February Sandy Hook: Fun in the Sun and the Sands


Base of Sandy Hook Light

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I treasure winter along our magnificent Jersey coasts.  You may overlook the fact that we have three:  The Atlantic, The Delaware River; and Delaware Bay.  This is heaven for this Midwesterner, who never even saw saltwater until the summer between seventh and eighth grade.  This is troublous for one who is all too aware of sea-level rise in the twenty-first century.

Sandy Hook River-side Views with Tasha Fall 2017

Tasha O’Neill Looking Back at the Mainland from the Barrier Island that is Sandy Hook in HOT September!

Two friends willingly planned a Sandy Hook jaunt for yesterday, not really realizing that it was Valentine’s Day.  My companions that day were my former Packet editor, Ilene Dube, who insisted that I blog for her paper ages ago…, and my fine-art-photographer friend Tasha O’Neill.  I owe my first blog, NJWILD for the Packet, and its successor, NJWILDBEAUTY to Ilene – who insisted I do this, when I did not know what a blog was!

I'll take Manhattan from Sandy Hook Windy Spring 2017 004

Manhattan from Sandy Hook on a Windy Spring Day – North End of Barrier Island

We’d planned to visit Monmouth University first for three art exhibitions, especially James Fiorentino’s of Conserve Wildlife NJ.  But the sun burst out as we headed due east, and Sandy Hook won post position.Spermaceti Cove Sandy Hook Jan 2017

Spermaceti Cove and Boardwalk, High Tide, January 2017

Ilene had not known such New Jersey treasures as Little Silver and Colt’s Neck, let alone the equestrian paradise of Monmouth County.  Our drive through Rumson’s array of true mansions brought up amazing comparisons — Newport, Bar Harbor…  And then we were crossing the glinting Navesink River, the Atlantic Ocean stretching into infinity before us.  This Michigander can never believe that scene!

Verrazano and Light House Sandy Hook Spring 2017

Verrazano and Tip of Manhattan from Sandy Hook’s Northernmost Trail

January Birding Jim and Kathleen Amon Sandy Hook Salt Pond region Jan 20176

Birding Essentials: Kathleen and Jim Amon: January 2017

red throated tloon from Internet glamour_iandavies

Red-throated Loon in Winter Plumage on Pond for Amons and Me: Jan. 2017

(Internet Image)

Essential Tools Sandy Hook Jan 20167

Essential Tools for Birding Anywhere, especially Sandy Hook, especially Winter: 

David Allen Sibley

There are no fees for ‘The Hook’ in winter, and never for birders (because you’ll be hiking, not swimming, not parking at crowded beach sites of summer).  I see us tumbling like children in our eagerness to get close enough to the waves.  The ocean was a pale and delicate hue, baby-boy-blanket-blue.

Reflections of a Working Harbor Bahrs Jan. 2017 012

Working Harbor in Winter, Across Navesink from Sandy Hook Preserve

No matter where we turned, everything was pristine and exquisite.  The few sounds included mutterings of gulls and whispering waves.

Where the Rabbit Trekked Sandy Hook Jan 201

Where the Rabbit Loped, January 2017

Later, on the wast side, we would be treated to the nature sound I cherish – murmurings among a flock of brant.  These small goose-like birds, ==whose shape in the water echoes small air-craft carriers–, have only just arrived at ‘the Hook.’  They swam in determined flotillas, more tourists than residents, –zipping first here, then there, as if renewing old ties.

Brant Goose Drinking Barnegat

Brant Sipping at Low Tide, by Brenda Jones

In peaceful water, toy-like buffleheads, quintessential diving ducks, bobbed up anddown, arrived and departed, vanished and materialized with characteristic merriment.

Male Bufflehead by Ray Yeager

Ray Yeager – Key Fine Art Photographer of Winter Ducks:  Male Bufflehead

Ilene was fascinated to see all the osprey nests — some on human-built platforms; some on the chimneys of venerable yellow-brick military dwellings.  Some platforms, especially at the hawk watch platform (north), had been emptied by recent storms.

Sandy Hook Jim Kathleen Amon Spermaceti Cove Boardwalk Jan 2017

Birding Spermaceti Cove in Winter — Seals on Skull Island off to our Left

Even though it was February, a heat haze of the most exquisite soft-slate-blue obscured not only the Verrazano Bridge, but also Manhattan’s Wall Street megaliths.  Only nature was in view from the platform that day.

Sandy Hook Vista North Spring 2017

View from Hawk Watch Platform on Windy Spring Day

Grasses at Spermaceti Cove looked as though they’d been repeatedly beaten into submission by a glacier, not simply by recent high tides.  Glistening mud of the inlet’s banks was spattered with deep raccoon ‘hand’-prints, where these nocturnal mammals had washed recent foods before eating.

Fall and Winter Sandy Hook Salt Pond Region Jan 2017

Sandy Hook Marsh Grasses, January 2017

I am a realist. We are nowhere near the vernal equinox.  But, yes, days are lengthening, amazingly at both ends.

Christmas on Sandy Hook Bay Bahrs Jan. 2017

Christmas on the Navesink River from Bahrs

Yes, every once in awhile, a balminess arrives.  When three friends can celebrate together, even to feasting at Bahrs, the 100-year-old Highlands seafood restaurant high above the Navesink.  Where we could down Delaware Bay oysters and other rare treats, before taking in all three art exhibits in three different buildings at Monmouth University, without wearing coats.  Then drive home in golden light, through the Battlefield of Monmouth, without which we would not have a country.

Gastronomic Haven by the Sea Bahrs Jan. 2017


Birders at Bahrs Jan. 2017

When Birders Lunch at Bahrs

I cannot help wondering what our colonial heroes would think of the country they fought and many died to save, in so many New Jersey battles.  But our is a noble history.  Their pledging and/or giving their lives, their fortunes, but never their sacred honor, cannot be for naught.

Patriots' Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

Patriots’ Flag at Site of Battle of Chestnut Neck, in Pine Barrens


From start to finish, Mother Nature herself had given Ilene, Tasha and me treasured Valentines.  The red and white, however, decorated Sandy Hook’s Storied Light, rather than hearts.  Lighthouses and 13-Star Flags, however, always warm MY heart.  I hope they warm YOURS!

Try beaches in winter!

Lifesavers' Station darkened

Sandy Hook’s Heroic Lifesaving Station

And preserve every inch of open and historic space in magnificent New Jersey!


Tasha Carolyn Bahrs Sandy Hook April

Tasha and I on her COLD April Birthday — at Bahrs, Sandy Hook Behind Us…




“CONFLUENCE” – Poem on Rivers, (for once, not the Delaware)


Written some years ago, this poem resurrects a winter trip to Pere Marquette State Park with my sister, Marilyn, to southern Illinois.  We stayed in Pere Marquette Lodge, which echoes Yellowstone’s and Yosemite’s.  It is sited at the point where three rivers (Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi) course as one, –keeping the waters open, blessing the birds    The rangers at Pere Marquette State Park told us at our dawn confluence (of naturalists), “Every black dot is an eagle.”




this wild connection

proves turbulent as two rivers


–Illinois, Missouri –

coursing, writhing

between blonde flanks

of tower-rocks

that funneled Pere Marquette

in his frail bark

smack into the Mississippi


here eagles cry and joust

for winter fish

–all smaller tributaries


releasing no nourishment


two tumultuous rivers

crest, fling spray

scour their own depths


til scale-silvered life

meets fate

in gilded beaks and talons


–two voluminous rivers roiling

until fish take wing






I am lucky to have friends who are willing to go on quests with me.  NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that most of our pilgrimages have to do with nature in general and birds in particular.  Others require history.  Many involve food.  This is a jaunt with superb poet Betty Lies, friend-of-long-standing and co-founder of Princeton’s Cool Women Poets.  We needed Christmas one year, and Bordentown unexpectedly provided it, ‘in spades’   Saunter with us…  through this town of great significance, always too little appreciated in our time!

Little Engine That Could Bordentown 09

The Caboose was always my favorite part of real trains.  There was frequently a trainman in that car who waved to me, as though he’d been waiting all day for that very moment…

Trains had a great deal to do with childhood Christmas in Michigan.  One year, Santa brought me an intricate Lionel train set, even though there were only daughters in our family.  Each year after that, it circled and tooted merrily under the tree.  I had forgotten that…  regret that we did not weave that in as I raised my own daughters.

All Aboard Bordentown 09


Joys of Bordentown 09

In Bordentown, it’s as though the village itself is wrapped for the Holiday.

Bon Appetit Farnsworth House Bordentown

Our Favorite Place to Eat — Old-World and Leisurely


Bordentown Facade 09

In Bordentown, Always Look Up — The Past is Waiting


Beauty of Emptiness Tree Shadows Bordentown 09

Beauty of Emptiness, Bordentown Streetcorner


Jester's Cafe Bordentown 09

Jester’s — Home of the Hearty Welcome

Bordentown Mural wide viewHistoric Mural of Strategic Bordentown – site of lost Revolutionary Battle, Thomas Paine’s only bought property, superbly venerable Quaker Meeting House, home of America’s first sculptress, Clara Barton’s schoolhouse, and both Joseph and Charles Lucien Bonaparte – sent to Point Breeze for its magnificent ‘aspect’ over the Delaware, by Napoleon himself.


Borden's Towne



Bordentown Historical SocietyLIVING HISTORY


Baubles of YesteryearBAUBLES OF YESTERYEAR


Clara Barton's first schoolCLARA BARTON’S FIRST SCHOOL


Frances and Joseph Hopkinson HouseFRANCIS AND JOSEPH HOPKINSON HOUSE:

“Revolutionary Patriot, Signer, Member of Congress, Scientist, Artist, Scholar, Statesman, ‘Hail Columbia’,” etc.: LIVING HISTORY

IMG_1273SITE OF THE RIVER LINE TRAIN – FREE BEAUTIFUL RIVERSIDE PARKING FOR ALL-DAY JAUNTS – through Marsh to Trenton or down to Roebling, Burlington, Riverton, Riverside, Camden and even Walt Whitman House and Aquarium…

Bordentown Peach Mousse IrisAnd, Most Ethereal of All Bordentown’s Gifts: Mother’s Day Festival of the Most Exquisite Iris Ever Anywhere!

Missing Autumn

Where Are the Autumns of Yesteryear?

Autumn's Midas Tree Fall 2014

We’re well along in the second of my two favorite months — September…..   October….   But something’s very wrong.  Green is everywhere.  Unwelcome green!  June and July are well past – but their temperatures and their very colors are with us still.

Essence of Autumn

autumn pine cones and oak leaves Brig

Someone brought and enormous bucket of purple iris to D&R Greenway this week — iris is a spring herald, not fall’s.

Autumn Russo's White Pumpkins

Once I wrote a poem about stubborn autumn leaves:  “They have had their chance.  Now I want them down… since they would not play tapers to our waltz….”

Autumn Crispness Canal and Delaware River near Prallsville Mills

Autumn Frames Canal and Delaware River, Near Prallsville Mills

I don’t want them down in 2017.  I want those colors to flare and flame so that one thinks that level of scarlet and crimson and gold and even purple would put out the night sky itself.

Autumn's Wild Sky Montgomery

Whatever happened to autumn?

Autumnal Richesse of Mums

We know the answer, But we are mandated to call its cause a myth.

Where are the autumns of yesteryear?


Mellow fruitfulness” at Russo’s in Tabernacle in the Jersey Pine Barrens:

Autumn Russo's Pumpkins


Keats says it for all of us.  He dares counter to spring, telling my favorite season, this autumn manque,thou hast thy music 

To Autumn

John Keats, 17951821

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, 
  Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
  Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
  Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? 
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft, 
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Red Cranberry Vines at Chatsworth, New Jersey

Chatsworth Bog Red Vines






Founding principles feel present, still, in venerable New Castle, Delaware.  Literally on the banks of the Delaware River, famed as William Penn’s landing place.  But when the Swedes arrived around 1638, this bucolic spot was home to legendary Lenapes.

Flag Draped New Castle dwelling July 2017

Brick sidewalks thread through brick neighborhoods.  Flags are as likely to bear thirteen stars as the sharp angles notorious as the British banner (proudly displayed to left, below.)

A far cry, this joining of emblems, from the high spirits of the Founding Fathers hammering out a country in nearby Philadelphia; debating, and then signing, the Declaration of Independence.


That Declaration and our Constitution remain living, yes, sacred, documents to me!  Democracy was the fruit of their labors, and where is it now?


British Heritage New Castle Delaware July


To my great delight, Revolutionary history is EVERYWHERE.  Here we read of (my hero!) Lafayette’s having given the bride away in this church:


Lafayette Gives Away the Bride New Castle Delaware


Buildings echo Philadelphia’s most venerable.  Here, both country’s flags blow in a July wind off the adjacent Delaware River.


Essence of New Castle July 2017


Venerable signs have faded on vintage buildings.  It’s eerie to see Coca Cola as a vestige of some storied past.


Fine Sign New Castle Delaware


Here and there, one passes “packet alleys” — long slopes, brick-lined, leading to the Delaware.  Here, clipper ships had landed.  Along these time-worn ramps, ‘stores’, –ships’ provisions–, had been tugged into the commercial part of town, by four-legged and two-legged creatures.  At one time, an epidemic closed the major port of Philadelphia.  New Castle had to step into the breach until a change of season brought a change of health.



Model Ship Jessop's Tavern New Castle Delaware 2017



The Shadows Know New Castle Delaware July

THE SHADOWS KNOW… What stories these rooms could tell…


O Say Can You See New Castle Delaware July

“O, Say, Can You See?”


Venerable New Castle Delaware Scenes July


Wharf New Castle Delaware River Scenes


Delaware Memorial Bridge Delaware River New Castle Delaware


Inn op New Castle Delaware 2017



Thomas Jefferson Ale Jessop's Tavern New Castle Delaware 2017


300-year-old building

From “Delaware, 200 Years Ago”, by Harold B. Hancock, “New Castle remained the county seat, but it lost out in trade and population to Wilmington…  Visitors in the port [of New Castle] considered it a town of lost importance.”  In 1785, New Castle was described as “a little, insignificant town.”  There were predictions that it would “bloom again”  And bloom it does for this traveler, in search of the courage, honor, dignity of Revolutionary Days, in a setting of unparalleled early beauty and taste.

When Lafayette and Jefferson join me on my history treks, I ask no greater boon.


Thomas Paine from Internet [5].pn

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  But, no, this line was not penned nor typed nor tweeted in the 21st Century.  It is one of the slogans that made the American Revolution possible.  That generated and strengthened bonds among “we few, we band of brothers”, striking tyranny from our land in the 1700’s.

thomas paine sign re Common Sense from Internet

The eloquent and heroic Thomas Paine went on to declare,  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to credit the Spirit of ’76 [which barely existed in that era of barefoot soldiers, yet steadily grew], to the words of this writer. 

Strategic Retreat

The Legendary Crossing, which may never have happened without Paine’s heroic urgings

Nearby Bordentown is the only place where Paine ever owned a home.  A slight, compelling statue recreates the man without whose pamphlets we might not have a nation.


Paine’s  courage was by no means limited to 1776 — for he would also pen the stirring phrase, “Government without a Constitution is power without a right.”

We the People from Internet orig




13 Star Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

Thirteen-Star Flag in Winter, Chestnut Neck, NJ, Battleground —

British Won This One


I am steeping myself in history books, of the time of TR, FDR, ER and always Churchill; alternating with our own American Revolution, because I am starved for excellence.

Right now, David Hackett Fischer’s stunning account, “Washington’s Crossing” “hath me in thrall.”  I am particularly moved, proud of our state as I am, to read, “Ordinary people in New Jersey came together to do something about their lost liberty.”  This wise author describes our ‘rag, tag and bobtail’ soldiers as “an army of optimistic fatalists.”  Writing of the Crossing of the Delaware, Colonel Henry Knox declared, “Perseverance accomplished what at first seemed impossible.” 

We are a country that first seemed impossible.  Our neighbors sacrificed everything — there is an entire chapter on the Hessian’s near-total looting of New Jersey homes and of course farms and farmlands.

George Washington penned a note to himself on the Pennsylvania side before the crossing, “VICTORY OR DEATH.”  Our challenge was that simple, that austere.

One of the miracles was that “in the end, not a man was lost to the river,” despite towering, occluding ice floes, ice in the Durham boats, a sleet-laden nor’easter that struck as the men boarded their crafts at McConkey’s Ferry.

Surely, all this did not happen to have it tweeted away in the 21st Century!

Let Tom Paine have the last word: “Some evils in the world are worse than war.  And one of them is tyranny.”

Protest every way you know how!

“WALKING ON WATER” – Crossing the Delaware on the Lumberville — Bull’s Island Footbridge

Black Bass Inn from Bullls Island July 2017

STARTING POINT – The Black Bass Inn and The Lumberville General Store, Lumberville Pennsylvania



View from the Bridge North Bulls Island Lumbervile July 2017



Waiting for the Swimmer Bulls Island July 2017




The Swimmer Delaware River Bull's Island July 2017




Come On In Bulls Island July 2017CONSIDERING…



The Water's Fine Bulls Island July 2017


In the Web Delaware BridgeHOMEWARD BOUND…






Restored PA towpath


Mostly a photo essay on the priceless fruits of preservation and restoration….of restaurants and venerable stores, of towns, of islands, of the historic towpath, of our River of Liberation itself.