WINTER BIRDING: Brigantine Excursion(s)

As I prepare a 7+a.m. departure for the Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge with the original Intrepids, [Sunday, February 28], I am so impatient to be there that I retrieve these images for NJWILDBEAUTY.  Taken in Christmas Fog with Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy, they reveal our annual Christmas picnic tradition in this haven for birds and humans.

Eagle on the Osprey at Brigantine Christmas 2015

Brigantine Fog Christmas Day: Eagle Thinks He’s Safe on Osprey Nest Near Dike Road

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know my passion for hiking winter beaches.  Part of that impulse is the rare sight of snow on sand.  2016’s major lure, however, has been to be in the presence of the rare birds of winter.

You’ve exulted with me over long-tailed ducks and gannets at Island Beach in November/December.  Yesterday, at Sandy Hook, I was privileged to be somewhat near four long-tails (formerly Old Squaws, but not p.c.) and one red-throated loon in winter plumage – also an Island Beach rarity enjoyed not long ago.  The amusing thing about the red-throated loon, however,  is that it doesn’t display its red throat in winter.  But it’s still elegant, imposing, arresting, even in an otherwise empty ocean!

Christmas Fog Brig Tasha Alan 2015

Tasha and Alan, Christmas Fog, the Brig — Note Obvious Warmth…

In a few morning minutes, I’m being descended upon by three of the Intrepids, whom you remember from the Nor’easter at Island Beach.  Mary Penney, Bill Rawlyk, Jeanette Hooban and I and are taking off on my cherished back roads down to ‘The Brig.’ Most of this day (and even on major holidays) we’ll be alone on straight smooth stretches edged with pitch pine, blueberry bushes, blackjack oaks and sugar sand.

Otherwise known for the politician who saved great swathes of open New Jersey shoreland, Edwin B. Forsythe, winter’s Brigantine Refuge should be rich in swans of several species, snow geese beyond counting, vivid ducks — especially beloved buffleheads and various saucy mergansers.  With luck, we’ll re-find the peregrine of our Christmas picnic.  Nearby, also in Atlantic County, three avocets are listed on the birding hot line this morning as “Continuing.”  Can we find them?  Will the avocets dance for us today?

Christmas Goose Brig 2015

Christmas Goose (Geese) of the Brig

Bedecked Goose Marker in Christmas Fog

Ding Darling Goose Sign in Christmas Hat and Scarf — All the Ding-Darling-Designed Goose Signs Wore Someone’s Handiwork

Who could stay home with all these riches 75 miles away?  O, yes, and there’ll be bountiful breakfast at Smithville’s historic, cozy, savory “Bakery.”  [One friend thought that only meant sweets, so had filled up, tragically, before the trip. I think she ordered orange juice…]  We will be forced to choose between in-house yeasty sweet breads, and their savory home-made sausage patties and eggs that taste like eggs, with yolks like marigolds.  The Bakery echoes a stage-coach site at the corner of Route 9 and Alternate 561 in Smithville that harkens back to pre-Revolutionary Days.  There we read of Jimmie Leeds, who wrote the first Almanac in America, which Ben Franklin called America’s first literature.  Also, obviously, near the birthplace of the Jersey Devil, which we’ll seek out after the birds.

Territorial Peregrine Brigantine Christmas 2015

Territorial Peregrine of Christmas

Tasha at work in Christmas fog

Tasha, Fine Art Photographer, At Work in the Fog

Snow Geese of Christmas

The Christmas Goose — well, GEESE, Snow, of Course!

Brigantine Christmas PIcnic 2015

Tasha’s Christmas Picnic, Which Alan Insisted we eat in the Brig, “Because, how can we leave the Peregrine?”

Bon Appetit Christmas

Bon Appetit, Tasha-Style

 

Tasty Treats of Christmas

Tasty Treats, including Home-Made Tomato Soup in Heated Mugs

 

Sneak Boat Disguises Hunters off Brigantine Refuge Christmas Morning

Sneak Boat Hunting at the Edge of the Refuge, shots audible, Christmas Day

Snow Geese Forever at Brig

Snow Geese Forever as the Fog Begins to Lift

Christmas Fog begins to lift 2015

“Blue Skies Smiling”, as We Prepare to Depart

O, and what happened today?  Stay tuned – but think snow geese like snow drifts; rare red-breasted merganser couple, blown in on recent wild winds; and our Absecon Quest for the “Continuing” Avocets — yes, they danced for us – worthy of the journey!.

Winter birding is always rich, rewarding and varied.  Surprises are the norm.

The peace and beauty of the Pine Barrens stuns us newly every time.  This is a world where people still live by the seasons and the tides.

Yes, haven.

 

 

 

WINTER ARTISTRY: BOWMAN’S HILL WILDFLOWER PRESERVE

Even though we call this NJWILDBEAUTY, readers know my steps frequently stray to nearby states, in quest of the Nature I MUST have!  This series reveals the wildflower preserve below New Hope, on a December morning walk.  Stroll with me.

And yes, I’m going to mention our era’s most critical challenge — catastrophic climate change.  These greens do not belong at Bowman’s in December!

Jack Frost Art Nouveau Bowman's

Winter’s Artistry Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Autumn Turns to Winter at Bowman's

Between Two Seasons, Bowman’s, above Pidcock Creek

 

Cezanne Palette at Bowman's

Cezanne Palette, Bowman’s in December

 

Fresh Greenery and Oak Leaves Bowman's

Fresh-sprung Greenery and Just-fallen Oak Leaves, Bowman’s, December

 

Squirrel Feast Bowman's

Squirrel’s Place-Setting, Bowman’s, near Pidcock Creek

 

New Ferns of Winter

New Ferns of December

 

Leaf Fall and Ice Bowman's

New Leaf Fall, New Ice, Bowman’s

 

Green Prickly Pear in Winter at Bowman's

Prickly Pear, Bright Green in December, Bowman’s — a native species in PA and NJ

 

Fungus Thrives on Sandy Relic at Bowman's

Turkey Tail Fungus Lives Up to its Name

 

Turkey Tail Fungus Earns its name at Bowman's

Turkey Tail Claims Sandy Victim

NJWILDBEAUTY readers are used to my proclaiming that Nature doesn’t close her doors with the advent of Labor Day.  Great beauty awaits, on all trails, outdoors, — with particularly special effects in winter.

Once again, though, none of this could we see, and perhaps much of it would not exist, were it not preserved through Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.  A team of volunteers recently created a human chain to walk the last deer, allowed in by Sandy-destruction of fences, out to the wild beyond, where they belong.  Now all the glorious flowers can erupt in safety, once again.  Support your local non-profit; preserve your nearby open lands.

 

 

 

ANOTHER WORLD — THE TRACTOR SUPPLY STORE

Dear friends, knowing my enthusiasm for NJ Farms and most related to these vanishing, eponymous sites in our state, offered to take me to the Tractor Supply Store.

After a sublime (try it, you’ll LIKE it!) breakfast at the Americana Diner on Route 130 — truffles where you least expect them, Kevin McNally drove Judith and me through fields and farms and forests to this store.

I had my trusty camera and extra batteries, because I expected to capture close-ups of tractor wheels, gears, hardware and the like.

Instead, it was like stepping through a gateway to another world.  Somewhat like Alice in Wonderland after the sipping.  Somewhat like the Wizard of Oz when it changed from black and white to color.

Come with me — see what I mean!

(I wanted those t-shirts, but they were all XLarge 3X…)

Born to Fish

Born to Fish!

 

Secret to Fishing

Where the Fish Are

 

Wrangler

WRANGLER

 

Boot Central

Boot Central

 

Original Muck

Muck Boots

 

True Grit Tractor Supply Store

How-Tp Department

In among How to Raise Chickens, and Feeding Your Horse, and Kayak Angler and Food Guide and Grit, on another side of this kiosk, were Marilyn Monroe Magazines.

This turned out to be the reverse of “You’re Not in Kansas Any More…”

And, guess what, there weren’t ANY tractors!

 

WHAT I LOVE BEST — A PERFECT HIKE

Phyllis and Tracy Meet Goat Hill December

Phyllis and Tracy Study The Delaware River from Goat Hill Trail Below Lambertville

Long ago, working at American Re-Insurance, I made two friends who remain my hiking buddies to this day – Phyllis Horner and Tracy Turner.  Every couple of months, we’re out and about in nature, either before or after a memorable meal, exploring together.  On this Valentine’s Day, the Day of the Heart, I am grateful for all my friends — especially these two, who go back to 1997.  And grateful for the health which each of us has won, despite enormous challenges, in recent years —  health that grants us continuing access to remarkable natural beauty!

Delaware River Stillness Goat Hill December

Delaware River, Mirror Still, Looking Toward New Hope and Bucks County

Trees Most Beautiful Without Leaves

December Drama, Crest of Goat Hill

 

Rocky Promontory Goat Hill December

Rocky Promontory from Goat Hill Preserve – from which George Washington Planned Battles of Trenton

 

Teens on Promontory Goat Hill December

Teens on Rocky Promontory, Looking Toward Bucks County — note sleeveless garb in December

 

Smiling Basalt on Goat Hill

Great Stone Face — When Basalt Grins — Goat Hill Crest

 

Phyllis and the Rock God of Goat Hill

Phyllis Challenges the Great Stone Face

 

Tracy on Goat Hill December

Tracy on the Rocks, Goat Hill

 

Heat Haze Goat Hill December

Tracy’s View from the Rocks

 

Left Behind Goat Hill December

Left-Behind Birthday Present, Goat Hill Crest

This was actually my Birthday Hike, but our fellowship and the setting were my gifts.  This vivid sack, which was full, is not my birthday present.

 

Wood Gatherers Goat Hill December

This Felt Left Behind by Natives of this Site — Lenni Lenapes of Long Ago…

 

Beauty, Human and Wild, Goat Hill December

Beauty, Human and Wild, on Goat Hill

Realize that this idyllic spot would not be there for us to hike so easily (and I wonder what it looked like to George Washington, to General Cornwallis, in the 1700’s), were it not for prservationists, conservationists, ecologists, who joined together to preserve this historic site.  D&R Greenway, where I work, is part of that preservation miracle.

Take the road to Howell Living History Farm, off 29 below Lambertville.  Turn left onto Goat Hill Road and wind through dense forest with intriguing houses full of character, tucked into the wilderness.  Turn left on Washington Road, which had no name in his day.  Park on the left and hike to majestic views, in absolute tranquillity

You can tell that I cannot tell what season this is — and that, of course, is fallout of catastrophic climate change.  This was December 12, 2015!

Not many days after Thanksgiving, actually — and this flock of eight turkeys strolled through Tracy’s yard as I took her back home, here in “Society Hill” (Society of Friends – ancient land), Lawrenceville.

There is nothing better than fellowship, wild nature, and my beloved Delaware River!

Turkeys in Tracy's Yard Society Hill December

Wild Turkeys in my neighbor, Tracy’s, yard, Back Here in Lawrenceville – there were 8 of them

“…fill up with snow…”

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening]

***

 

By Robert Frost

***

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
***
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
***
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
***
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
 
 
 

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost. Reprinted with the permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Source: Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays (Library of America, 1995)

This poem has always been a favorite of this winter-lover, but it mattered most to President Kennedy…      snow is such a blessing…                        cfe