LIBERTY THOUGHTS

Friends Return Dune Walk Noreaster

Island Beach – Intrepids Walk into the Nor’Easter, in my Favorite Ten-Mile Preserve

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I cherish and require New Jersey’s wild natural spaces.  Frankly, my passion for NJ open space is right up there with my need of Cornwall’s and Brittany’s.  It’s why I pour myself into preservation every week at D&R Greenway Land Trust.  Although centered in Princeton, we save the land in seven counties, approaching the 20,000-acre mark.

Cedar Ridge Welcome

Cedar Ridge Preserve, Welcome Sign and Welcoming Meadow

Lovely Cedar Ridge, like all of our preserves, bel0ngs to the people, in the best American tradition.  Wild creatures thrive here.  Hunters have restored a stone wall of yesteryear.  A majestic oak stand sentinel at the center of the trails.  The ‘two-legged, the four-legged, the winged’, as the Lenni Lenape named them, are free in this multi-faceted setting just off Van Dyke Road beyond Hopewell, because it was preserved.

Box Turtle leaves and roots

Terrestrial Box Turtle, Safe and Free on the Forest Floor of Cedar Ridge

The box turtle reminds me of FDR’s Four Freedoms, so beautifully illustrated in four enormous canvases at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  Never forget these freedoms.

Choose only to vote for people who increase:

FREEDOM FROM FEAR

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

FREEDOM FROM WANT

FREEDOM OF WORSHIP

Every once in awhile, I have to visit other states in quest of wild beauty, spectacular hikes, and always history.  Don’t get me wrong, NJ has HISTORY in capital letters.  I’ve read that 75% of the significant battles of our Revolution took place on NJ soil.  And three significant early victories — the two battles of Trenton and the single one at Princeton.  Our Founding Fathers traveled through our state on their way to forging liberty at Philadelphia.  Words penned there could have cost every delegate his “life, fortune and sacred honor.”  Two nearby New Jerseyans paid with their lives for Signing that sacred Declaration – Stockton and Hart.

General Washington examined the Delaware from Goat Hill, below Lambertville, before his significant Christmastime crossing. John McPhee claims that the shad of that sacred river sustained the troops at Valley Forge.  And some also insist that rations of Jersey Ligntnin’ — applejack made particularly in our Pine Barrens– were issued to instill courage as needed.

Delaware in November Looking North from Goat Hill Trail

George Washington’s View From Goat Hill Preserve, Below Lambertville

The General and his bootless heroic men defended liberty at Monmouth, where extreme summer heat may have been our secret weapon.  We would not have become the literal Land of Liberty without New Jersey.

For me, there’s a special, inexplicable connection between lighthouses and liberty:

East Point Light and Flag May 2015

East Point Light and Flag, Delaware Bayshore

Partly on account of the courageous and brilliant Adams of Massachusetts, we secured true freedom from the tyranny of George III.  Never forget that John daringly defended those accused of the so-called Boston Massacre.  Otherwise, he insisted, all the words spoken and penned in Philadelphia would have meant nothing.

Sometimes I have to return to his state for deep doses of history, heroism, and nature herself.  Chatham Mass.was my summer home for at least a decade of summers.  Glorious even in fog, Chatham seems to hold light by day and by night, filling me recently, as NJWILDBEAUTY readers know, with scenes seemingly unchanged since the 1970’s.

Chatham’s light has brought safety in storms for decades beyond counting.  Let that light fill you, and and do whatever you can to increase the light of true liberty in our land.

Chatham Light Storm-blown Flag jpg

Chatham Light and Flag

 

 

Leeds Point with Flag Flying pre Sandy

Leeds Point, Pine Barrens Fishing Village

In rustic Leeds Point (home of the Jersey Devil, also in the 1700’s) fishermen and clammers and crabbers remain free to ply their generational trade, moving silently along tidal creeks through wetlands.  Many wetlands in that region have been preserved through the foresight of Forsythe – Edmund B., a politician far ahead of his time in realizing how important open space is to true liberty.

Remembering FDR   Library May 2015

FDR Sculpture, FDR Library, Hyde Park NY

Two of my all-time heroes are Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his intrepid activist wife, Eleanor.  Next week I’ll be in his ancestral home, Springwood, with two of The Intrepids.  We’ll make pilgrimage to 1930’s murals, evoking rural ways and the Depression out of which FDR pulled us all, in the post office he dedicated in Rhinebeck.

Rhinebeck Flag

Rhinebeck, New York Flag. at Historic Post Office

Beekman Arms Flags Rhinebeck NY

Flags of Beekman Arms, Rhinebeck, New York

 Our first meal will be at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, pre-Revolutionary haven and living museum.  Their Tavern seems even now to echo with the sound of pewter tankards, banged on weathered tables, as Revolutionaries of New York insisted, “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

My friends know, if I could return in any era, I’d choose Philadelphia in the 1770’s.  I’d have to have been a man then, of course.  We’d all be there – Tom and John and Ben and George and Richard Stockton and I hope Tom Paine, banging those tankards at the City Tavern by my beloved Delaware River.

From our thoughts and this cacophony would flow the liberty which sustains us today.  Do not, for God’s sake, lose it!

These two never lost sight of what really matters in America.

Our Heroes FDR Library

Our Heroes, Eleanor and Franklin

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WINTER BIRDING: Brigantine Excursion(s)

As I prepare a 7+a.m. departure for the Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge with the original Intrepids, [Sunday, February 28], I am so impatient to be there that I retrieve these images for NJWILDBEAUTY.  Taken in Christmas Fog with Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy, they reveal our annual Christmas picnic tradition in this haven for birds and humans.

Eagle on the Osprey at Brigantine Christmas 2015

Brigantine Fog Christmas Day: Eagle Thinks He’s Safe on Osprey Nest Near Dike Road

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know my passion for hiking winter beaches.  Part of that impulse is the rare sight of snow on sand.  2016’s major lure, however, has been to be in the presence of the rare birds of winter.

You’ve exulted with me over long-tailed ducks and gannets at Island Beach in November/December.  Yesterday, at Sandy Hook, I was privileged to be somewhat near four long-tails (formerly Old Squaws, but not p.c.) and one red-throated loon in winter plumage – also an Island Beach rarity enjoyed not long ago.  The amusing thing about the red-throated loon, however,  is that it doesn’t display its red throat in winter.  But it’s still elegant, imposing, arresting, even in an otherwise empty ocean!

Christmas Fog Brig Tasha Alan 2015

Tasha and Alan, Christmas Fog, the Brig — Note Obvious Warmth…

In a few morning minutes, I’m being descended upon by three of the Intrepids, whom you remember from the Nor’easter at Island Beach.  Mary Penney, Bill Rawlyk, Jeanette Hooban and I and are taking off on my cherished back roads down to ‘The Brig.’ Most of this day (and even on major holidays) we’ll be alone on straight smooth stretches edged with pitch pine, blueberry bushes, blackjack oaks and sugar sand.

Otherwise known for the politician who saved great swathes of open New Jersey shoreland, Edwin B. Forsythe, winter’s Brigantine Refuge should be rich in swans of several species, snow geese beyond counting, vivid ducks — especially beloved buffleheads and various saucy mergansers.  With luck, we’ll re-find the peregrine of our Christmas picnic.  Nearby, also in Atlantic County, three avocets are listed on the birding hot line this morning as “Continuing.”  Can we find them?  Will the avocets dance for us today?

Christmas Goose Brig 2015

Christmas Goose (Geese) of the Brig

Bedecked Goose Marker in Christmas Fog

Ding Darling Goose Sign in Christmas Hat and Scarf — All the Ding-Darling-Designed Goose Signs Wore Someone’s Handiwork

Who could stay home with all these riches 75 miles away?  O, yes, and there’ll be bountiful breakfast at Smithville’s historic, cozy, savory “Bakery.”  [One friend thought that only meant sweets, so had filled up, tragically, before the trip. I think she ordered orange juice…]  We will be forced to choose between in-house yeasty sweet breads, and their savory home-made sausage patties and eggs that taste like eggs, with yolks like marigolds.  The Bakery echoes a stage-coach site at the corner of Route 9 and Alternate 561 in Smithville that harkens back to pre-Revolutionary Days.  There we read of Jimmie Leeds, who wrote the first Almanac in America, which Ben Franklin called America’s first literature.  Also, obviously, near the birthplace of the Jersey Devil, which we’ll seek out after the birds.

Territorial Peregrine Brigantine Christmas 2015

Territorial Peregrine of Christmas

Tasha at work in Christmas fog

Tasha, Fine Art Photographer, At Work in the Fog

Snow Geese of Christmas

The Christmas Goose — well, GEESE, Snow, of Course!

Brigantine Christmas PIcnic 2015

Tasha’s Christmas Picnic, Which Alan Insisted we eat in the Brig, “Because, how can we leave the Peregrine?”

Bon Appetit Christmas

Bon Appetit, Tasha-Style

 

Tasty Treats of Christmas

Tasty Treats, including Home-Made Tomato Soup in Heated Mugs

 

Sneak Boat Disguises Hunters off Brigantine Refuge Christmas Morning

Sneak Boat Hunting at the Edge of the Refuge, shots audible, Christmas Day

Snow Geese Forever at Brig

Snow Geese Forever as the Fog Begins to Lift

Christmas Fog begins to lift 2015

“Blue Skies Smiling”, as We Prepare to Depart

O, and what happened today?  Stay tuned – but think snow geese like snow drifts; rare red-breasted merganser couple, blown in on recent wild winds; and our Absecon Quest for the “Continuing” Avocets — yes, they danced for us – worthy of the journey!.

Winter birding is always rich, rewarding and varied.  Surprises are the norm.

The peace and beauty of the Pine Barrens stuns us newly every time.  This is a world where people still live by the seasons and the tides.

Yes, haven.

 

 

 

TRUMPETER SWANS FOR THANKSGIVING

Perfection Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving Perfection – Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I run away from holidays.  Thanksgiving was no exception.  Key birder, Mary Wood, and I set out for long empty Pinelands roads which lead past bogs and to ‘the B rig’ (Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge near Smithville.)

Pinelands Beckons at Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Brigantine Forest Trail – Sugar Sand and Pine Duff – on Thanksgiving

Just below Chatsworth (“The Heart of the Pines”) we came upon bogs being plowed and replanted, probably with berries that don’t ripen when all the other cranberries do.  Sand has its own beauty, and we were grateful for that, and for wild tracks – one probably coyote, one definitely fox, amidst the sugar sand.

New Planting New Drainage Chatsworth 2015

Preparing for new cranberry varieties

Preparing to Replant Cranberry Bogs 2015

Pine Barrens Sugar Sands near Chatsworth Bogs

Sugar Sand Track

Fox Claims Trail 2015

Wild Track

Pine Island Cranberry Company 2015

Legendary Haines Pine Island Cranberry Company near Chatsworth

Little did we know that the day’s highlight was just ahead.  Against the far shore, on a tiny gin-clear lake, we found not one but four trumpeter swans.

Trumpeter Swans first view near Chatsworth 2015

Oler Lake Holds Trumpeters near Chatsworth 2015

Oler Lake was Swan Lake — see white dots in distance

Mary set up the scope and we spent about a half hour with these dignified beauties.

Trumpeter Swan Families from Internet

Tundra Swan Images from Internet

Her splendid optics revealed jet black beaks, not a glimmer of yellow lore that would have identified tundra swans.  They swam in such unison that the four created one thin wake.  One of the three was an immature, the grey of chinchilla fur, and every bit as dignified and splendid as those matures.  No ‘ugly ducklings’ here!

We drove between glistening pitch pines, and gleaming blackjack oaks – shrublike oaks that retain their cinnamon-hued leaves until April.  Sand softened the roadway, and barely human appeared.

Soon, ‘the Brig’ beckoned, equally shining in Thanksgiving light.

Silence had surrounded us all the way down, and was almost audible in the Refuge.  Peace was the order of the day, and impeccable beauty.

1 Swan a-Swimming Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Mary and the Mute Swan, near Gull Tower

Mute swans swam singly or in couples, swirling here, circling there — no family groups and no thin wake here.  Tiger-orange beaks shouting their presence, identifying this slightly smaller noble member of the swan family.

We were given hundreds of tundra swans, thousands of snow geese.  This internet picture will do for you what my camera will not.  I have been at the brig when the sky was whitened with snow geese; a blizzard, and every flake a snow goose here for the winter.

Snow Geese On the Wing from Internet

We were so warm, we set up and used the scope for great swathes of time, in light jackets, then shirtsleeves.

Mary Wood Setting the Scope Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

One of the stars of the day was a solo boat-tailed grackle.  These pictures from the Internet give you some idea of their dignity.  We could barely tear ourselves away from this heroic bird.

His breast was awash in every tone of blue on black the color of wet jet.  Each minuscule movement created aurora-borealis-like shiftings and glowing along that dark expanse.  Behind him shimmered limitless reaches of impoundments of varying salinities, peppered with black ducks and Northern pintails, shovelers and mallards beyond counting.

Boat-Tailed Grackle Close-Up from Internet

Boat-Tailed Grackle full shot from Internet

A walk in a forest brought glorious oversized leaves, cushiony pine needles everywhere, light slicing through woods, and adorable yellow-rumped warblers.

Yellow-rumped Warbler from Internet

Yellow-rumped warbler from Internet

Huge Oak Leaf Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Oversized Oak Leaf, Brigantine Pine Forest

Even the mud was beautiful!

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Mud near Leeds Eco-Trail

We had jokingly gone to the Brig to find the hot-line-reported scissor-tailed flycatcher.  I’d seen one at Sandy Hook, one at Cape May, in my entire life.  We did see and hear some unusual birds in shrubs and deciduous trees along the impoundments.  Here’s what we should have found, but were unable to discover.

Scissorf-tailed Flycatcher we did not see, from Internet

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher from Internet

Day’s Stars – Trumpeter Swans from Internet

trumpeter_swan Internet

The monarchs of this kingdom proved to be those trumpeter swans — not only hither and yon throughout Brig waters, in small trim family groups.  But also, at the end, the pond where we’d hoped for buffleheads, two coursing overhead in silent flight, and yet we could hear the air passing through those solid, stately wings.

trumpeter swans on the wing from Internet

Trumpeter Swans from Internet

Running away from holidays holds so many miracles.  It was almost a day without turkeys, until Mary spotted a few stately, dark and noble gobblers scurrying through a remote stretch of those legendary, eponymous Pines.  O, and come to think of it, we began the day in the cranberry bogs!

I will say again, a plethora of pipelines is poised to puncture the Pinelands.  Highly flammable fuels will roar through those pipes, threatening not only that highly flammable forest, but also the sacred Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer of 17 trillion gallons of the healthiest water in America.  Pipeline people insist that citizens have no choice.  Wherever you are, prove the Pipeline people wrong!  Write editors.  Protest.  Put up Signs.  Write Congresspeople.  Pipeline people have no concept of HABITAT!

WHAT ARE THE PINE BARRENS

Chatham Bogs, Constable Skies

Chatham Bogs, Constable Skies

A Princeton Garden Club has asked me to speak and show pictures on the Pine Barrens.  I have written my talk, with all its logistical details.  But my experience of the Pines is an idyllic region, dreamlike in beauty and Productivity.  It is currently seriously imperiled (five PIPELINES are poised to thread their way through the ‘Barrens’ as we ‘speak’, and our governor is all FOR THIS DESTRUCTION, 17-trillion gallon aquifer of America’s finest waters and acres beyond counting of flammable pines or not.)

This is a typical scene along Route 563 near Chatsworth, the Heart of the Pines.

Marilyn Schmidt, Savior and Proprietress of Buzby's General Store in Chatsowrth

Marilyn Schmidt, Savior and Proprietress of Buzby’s General Store in Chatsowrth

This is my long-time friend, Marilyn Schmidt, former scientist, former realtor, former tax assessor, author, publisher, illustrator, and keeper of the Heart of the Pines.  To learn more about the historic role of Buzby’s, which she saved in a tax sale and had named to the New Jersey and the National Registers of Historic Places, read John McPhee’s legendary The Pine Barrens.

Tomasello Windery Store at Smithville, above Atlantic City

Tomasello Windery Store at Smithville, above Atlantic City

The Pine Barrens even have their own winery, Tomasello’s, an outlet of which is visible from the Bakery at Smithville, near the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, where NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I go all the time for major birding experiences.

An exquisite lake is Lake Oswego, ideal for kayaking, ringed with evergreens and marvelous wild plants, right down to the water.

Here's How the Brig (Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge) looked shortly after Hurricane (by any other name) Sandy!

Lake Oswego shortly after Hurricane (by any other name) Sandy

As the autumnal equinox approaches, I think of equinotical storms, not the least of which was the infamous Sandy.  Our state is still recovering.  Although the Brigantine and Lake Oswego and Scott’s Landing and Leed’s Point are very near Atlantic City, where Sandy came ashore — these are tough places, home of salt-of-the-earth people, and they were back on their feet remarkably soon.  Here are a few images that give only the slightest clue as to what the land and the people endured, from what they have recovered:

No Picnic Today,, Lake Oswego After Sandy

No Picnic Today,, Lake Oswego After Sandy

Brigantine Wildlife Refuge Closed by Hurrican Sandy

Brigantine Wildlife Refuge Closed by Hurricane Sandy

Barricade Realities, Brigantine After Sandy Chewed the Dike Road

Barricade Realities, Brigantine After Sandy Chewed the Dike Road

Foot Access Only

Foot Access Only

Raccoons Survived Sandy

Raccoons Survived Sandy

Wildlife Drive Taped Off

Wildlife Drive Taped Off

Scotts Landing Survived Sandy

Scotts Landing Survived Sandy

Scott's Landing Looking Due East

Scott’s Landing Looking Due East

We Survived Sandy - Tasha O'Neill's Traditional Christmas Picnic at Scott's Landing

We Survived Sandy – Tasha O’Neill’s Traditional Christmas Picnic at Scott’s Landing

And always a final visit to idyllic Leed’s Point, which lost many buildings, but kept its working fishing village spirit despite all.

What Remains at Leeds Point After Sandy

What Remains at Leeds Point After Sandy

One of the Signs and One of the Buildings We Lost at Leed's Point

One of the Signs and One of the Buildings We Lost at Leed’s Point

What the Pine Barrens are All About -- After the Harvest

What the Pine Barrens are All About — After the Harvest

All of this beauty survived one of the most savage storm in recorded United States history.  Only to fall, now, in 2015, to the forces of politics and greed.