My normal reaction to climate change, –formerly known as global warming–, blends shock, horror, and determination to convince everyone to do whatever you can to turn this catastrophe around. Every once in awhile, I have to admit to guilty delight. As in Jeanette’s and my barefoot day with Ray Yeager (fine art photographer) at Island Beach last weekend.
Jeanette Hooban and I miraculously met Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer who specializes in Island Beach and Acadia National Park, even though our restaurant meeting place hadn’t opened for the season as promised. We tucked into a massive breakfast somewhere else in Lavallette, having no idea where Ray might be, then headed into the Park. There was probably never a more spectacular oceanic beauty than we were given that day.
Jeanette tumbled hard for her first osprey on the nest, out by the ten-mile nearly empty entry road. “That’s the closest I’ve ever been to an osprey.” “You want osprey, I know how to get you much closer than this.” So we changed our plan to go straight to the tip of the Park and hike to Barnegat Light. Spizzle Creek Bird Blind drew us. Not five minutes onto the trail, there was Ray. So we were able to spend the day together after all.
The air that sunny day was full of osprey. Carrying fish. Feeding one another. Portaging nest materials. Even mating. Singing their frail but penetrating love songs. Displaying wing designs of the complexity and brilliance of Navajo rugs, as Jeanette described it. Look up Ray Yeager Photography Blog (and follow it) in the next few days. I’m sure he’ll feature that displaying osprey over the real tree in which the real birds were building a real nest. In other words, this was no platform!
Great egrets moved about the mainland near the Sedge Islands on Barnegat Bay, with the dignity of monarchs. Snowy egrets were either fighting or courting or both, and comical as circus clowns. Their golden slippers were usually deep in marshwater, but their antic behavior proved the identifying feature. These shore birds are exceptionally at home along Barnegat Bay and among the Sedge Islands. Not long ago, an environmental hero named Pete McLain, brought the osprey back to the Bay and peregrine falcons back to New Jersey. I was lucky enough to kayak with him two years in a row, and hear the legendary tales.
Healthy sinuous waterways glistened, as though diamonds that can float had been flung along their edges. The waters themselves were that burnished chestnut color, otherwise known as peat tones, characteristic of Pine Barrens habitat. The Bay had a palette of dreamlike delicacy.
I’m showing all these Bay pictures, because most people admit they’ve never hiked that side, seen that watery miracle. I also want to give you the feeling of appeal, even magnetism of Island Beach waters that day, that soon had us taking off our shoes and walking in hot silk sand.
But mine weren’t the only toes relishing that sand…