Can you guess the reality of my birding jaunt to Cape May over Christmas?

Beacon Cape May Christmas Fog

Intriguing, how the fog holds the Light’s beam…

Cape May Past Christmas Eve

I seem to be obsessed with light of one form and another…

Cape May Christmas Birding  My Trusty Steed

My trusty steed – Excalibur, otherwise known as ‘Cal’…

Sormy NIght Wrack Line Cape May Christmas

dark and stormy nights — effect upon the wrack line at NJ’s Land’s End

Visibility Zero Exit Zero Cape May Christmas Eve.039

Visibility Zero at ‘Exit Zero’

Sun Moment Cape May Christmas Eve

Plenty of room upon seaside benches

Bench in Oyster Light Cape May Christmas Eve

Those fogs did not arrive on Sandburg’s “little cat feet”

Cape May Christmas Eve sunrise

Christmas Eve Sunrise from my Room

Cape May Christmas Eve

Christmas Morning Departure

… for ‘the Brig’ — I never learn…


Snow on Sand Cape May

Wild is the real reason I go anywhere.  Especially why I choose almost everywhere off-season.  There’s probably no place people are less likely to expect to spend Christmas than Cape May.  That’s why I go.

Ice and Sand Cape May Christmas

What I want to see more than anything else, really, –maybe even more than birds–, is snow on sand.

Snow Sand and Ice Cape May Christmas

Growing up in lower Michigan, it would take us all day to get to sand, and that we would never attempt in winter.

Whelks of Winter Cape May

It’s 3 hours to Cape May and I’ll be there by lunchtime tomorrow.  Maybe whelks, blued by ocean-time and wintertime, will await again at the Jetty.

Cape May Rocks and Surf Christmas 09

Wondrous and unexpected beauties await.  They are more startling and more austere; therefore wilder and more thrilling, in winter.

Gull Congregation Cape May

I’ll stroll Beach Avenue reaches, where a patrol of gulls studies the emptiness.

Christmas Eve Gifts Cape May

I’ll check out the Jetty, where beachcombers had lined up whelk shells as though waiting for, or left by, Santa, a Christmas or two ago.

I’ll walk the sands Christmas morning, like this father and child, going for the gifts that really matter:

Christmas Morning Beach Walk Cape May


I’ll be downtown a little bit, for the stark contrast of this storybook town and the wild reaches I’m combing for birds.

Patisserie A Ca Mia

A few years ago, when it was by no means this hot, I found the literal Christmas rose:

The Christmas Rose

St. Phillips by the Sea Cape May Winter

I’ll check out St. Phillips-by-the-Sea, isolate and welcome as a lighthouse on a blustery Christmas Eve.

Of course, I’ll make pilgrimage to the Hawk Watch Platform, maintained by Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO) of which I am a member.

Hawk Watch Platform non-shoveled no hawks

Not much open water for the birds at the platform:

Open Water Scarce at Hawk Watch Platform

I’ll stop for restorative meals, also replete with beauty, at the Blue Pig, named for a tavern of yesteryear, and the Lobster House.  This was Christmas Day dinner, next to the tree at the storied Blue Pig.  (Note, my Sibley is always at hand.)

Cape May Christmas Turkey Congress Hall

I’ll go down to the sea again and look for last light effects, so intensified by winter.


This Sand Really WAS Pink and Blue



Farewell to Christmas in Cape May

Welcome Wreath Jetty Motel

A simple wreath on a simple motel says it all.

Wild and simple – it just doesn’t get any better!


Perfection Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving Perfection – Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I run away from holidays.  Thanksgiving was no exception.  Key birder, Mary Wood, and I set out for long empty Pinelands roads which lead past bogs and to ‘the B rig’ (Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge near Smithville.)

Pinelands Beckons at Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Brigantine Forest Trail – Sugar Sand and Pine Duff – on Thanksgiving

Just below Chatsworth (“The Heart of the Pines”) we came upon bogs being plowed and replanted, probably with berries that don’t ripen when all the other cranberries do.  Sand has its own beauty, and we were grateful for that, and for wild tracks – one probably coyote, one definitely fox, amidst the sugar sand.

New Planting New Drainage Chatsworth 2015

Preparing for new cranberry varieties

Preparing to Replant Cranberry Bogs 2015

Pine Barrens Sugar Sands near Chatsworth Bogs

Sugar Sand Track

Fox Claims Trail 2015

Wild Track

Pine Island Cranberry Company 2015

Legendary Haines Pine Island Cranberry Company near Chatsworth

Little did we know that the day’s highlight was just ahead.  Against the far shore, on a tiny gin-clear lake, we found not one but four trumpeter swans.

Trumpeter Swans first view near Chatsworth 2015

Oler Lake Holds Trumpeters near Chatsworth 2015

Oler Lake was Swan Lake — see white dots in distance

Mary set up the scope and we spent about a half hour with these dignified beauties.

Trumpeter Swan Families from Internet

Tundra Swan Images from Internet

Her splendid optics revealed jet black beaks, not a glimmer of yellow lore that would have identified tundra swans.  They swam in such unison that the four created one thin wake.  One of the three was an immature, the grey of chinchilla fur, and every bit as dignified and splendid as those matures.  No ‘ugly ducklings’ here!

We drove between glistening pitch pines, and gleaming blackjack oaks – shrublike oaks that retain their cinnamon-hued leaves until April.  Sand softened the roadway, and barely human appeared.

Soon, ‘the Brig’ beckoned, equally shining in Thanksgiving light.

Silence had surrounded us all the way down, and was almost audible in the Refuge.  Peace was the order of the day, and impeccable beauty.

1 Swan a-Swimming Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Mary and the Mute Swan, near Gull Tower

Mute swans swam singly or in couples, swirling here, circling there — no family groups and no thin wake here.  Tiger-orange beaks shouting their presence, identifying this slightly smaller noble member of the swan family.

We were given hundreds of tundra swans, thousands of snow geese.  This internet picture will do for you what my camera will not.  I have been at the brig when the sky was whitened with snow geese; a blizzard, and every flake a snow goose here for the winter.

Snow Geese On the Wing from Internet

We were so warm, we set up and used the scope for great swathes of time, in light jackets, then shirtsleeves.

Mary Wood Setting the Scope Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

One of the stars of the day was a solo boat-tailed grackle.  These pictures from the Internet give you some idea of their dignity.  We could barely tear ourselves away from this heroic bird.

His breast was awash in every tone of blue on black the color of wet jet.  Each minuscule movement created aurora-borealis-like shiftings and glowing along that dark expanse.  Behind him shimmered limitless reaches of impoundments of varying salinities, peppered with black ducks and Northern pintails, shovelers and mallards beyond counting.

Boat-Tailed Grackle Close-Up from Internet

Boat-Tailed Grackle full shot from Internet

A walk in a forest brought glorious oversized leaves, cushiony pine needles everywhere, light slicing through woods, and adorable yellow-rumped warblers.

Yellow-rumped Warbler from Internet

Yellow-rumped warbler from Internet

Huge Oak Leaf Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Oversized Oak Leaf, Brigantine Pine Forest

Even the mud was beautiful!

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Mud near Leeds Eco-Trail

We had jokingly gone to the Brig to find the hot-line-reported scissor-tailed flycatcher.  I’d seen one at Sandy Hook, one at Cape May, in my entire life.  We did see and hear some unusual birds in shrubs and deciduous trees along the impoundments.  Here’s what we should have found, but were unable to discover.

Scissorf-tailed Flycatcher we did not see, from Internet

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher from Internet

Day’s Stars – Trumpeter Swans from Internet

trumpeter_swan Internet

The monarchs of this kingdom proved to be those trumpeter swans — not only hither and yon throughout Brig waters, in small trim family groups.  But also, at the end, the pond where we’d hoped for buffleheads, two coursing overhead in silent flight, and yet we could hear the air passing through those solid, stately wings.

trumpeter swans on the wing from Internet

Trumpeter Swans from Internet

Running away from holidays holds so many miracles.  It was almost a day without turkeys, until Mary spotted a few stately, dark and noble gobblers scurrying through a remote stretch of those legendary, eponymous Pines.  O, and come to think of it, we began the day in the cranberry bogs!

I will say again, a plethora of pipelines is poised to puncture the Pinelands.  Highly flammable fuels will roar through those pipes, threatening not only that highly flammable forest, but also the sacred Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer of 17 trillion gallons of the healthiest water in America.  Pipeline people insist that citizens have no choice.  Wherever you are, prove the Pipeline people wrong!  Write editors.  Protest.  Put up Signs.  Write Congresspeople.  Pipeline people have no concept of HABITAT!


Trading Company

Friends know that I, basically, detest shopping.  Except, of course, for the Carousel Lavender Farm near Doylestown, PA, and virtually any farm market.  Chatham’s past lives on.  Its present is alluring.  And here is an emporium I will never find at home!

Fish Rubbings

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that Jeanette Hooban, Carolyn Yoder and I spent the last week of October on Cape Cod.  Seven summer weeks per year, my beloved daughters and I had lived these scenes together, in the 70’s and 80’s.

Chatham Resident Hawk

These images reveal that Chatham remains as enticing and yes, quaint, as ever.  Even Christmas shopping, which I really eschew, is a pleasure in old Chatham.  Come, stroll with me.

Chatham Wayside Inn

Chatham Pottery still reigns supreme.  One of my few souvenirs is a handsome hand-crafted mug, brilliantly glazed by the mother of the potter, sporting what may be the current (there never used to be one) Chatham icon – the HYDRANGEA.

Chatham PotteryBluefins

Sushi did not exist in Chatham ‘in our day’, except for the whales and the gulls.

Candy Manor

We took every guest to Candy Manor, still turning out handsome, hearty sweets — my favorites being dark-chocolate-covered cranberries, of course.  I think Massachusetts is neck-and-neck with NJ, craynberry-wise.

If your rented haven didn’t have lobster pot, crackers, picker-outers, chowder bowls, bibs and napkins, this was and is the place to go.

Chatham Cookware Facade

Chatham Whimsy

Chatham Mermaid

Chatham trucks are irresistible.  This connoisseur was lunching at the Impudent Oyster.

Chatham Cervantes Landscaper

In our Chatham years, this was our rainy-day shop — puzzles and coloring books.  It’s still there.  So much is still as it was.  Miraculous and gratifying…

Mayflower Hobbies

Pine Acres Realty led us to our cottage on Nantucket Sound, and to later treasures in forested Harding’s Beach Hills, high above a saltmarsh.Noble Pine Acres Realty

Even Municipal Chatham is appealing.Yankee Restraint

Olde Chatham still reigns supreme, between Chatham Light and the water, alive with seals and adrift with fishing boats returning to Chatham Fisheries and the Chatham Fish Pier while we were there this fall.

Chatham Beach and Tennis Club

Down the road apiece from Main Street’s Shopping, one arrives at a bluff high above the sea, the ever-perilous sea.


Chatham Swimmers and Waders Shark Advisorys

Enlightened Chatham:

Chatham Solar Recycling Chatham Cautions



Road Sign Fleecydale Road, Carversville

 NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I am partial to time travel.  Give me a town or a region, a landscape or seascape that’s frozen in time, and I could move right over or down there.  You also know how much timelessness matters to me.  I hope, over the years, that my blog images have conveyed historic or even non-historic, as in unspoiled scenes, matter to me.  My current time travel destination is Fleecydale Road (closed to cars, open to locals and walkers), below the Carversville Inn in Bucks County.

Carversville inn PA Jan. 2015

Beautiful Ruin Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Recently, on two different occasions, I took dear friends over to Carversville, Pennsylvania, in Bucks County.  We go across the Stockton (NJ) bridge and straight up the hill.  Take Aquetong Road right til you come to the Carversville Inn, seemingly unchanged since the 1800-and-somethings, at the corner of Aquetong and Fleecydale.

View From the Bridge Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Go inside, having made a fireside reservation if the fireplace is working.  Otherwise, sit in the sunnier upper room, and feast.  The chef is a wizard with sauces, — subtle, authentic, nuanced, and never overdone.  I have friends who call up to be sure their escargots with the little poufy pastry hats are on the menu, before they set out on the journey, often in a snazzy little white Triumph, top down, fur hats this time of year.  The car is named Murg, and she loves back roads.  It doesn’t get any ‘backer’ than Fleecydale. But I am ahead of myself.

Beech Central, Fleecydale Road, Carversville

If they have oyster ‘stew’ – liquid gossamer – go for that alone.  Then, I am always torn between the DIVER SCALLOP, yes, singular, and about the size of a filet of beef, wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon or prosciutto, served on tangy julienned root vegetables, and delicately/heartily framed with artistic doodles of sauce that could be Cumberland or could be some essence of citron.  “Torn between” this superbly undercooked scallop, and the Wild Mushroom Ragout.  TBD.  All desserts are made in house, and their ice creams and sorbets give Princeton’s ‘bent spoon’ a run for the money – as in salted caramel…  There is a flourless chocolate cake with house-made (of course!) caramel that is “worthy of the journey”, in the renowned Michelin Guide term.

No Swimming Fleecydale Road, Carversville

O, Fleecydale, you ask!  What about Fleecydale?

Cross Creek Reflections Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Well, it’s been closed since Sandy.  Don’t ask.

Bridge of Yesteryear Fleecydale Road, Carversville

It winds about like Lombard Street in San Francisco.  But it’s far more beautiful, natural, and, YES, OLDER!

Fleecydale Road Doorway Carversville

Fleecydale is studded with buildings from the 1600s, 1700s, 1800’s you already know:  Mill this, tanner that.  Each house remarkably individualistic, from the tiniest to the grandest.  A handsome bridge.  A tranquil creek now, that raged in Sandy.  Broad fields, resplendent with wildflowers in summer and autumn; a remarkable rock wall on the left as you walk away from the Inn, which is festooned with ice sculpture by the greatest artist of all, Nature Herself, in January.

Baby, It's Cold   Fleecydale Road Carversville Jan. 2015

Fleecydale Dwelling Carversville

The neighbors are always out walking, and they welcome you to their haven.

Cross Creek Sign Fleecydale Road, Carversville1

The vile pipeline has metastasized even onto Fleecydale (where no one seems to drive but locals, but the pipeline has eminent domain).  No one is safe, anywhere, in the Era of the Pipeline, not even sacred Fleecydale!  Do what you can, WHEREVER YOU LIVE, to STOP ALL destructive PIPELINES!

Dread Pipeline rural Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Even in late November, new ferns are sprouting.  Spiky, tough though delicate witch hazel adorns otherwise empty shrubs.  Mill wheels lean against trees of other times.

Yesteryear, Fleecydale Road Carversville PA Jan. 2015

Each yard is subtly tended, and now decorated for Christmas.

Tis the Season Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Five of us took the Fleecydale Challenge on November 29th.  Four of them treated me for my impossible 78th birthday.  Then we trekked outside and down the ‘closed’ road, into timelessness and silence and wonder.  Of the five, three of us had seen whales that week — two of us at Island Beach, one while fishing off Barnegat Inlet. No one but yours truly had ever strolled Fleecydale.

Carver's Tanner Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Trust me that it is glorious in all seasons.

Fallen Hydrangeas Fleecydale Road, Carversville

The legendary Max Hansen Caterers (of Michener, of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve events) manage the general store now.  Get Max & Me smoked salmon, if they haven’t sold 14 packages just before you came.  Wondrous hefty breads await, and the lavender products of Carousel Farm.  Note the copy of Van Gogh’s postman in the lobby, for this was (is?) a post office not long ago.

Max Hansen Sign Fleecydale Road, Carversville,jpg

Haycock Hippies Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Copy of Max Hansen Awning and Window Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Max Hansen Giant Pumpkins Fleecydale Road, Carversville

Whatever you do, get out onto Fleecydale after your sumptuous feast.

Take cameras!

The Cranberries of Yesterweek: Images to Share

Finally, thanks to Ray Yeager, Faith Bahadurian, and others of my blogging colleagues, I’ve found the way to enter the pictures into the ‘Library’ anew.

Now the challenge is adding text.  With any luck, I can explain what follows.

If not, you’ll just have to realize this is the journey of a Pine Barrens Cranberry: from the antique method with one of the Adams Bogs’ vintage cranberry ‘combs’; through their fields, in the new dry harvest program, where neighbors pitch in to bring in the crop; to the cranberry-bounce process — only the ripest, healthiest bounce; and a computer rejects the pale ones; into bags, then my strainer, the pot with tangerine juice and one small cinnamon stick, to supper.

Bon Appetit!


Antique Cranberry Scoop Pine Barrens November 2015The Old Way Cranberry Harvest Pine Barrens November 2015Antique  Cranberry Scoop gathers Harvest Pine Barrens November 2015Labor Intensive Cranberry Harvest Pine Barrens November 201521st Century Cranberry Harvest Pine Barrens November 2015Dry Harvest Cranberries Pine Barrens November 2015Bags Ready for the Cranberry Harvest Pine Barrens November 2015Dry harvested Cranberries Pine Barrens November 2015Rejected Cranberres Pine Barrens November 2015Rolling toward Thanksfiiving Cranberry Harvest Pine Barrens November 2015Jersey Fresh Bagged Cranberry Harvest Pine Barrens November 2015Ready to Ship Cranberry Harvest Pine Barrens November 2015Ready to Truck Cranberry Harvest Pine Barrens November 2015Cranberryies StrainedSimmer Until They Pop 2015Flatbread and Cranberry Sauce