Sandy Hook Spring At Last!

Bahr's  DoorBahrs Seafood Mecca, Front Door, near Sandy Hook

One of the highlights of this convoluted spring was a quick Friday journey over to Sandy Hook and back, in early May.  It’s a tradition to take my dear friend, Tasha O’Neill, to Bahrs Landing (family-run seafood mecca since 1917 or so) for her late April birthday.  Weather made us tardy this year, but Bahrs was as glorious as ever.  Bayside table, sun-on-water, fishermen returning with their catch, gulls and cormorants following the orange-clad fishermen in their bright boats.

IMG_1038Scallops and Yuengling at Bahrs, and a Lobster Roll Across the Table

We spent the entire gilded afternoon on Sandy Hook’s margins, bird-vigilant.  We were richly rewarded.

Bahr's Sign late Aprio 2010Bahrs Sign — Gateway to Delights

My camera does not do justice to birds, so the osprey nest exchanges and the courting great blue herons, serried rows of cormorants on dark pilings, and the remarkable green heron in a secluded pool will go unimaged in this post.

Osprey Flight, Sandy Hook, NJ 4-26-11 DSC_1175[2]Osprey in Flight Over Sandy Hook, by Brenda Jones

However, there are other signs of spring at Sandy Hook, in addition to rare birds.

HeronJuveniles6x6BrendaJonesGreat Blue Herons, Brenda Jones

The beach became a canvas, splashed with the unexpected soft burgeoning of beach plum and the sturdy renascence of prickly pear.

Tasha Carolyn Bahrs Sandy Hook AprilTasha O’Neill and Carolyn, Bundled for Spring Birding at Sandy Hook

In the distance, at North Beach, the Verrazano Bridge shimmered like a spider’s blue-black web against a washed out Narrows.  Wall Street rose like the wall for which it was names (between properties of the Delafields and the Harveys, I was told, in the Hudson River Valley.  Delafields and Harveys live in Princeton to this day, without requiring walls.)

Beach Plum Tardy blossoming Sandy Hook May 2014Beach Plum Burgeoning, Sandy Hook, Early May 2014

Prickly Pear Rainbow Sandy Hook May 2014Prickly Pear Renascence, Sandy Hook, Early May 2014

Aretmesia Sandy Hook May 2014Artemesia, Sandy Hook, Early May, 2014

I’ll add some images from a winter’s birding day — when the seafood was equally spectacular, and the birding frankly not gratifying.  Our best birds of winter were seen from our table at Bahrs — including a goldeneye.  Our most surprising was in a thicket surrounding a parking lot – a hermit thrush.  Above our car, in a cedar, to be sure, was a flock of cedar waxwings, who flew off as one, making lovely music.

High Clouds and Herons Sandy Hook May 2014High Clouds and Courting Herons, Early May, 2014

No thrushes nor waxwings in May, but the sharp cries of duelling oystercatchers had welcomed us to ‘the Hook’.  And the lilting love songs of osprey serenaded us throughout our sojourn.

Oyster Catcher at BarnegatOystercatcher, LBI, by Brenda Jones

Moral of the story, go in winter, even though bleak, for miracles await.

Return in spring for different winged blessings.

Get yourself out into Nature every chance you get, before climate change strips its glories.

And do whatever you can to preserve Nature everywhere you can, through your splendid local land trusts.  You know who they are!

dugout canoe Lenni Lenape at BahrsIndian Dugout Canoe, Formerly at Bahrs, Lost to Sandy  



Spring is alive and well and living at the Pole Farm:  Yellow Warbler with Insect by Brenda Jones

yellow warbler with insect Brenda Jones

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I’ve moved to Lawrenceville, near the Pole Farm.  Every time I hike there, miracles happen. At one moment today, we were watching a scarlet tanager, a rose-breasted grosbeak and a yellow warbler.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Wash Cross Brenda Jones

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Brenda Jones

Today, Tracy Turner, a friend who also lives in Society Hill, taught me a new way to get into the Farm.  Over to the park here, cross a bridge over a stream, walk through a forest, pass a plethora of skunk cabbage, drift through May Apple Central, cross at a lighted pedestrian crossing onto Pole Farm land, and find yourself in enchantment.  We walked with Phyllis Horner, who has eyes for the tiniest birds.  Never, in our multi-years at American Re-insurance, did we think that our partnership ‘in the trenches’ there would lead to a forest walk of irreplaceable memory.

First ferns unfurl on both sides, –so-called ‘sensitive’ ones, which means they shrivel first at first frost.  Last frost isn’t so very far behind us, and too many rains and floods are very apparent on those beautiful fine hard dark grey Pole Farm trails.  So solid, so smooth, on first excursions.  Now rutted, gouged, unsmoothed, contorted by storms of Wednesday and Thursday.  But still beautiful.  And still leading to scenes right out of The Secret Garden, Girl of the Limberlost, Green Mansions.

Trees overhead held a rose-breasted grosbeak, caroling away.  Birders tell me this grosbeak sounds like a robin whose studied opera.  And he sings more lustily and lengthily han the most determined diva.

Good trail markers tell us how many miles to whatever landmarks and viewing ops and historic sites.  We just sail into those woods, wind in our hair, spring in our steps.

On the right are carpets of spring beauties — those tiny spring ephemerals with the pale pink stripe down the center of each minuscule petal.  And some of them get carried away with pinkness, until they turn nearly magenta.  But they are so very delicate.  You don’t see how they get through the cold of this spring, let alone the storms.  Yet here they are, smiling up at us on all sides.

May apple parasols are up and their white blossoms descend, like little liberty bells, waiting to be rung.  In awhile, those bells, pollinated, will turn into fruit, –white fruit, –appealing, yet hidden.

First dark purple violets spurt among spring beauties.  So tiny.  So vivid.  I think about beloved France, that over there they eat violets, even candy them.  Somehow, in this country, I couldn’t eat one.  It would be like eating a small friend.

We hear the ping-pong-ball sound of the elusive and rare field sparrow, over and over again.   Go onto Cornell Ornithology Lab (and join, while you’re at it)  Click on the audio button for this bird who require specific soft grasses in great swathes.  Know that its presence at the Pole Farm signifies that managing for grassland birds is working, is working.

Follow the cabbage white butterfly in its zig zag flight, not very high above the flowers, and right along with you on your trek.

Watch some dark skippers dancing right, then left, –joined and not joined, but determined.

NorthernHarrierHawkLHT3-19-12DSC_5594Raptor on High, Brenda Jones

Stop dead in your tracks at the sight of a bird brighter than any male cardinal in full breeding plumage.  See those dark wings and know, –although you haven’t seen one since spring of 1980–, this is a male scarlet tanager.  He’s high in a tree of the most blinding chartreuse of the newest leaves of the season.  He seems to enjoy our wonder, our spoken praise and even love.  He comes closer and closer and we basically give up our walking, because who can walk away from a tanager?

Marvel at flood damage on the trail, and later — going toward the last pole of the Pole Farm, worry over all the newly downed trees in the most recent storm.

Know that this is irrefutable evidence of climate change, and never mind all those corporate types who want you to use the word ‘believe’ with this catastrophe.  Know that climate change is our doing, and do everything you can to counter it, starting with walking instead of driving, through turning off every un-needed light and supporting your local land trust, such as D&R Greenway.  Open land absorbs carbon.  So do trees.  Marvel at the stretches of unspoiled land that once was corporate, and now causes rare creatures to thrive.

Throw back your head in wonder as the turkey vulture rides thermals for the entire length of your walk without once flapping his/her wings.  Meaning, not using any calories.  Meaning, he/she elevators up and up on warmth from the open fields, and then coasts down.  “The wind master”, as Ur-birder Pete Dunne calls vultures.

Be dazzled by the straight out (as opposed to V-shaped) thermal coasting of the red-tailed hawk, out over the field where the last pole presides.

Come upon a vernal pond and discover a myriad of dark spurting newly emerged minuscule black tadpoles, –perfectly at home in the shadowy water.  Determine to come back every day to watch legs appear and bodies change into amphibians who will fill the nights with song.

Everywhere you look, realize there is nothing human except for the flood-scoured trail, –nothing ruined, everything beautiful and natural and alive and the way it is meant to be.

 Cabbage  White Butterfly Brenda Jones

Cabbage White Butterfly in Spring by Brenda Jones

Ponder preservation, and determine newly to do everything in your power to see to it that more and more of beleaguered New Jersey is saved.

So the tadpoles and the skippers, tanagers and red-tails, cabbage whites field sparrows, sensitive ferns and spring beauties and all their wild relatives can thrive and absorb carbon and actually save the planet.  Be glad that the powers that be saved the Pole Farm and created the Lawrenceville-Hopewell Trail.