NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that The Intrepids are prone to stealing the last glimmers of summer, by going away toward the end of October. Jeanette is determined to wade, even to swim. With any luck, newly prospering humpback whales and/or clusters of minke whales will migrate alongside our beachwalks, beginning Monday.
This October flight pattern stranded me up in the Berkshires, while Sandy roared his/her impossible way throughout those distant mountains. Next-door North Adams lost power for days. Somehow Williamstown was spared. I spent that week marooned, but warm, unlike my Princeton neighbors. My days were spent reading thick books and watching a weather station of mere words typed — not even a commentator, not a picture, not even of Mantaloking’s destructions.
For there was no way for me to come home from my three-day runaway to wild beauty of the mountainous type for nearly a week. Driving back roads home, trees were down on all sides, and I never knew what literally lay ahead. But nowhere on that interminable route was as ruined as Princeton. Police cars spun blinding lights on the tarmac of familiar gas stations, for people were at each others’ throats over necessities. It had been rather blessed, being stranded between the Berkshires, Green Mountains, the nearby Catskills. That kind town took me to heart as a refugee. That multi-houred drive home brought me not surcease, but power outage at home, after all that. Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy took me in, wrapped me in wool, gave me a warm supper in their twinkling greenhouse. To this day, I rue my blase assertion, in a cafe about 2/3 of the way to Williamstown, hearing the owners talk of the coming storm: “Oh, don’t be silly. There aren’t hurricanes in mountains.”
Other Octobers brought returns to Williamstown with Jeanette Hooban and Carolyn Yoder, followed by last year’s sentimental journey to Cape Cod. This year, Jeanette found us a bright (probably modern) Cape May Victorian home to rent, a block from the sands. This means the three of us can stroll in quest of birds, at this time of key raptor migration, at first light and last. The weather’s to be good. The birding spectacular. A friend came to work today to loan me her Swarovski optics, –a king’s ransom in monetary value, and beyond price in bird details that will be evident for me as they only are with those phenomenal lenses. Also beyond price in terms of trust and friendship.
Carolyn Yoder, my co-author of the book on Stuart Country Day School’s fifty years of excellence, is driving us. Jeanette found the ideal setting, at a price even I can afford. [Basically less than a night at a normal hotel…] Jeanette’s bringing wine. I’m bringing breakfast muffins from Lawrenceville’s phenomenal Gingered Peach bakery. Cape May will have a bakery, but it won’t hold a candle to this! My Cape May Bird Observatory Membership is in good order, so we’ll have access to all the latest migratory information; as well as certain birding sites only available to members in good standing.
Carolyn’s never been to Cape May. Jeanette, I think, never overnight. I’ll be the site-and-restaurant guide. You all know there is nothing I cherish more than leading enthusiasts to new nature experiences.
We’ll do Back Bay birding on the Skimmer (pontoon boat with naturalist staff), and walk Reed’s Beach at leas one dawn when there’ll be warblers collecting and facing the dauntless challenge of Delaware Bay. The birds, of course, are the true Intrepids. The hawk watch platform should lend irresistible raptors, as well as the resident peregrine. There’ll be wild swans on ponds tucked in among the dunes, and a black one has been recently sighted. We could also find loons in those jewel-like pools. We hope for squadrons of skimmers zooming in from the sea, and maybe even new whales and late dolphins.
NJWILDBEAUTY readers may remember about the adventures of Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy, last Christmas Day. I would be groping upward from Cape May; and they downward from Princeton, in fog so thick we could not see the hoods of our cars. Our destination was the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge near Smithville, otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, where we have a festive Christmas picnic ever year. Tasha pooh-poohed my dawn proposal to call our off our plans: “There’s so much fog, I can neither see nor hear the sea, and I am inches from it. We’re not going to get any birds!” “Carolyn,” insisted wise Tasha, “this isn’t about birds. It’s about fellowship.” Of course it was:
And fellowship will be the core of this journey, beginning Monday for the week. Three friends-of-long standing, who cherish the same things with the same passion, will stretch their wings together in setting new to two of them. Anything could happen… but, probably not an October hurricane. I had remnants of that last weekend at ‘The Brig’, so that birds could not fly and we couldn’t see the sitting ones without open rain-smeared windows, so that wind-driven rain soaked us in the car. We earned our birders’ stripes that day. But this coming week will be easier.
And, o, yes. October is an ‘R’ month. We are traveling to the home of Cape May Salts, my favorite oysters after Wellfleet. I told my colleagues at work this afternoon, “We’ll be o.d.’ing on oysters.”
Here’s to adventure!