never experienced snow this lasting. Snowpack is something we delighted in at Stowe, at Aspen, in Zermatt. Snowpack is not something I ever expected in my own front yard!
Yesterday, I was treated to the sight of my own (gravel, unusable because unplowable, until uncovered) driveway for the first time since driving home from Cape May in that Christmas blizzard.
Yesterday, February 20, 2011, I carried my own groceries straight in from my own car on my own driveway for the first time since before Christmas.
Then, as usual, WINTER STORM WARNING reared its head. After unpacking sack after sack of provisions, I drove back up the hill to the landlords’ garage, where my car rests anew;snowbound, again. Until that snow melts, everything will have to be carried up their garage steps, then down steep stairs to my apartment, before being settled into cabinets.
Again, WINTER STORM WARNING is in effect til noon tomorrow - I must be at work at 9 a.m. Down the driveway I have come to call my luge.
It squirrels down amongst venerable evergreens, between steep banks of rocky soil, to culminate in a semi-flat area. I always pause there, before heading out onto traffic-zapped Canal Road. When it is slippery on the resting place, my car is headed straight toward the canal. Now I love the canal, don’t get me wrong. But it has come to LOOM ever since December.
People who live elsewhere do not understand why the winter of 2011 has rendered me a hermit. Perhaps these pictures explain for me.
SNOW DEPTHS THROUGH LIVING ROOM SCREEN
ICICLE LENGTH FROM UPSTAIRS KITCHEN WINDOW
POST STORM LIGHT
I not only am not hiking these woods, I can’t even open the front door far enough to get both shoulders out. To take pictures has required contortions I didn’t know I possessed.
Occasionally, sun did triumph. Only to bring new challenges.
WINTRY MIX THROUGH DOOR THAT CANNOT OPEN
Truly the winter of our discontent, and by no means over.
And don’t you DARE fall into the pit which the Weather Channel opens before us, hour after hour, that ghastly phrase 24/7 — that this is Mother Nature, our enemy! On the contrary, every book on catastrophic climate change that I have ever read insisted, back in the last century, that melting glaciers because of CO2 emissions will alter ocean temperatures, ocean currents, aligned air currents, weather patterns, and bring us ever more severe storm in terms of quantity and violence of precipitation, and, indeed, in frequency.
It’s not Mother Nature, folks. It’s us!
UPDATE on GLacial Melting and Icing Elsewhere from Science Daily Environment report:
[A major way to slow climate change is to preserve open lands, especially forests]
However, scientists have long suspected that far more severe and longer-lasting cold intervals have been caused by changes to the circulation of the warm Atlantic ocean currents themselves.
Now new research led by Cardiff University, with scientists in the UK and US, reveals that these ocean circulation changes may have been more dramatic than previously thought.
The findings, published January 14, 2011 in the journal Science, show that as the last Ice Age came to an end (10,000 — 20,000 years ago) the formation of deep water in the North-East Atlantic repeatedly switched on and off. This caused the climate to warm and cool for centuries at a time.
The circulation of the world’s ocean helps to regulate the global climate. One way it does this is through the transport of heat carried by vast ocean currents, which together form the ‘Great ocean conveyor’. Key to this conveyor is the sinking of water in the North-East Atlantic, a process that causes warm tropical waters to flow northwards in order to replace the sinking water. Europe is kept warmer by this circulation, so that a strong reduction in the rate at which deep water forms can cause widespread cooling of up to 10 degrees Celsius.
Lead author Dr David Thornalley, Cardiff School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, explains how the scientists studied changes in ocean circulation:
“We retrieved ocean sediment cores from the seafloor of the Northeast Atlantic which contained the shells of small organisms. We used these shells to examine the past distribution of radiocarbon in the ocean. Radiocarbon is a radioactive form of carbon that acts like a natural stopwatch, timing how long it has been since water was last at the sea surface. This allows us to determine how quickly deep water was forming in the Northeast Atlantic at different times in the past.”
The team of scientists found that each time deep water formation switched off, the Northeast Atlantic did not fill with water that sank locally. Instead it became inundated with water that had originally formed near Antarctica and then spread rapidly northwards. The new results suggest that the Atlantic ocean is capable of radical changes in how it circulates on timescales as short as a few decades.
Dr Thornalley said: “These insights highlight just how dynamic and sensitive ocean circulation can be. Whilst the circulation of the modern ocean is probably much more stable than it was at the end of the last Ice Age, and therefore much less likely to undergo such dramatic changes, it is important that we keep developing our understanding of the climate system and how it responds when given a push.”
The research is funded through the Natural Environment Research Council’s Rapid Climate Change programme and the National Science Foundation (USA).
Your computerless (post-storm) NJ WILD author borrows and shares two riveting communications from Climate Central, a valuable on-line newsletter on climate change that arrives each week. Climate Central [firstname.lastname@example.org] [Bolds mine]
A major way to slow climate change is to preserve open lands, especially forests.
In case you’re wondering why so-called “global warming” is freezing the South.
Difference in sea ice: 104,000 square miles below the previous record low of 4.74 million square miles set in 2006 — a difference equal to about the size of the state of Colorado.
In case you don’t agree that we need to term the effects of too much C02 as “catastrophic climate change”, rather than the intensely fuzzy phrase, “global warming.”
Warmer waters mean warmer air, and both move at different levels and different speeds. What’s happening, snow-and-ice-wise, folks, is not Mother Nature’s doing. Rather our fragile globe’s inescapable response to the outpourings of human greed, fossil fuels, name that what you will….
Which is one reason why I spend my days preserving New Jersey land through D&R Greenway Land Trust. The more open space, the more trees, the less C02 surges into space to melt glaciers, everywhere - as in Glacier National Park and the Swiss Alps, as well as in the Arctic.
Think preservation. Log onto www.drgreenway.org
Your snowbound computerless NJ WILD writer
Arctic Paradox: Warmer Arctic May Mean Cold Blasts for Some
Blasts of cold and snow have gripped Europe and the United States in recent weeks, from Minneapolis to Paris. These weather conditions are leading to speculation about the role climate change may be playing in altering such extreme events.
Recent scientific studies have shown that the dramatic warming that has been occurring in the Arctic during the past few decades, along with the associated loss of sea ice cover, may be changing atmospheric circulation patterns throughout the northern hemisphere.
This could be contributing to the recent outbreaks of unusually cold and snowy weather.
Sea ice loss during the spring and summer melt season, which leaves a thinner and more sparse ice cover throughout the fall and early winter, is a key suspect in influencing winter weather patterns.
When the ice melts, it allows incoming solar radiation to warm water and air temperatures, which in turn has an influence on atmospheric pressure and circulation, and may help shift Arctic air southward, while the Arctic remains unusually warm.
One meteorologist has described the pattern this way: “This pattern is kind of like leaving the refrigerator door ajar — the refrigerator warm up, but all the cold air spills out into the house.”
Scientists refer to weather patterns featuring an abnormally mild Arctic and an unusually cold U.S. and Europe as the “Warm Arctic/Cold Continents Pattern,” which is the subject of ongoing research.
There are many sources of natural climate variability, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, that also play a key role in favoring cold and snowy conditions in parts of the U.S. and Europe.
UPDATE on January 13, 2011
Arctic Sea Ice Hits New December Low,
Related to “Arctic Paradox” Weather Pattern
Monthly December ice extent for 1979 to 2010. Credit: NSIDC.
Arctic sea ice extent fell to the lowest level observed during the month of December since the beginning of satellite monitoring in 1979, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced today.
While sea ice has been declining for the past few decades as Arctic air and water temperatures have warmed, NSIDC scientists say an additional contributor is an unusual weather pattern that has kept parts of the Arctic unusually warm, while simultaneously driving cold air and snowstorms into parts of the U.S. and Europe.
According to an NSIDC press release, sea ice extent averaged 4.63 million square miles during the month of December, which was 104,000 square miles below the previous record low of 4.74 million square miles set in 2006 — a difference equal to about the size of the state of Colorado.
Compared to the longer-term average for the month, sea ice extent was down by 521,000 square miles.
Although ice extent was below average in both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Arctic, the greatest ice loss compared to average occurred in Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Davis Strait. Typically, large portions of these areas are frozen over by late November, says NSIDC director and senior scientist Mark Serreze. Instead, he says, residents of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic are asking what happened to the sea ice cover this year, since little has formed there yet.
Temperatures across Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, and Hudson Bay were at least 11°F above average, the NSIDC reports . Southern Baffin Island stood out the most, with temperatures more than 18°F above average.
Air temperature departures from average during December. Credit: NSIDC/NOAA.
Temperatures were colder than average across north-central Eurasia and Scandinavia, however. NSIDC scientists point to two factors for the warmer than average conditions — open water left over from last summer’s sea ice melt season, which slows ice growth, and an unusual weather pattern that stuck around for much of the month.
The atmospheric circulation in question is the same weather pattern that contributed to the post-Christmas blizzard in the northeastern U.S., and the extreme cold and snow that gripped much of Europe during December. Known as the Arctic Oscillation, this pattern is a large-scale variation in surface air pressure between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.
When the Arctic Oscillation is in a strongly negative mode, which has been the case recently, air pressures are higher than average in the Arctic and lower than average in the mid-latitudes. This sets up opposing temperature patterns, with a greater likelihood that cold air will spill out of the Arctic and into North America and Europe.
Scientists refer to weather patterns featuring an abnormally mild Arctic and an unusually cold U.S. and Europe as the “Warm Arctic/Cold Continents Pattern” or an “Arctic Paradox,” and it is the subject of ongoing research.
The Arctic Oscillation is closely related to the North Atlantic Oscillation or NAO, which concerns surface air pressure variability over the North Atlantic Ocean, and also affects winter weather conditions in the eastern U.S. and Europe. “The NAO is really the Arctic Oscillation’s little brother,” Serreze says.
Scientists refer to weather patterns featuring an abnormally mild Arctic and an unusually cold U.S. and Europe as the “Warm Arctic/Cold Continents Pattern.”
New Rules Govern Changing Climate
A negative Arctic Oscillation used to be associated with greater than average Arctic sea ice cover, because the winds associated with it reduce the flow of sea ice out of the Arctic. However, this may be changing. Indeed, during the 2009-10 winter, the Arctic Oscillation was also strongly negative, and more sea ice was retained in the Arctic than in previous years, but much of that retained ice soon melted.
According to Serreze, a negative Arctic Oscillation can help in two different ways. First, prevailing winds when the Arctic Oscillation is negative tend to keep older, thicker sea ice cover — which is more resistant to melting — in the Arctic instead of being transported through Fram Strait and into the North Atlantic. “The real important thing is it tends to basically sequester old ice in the Arctic Ocean,” he says.
Second, it tends to cause ice to diverge over the central Arctic Ocean, which “would leave areas [of open water] where new ice could grow.”
The problem, he says, is the overall warming of the ocean and atmosphere in the Arctic may be changing some of the relationships between sea ice and seasonal weather patterns. “What we’re starting to see is indications that those old rules don’t really apply that well anymore.”
It’s not clear how the record low sea ice extent in December may affect the 2011 melt season, Serreze says. Last year, sea ice declined to the third-lowest in the satellite record despite an extremely negative Arctic Oscillation, and the famed Northwest Passage was ice-free for a brief period.
“It’s very likely that we’ll end the winter season in bad shape,” Serreze says.
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.