Archive for August, 2010
Filed Under (Adventure, Agriculture, Delaware River, Farm Markets, Farmers, Farmland, Farms, Food, Garden State, Harvest, Local Food, NJ WILD, New Jersey) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 31-08-2010
New Jersey’s Mantra:
My beloved New Jersey has food markets that attain the heights of art museums, for me, with the additional joy that one can bring home their art and enjoy it in one’s own rooms, share it with friends, nourished at many levels by the experience and the art — including the aesthetic.
Some weeks ago, my food-writer friend, Faith Bahadurian, and I made good on a long-time promise to explore the Stockton Farm Market. She’s written beautifully about her experience there, in her Packet blog, NJ SPICE. [I chose NJ WILD to link to Faith's clever title.]
Cheery Stockton Market Entryway in Spring
I did not try to cover it then, because her reportage was more essential, more factual, and, frankly, far more thorough than my impressionistic response would have been.
Rudimentary Food Display of a Friday at Stockton
Now, I have been back to the Stockton Farm Market with my other food-writer friend, Pat Tanner. Pat and I chose a Friday afternoon (open 1 to 7 p.m. now), whereas Faith and I had breakfast at Meil’s, then entered this Artful Market early, before the day’s heat could descend. On Saturdays and Sunday’s Stockton Market is open from 9 to 3 or so, and truly worthy of the journey.
Appetizing Possibilities at Stockton, Spring
Pat and I lunched at Meil’s after visiting the Highland Co Gourmet Market (343 County Road 519, Stockton, 908-996-3362 turn Right at the Rosemont Cafe) — famous for its resplendent Highlands cattle - orange fur and long horns. When I first encountered these beasts in Cornwall, in a quest for Dozmary Pool (where Sir Bedivere was to jettison King Arthur’s sword), I answered my baffled photographer friend’s, “But Carolyn, what are those?!” with a quick, “I think they’re wooly mammoths.” As it turns out the meat of HIghland cattle is renowned, which Pat and I will discover as we cook our gustatory treasures this week. I’ve already sampled their Shepherd’s Pie, from the Faith trip, when we went to Highland AFTER Stockton, finding it hearty, generous, succulent and memorable.
Proud Family of Highland Cattle, Highland Co. Farm Market, Spring
The Highland Market is unique in the excellence of its accoutrements, as well as the ruddy beauty of its freshly cut meats. The finest handmade pasta, the best bean soup package I’ve ever used - [I am now famous for it at D&R Greenway because I took it in when it was still soup weather. Even now, people sail past my desk, murmuring, “I miss that bean soup!” Glorious olives which brightened my first major dinner party in the new apartment - vivid colors, hilarious title: “Sexy olives”. Valley Shepherd cheeses. A plain real handmade angel food cake in the bakery department. Chatty, homey people to wait on you who are eager to share, and who seem to know all the other customers by name. Most amazing, a wine section divided as Cool Vines is, by qualities of the wines. So, under “Rich and full”, or “Fruity and Refreshing”, signs of that ilk, I can find my favorite red, such as Chateauneuf du Pape, then learn what wines of other lands would be like that. Or my current white, Pouilly Fuisse from several negotiants, and their American, Chilean, Australian, etc., counterparts. Pat’s more up on wines of other lands than I — France is my limit. Both of us spent an intense interval in there, as though we were scholars in a library.
‘Wooly Mammoth’ of Highland Farm
Each of us came out with our Princeton Library red bags full. Her bill was around $30, mine around $40. — and mine went from a hearty steak I had them cut vertically so I could freeze for two thick rich adventures into Highland beef, through merguez sausages, essential to memorable cassoulet, through another Shepherd’s Pie, hefty container of just ground beef (”ground everything”, said our helper, and we knew that would mean flavor.)
Hearty Beef of Highland Market at Stockton Market
Other treasures at the Highland Market, which were echoed at Stockton later that afternoon, were the unique, flavorful, grass-fed-cow cheeses of Valley Shepherd.
Valley Shepherd Cheeses at Highland Market, at Stockton
And the luminous, multi-faceted olive oil of Italy to taste, to take home.
Italy’s Olive Oil to Taste, to Take Home, at Highland Market, at Stockton
Pat Tanner and I agreed, over our savory (too bountiful) lunch at Miel’s, that there is no better appetizer than browsing among our state’s local produce and meat, displayed at the hands of committed growers and purveyors:
Tomato Richesse, Stockton
At dinner tonight with two other food pilgrims, the topic of unhealthy food came up - an egg recall, a ground beef recall. I recalled when I bought meat loaf mix at WEGMAN’s, of all places, only to be advised by e-mail, AFTER I’d made and eaten some of the meat loaf and frozen the rest, that I “May have purchased contaminated meat.” That was the end of supermarket beef for me. I also recalled that, when spinach was poison all over everywhere, New Jersey’s was fine, especially that of the PIne Barrens.
I remember having to drive all over everywhere to find raw milk for my younger daughter, in the 1980’s. And I would give ANYthing to be able to buy raw milk cheese. This is a start…
Pastured Chickens! Hurrah!
OK, everyone knows it’s wise to buy local, save gas, save pollution, support our local farmers. But how many realize the sheer aesthetic pleasure of farm market shopping. To say nothing of the joy of talking to the people who planted and tended and harvested whatever I am buying. Safety is important, yes. But other factors really matter to me. Nutrition - the closer the fields, the more alive the food. I am more alive in times of harvest, because my food has its own vitality. Flavor - well, Garden State gardeners and shoppers know, NOTHING compares with OUR tomatoes, warm from the vine.
Tomato Heaven, Stockton
We will ACHE for these scenes in a matter of weeks!
Other factors delight at the Stockton Market — the hearty handmade baskets, the equal of any I ever saw in childhood in northern Michigan, made by the Indians. Glass Gardens, tiny and healthy and vibrant, and not expensive. One cluster of greenery hides a fox. Another reveals a quail. Christmas Present Central - but this day I was there for food.
Handsome, Capacious, The Art of the Future, Stockton
Glass Gardens, Stockton
If any NJ WILD readers are suffering from jaded palates, Stockton is the place to take leaps to new levels of gastronomy:
Rainbow of Carrots
Weird Beans, Stockton
Baker Will Be In on Saturday and Sunday
also the seller of my favorite cremes and lotions and wild lavender of Provence, from Carousel Farm. And the chocolatier about whom Faith Bahadurian raved and with good reason. And the fishmonger. And the Barbecue Man… The bee honey and beeswax candle man… The mushroom man… and not in ‘Drury Lane’ - in Stockton New Jersey, on our Delaware River - reminding us all, we are all in the Delaware Valley, the Delaware River Watershed, and deeply enriched thereby.
Here is the Lesson for Us All:
NO FARMS/NO FOOD — NEVER FORGET!
NOT OBVIOUSLY LOCAL, BUT FASCINATING:
Exotic Flowers at Everyday Prices - we may as well be in Hawaii!
Find your local Farm Market - What Adventures are You Having?
Filed Under (Adventure, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ State Parks, NJ WILD, Oceans, South Jersey, The Seasons, native species, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 28-08-2010
||FROM WILD NEW JERSEY - RE THE ISLAND BEACH I TREASURE - NJ WILD READERS KNOW ABOUT I.B., BUT NOT ABOUT THE FREE BIRD WALKS. IN THE PAST, THEY ‘RAN’ FREE BIRDING KAYAK TOURS — THERE’S MORE TO BEACHES THAN SUNBATHING…
ENJOY Brenda’s Black Skimmers, who are about to migrate south, toward oil and ?????
Brenda Jones captures Black Skimmers in Flight
AUTUMN BEGINS EARLIER FOR OUR MIGRATING SHORE BIRDS.
AND NJ WILD READERS KNOW I AM DEEPLY CONCERNED BECAUSE MOST WILL HEAD STRAIGHT FOR THE GULF AND ITS OILED MARSHLANDS TO PUT ON FAT STORES FOR THEIR INCREDIBLE JOURNEYS. C
Ospreys are Everywhere Now at Island Beach — but bedeviled by Fish Crows
Brenda Jones Captures Enraged Osprey
||WILDNEWJERSEY.TV published a new entry entitled “WNJ Exclusive: Pelicans, ospreys, and marbled godwit on free birding walks at Island Beach” on 8/11/2010 6:00:00 AM, written by WILDNEWJERSEY.
WNJ Exclusive: Pelicans, ospreys, and marbled godwit on free birding walks at Island Beach
Marbled Godwit (not the bird mentioned below)
Photo credit: bird-friends.com
By David Wheeler
Looking for a free summer event where you can spend some time on the beach, surrounded by nature and the guidance of expert birders? Island Beach State Park is hosting free morning bird walks every other Thursday along this 10-mile stretch of unbroken barrier beach. This unique coastal refuge offers over 3,000 acres of dunes, maritime forest, and tidal marsh, providing habitat for over 400 plants and the New Jersey’s largest osprey colony.
Skyler Streich of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is the Barnegat Bay Birder-in-Resident, and she leads the Island Beach State Park birding walks. Recent birding trips have seen common eiders, Forsters terns, ruddy turnstones, willets, brown pelicans, American oystercatchers, and ospreys.
Other likely sightings on the bird walks include tricolored heron, glossy ilbis, black-bellied plover, little blue heron, seaside sparrow, and boat-tailed grackle. Island Beach also hosts other public wildlife events, such as clamming events and “Birding by Kayak” tours. Red knots, sandwich terns, black-crowned night-heron, and clapper rails highlighted the bird sightings on a recent clamming event.
A recent Birding by Kayak tour proved even more productive for birders, according to Streich.
“There was a Marbled Godwit on the sandbar right in front of the A-21 kayak launch site! It was amongst a good variety of shorebirds which have steadily increasing in numbers since the last kayak tour two weeks ago. The other highlight was a flock of 12 Whimbrels flying overhead! We also had a very cooperative single Brant near the mouth of Spizzle Creek. All in all, it was an excellent day with excellent birds and excellent participants.”
The Friends of Island Beach State Park offer an excellent source of additional information at www.friendsofislandbeach.com.
Upcoming bird walks include Thursday, August 19, and September 2. Participants should meet at the Forked River Interpretive Center in Island Beach State Park for a roughly 3 mile walk. All birders are encouraged to bring plenty of water, sunblock, a hat for shade, and binoculars - though spare binoculars are available for those who need them.
For more information, questions, or in case of inclement weather, email email@example.com or call 609-984-0621.
Other stories about Island Beach State Park include:
Filed Under (Adventure, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Brenda Jones, Butterflies, Cape May, Delaware Bayshores, Henry David Thoreau, Indians, Lenni Lenapes, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ WILD, Native Americans, Nature, Nature Writing, New Jersey, South Jersey, The Seasons, Volunteering, books, raptors, rivers, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 23-08-2010
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!
Although the discovery of this rare plant is new to NJ WILD readers, the botanical bounty of our beleaguered state is well known to each of you, along with the essentiality of preserving open space where and when we can.
“New Jersey actually has greater botanical diversity compared to much larger neighboring states of New York and Pennsylvania, and we have endemic plants found nowhere else in the world,” said Bob Cartica, administrator of the DEP’s Office of Natural Lands Management.
NJ WILD READERS KNOW TO GET OUT THERE!, KEEP OUR EYES ON NEW JERSEY GROUND AND OUR OVERARCHING SKIES FOR RARITIES OTHERS MUST CROSS OCEANS TO FIND:
REASON TO EXPLORE OUR NATURALLY DIVERSE STATE
It’s hard to believe that anything new and rare could still be discovered in our densely populated New Jersey, but a team of NJDEP researchers and scientists has documented that the world’s largest population of the rare and state endangered “Spreading Globeflower” is located on a state nature preserve in Sussex County, the Department announced today.
The find of thousands of the rare plants, formally labeled Trollius laxus, was made this spring by employees of the DEP’s Natural Lands Trust and the Natural Heritage Program.
The Spreading Globeflower is a member of the Buttercup Family. It features several large, pale-yellow flowers which usually begin to bloom in mid April and continue to flower through May. It is a wetland species that grows primarily in calcareous fens and open wooded swamps.
“This discovery serves as a reminder that important botanical discoveries are still being made in New Jersey and highlights the rich, botanical diversity that New Jersey has been long known for,” said Amy Cradic, DEP Assistant Commissioner of Natural and Historic Resources. “Iit serves as encouragement to our residents to go out and explore the state’s many state parks and forests, natural areas, preserves and wildlife management areas.”
|Left photo: Trollius laxus, commonly known as the Spreading Globeflower,
is a state endangered plant. It is a member of the Buttercup family.
Right photo: A large population of Speading Globeflower was discovered
in this natural lands area in central Sussex County.
Trollius laxus is found in just five northeastern states: New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. As of 2010, less than 60 populations have been confirmed, with New York and New Jersey having the bulk of the world’s populations.
In New Jersey, the plant is largely confined to the limestone belt in Sussex and Warren counties. Populations throughout its range tend to be small to moderate in size and typically occur as isolated small colonies or patches of a few hundred or fewer plants.
However, the New Jersey population recently discovered on a Natural Lands Trust preserve in Sussex County is massive. This population of Spreading Globeflower is estimated at 15,000 extremely robust clumps occurring on about two acres, and forming a near solid ground cover on a quarter acre of the preserve.
In both acreage occupied and size of population, this discovery is unprecedented, according to DEP scientists, who are still working to determine the full extent of this find in Sussex County. The largest population currently documented consists of about 2,000 plants and is located in upstate New York.
Trollius laxus used to be more commonly found in North Jersey, observed in parts of Passaic County until the late 1800s; last seen in Bergen County in 1919; and found as recently as 1980 in parts of Morris County.
The species’ decline over the past century is a direct result of loss of wetland habitats through filling, flooding caused by beavers and loss of open habitat through woody plant encroachment and the spread of non native invasive plant species.
DEP staff involved in the discovery include, David Snyder, botanist, Natural Heritage Program; Kathleen S. Walz, ecologist, Natural Heritage Program; and Martin Rapp, preserve manager, N.J. Natural Lands Trust.
“New Jersey actually has greater botanical diversity compared to much larger neighboring states of New York and Pennsylvania, and we have endemic plants found nowhere else in the world,” said Bob Cartica, administrator of the DEP’s Office of Natural Lands Management.
Filed Under (Activism, Animals of the Wild, Birds, Destruction, Disaster, Environment, Government, Migration, Migratory Flocks, NJ WILD, Oceans) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 18-08-2010
NJ WILD readers already know that the tragedy of the Gulf is not remote. It is local. These are ‘our’ birds. This is our planet. Here is my response to the petrotyranny of our times. I asked birders, with most of whom I have shared memorable nature excursions, to reflect upon what faces birds in the Gulf. ESPECIALLY THE MIGRATORY SPECIES, SOME OF WHICH BEGAN THEIR JOURNEYS IN LATE JULY…
The Packet was good enough, brave enough to run this story with a cover lead, despite the fact that it cannot have a dateline of Princeton or Kingston, Hopewell or Rocky Hill…
PRINCETON AREA: ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’: Bird watchers contemplate the Gulf disaster
Scott McVay: ‘By comparison, the Exxon Valdez was a puddle.’
Monday, August 2, 2010 1:36 PM EDT By Carolyn Foote Edelmann Special Writer ODT
Maps gives some idea of the size of the spill area by centering it over Stamford, Conn. On the Web: www.ODTmaps.com
Editor’s note: What’s happened in the Gulf of Mexico — what hasn’t happened in the Gulf of Mexico — delimit a catastrophe of such range and scope that its impact will not be known for years to come. The Gulf’s marshlands rank among the most important habitats for migrating birds in the Western hemisphere. The birds we see in Cape May, in the Plainsboro Preserve, even in our own backyards — many of them are dependent on the Gulf’s marshlands at some stage in their lives. As far as wildlife in the Princeton area is concerned, what’s happening in the Gulf is happening here — and happening everywhere the web of life extends. Michael Redmond
The story begins: According to a recent posting by Birders United, the environmental advocacy organization founded in 2004 by the late Theodore Cross of Princeton, “about six million snow geese will begin their southern migration from the Arctic” (in late July and into August). “Many of them will end up along the Gulf Coast. Possible hurricanes or tropical storms in the region could push the oil into coastal marshes where many of these birds spend the winter months.
“Many other bird species that spend the summer months in the Arctic or in Canada winter in the Gulf region. Some of these species include sanderlings, ruddy turnstones, loons, and sandpipers, to name just a few. Millions of birds may be flying into harm’s way in the months ahead due to the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And almost no one believes the cleanup will have been completed before these birds arrive.
“But some encouraging steps are being taken. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a plan to pay farmers in Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Missouri to flood their fields to create safe habitat for migratory birds. The goal is to create or improve bird habitat on 100,000 to 150,000 acres.”
Is there anyone out there who hasn’t seen images from the Gulf of oil-befouled birds, such as the region’s pelicans? Think thousands. Think numerous species, some already threatened, such as the reddish egret and the piping plover.
Last month I reached out to birders to share their personal reaction to the plight of birds in the Gulf of Mexico. One key birder did answer, shunting me to his organization’s official position, without a syllable of the personal. Ultimately, by telephone, I’ve been able to fashion a quilt of quotes. Even so, responses to my questions engendered further questions, many unanswerable.
And I am interested in reader responses — please post to New Jersey Wild at www.packetinsider.com/ blog/nature/.
Among the first to respond was Tom Southerland. With his wife, Margot, Mr. Southerland has taught more birding to more Princeton- area birders than anyone since John James Audubon. “It is very, very difficult to watch the suffering birds,” he says. “It’s like a science fiction horror show. And it’s not just resident birds. Migrants will soon be leaving on their autumnal journeys. But, it’s the entire food chain — plankton, porpoises, sea turtles …” His voice trails off.
“I feel so sorry for the fishermen and their families, for that is often a generational profession. Even for property owners, although I am NOT in favor of coastal development at any time, for the people whose lands are being oiled …
I am against offshore drilling forever. I am very disappointed that only a few weeks before this, our president went on record in favor of drilling for oil off our coasts. I don’t understand it. He seems decent, caring, intelligent …”
Asked about long-term effects of ingested oil upon birds who were oiled, then cleaned, Mr. Southerland observes, “Well, some can live and breed again. It depends on the amount of oil and the species. Years after the Exxon Valdez, I birded there. We found not many birds — some good, yes, but not the numbers there should have been. You can clean them off, but they have to feed, and they return to their fouled feeding areas.
The fish are oiled, too. There’s so much oil underwater — affecting plankton and diatoms. Toxins are working their way up, so the fish die off. Contaminated fish are being taken by the birds.”
Tom Poole, avid Princeton birder and D&R Greenway trustee, was a moving force in the creation of the Charles H. Rogers Wildlife Refuge, located along Stony Brook in Princeton Township. A measured man, he speaks with increasing intensity.
“We have a catastrophe here now. What I feel is anger, frustration, almost helplessness. I see a lack of leadership and understanding. Our priorities are all out of whack. We need to bring knowledgeable people into the act. Confer with others in the oil business around the globe.
And what does the Coast Guard know about capping oil wells? Where is the Army Corps of Engineers? Somebody must have some good ideas. I am appalled that that well could have been built without a backup plan …”
But Mr. Poole returns immediately to imperiled wildlife: “Remember, all birds now in the Gulf area (at the time Mr. Poole was interviewed) are nesting or raising their young. The young must not only be fed healthily, they must learn to walk through oiled sites, fly above and feed in oiled waters. And what about that dispersant? Is dispersed oil any better? It could be worse.”
As with his friend Tom Southerland, Mr. Poole is “concerned about the migration of shorebirds. Early July, in the Arctic, adults leave quickly. Immatures fly later, after putting on sufficient weight for the journey.”
Asked what migrants require as they reach the Gulf region, he answers, “Some keep right on going, flying over water incredible distances without stopping. Some species land. It depends on their fat stores and upon species. And that’s not taking hurricanes into consideration. Birds forced down by contrary winds, let alone turbulence, sometimes can rise again. With oil in the waters?”
Silence, and then: “Tanagers, orioles, warblers and the like need to land on islands in the Gulf region to feed, rest and ready for the remainder of their migration. Their refuges are fouled.”
Hannah Suthers, over decades, has tallied and tended migratory songbirds beyond counting in our nearby Sourlands. I had to call her back so that she could first finish hand-feeding “a downed Carolina wren.”
Ms. Suthers is licensed by Fish and Wildlife to perform these services. Nestlings are fed every 30 minutes, 16 hours a day, inside her house. Fledglings graduate to the outdoor aviary. She exults over having studied weather forecasts and being able to release fledgling robin just that morning. Her first response, even in the midst of intense foster- parent duties, is, “Well, I am speechless with horror. This is devastating. There is this heart connection … but we cannot give up. Even with the helplessness …”
If non-birders wish to see what’s ahead for the migrants, Ms. Suthers says, “Just pick up any decent birding guide — check out the range maps, the winter grounds of each species. You’ll see where their flights will soon take them.”
Musing on the especial destruction of marshlands by oil, she begins to list species most compromised, those who turn to marshlands for refuge and for food — sedge wren, marsh wren, swamp sparrow, salt marsh sharp- tailed sparrow, seaside sparrow. The common yellowthroat likes marshes. They can winter there without crossing the Gulf. Red- winged blackbirds, rusty blackbirds.
“Tree swallows, purple martins roost in marshes. They’re two weeks early this year in their gatherings for fall migrations. They’ll be searching for food in those oiled marshes before attempting to fly over the Gulf.”
Ms. Suthers adds a new horror to the plight of the waders, those long-legged, usually pristine creatures who bob and feed along the beaches of our summer, then fly in flocks with one mind, one spirit. “Sandpipers, plovers are nesting now, all along those Gulf beaches. Off-road vehicles are barreling through there, deploying berms, running right over nests and nestlings. It’s a mess.”
Most with whom I discuss the Gulf do mention the food chain. But they mean the water food chain. Ms. Suthers, godmother of passerines (songbirds), considers the air’s food chain. Her conclusion, echoed by each in his own way: “The impact will be greater than we can imagine.”
Ornithologist Charles Leck, Professor Emeritus of Ecology at Rutgers, recently gave a presentation on the Natural History of the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh — freshwater tidal wetlands, connected to the equally tidal Delaware River. Tides carry oil, so I was horrified to learn of oil drilling in store for the coast of Delaware, ignoring the extent and sensitivity of the Delaware Bay.
“Well, it’s just incredibly bad luck that it’s all happening at nesting time,” Professor Leck says. “They’re all concentrated because they’re raising their young. They’re on eggs, they have nestlings. They can’t leave the area. It’s a big loss. The trouble is, if you lose a colony … well, there may be some of that species elsewhere, but, if you lose a colony … it will take a very, very long time until any return. Birds lose their affinity for a given area when it is befouled.”
At the D&R Greenway talk, Professor Leck recounted the story of ruddy ducks of the Delaware. “When I was a youngster, the main wintering areas of ruddies was the Delaware River. Must have been 20,000 or so of them. There was an oil spill in the ‘50s. Wiped out the entire Delaware population of wintering ruddy ducks. Adults would try to reassure me, ‘They’ll come back, Charlie.’” Another long pause. “I am still waiting for them to come back.”
Asked what happens to oiled birds, he says simply, “They cannot preen. If the bird tries to preen, it will die from ingested toxins.”
Professor Leck frets about dispersants. “Yes, it may remove some of the oil from view. But what happens is that dispersed oil spreads through far more of the water column.”
Professor Leck brings me “Oil Spills,” his Rutgers colleague Joanna Burger’s 1997 book. Leading me to wonder why — as this much published naturalist has at least two books on oil disasters, and who knows how many papers — she is not either in Washington or at the Gulf or both. On Page 36, I read of dispersants on the beaches of Cornwall after the Torrey Canyon spill in 1967: “For wildlife, this treatment proved more damaging than the oil itself, (being) toxic to limpets, barnacles and planktonic organisms floating in the sea. The worst victims were diving birds.”
Professor Burger gives disheartening percentages for recovery of oiled avian species: “Of the nearly 8,000 birds brought in for treatment, only 450 were still alive a month later. Only about 80 were ever set free.”
Professor Leck speaks about treating oiled birds: “You treat 50 — maybe five survive, depending on the species. Manatees are imperiled, yes, but with birds, it’s a mess with their feathers. People do a great job, trying. Have you ever seen this oil? It’s really thick, congealed. A National Geographic photographer got into the oil this week, so thick he nearly drowned.”
Another aspect of treating oiled birds is that they have to be sequestered somewhere “so they can keep clean, to get well. The trouble is, if they’re put where there are domestic species, the wild birds have no resistance to diseases of domestics.”
Jumping to the larger picture, Professor Leck asks, “And how messed up is the food chain? There are not many fish. Terns forage in ocean water — what is happening to the food items for the fish, and on up and down? Well, we have had our own examples of oil spills, right here in the Delaware River …”
Hella McVay is also a D&R Greenway trustee. Hella and her husband, Scott, travel the world in company with key naturalists, always learning. Each was outspoken.
Mr. McVay calls it simply “an immense catastrophe, the scale of which we have not known, devastation whose consequences will continue way into the future. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez was a puddle.” “Experiments conducted on the effectiveness of dispersants reveal that they are not effective in removing oil from vegetation, and may further injure delicate vegetation,” Mr. McVay says. “Dispersants sometimes move deeper into the soil and stress roots that may have (otherwise) escaped injury from the oil … Some annual (marsh plants) are killed by a single oiling, while others can withstand repeated low-level oiling … Annuals and seedlings are quickly killed by a single oil spill.”
Reached in the middle of tending wildlife in her back yard, Ms. McVay says that she wishes she could give “a political response to this tragedy — because all roads lead to politics. What do you expect from recent years of greed and deregulation? We went too deep without regulation. This is our signal — retreat from greed.”
About remedial methods currently in place, “It’s not either/or. We have to do both. Cap the well to stop the flow, and clean up the oil. The third piece is, get the best minds of the world together to solve this problem. So far, there is nobody who has come up with a brilliant idea.”
Both McVays observe that “people are overwhelmed by crisis upon crisis, disaster after disaster. Exhaustion has set in.” I need to place at the top of his interview virtually every observation from
Princeton University Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Henry Horn. For him, as well, my questions often triggered questions. “What bothers me,” Professor Horn begins, “is this attitude of ‘Well, let’s clean up.’ As though one could get rid of everything. This oil spill requires dispassionate review. But I have no notion where to start. As a scientist, I want to start. But discovery of the realities here is very difficult to achieve.”
“With regard to the cleaning of oiled birds,” he observes, “that is very difficult.You need luck to do it well. The studies (of oiled birds tended in past spills) are misleading. There’s been a triage process: Who is most likely to survive? Pelicans do moderately well, also penguins who do not fly (i.e., penguins do not require feathers to support flight.) Gannets have this interesting feather structure that is easier to clean. Gulls and herons are a whole lot more trouble. The literature is a series of nice case studies of individual birds that have managed to survive. Prospects for bulk survival are not that encouraging. Saving individual birds — well, it’s a noble enterprise …”
Carolyn Foote Edelmann is a freelance journalist, a poet, and an avocational naturalist. She blogs on New Jersey Wild, www.packetinsider.com/ blog/nature/.
Filed Under (Activism, Adventure, Animals of the Wild, Brenda Jones, Destruction, NJ, NJ WILD, Nature, New Jersey, Preservation, native species, wild) by Carolyn Foote Edelmann on 16-08-2010
Mystery Creatures Play Peek-a-Boo by Brenda Jones
When Ilene Dube, formerly Time Off Editor of the Packet, started me on this NJ WILD journey, we had no idea where it would lead.
Among other gifts beyond price which maintaining this blog has conferred is friendship with Brenda and Cliff Jones. I found them when we three were on a quest for the beavers of the D&R Canal just above the Mapleton Fishing Bridge. So far as I know, those beavers moved on about a year after we found their scruffy tangle of a lodge. Alone on that bridge at dusk, I once watched a beaver swim up-canal with an entire green shrub in its mouth. Talk about “Burnham Wood to Dunsingame come…” The head was completely wreathed in leaves, the tail not visible, only a knife-like current following the traveling tree…
Brenda and Cliff and I became fast friends on out evening of reverent viewing of furred creatures whom man nearly exterminated for reasons of fashion and funds.
As NJ WILD readers well, know, the exchange of business cards on the Towpath led to nearly constant appearance of Brenda’s stunning fine art photographs of wild New Jersey Nature in our posts.
We have a strong e-mail correspondence, as well. I treasure our too-few personal adventures, –some at D&R Greenway Land Trust events; some here in my new apartment and at a nearby restaurant; some in the wild…
As you can tell from her stunning images in NJ WILD, Brenda and Cliff never give up their nature quests, [not even when assailed by challenging fates of many and for awhile seemingly insoluble fates.]
Their latest pilgrimage brings you the minks of Princeton - at first, as you might imagine, they had no idea what these winsome young might be. But Brenda’s identification sources are impeccable.
They were led to these enchanting creatures by a mutual friend, who came to both of us because of NJ WILD interactions, frequent comments in the early days, and some personal time treasured. In August, this friend, Sue Matson, hinted of interesting creatures in hidden waters not far from the heart of our town. They were not, for a change, at either towpath or canal. The site remains secret, for obvious reasons.
Think, NJ WILD Readers. This is New Jersey. Famous for exits and oil tanks, for singers from Sinatra to Springsteen, for actress Meryl Streep, infamous for Mafia. Yet, New Jersey, in nature magazines, appears increasingly respected for the amount of open space our state is preserving.
Think on it: Young minks are being raised, taught to swim and feed, in the heart of corporate Princeton.
When Brenda sent the images on to me, she electronically cried out, “And to think, people kill them for coats!”
NJ WILD readers are used to my raptures over nature in New Jersey. Realize anew, seeing these photographs, how worthwhile is our preserving any open space and watercourses that we can. These protections have returned native minks naturally into our midst.
On their minkquests, Brenda and Cliff also found beavers. But the playfulness of the young minks remains with all of us most arrestingly:
Let the minks lead you to greater preservation of open space, to higher donations to places such as my professional world - D&R Greenway Land Trust. www.drgreenway.org In our 21 years, we have preserved and provided stewardship fir 22 New Jersey miles - the size of Manhattan: One acre at a time, in the beginning.
Every day, at D&R Greenway, through tasks most humble and quite grand, I learn that one person does indeed make a difference.
Be that one person.
Preserve New Jersey’s wild.
Feel the life force in Brenda’s Minks of August
Unofficially, my Illinois sister sent me these splendid shark photos by her friend, Noreen’s son-in-law, Raff Viton. These Midwesterners have summered at the Jersey Shore for decades. In fact, Noreen’s enthusiasm for our beaches launched my own passion for Island Beach, only a few miles south of their summering place.
Raff’s images were used by NJ 12, the night the family experienced sharks of our shore. I have Raff’s permission to share them with our readers.
Now THAT’s WILD!
Our Noble Guest
I remember shark alerts when we summered at New Jersey’s Normandy Beach. There was a sound to shark-whistle-warnings by our lifeguards that was never equaled in all our time there. Those young stewards of the sunbathers and sometime swimmers taught us the difference between shark fins and dolphin fins. Dolphin fins curve up and down, gently, even lazily, in the waves. Sharks arrow straight ahead, full of determination, slicing the sea. I can still see their strong tanned hands re-enacting shark-fin swimming for my 4-and-5-year old little girls.
How It All Began Last Week
How It Looked to Raff and His Children and Mother-in-Law, Noreen, Last Week
Visitor from Another Realm
all photos by Raff Viton with permission
The good news is that officials arrived, ‘walked the shark back into the ocean.’ For once, we humans did not destroy a majestic creature, out of our fear and ignorance.
The ocean is theirs.
We are the visitors.
The sharks are this close to our shore because we’re warming the planet. Face it.
Here’s official version of the Summer of the Sharks from Internet:
Yet another shark sighting was reported along the Jersey Shore today, this time near the 22nd Street beach at South Seaside Park Beach in Berkeley Township in Ocean County. A day earlier, two shark fins had been spotted a mile or so north and about 200 yards off the 11th Avenue beach in Seaside Park, by Steven Ward of Burnt Hills, N.Y. “Just saw a large fin and a large shadow beneath it,” Ward told NBCNewYork.
Even as lifeguards were calling people out of the water, Ward said “I didn’t care to get any closer, ankle depth was fine after that.”
There were also shark sightings near Ocean Beach in Toms River. Last weekend, lifeguards spotted a shark fin much farther north in Monmouth Beach, and a week or so ago, Sea Girt lifeguards reported a shark sighting.
In Seaside Park, Beach Captain Joe Gomulka said in his 35 years of lifeguarding he had never closed a beach until Wednesday.
“This is the summer of a few more sharks than normal,” Gomulka said.
Earlier this month, Coast Guard officials issued a shark warning for the waters from South Jersey to Maine.