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.”

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CELEBRATING SNOW

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I cherish Nature in all her moods, –often the wilder the better.  Running toward a Nor’easter, suffused in laughter and delight, with the Intrepids, at Island Beach seems to have changed my life.  My intensities have increased, along with my courage to admit these passions in public.

Sacred Fox Prints March 2015

Sacred Fox Tracks of the Night

Note that the name for this blog includes both WILD and BEAUTY.  Below are scenes from a snow a year ago that delivered both:

Necessity Late Snow March 2015

Sometimes, Even Necessity Has Beauty!

Tonight I await a forecast snow – which frankly doesn’t promise to be sufficient.  Note that the name for this blog includes both WILD and BEAUTY.  I give you scenes from a snow a year ago that delivered both.

Visitor Late Snow March 2015

Fresh Prints

Certain very special friends call to exult in snow, our secret joy.  We are all too aware that the Weather Channel does all in its power to make the public fear, if not hate, Nature, tossing about words like ‘revenge’.  I think it’s a ploy to permit destruction of nature, and I turn my back on all of that.  Nature’s doing the what comes naturally.  It’s we who are the ruinators.  We are here to be the planet’s tenders…

Heavy Heavy Hangs Late Snow March 2015

Laden

Look at her artistry.  What a privilege to live where the world can be transformed like this in one mere night!

Night Snow 2015

Night Snow

Waltz of the Shadows

Waltz of the Shadows

Neighbor's Snowman Late Snow  March 2015

Neighbors’ Snowman

Fox Encouonter Late Snow March 2015

Foxes’ Encounter

Incredible Lightness of Being Late Snow March 2015

The Incredible Lightness of Being

When the Shrubs Weep at 23 Juniper

When Shrubs Weep

Morning View Late Snow March 2015

Calm after the Storm

Sculpture in Snow March 2015

Sculpture and Rosemary in Snow

 

Blizzard at my OPEN Door

Snow Depth at My Back Door

Storms are not easy for the wild creatures – as this puffed-up-to-stay-warm Junco reveals.  It is always good to set out thistle socks, at least, for our winged brethren of the wild.

Junco On Andromeda

Puffed Junco on Andromeda in Height of Storm

 

WRITE GOV. CHRISTIE RE IMPLEMENTING OPEN SPACE FUNDING NOW!

Jeanette intent upon wild birds and fishermen and whales at preserved Island Beach — OPEN SPACE ESSENTIAL..      site to use:  http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/

Could They Be Gannets November 2015 eanette 007

“Could they be gannets?” – Jeanette Intent (Intrepid #1) at Island Beach in NOVEMBER

Dear NJWILDBEAUTY Readers,

Never has your political action mattered more than now.  Whether you live in beleaguered NJ or not, go onto Governor Christie Contact web-site and insist he implement the Open Space funding approved by 65% of his voters.  This must happen now. 

Below, you will find what I just sent, receiving a Thank You for Contacting Me.  I will write each day until that document is signed.

Do not give up in the face of his legendary intransigeance!  Send this writing/signing request to friends in all states — as NJ goes, so goes the nation.  OPEN SPACE is essential for the wild creatures, and even moreso to slow catastrophic climate change.

I assume you all know that I work for D&R Greenway Land Trust, nearing our 20,000-acre point of preservation of the most populous state.  That seemed impossible, too.  But, acre by acre, gathering by gathering, letter by letter, negotiation by negotiation, we are saving New Jersey land, otherwise known as HABITAT.

Join me in this.  None of the creatures, none of the adventures you see in these ‘pages’ could be experienced, let alone photographed, without preservation.

Take ‘pen in hand’.  Be the Vox Populi of the 21st Century! 

Even if you’ve never written a governor before, let alone THIS governor, write him.  New Jersey herself and her WILD CREATURES and WILD SPACES are worth it!

Thank you

cfe

Dear Governor Christie:

You know better than anyone that NJ is slated to be the first completely built-out (read “ruined”) state.  Only you can prevent this disaster.  Implement the open space/preservation funding approved by 65% of your citizens.  Honor the will of the people.  Our government hearkens back to Ancient Rome – where the Vox Populi was sacred.  This is YOUR tipping point.

Carolyn Foote Edelmann
NJWILDBEAUTY Nature Blog

Fox in Snow from D&R Greenway Exhibition by Ray Yeager

Fox of Barnegat Bay by Ray Yeager (Ray Yeager Photography Blog) – taken at Island Beach, open space preserved by wise, courageous New Jerseyans.

This fox is asking you, “What will YOU do!”

HABITAT is ALL!

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.

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!

RAINY-DAY BIRDING – ISLAND BEACH, NOVEMBER

View from the Coast Gard Watch Window, Island Beach, Rainy November Day

View from the Coast Gard Watch Window, Island Beach, Rainy November Day

NJWILDBEAUTY readers surely know by now, to borrow from Coleridge, Nature does not “fold up her tent like an Arab, and as silently steal away” after Labor Day. Quite the contrary!

These few images recreate Nature’s fulness, despite rain, last Saturday, November 7.

Drama, beauty, even miracles awaited us, as we tugged on our slickers and headed out on the beach.

"Down to the Sea Again" -- Fishermen Head to the Beach

“Down to the Sea Again” — Fishermen Head to the Beach

The Weather Guides had insisted there was only a 30% chance of rain for the Island Beach region.  But, as my urologist husband used to insist re surgery percentages, “For my patient, it’s 100%.”

For Jeanette and Me, 100 percent!

For Jeanette and Me, 100 percent!

For Jeanette Hooban and me, rain was indeed 100%, sometimes more ‘percentier’ than others.

"The Intrepid" Wades the Atlantic Merrily, November, 2015

“The Intrepid” Wades the Atlantic Merrily, November, 2015

Fishermen to the South of Us

Fishermen to the South of Us

The Day of Calm Fishermen

The Day of Calm Fishermen

Where the Pole Was

Where the Pole Was

The Track of the Fishermen

The Track of the Fishermen

"Could they be gannets?" - Jeanette Intent

“Could they be gannets?” – Jeanette Intent

We were welcomed by foxes.  You can either mentally zoom and crop on my terrible images, or just Google Ray Yeager Photography Blog to see (probably our very foxes that very day) his fine art superb images of the ruddy regals of Island Beach.  Thanks, Ray, for beauty, majesty, and everything from sleeping, leaping to fighting.

Fox Couple of Reed's Road - Right at Home, and the Rain didn't Bother Them, Either

Fox Couple of Reed’s Road – Right at Home, and the Rain didn’t Bother Them, Either

This Healthy Fox Was That Close to my Car - but my hands were shaking...

This Healthy Fox Was That Close to my Car – but my hands were shaking…

The foxes opened our outdoors day.  Whales were our finale.

As we turned to leave the fishermen’s beach, we took one last, reluctant look at the serene, majestic Atlantic.  Take the image below and multiply it by twenty or more.  All flowing south, just beyond the third waves.  A little larger than dolphins, but making that same loopy motion.  Not so frolicsome.  Very sure.  A singleton.  A threesome.   Four side-by-side.  The longer we looked, the more we saw.  As relaxed in their journey as our fishermen — who stopped everything to watch.

Later, in the Coast Guard Building, –newly opened and you can go upstairs to see what those heroes saw as they watched through storms–, the men painting the front room told us they were probably minkes, definitely on migration south.  They spend most of their lives on Island Beach.  This is the time they might be seen  But there was awe in the men’s voices, as they advised, “That was really special…”

Single Minke Whale, from Internet

Single Minke Whale, from Internet

Lavallette is not far above Island Beach.  We’d stood so very long in the rain, mesmerized by whales, that we decided rewards were in order:

Compensation

Compensation

A craft brew, with a Pennsylvania name, possibly Nockamixon.  Rather metallic.  Good with

Rainy Day Rewards at the Crab's Claw in Lavallette

Rainy Day Rewards at the Crab’s Claw in Lavallette

The oysters on the right are Delaware Bay — a miracle of resurrection.  Once there were more millionaires per block in and around Shellpile and Bivalve, NJ, because of oysters, than anywhere in the world.

Then MSX (multinucleated sphere unknown) wiped out the industry, the oystermen, the millionaires.  But New Jersey and Rutgers have undertaken heroic efforts to bring these hefty, meaty bivalves back to our (almost unknown) Delaware Bay and to our plates  They were divine.

Those on the left are Virginia oysters.  Not so large as Chincoteague, to be sure, but savory, briny and electrifying.

Hearty Virginia Oysters, Crab's Claw, Lavallette

Hearty Virginia Oysters, Crab’s Claw, Lavallette

Flounder with Lemon and Capers, Crab's Claw, Lavallette

Flounder with Lemon and Capers, Crab’s Claw, Lavallette

Our beautiful entrees were so delicate, probably only moments out of the sea.  They often mention, on their menu, the day’s special as “whatever is running.”  Meaning whatever fish are off-shore that day.  I always get the child’s view of a fish running on its little tail.

As NJWILDBEAUTY readers can experience, here, with Jeanette and me, Not fall nor rain, winter nor snow, can keep us from our appointed rounds, reveling in Nature, letting her bestow her countless gifts.

Remember, the Nature part of our excursion (and most if not all of them) could never happen without preservation.  Support your local land trust.

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).