Epiphany, indeed! Actually, multiple epiphanies on the purported day of the Three Kings’ visit to the manger…
O.K., it snowed all night. Who cares?
There is nothing more thrilling than finding first tracks in fresh snow or upon tide-compressed sand.
And, yes, it’s cold and windy — so much the BETTER!
I’m beginning to think that winter is the BEST time for adventures!
Come with Kathleen and Jim Amon, of Lambertville, (and me). These friends are key birders, both fine artists — Jim with a one-man exhibition into early February at D&R Greenway of his magnificent butterfly studies. Jim is my former colleague (Director of Stewardship at D&R Greenway Land Trust). He also supports the Sourlands Conservancy, and writes marvelous nature articles under the heading, “Seeing the Sourlands.” Both are also impassioned about food, which you know key to my nature quests.
Yes, stroll with us along the northernmost barrier beach of New Jersey early on a January Friday morning.
As you can see from my intent friends above, –wild winds, recent snow, a nearby bay, and a few salt ponds over which increasing gusts were gusting, mean nothing.
Gear is essential. Fashion is not. Windproofed everything is worth its weight in gold.
O, yes, and having memorized most of the texts of these books, and possessing decent optics. As NJWILDBEAUTY readers know, an amazing friend recently gave me her second set of Swarovski binoculars. Kathleen Amon had just purchased the identical ‘species’. Here she is using them for the first time, astounded by subtleties revealed. These ‘glasses’ are beyond price. No gift of my life, (including rare jewels from my ex-husband) surpasses them in importance.
At my bird-feeder at home, my amazing Swarovskis, I swear, let me absorb the personality and character of feeding goldfinches from the look in their eyes!
Other essentials, — which I am sure all my NJWILDBEAUTY readers possess, include curiosity, passion, enthusiasm, persistence, courage, and a certain level of fitness – which as you know Peroneus Longus (that pesky left-leg tendon) does not always provide.
‘Perry’ was a brat last week at Island Beach. But we worked him into cooperation any number of times. At Sandy Hook, –taped anew by my legendary chiropractor, Brandon Osborne of Hopewell– Peroneus behaved like a perfect gentleman. So he moved into Jim Amon’s league…
O, yes, the ankle tape this week is the color of tomato soup before you add milk. It sports white writing all over everywhere, shouting “ROCK TAPE”, over and over and over.
Never mind rocks. Give me sand and snow!
The purpose of our jaunt, which we’d determined to take come rain or snow or sleet or hail, — well, almost… — was to acquaint Jim and Kathleen with all the bird ops at Sandy Hook.
To show them where the green heron lurks in summer:
Where the great egret feeds on the incoming tide…
Where the ospreys soar, court, mate, build nests, raise hefty young, and perform impressive exchanges, as both parents tend first eggs, then chicks.
Well, you get the idea.
Every time I introduce anyone to Sandy Hook, there is great attraction to, and concern for, the yellow houses left from “the Hook’s” military past. Time has had its way with them.
Sandy, the Storm, was doubly merciless — waves crashing in from the Atlantic and others rising with menace from all-too-near Sandy Hook Bay.
These houses, upon whose chimneys ospreys delight to nest and successfully raise young, are finally being restored!
Everyone muses, in the presence of the battered yellow house, upon stories these dwellings could tell.
Three of these haunting structures had become impeccable, after all these ruinous decades. The northernmost restoration now sports a FOR RENT sign in its front window. The one beyond that had its door open, a workman in a hard hat entering with urgency. Across from their porches, one faces Sandy Hook Bay, bird-rich, to be sure. Also frequently crossed by the ferry to Manhattan…
Oh, yes, and what birds did we find?
What did we see that we did not expect? I had jokingly mentioned, as we faced salt ponds awash in the dapper and compelling ducks of winter, “With any luck, we’ll have a red-throated loon in winter plumage… Of course, that means he won’t have a red throat.”
This is just one of the many complexities of the birder’s life. If you cannot stand contradictions (such as the black-bellied plover in winter plumage who has white belly), don’t bird.
What had we expected to find, but didn’t have enough time on the ocean side?
Long-tailed ducks out beyond the third waves…
Ray Yeager is a master at finding and immortalizing long-tails, so this image will have to do for all of us.
What do I remember from my November visit, [that did not happen in January]– every brant on the salt ponds catapulted into the air by horrific military noise from two officious helicopters.
‘The Hook’ has been military since the War of 1812, even though “no shot has been fired in anger”, as they say, along those splendid sands.
I’m supposed to feel secure and protected in the presence of the military, but the opposite is my truth. Such intrusions cannot be good for the birds..
Sandy Hook is so special, even the poison ivy is beautiful. This November scene reminds us
(1) Winter Birding is full of riches, worth all the risks and potential discomforts.
(2) Rejoice that these preserves exist. Do everything in your power to see that they persist, for the wild creatures above all, and for human epiphanies!