“THE GIRL WITH THE CHARTREUSE ANKLE” ~ Island Beach New Year’s Day

Winter Still-Life, Island Beach, New Year’s Day

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New Year’s Morning Wrack Line, Island Beach

 

So it’s come to this:  In order to walk Island Beach and Sandy Hook, –especially twice in one winter week, as currently planned –, I turn to my splendid chiropractor, — Brandon Osborne, D.C., of Hopewell, New Jersey.  On the heels of that nearly significant recent birthday, new ministrations are suddenly required to sustain my sometimes rebellious body.

 

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Peroneus Longus – who can bark, “Don’t Mess With Me!”

 

The peroneus longus, –which one possesses, whether one wants one or not–, on the outside of each leg, leads down to the ankle bone.  My left Peroneus, (rhymes with Polonius), gravely dislikes soft sand, — especially dune trails leading up and down in order to get to the sea.

 

After P’s last rebellion, Brandon insisted, laughing, “The best medicine for Peroneus is more soft sand.”  Multi-faceted workouts engendered thereby actually stress Peroneus, rendering him stronger each time.  Brandon has me weave new leg-buttressing routines, among my yoga postures.  And he’s come up with a fine plan — move my appointments to the nights before beach-days, and he will protect my recalcitrant foot(e).  He will tape the offending tendon.

 

Behind me, Brandon asked what color I prefer, –of a pretty short list.  I blithely answer “green”.  (never far from work at D&R Greenway; never far from being a very “green” person.                  I expected the color of winter pine trees.          Wrong:

 

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Yoga-Ready, New Year’s Morning, 2017

 

This development had me literally laughing out loud, since my motto for this significant year, is “OUTRAGEOUS!”   (Exclamation point included.)    I do yoga for an hour to an hour and a half each day, holidays included But there’s a little more to it than soft sweet grace:

 

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Final Yoga Moments, New Year’s Day, 2017

 

I tend to do whatever Brandon suggests-to-insists so I can be outdoors as much as possible. New upright exercises involve standing high on toes for longish periods, legs together, then legs farther apart.  In the beginning, doing 30 of each seemed impossible.  Now it’s only the last six or so that weary me/us (Peroneus and me).  But they do not hurt.

 

Seeing that wild ankle decor Thursday, I marveled, “But, I feel like an athlete, taped for the fray.”  Brandon abruptly asserted, “You ARE an athlete!”  This is the person who had been felled by rheumatic fever at seven.  From then on, tennis, biking around the block, all jumproping – [and I had been the star], and roller skating were forbidden for life.  After which swimming to the end of the dock at camp became impossible.  (Until my 2011 hip replacement p.t., I had not set foot(e) in a gym, and was absolutely terrified to begin.)  Well, better late than never.

Brandon’s other prescription involves that very soft sand.  The picture below proves this morning’s obedience to his mandate:   You are coming with us along Reed’s Road to Barnegat Bay — first stop on my every I.B. pilgrimage.

 

Realize that this is the original sugar sand for which New Jersey’s Pine Barrens are famous.  Be very aware that this delicate, even exquisite pale grey substance is light years beyond the dingy practically ochre grunge dredged up and brought in (especially in Sandy-battered Mantoloking) by the infamous, Nature-negating Army Corps of Engineers.

 

Island Beach sand feels like superfine sugar.  Its chinchilla hue plays off the tawnyness of beach grass, to say nothing of cinnamon-stick brown jettisoned bayberry leaves.  Walking winter sand trails, it is as though Cezanne himself had been orchestrating the palette of each trail.

 

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Soft Sand, As Prescribed, Bayside, Island Beach

 

Island Beach is a ten-mile stretch of pristine beauty, about which you’ve read and read in these electronic pages.  The landscape/dunescape could be Wellfleet and Truto leading into wildest stretches of Cape Cod’s Provincetown.

 

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Spring-Green Dune Trail, Island Beach Ocean Side, by Angela Previte

 

Why it’s worthwhile for me to do whatever Brandon Osborne, D.C., directs —  long-tailed rarities of the winter sea:

 

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Long-tailed duck, Female, December Sea, Island Beach, by Angela Previte

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Long-tailed Drake, Winter Sea, Island Beach, by Angela Previte

 

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Rare Snow Buntings of Late December, by Angela Previte

 

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Snowy Owl 2016 by Angela Previte

 

Rarities arrive, of course, at Island Beach, because it has been preserved.  Support your local, state and national land trusts, so that wild nature can thrive in our time.

 

Island Beach’s ten miles were to have been developed, as you’ve learned from me before.  The Great Depression put a stop to almost all building.  Magnificence remains at every turn.

 

Mostly (until recent brutal trail maintenance on Reed’s and other roads and trails  — this will be a blog unto itself later), the State Park’s trees, shrubs and grasses have not been pruned, –save by wind, sand and storm.

 

Rare birds coast overhead; court and build nests; dive through waves of ocean and bay; madly fish — especially Northern gannets, who create geysers as they plunge.  Most amazingly, merlins and swallows play exuberantly during Nor’easters — going as northeast as they can into the very teeth of the gale.

Wind has other effects.  See its creative partnership with remarkable compass grass:

 

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Compass Grass Does its Thing in Strong Northwest Wind

Even the weeds turn into artists in the hands of the wind:

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“Artist-in-Residence” – Compass Grass on the Oceanside, Island Beach, New Year’s Morning

The sea itself has been busy sculpting — all we need is a sphinx:

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Sea As Sculptor, New Year’s Eve Morning, Island Beach

 

This day I shared this beach with dear friends, Angela and Bob Previte.  You know her fine art, stunning portraits of New Jersey’s winged miracles, from her own blog, “Simple Life at the Shore.”  (Which see!  Which FOLLOW!)  Delightful hours have been spent with her, with them, in recent months, in the park that serves their back yard.

 

We hiked merrily for hours, though they were concerned about Peroneus.  Angela had witnessed its giving out after a particular steep trek in summertime, [see green dunescape above.]  Even so, at Trail 7A, we skimmed along the boardwalk; trudged dutifully through the softest sand, –arriving in a particular ecstasy upon firmness created by winter’s high tide .

 

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First Day of the New Year in Stunning, Impeccable New Jersey

 

We were not the only ones on the sands, this day.  Everyone we meet was simply blissed out by the perfection that we shared. We’d congratulate one another on knowing what to do with a New Year’s Day.

EXCEPTION!

All except the woman  walking boldly and illegally atop a dune.  This person asserted to Angela that she was not doing exactly what she was even then doing.  I’ve experienced many forms of denial in my life, but this was egregious.  We tried to beckon the transgressor away from making those deeply destructive footprints, to no avail.

 

I’m in don’t-mess-with-me mode, in my OUTRAGEOUS! year.  So I called over to her — “You are breaking the fine roots essential to the grasses that hold these dunes in place!”  She moved defiantly onward…

 

But, everyone else, I would describe as almost reverent this day.

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Fellowship and Solitude, Walking South along Island Beach Sands

Our own fellowship today was profound.  It will be repeated, –“take often as needed.”  Maybe I should thank Peroneus for Brandon’s prescription…

 

In the Year 2000, a great love was granted me along these unspoilt sands.  The picture below seems to represent the mighty ocean in whisper mode, hinting of secrets…

 

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Atlantic Whispers, Island Beach, January 1, 2017

DECEMBER BEACHCOMBING, NEW JERSEY STYLE

Who needs summer crowds, or even summer?  The original Intrepids (Bill Rawlyk, Jeanette Hooban, and I) literally basked along both bayside and oceanside of Island Beach last Sunday.

Silence.  Limitlessness.  Sea-borne treasures.  Elegant fishermen.  Ravenous seagull. Artemesia in winter.  Sundown like peach mousse upon a slate-blue plate.  Paradise enow…

Stroll with us.   We nearly took our shoes off!

 

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“Mermaid’s Purse” (skate egg case) and Fox Tracks like Roses Pressed into Sand

 

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December’s New Green Growth, Oceanside, Island Beach

 

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“Dusty Miller / Artemesia” — first seeds came ashore in wreckage from clipper ships! Now major dune stabilizers.

 

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Post-Sandy Boardwalk to the Sea

Can’t you just hear the cold jingle of these shells, as waves sip in and out?

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December Still-Life, Oceanside

 

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Alluring, Oceanside

 

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Seaside Success!

 

Remember that this pristine perfection exists because courageous and generous people knew to preserve it.  Do whatEVER it takes, and be generous with whatever land trusts speak to you, to extend preservation of open land, sand and water in our time.

 

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Gull’s Lunch – Probably Bunker

 

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Perfect Balance — December’s Oceanside Flycaster

 

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GAnnet-and-Long-Tailed-Duck Territory, Island Beach, December Waters

 

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Autumn Meets Winter, December Froth and Seaweed

 

 

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Crucial New Signs, Island Beach

Never forget — We ARE our fellow-creatures’ keepers.

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Our Land’s End — Below This is Barnegat Inlet, with ‘Old Barney’ Lighthouse on the Other Side

SIGN UP FOR FRIENDS OF THE EARTH & SAVE THE PLANET

Morning on Barnegat Bay Island Beach April 2016

Exquisite, Now Healthy, Barnegat Bay, thanks to Preservationists / Environmentalists

Some of you surely wonder why I’ve spent 11 going on 12 years at D&R Greenway Land Trust, at this phase of my life, and, yes, so poorly recompensed.  The answer is, my life mission has become to save the Planet.

New Dune Grass Bayhead April 2016

New Dune, New Dune Grass, Protecting Beloved Bay Head, New Jersey, April 2016

If you ever check me out on Facebook, that’s basically the only kind of ‘posting’ I do.  Once friends and I fought with minimal success to save Kingson’s Princeton Nursery Land from being sold and developed through Princeton University, into what was Villas of Tuscany and is now Barclay Square.  Hundreds of towering dwellings went in, where magnificent trees used to thrive, and so close to our Canal – drinking water for thousands locally  These condos are visible from the D&R Canal and Towpath, which is absolutely forbidden – and yet, and yet… significant exceptions were made.  The developers had the Princeton Nursery Lands deemed officially ‘nonhistoric’, triumphantly showing the signed and sealed document at a critical hearing concerning ‘Villas of Tuscany.’  ‘Nonhistoric’ although Washington had marched there with his barefoot troops after the first Revolutionary Victories, the two in Trenton and the one in Princeton; then, again, en route to crucial Monmouth and yet another win.  Abraham Lincoln rode the Camden and Amboy Railroad through that land en route to his Inauguration and his grave.  The Princeton Nurseries were the finest in America and some say in the world in its day.  The Canal, Towpath and that railroad defined New Jersey, determined its essential towns.  You can see the Barclay Square dwellings, symbol of our defeat, when down in a kayak on the water.

I mourned, just before that distant meeting over on the Delaware River (so no one could attend the hearing without taking precious scarce vacation days to be there) to one of the fellow protestors, whom I didn’t even know: “But I’m a poet.  What am I doing at the barricades?!?”

His answer propels almost everything I do these days, including walking into D&R Greenway in 2006 and saying, “Am I supposed to work with you?”

“Carolyn,” this stranger answered on the phone, “The barricades — that is where poets belong!”

First Kayak D&R Canal at Alexander Rd May 2015

Heading South from Alexander, 5 to 6:30 on a golden Sunday evening

This serenity is the norm on the D&R Canal, except where Barclay Square looms.  We did manage to save enough land to create a preserve, carefully watched over by the Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands.  My heroic fellow barricade-contenders in that long-ago fight are still in the forefront of saving and keeping Kingston and its sacred Revolutionary War and Industrial and Canal and Towpath and even Camden and Amboy Railroad sites as safe as they can possibly be from rapacious developers.  We have Karen Linder, Anne Zeman, Mark Peel, Tari Pantaleo and Robert von Zumbusch to thank for Kingston successes.  In fact, join Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands whether you ever set foot(e) in Kingston or not — for that canal and that river flow into the Raritan, its sacred Bay, and the sea, mantle of our blue planet.

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Great Egret Fishing the D&R Canal,  by Brenda Jones

The following thank you note just came in from Friends of the Earth.  The 21st Century can seem so hopeless, climate-wise, Planet-wise.  But small acts by committed people, as Margaret Mead asserts, are still changing the world.  “Indeed, this is the only thing that ever has,” she continues.  Read this.  Sign up of Friends for the Earth yourselves, financially and electronically.  Let’s prove all the skeptics wrong and save our Planet.

Read the effects of courageous acts by committed people, 21st-Century paradigm changers:

(bolds mine)   cfe

Dear Carolyn Foote,

I was just thinking about all we’ve achieved together in the past few months and I wanted to thank you for making it happen. Your activism makes a difference!

In fact, the activism of Friends of the Earth members like you in Maryland was crucial to passing the nation’s first law to ban bee-killing pesticides. Without your emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings with local legislators, the law wouldn’t have passed. Now, it’s time to take the fight to other states with similar bills on the table — and build momentum for national action on bee-killing pesticides.

On the national level, you’ve driven progress in our work to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The White House recently put a moratorium on all new coal leasing — which you helped make happen by signing petitions and writing to the President. 

And that’s not all — the Obama Administration has also postponed five oil and gas lease sales — taking a total of 125,136 acres of public land off the table for now. We’re gaining momentum thanks to the constant drumbeat from people like you telling President Obama to protect our public lands and climate. But we won’t stop until the President keeps ALL our fossil fuels in the ground.

By taking action online and in your community, you are saving bees and butterflies. You’re preventing the worst impacts of climate chaos. From local victories to progress on national issues, you’re driving our work forward. So thank you for all you’ve done, and keep up the good work!

Thanks for being a Friend of the Earth.

Warm Regards,
Erich Pica,

President,
Friends of the Earth

 

 

 

ISLAND BEACH: BAREFOOT IN APRIL!

 

 

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.

Barefoot Jeanette Island Beach April by Ray Yeager

Barefoot Jeanette and Barnegat Light, April Beach Day, 2016, by Ray Yeager

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.

The Old and The New Island Beach April 2016

“O, Say, Can You See?” – Surf of Sunday at Island Beach

 

Blue Horizons Bayhead April 2016

April Surf, Bay Head, New Jersey

 

Roll On  Bayhead Morning Surf April 2016

Jeanette and Bayahead Surf April 2016

Early Morning Solitude, April, Bay Head

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.

Discussing Bird Possibilities Island Beach April 2016

Discussing Birding Possibilities, Spizzle Creek Trail

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!

First Osprey on Nest Island Beach April 2016

First Osprey on the Nest, Next to Entry Road

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.

Morning on Barnegat Bay Island Beach April 2016

Exquisite, Now Healthy, Barnegat Bay, thanks to Preservationists / Environmentalists

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.

Barnegat Bay Clarity Island Beach April

Barnegat Bay Clarity, April, 2016

Land's End Barnegat Bay Island Beach April

Land’s End. Barnegat Bay: This is New Jersey!

 

Sparkly Healthy Brnegat Bay sland Beach April

Sparkly, Healthy, Barnegat Bay – Kayakers’ Heaven

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.

Bare Feet of April Island Beach 2016

My Toes, Relishing Hot Sand, Finer than Talcum

But mine weren’t the only toes relishing that sand…

Sleeping Fox  Island Beach April 2016

“To Sleep, Perchance to Dream” — I have never come upon a sleeping fox before!

 

Balletic Fox  Island Beach April 2016

Elegant, Balletic Fox, Awake in Daytime (they’re nocturnal!)

 

Fox Tracks Big Dune Island Beach April

The Track of the Fox

 

Fox Farewell Island Beach April 2016

Fox Farewell of an April Morning

 

First Moss of Spring  Island Beach April 2016

First Moss of Spring – And I’ve been reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Irresistible “Gathering Moss”

 

Ray Yeager in his Element Barnegat Bay  Island Beach April

Ray Yeager, Usually ‘the King of the Foxes’ — they come out to him with their kits at midnight…

 

Photographer and Beachcomber Island Beach April 2016

The Photographer and the Beachcomber, Oceanside

 

Dune Patterns Island Beach April

Dune Patterns of April, Oceanside

 

Maple Flowers Island Beach April 2016

First Red Flowers of Maple Trees, Bayside

 

Exquisite Barnegat Bay Island Beach April

Exquisite Barnegat Bay — “Paradise Enow…”

 

Skate Egg Case Island Beach April 2016

Skate Egg Case, Way Out of Season — April

ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS SNOW

Drowning in Snow

Drowning in Snow – Early 2016

On a hot day in a hot week in the early part of March, I am tempted to call this blog post, “Remember Snow?”  As people walk into our 1900 barn, –where we save land, the ultimate carbon sink–, they exult over “this lovely day.”

All day I tried to correct them:  “It’s tragic!”

“Why?!,” they’d demand.

“Climate change,” I’d retort, mourning in my voice.

“Oh, well,” says the first entrant, with a dismissive wave of the hand.  If I give up on climate change – o, please may I never give up upon calling attention to this debacle – today will have been my tipping point.

On the phone, I attempted to correct a hunter, also pleased that it is nearing seventy degrees.  When I used the dread ‘C Words’, he chuckled.  “Oh, that won’t be upon us for some time yet…”  His voice reveals that he too may have been using dismissive gestures.

Early Blizzard Chair and Table

Patio Time

Only a handful of people dare admit to me, as I literally sit in a barn with its doors thrown open to the March heat, “I happen to be a lover of winter.  This year is a fizzle.”

Yes, YES!  Realize this.  Snow is part of a significant and crucially necessary cycle.  Without it, nature’s processes are seriously skewed.

Snow, with its accompanying low temperatures, blesses fox habitat, killing microbes in their dens that otherwise doom these animals to the dire death of mange.  Ice covering a bay, such as Barnegat, permits new healthy foxes to scamper across to Island Beach, strengthening the vulpine tribe.

Snow on the mountains creates snow pack, ‘designed’ to hold water not meant to be released until the droughty months ahead.  This is particularly essential in states such as Oregon.  But New Jersey, the Garden State, requires her snow, too.  My mother used to call snow “nature’s fertilizer,” particularly rejoicing in late blizzards.  Something about nitrogen and she could see visible improvements, thereafter, in her garden.

The mailman countered, “You want snow?  Move to Minnesota.”  I lived in Minnesota in the first years of marriage to a Mayo-training urologist.  Yes, snow, whiteout snow, ‘blowing and drifting snow’, the norm and fifteen inches on my first fifteenth of April.

I want snow, now, when it belongs here, doing its sweet silent work.

Face it, we should ALL want snow.

Frantic Birds, Blizzard 1 2016

Frantic Birds Feed in Blizzard

I remember soft swathes of flakes circling down each Aspen night, frosting the long blonde hair of my teen-aged daughters.  The girls in their long skirts and clunky after-ski boots, our family family made its silent nightly way on foot to yet another intriguing dinner.  In the morning, new snow would cushioned long sweet sweeps through Big Burn and into a forest, where we sort-of slalomed in and out of ancient trees.  Their boughs were thick with snow pillows.

At the very top, each dawn, flaky frost would surround tree branches, and even float through the air, all rainbowed and fascinating.  There is no silence, not even a cathedral’s, to equal that on a chairlift through snowed forests.

At home in Princeton, snow meant ‘a snow day’, the ‘telephone tree’ informing us that PDS was closed.  Fires in the fireplaces in the morning, and chicken soup steaming up the windows, so we could barely see the universal whiteness outside.  Cardinals dancing in and out of flakes and shadows, surrounding our bountiful feeders.  A raptor zooming over to snatch the neck among steaming chicken bones I negotiated my way through confusing drifts to place at the edge of our woods.

Sitting on the hearth, playing our guitars and singing folk songs.  If it were the right kind of snow, (this was the 1970’s), snowmen – only my girls insisted on snow-women, of course.  We didn’t always have a carrot for a nose, and never coal.  Snow meant the cats wouldn’t go out the front door into it, insisting on the back – as though there wouldn’t be any snow out there.

Depth of Field late blizzard

Remarkable Snow Depth – Courtesy of Catastrophic Climate Change

Well, if we had those cats now, there wouldn’t be any snow out any doors.

Think about it, at seventy degrees in March.  If it’s this many degrees hotter than March norms, how will August be?

Flowers are opening months earlier than they should – what will the pollinators do?

Goldfinches at my Lawrenceville feeders are turning gold under their wings.  Does that mean they’re thinking breeding thoughts?  And where will the insects be to feed their premature young?

You’ve heard it before.  We’ve ignored it before.

Roof Overhang

Overhand, Morning After the Blizzard

The snow quantities in these pictures are brought to us, via our insistence upon fossil fuels, by Catastrophic Climate Change.

There is no ‘if’ about climate change.  My Climate Change Reader, edited by legendary Bill McKibben, proffers 100 years of writing (pro and con) on this subject.  McKibben dared author his his tome heralding our planet’s gravest crisis (The End of Nature) in 1989.  Is anybody listening?

When Pogo asserted, “We have seen the enemy and he is us,” he was not considering climate.

We have seen the future, and it is now.

You don’t want to be in sleeveless tops and running shorts in March.

At the very least, write your senators, representatives and editors and urge them to grapple with this most significant issue of our time, immediately and effectively now.

HOW IT SHOULD BE IN WINTER:

Falling Fast and Furiously

Falling Fast and Furiously

It’s not just snow that’s endangered.  It’s the planet itself, and we ourselves are part of what Elizabeth Kolbert titles “The Sixth Extinction.”

SHORE DELIGHTS, NJ WINTER

Too many people think Nature stops at Labor Day.  I’m here to insist that our fabulous New Jersey Shore delights in all seasons. 

First Glimpse Iconic Judge's Shack Island Beach New Year's Weekend

FIRST GLIMPSE, ICONIC JUDGE’S SHACK, JANUARY DUNES

Sometimes, I’m convinced, winter is the most exciting.  Come with me, last weekend, to Island Beach, with Ray Yeager – superb photographer of nature (check out his snowy owls and foxes on Ray Yeager Photography or Ray Yeager Photography Blog) and my original Intrepid, Jeanette Hooban:

Island Beach New Year's Weekend Birders Jeanette Hooban, Ray Yeager

RAY AND JEANETTE, LAUGHING AT WINTER

Ray was kind enough to meet us early at the entry booth, to guide us first of all to the iconic Judge’s Shack.  Look that up on line and learn its remarkable history — all these years of family use and impossible survival.

Survivor, Judge's Shack Island Beach New Year's Weekend

ICONIC JUDGE’S SHACK, CROWNING A DUNE

To see magnificent versions, see Ray Yeager’s in first light and last light, by Super Moon and meteor shower, and in the shadow of a space station.

After honoring this Island Beach icon, we went after our other quarry – birds!  At our feet were long-tailed ducks, surfing through waves frontwards and the other way, coasting over crests, standing exultantly at wave peaks and waving like Christ of the  Andes.  (Internet bird photos)

Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis, Female, New York, USA

Long-tailedduck non-breeding female -GrahamMontgomery

Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis, Male, New York, USA

Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis, Male, New York, USA

Spread out across the waves all the way to the horizon were white birds too far to see and identify.  Probably gulls, but they could’ve been foam itself.  Every once in awhile, one would rise, hover like a kingfisher, fold wings until the bird turned into a dagger, then plunge into the sea.  Each contact with water sent up the characteristic geyser that identifies gannet feeding behavior.

gannet- plunging from Internet

GANNET PLUNGE     (from Internet)

Impossibly, those gannets were blindingly white, far whiter than gulls, and so dramatic to watch!

Ray and Jeanette used their smartphones to see if the solemn loon-like bird in front of us, behind the long-tails, was indeed a red-throated loon in winter plumage.  In other words, not a speck of red.  Yes, indeed:

RedThroatedLoon winter plumage from Internet

RED-THROATED LOON (Internet) In Winter Plumage

But the stars remained those hovering gannets:

Gannet hovering from internet

HOVERING GANNET FROM INTERNET

Is it any wonder we walked soft sand forever, staring and staring?

Jeanette and Carolyn Intent upon Gannets by Ray Yeager

JEANETTE AND CAROLYN, INTENT UPON GANNETS, BY RAY YEAGER

Jeanette Tripping Light Fantastic by Ray Yeager

JEANETTE RUNNING DOWN TO THE LONG-TAILS    by Ray Yeager

sunbathing on sugar sand by Ray Yeager

WE NEVER WANT TO LEAVE, by Ray Yeager

King of the Wrack LIne Horseshoe Crab Island Beach New Year's

KING OF THE WRACK LINE, HORSESHOE CRAB

Compass Grass Doing its Thing Island Beach New Year's Weekend

COMPASS GRASS DRAWING ITS CIRCLES

Divine Detritus  Wrack Line Island Beach New Year's Weekend

DIVINE DETRITUS OF WINTER

Fox Tracks in Sugar Sand Island Beach New Year's Weekend

FRESH (!) FOX TRACKS IN SUGAR SAND

January Palette #13 Island Beach New Year's Weekend

WINTER’S CEZANNE PALETTE

Wild Grasses #13 Freshwater Wetlands Island Beach New Year's Weekend

WINTER GRASSES

Winter Color Island Beach #13 Freshwater Wetlands  New Year's Weekend

WINTER TREES

Wondrous Shells of Winter

PERFECT WINTER SHELLS

Unexpected Wreath Barnegat Bay Island Beach New Year's Weekend

UNEXPECTED WREATH!

Key Birding by Ray Yeager

But, we’re really here to bird — “HEAVEN ON EARTH” by Ray Yeager

Profound thanks to all my Intrepids, who’ll brave any condition to experience New Jersey’s Wild Beauty.

Deserting New Jersey

Seaside Broom, Reed's Road, Island Beach, NJ

Seaside Broom, Reed’s Road, Island Beach, NJ

A few images from exquisite Island Beach, an au revoir for a week on Cape Cod with two of The Intrepids — Jeanette Hooban and Carolyn Yoder,  Leaving at dawn – have not been at the Cape since the late 1980’s.  Used to spend seven weeks each summer in Chatham with my girls, a barefoot existence, where nature itself compelled me to become a birder,  Hudsonian Godwits used to prance around our beach blankets at Harding’s Beach, looking across the Sound to Nantucket and the Vineyard.  A red-necked phalarope whirled in the water, and a long-tailed jaeger perfectly imitated his image in my brand new Roger Tory Peterson – because the girls kept asking, “Mom, what’s THAT?”

Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach, NJ

Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach, NJ

Island Beach brought us kinglets everywhere, swallows, sparrows, a great blue heron or two, osprey nests.

Osprey Neighbors, Barnegat Bay, Island Beach

Osprey Neighbors, Barnegat Bay, Island Beach

As usual, my camera does not do birds — but it does like the plants of IB – so here are some samples of last weekend.

Clouds Caught in Wetlands, Bayside of Island Beach

Clouds Caught in Wetlands, Bayside of Island Beach

A la prochaine — until the next time.

Whirling Grass (wild winds) and Fox Tracks, Island Beach

Whirling Grass (wild winds) and Fox Tracks, Island Beach

Oceanside, Island Beach, October

Oceanside, Island Beach, October

Carolyn

QUICK! Where Am I?

NJWILDBEAUTY readers are accustomed to my voyaging far and wide, mostly in New Jersey, in search of Nature at her finest.  Many of these trips take this former Michigander to the ocean, which reminds her of the Great Lakes.

Deserted Beach Sandy Hook October 2015

Can you guess the location of my Columbus Day excursion?

Deserted (NJ) Beach 1

Deserted (NJ) Beach 1

Sacred Solitude

Deserted Beach 2 Sandy Hook October 2015

In this collage. see how many scenes you need to discover the answer.

Deserted Beach 3 Sandy Hook October 2015

Can You Guess?

Deserted Beach 4 Sandy Hook October 2015

Are You Thinking Caribbean?

Deserted Beach Sandy Hook October 2015

Manhattan Lurks Beyond Those Trees

Deserted Sandy Hook, Populous Highlands, October

Emptiness vs. Fulness

Horseshoe Crab Shell Near Salicornia

Horseshoe Crab Shell Near Salicornia

Leaflets Three - Let It Be -- Poison Ivy, Key Nourishment for Migratory Birds in Autumn

Leaflets Three – Let It Be — Poison Ivy, Key Nourishment for Migratory Birds in Autumn

Leopard Crab Shell in the Wrack Line

Leopard Crab Shell in the Wrack Line

Prey and Predator Tracks

Prey and Predator Tracks

Ancient Peat Moss Carried In by HIgh Tide

Ancient Peat Carried In by HIgh Tide

Anne Zeman and I think the black dots in this picture are actually winkles, a specialite of course, in France, to be eaten raw with the assistance of tiny pins, in Bretagne et Normandie, especially near Gaugin’s Pont Aven.  They’re a key feature of their ‘l’assiette du coquillage’ — plate of shellfish.  One time in Paris, near the Gare du Nord, ordering this feast for myself at lunch, I asked the Parisian couple to my right, “How do YOU eat these?”  (Then, I could say it in French – “comment on mange ceci?”  Their answers were in concert, their equivalent of, “Are you kidding?  We NEVER order that!”       (It was divine, all of it, of course…especially the winkles.)

Our Robinson Crusoe Moment -- Remember, this is October!

Our Robinson Crusoe Moment — Remember, this is October!

Bittersweet Abundance, October, 2015

Bittersweet Abundance, October, 2015

Newborn Sumac

Newborn Sumac

Red Seaweed and its 'Holdfast'

Fresh  Seaweed and its ‘Holdfast’

Raccoon Tracks at High Tide Near Spermaceti Cove

Raccoon Tracks at High Tide Near Spermaceti Cove

Autumn Palette by the Sea

Autumn Palette by the Sea

Seaside Goldenrod and its Sharp Shadow

Seaside Goldenrod and its Sharp Shadow

Protecting Shore Birds

Protecting Shore Birds

Immature Turtle (Terrapin?) Crosses Our Trail

Immature Turtle (Terrapin?) Crosses Our Trail

One of Three Mocking Birds That Day, Singing Its Heart Out

One of Three Mocking Birds That Day, Singing Its Heart Out

Still Life of October

Still Life of October

Give Up?

This series recreates one of two recent outings at Sandy Hook, New Jersey’s ultimate barrier beach, so near Wall Street, the former World Trade Center Towers, the unspellable Verrazanno Bridge, and so forth.  It’s luminous there, pristine in many places, and should be replete with migratory birds this time of year.

Ha!  I’d be surprised if we had a dozen species either trip.

Today (Sunday, October 18), –returning sunburnt. windblown and quite amazed at avian bounty by comparison, I would say Karen Linder and I had more birds in our first hour. sauntering Island Beach (another barrier beach, unspoilt since creation, in our southern reaches) walking Reed’s Road, to Barmegat Bay.

After my first Sandy Hook day of few birds, I dared title my autumnal assignment for the Packet, “Bad Day at Sandy Hook?”  Read it below and see if you agree.

The key to all three excursions, however, is that what really matters is never the birds!

It’s fellowship, friendship, what the wise French term, “l’amitie“!  Thank you, Anne, Karen and Mary, always!

PACKET PUBLICATIONS:

Bad day at Sandy Hook? Autumn Questing in Monmouth County’s Gateway Recreation Area

  • By Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Updated Sep 24, 2015

For birders, fall begins in late July, with the first southward shorebird migrations. Naturalists travel like detectives, seeking early clues to the new season. Heading for Sandy Hook, a seven-mile stretch of a barrier peninsula, in late August, we dared hope to find autumn via Hudsonian godwits clustering on its storied shores.

At ‘the Hook’ (meaning a spit of land) in autumn, there is always the osprey question — who’s departed, who remains? With any luck, there might be eagles. Green herons lurk in hidden pools. Fall’s raptors could be coursing overhead. Oh yes, there are renowned beaches with limitless sea vistas. One follows sharp-shinned hawks pouring overhead on one side, with the Verrazano Bridge arcing to the left. Beneath it rises a tiny water-surrounded lighthouse. Across from the Hawk Watch Platform looms the site of where the World Trade Center used to stand.

A fort from the 1800s and the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in America also preside on Sandy Hook proper. But this park holds nature miracles few suspect, as in 300-plus species of birds. Hudsonian godwits would be particularly appropriate, as ‘The Hook’ was discovered by Henry Hudson in the 1600’s.

Mary Wood and I set out on the last August Friday, binoculars at the ready. There’s free entry for birders to ‘The Hook”, otherwise known as the Gateway National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service. Entry is free for all between Labor Day and Memorial Day Weekend. It always stuns Mary of Minnesota, and Carolyn of Michigan to encounter the Atlantic Ocean after a mere hour-and-a-half drive north and east. We frankly gasped on that futuristic highway bridge over the Shrewsbury, facing the sea’s patchwork of cerulean, slate, teal and Prussian blue.

The guard merrily waved us in. We parked at once, crossing the four-lane road to enter dense shrubbery, where Roger Tory Peterson’s famous ‘confusing fall warblers’ should have been everywhere. Bayberry and poison ivy are laden this autumn, which may presage another intense wintertime. Their fruits provide all essential migration fuels, especially long-lasting fats. Hearty, bountiful seaside goldenrod is burgeoning on all sides, key food for monarch butterflies. In Augusts past, at ‘the Hook’ these butterflies turned all gold plants orange. But, for us, that Friday, not a wing. Not even a butterfly’s. Well, at least we weren’t confused.

Our disappointment disappeared, however, as we were brushed by broad wing shadow. One keen-eyed male osprey was checking us out. We were elated to raise optics to follow this soaring raptor out over the Shrewsbury estuary. Deciding to skip warblers for now, Mary headed us over to Fort Hancock for more osprey. That end of the park holds military buildings and official dwellings, most of which have seen better days. Last year, a week or two earlier, their generous chimneys had been Osprey Central. Some of these hurricane-strafed houses are now undergoing desultory restoration. Most seem tragic — hinting of long-ago intrigues and even ghosts. This year, nests are less welcome than ghosts. White pipes rise from most chimneys. Only a few reveal nests of determined birds, who had deftly woven in and around obstructive plastic tubes. Not one nest held a resident.

Visitors bent on a day of surf and sand may be startled to come upon missiles and fences, bunkers and closed gates, barricades and a battery named “Potter.” The United States Army utilized the fort as the Sandy Hook Proving Ground, from the Civil War through 1919. It is now part of Fort Hancock Memorial Park. The National Park Service “is soliciting proposals for renovation and use to the more than 35 buildings in the fort complex.”

No ospreys? Let’s get back to warblers. We turned this way and that, each knowing exactly where to find rich forests that should be sheltering and nourishing these feisty little travelers on their way south. We found more ROAD CLOSED signs than birds. “No problem,” I assured Mary. “We’ll just get go up to the lighthouse and turn left.” Wrong. We could reach the oldest continuously operating coastal light in the United States. But orange cones blocked the left turn to ‘my’ warbler forest.

What birders do when they can’t find birds is to reminisce about rarities of yesteryear. “That woods was full of vireos” “Golden-crowned kinglets gleaned insects from cobwebs all along these bricks.” “There’s the dead tree where the scissor-tailed flycatcher posed forever.”

”No problem,” I foolishly repeated. “We’ll just head for the hawk watch platform. Could be broad-wings.” Instead of the wide trail to the platform where we used to see the World Trade Center towers, as well as spring or fall raptors too many to count, we met a United States Government official. “Oh, did you want to take pictures?,” he asked with regret. Not only was the trail closed. The hawk watch platform had been demolished—safety issues, but it’s being rebuilt, the official promised.

When we were sure he wasn’t looking, we departed North Beach for the minuscule parking lot for overnight campers. One non-camper parking space remained, so we pulled in. Mary remembered, “This is where we found the wood thrushes with Anne Zeman.” “Yes!,” I exulted, “and the cedar waxwing flock flew out of that tree!” Across the road, on the west side, is a gentle, waveless freshwater beach, with rich saltwater marshland across from a trail plus mini-boardwalk. “Here Betty Lies stood transfixed as the great egret, examining the incoming tide, scooped fish like a skimmer.”

Mary found what we hoped was a kingfisher, posing on one arm of an empty (man-supported) osprey nest. We spent a long time watching this patient bird as it scanned as intently as had the Fort batteries when in use. Too far away for us to tell whether the bird sported the female’s rust belt, that bird kept us mesmerized. It finally zoomed in that downward loop. We were not treated to its remarkable rattley call.

”I’ll settle for a kingfisher, any day” Mary observed, as she turned us back toward the entry, but first, Spermaceti Cove. Its boardwalk had been pulverized to toothpicks by Sandy. We discovered a new walkway — half walking, half running along resounding ‘boards.’

Leaning over very solid railings, we examined high-tide-strafed mudflats, the ‘headlines’ of the night. Colonies of scurrying fiddler crabs lifted golden defensive claws, as they backed into dark round holes. Intriguing raccoon tracks threaded down to gently coursing waters. We were relieved that this very recent and sorely needed restoration had not driven away the wild creatures.

At the culmination of the boardwalk, solid benches awaited. We steadied binoculars on the broad railing, in the face of a rising wind. On sandbars across the flowing water, we found double-crested cormorants, lined up like a black picket fence. Strutting around between them was the rarity of our day, a black-bellied plover still in breeding plumage. In no time, his eponymous belly will be white for winter, and identification will be somewhat trickier, and, yes, “confusing”. Laughing gulls in eclipse plumage baffled us at first, for they no longer sported their vintage burgundy beaks. We’d watch that plover pose and posture, then sit to relish absolute silence, on this peninsula from which Battery Park and Wall Street are visible. Even the waves were whispers on the west side.

There’s no such thing as a “Bad Day at Sandy Hook,” although ours came close.

I was asked to describe our “pretty route”, which is too complex for a story. You could direct your GPS to take you to Rumson, cross the Shrewsbury River and turn left/north onto 36 into the Park.

Our trick is to head always for Bahrs Landing, legendary seafood house far above the Shrewsbury in the Highlands. Have any of their seafood specialties (simple ones, don’t try anything fancy), also knowing that the rare “belly clams” relished by my friend, food critic Faith Bahadurian, are available on the dinner menu.

Yes there is outdoor seating now. While you make up your mind, you can watch proprietary gulls pilfer new clam hauls from docked fishing boats, then crack the shells on weathered docks for their own lunch. Beer is sparklier indoors and outdoors at Bahrs, with the Shrewsbury winking behind it, Sandy Hook beckoning over the bridge. Between your GPS’s instructions to Bahrs and your own cheery waitress, they’ll point you back over that bridge to birding or hiking or biking, or, yes, swimming. Then, whether it’s a bad day or a good day is up to you.

Sandy Hook’s official address is 58 Magruder Road, Highlands. For more information, go towww.nps.gov/gate/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm.

My Trenton Times Article on Beauties, Blessings of Prolonged Cold

Opinion: A long, cold winter reveals its beauty

Fox on ice Millstone Aqueduct Brenda Jones DX1_3291.jpg
Red fox running across frozen Lake Carnegie in Princeton, February 2009 (Brenda Jones, photographer)

Times of Trenton guest opinion columnBy Times of Trenton guest opinion column
on February 24, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated February 24, 2015 at 8:40 AM

By Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Friends and I have decided that an effective way to endure prolonged, serious cold is to begin a list of its benefits. Perhaps Times readers would like to try such a list and send in their suggestions.

I rejoice in the seamless cold because of new beauties that are revealed by its presence — everywhere, at all hours of the day and night. When skies are clear and gelid, starlight is blinding. The new moon and Venus have never looked more ravishing than while winking over endless snowfields on the outskirts of Pennington.

However, my No. 1 reason to be thankful is that sustained cold kills the microbes that cause mange in fox dens and, therefore, in foxes. This has been a serious problem at Island Beach State Park. Humans ignored multiple posted warnings not to feed the foxes. This practice teaches foxes to look to humans for food. It accustoms foxes to carbohydrates, when they are truly carnivores and require both the protein and the fat of their classic prey, mostly mice and voles. Human food lowers vulpine resistance to disease. If their dens are not sterilized by cold, the animals suffer enormously, losing their glorious fur and even their tails, and then they perish.

Prolonged cold alters the fate of foxes for the better. When it’s below freezing for several days, mange is banished from the foxes’ dens.

In addition, when Barnegat and Raritan Bays freeze, new, healthy foxes scamper across from the mainland, bringing vibrant strains to populations we have harmed by feeding what should never be tamed.

Being very much on the side of wild creatures, this long cold of ours makes me wonder if it might also help coyotes increase their territory. I live near the Pole Farm, in Lawrence. I have seen coyote scat there, right where it belongs, in the middle of trails. But I have yet to be blessed by an encounter with this four-legged wonder. Hiking the Pole Farm right now is like trying to navigate the rugged terrain of Italyy’s Carrara marble quarry, –that is, almost impossible.  I cannot answer my coyote question.

Cold bestows another blessing. If it weren’t for snowfall after snowfall, I would not know that a fox visits my dwelling. There are straight, determined paths of tiny rose-like paw prints, one after another, that lead right up to the shrubs below my study window. So long as snow persists, fox signatures remain, right here.

Working as I do with the D & R Greenway Land Trust, preservation of habitat and creatures is paramount in my life. It is easy to become discouraged about both in this over-peopled 21st century. These cold blessings lift my heart.

I’m not saying that catastrophic climate change, including the cold weather we have been enduring lately, is good. I am proposing that there are miracles revealed by cold and snow of which we never otherwise would have a clue.

Carolyn Foote Edelmann, a poet, naturalist and community relations associate for the D and R Greenway Land Trust, writes and photographs for NJWildBeauty nature blog (njwildbeauty.wordpress.com).