WINTER BIRDING AT THE BEACH ~ Sandy Hook, January 6

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Sandy Hook, Sandy Hook Bay, Spermaceti Cove on our  January Birding Day

Epiphany, indeed!   Actually, multiple epiphanies on the purported day of the Three Kings’ visit to the manger…

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Two Seasons, near Salt Pond, Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

O.K., it snowed all night.  Who cares?

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Where The Rabbit Ran… near Salt Pond, Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

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!

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The King of the Foxes — Where the Fox Sips, Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook, January

I’m beginning to think that winter is the BEST time for adventures!

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Kathleen and Jim Amon, Studying Buffleheads, Mergansers, Brant and a Lone Red-Breasted Loon in Winter Plumage

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.

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Essential ‘Gear’ for Birding in All Seasons – David Alan Sibley’s Masterworks

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!

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Female American Goldfinch (NJ STATE BIRD) on Seed Sack by Fine Art Photographer, Friend: Brenda Jones

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.

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Jim and Kathleen Amon, intent upon buffleheads, Spermaceti Cove, at Sandy Hook, January 6, 2017

Never mind rocks.   Give me sand and snow!

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Brooding Wetland, Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook in January

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:

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Green Heron, Brenda Jones

Where the great egret feeds on the incoming tide…

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Great Egret by Brenda Jones

Where the ospreys soar, court, mate, build nests, raise hefty young, and perform impressive exchanges, as both parents tend first eggs, then chicks.

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Osprey by Brenda Jones

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!

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Restoration of the Yellow Houses

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…

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New Ad for Yellow Houses, up near North Beach and Hawk Watch Platform

Oh, yes, and what birds did we find?

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Common Merganser Female by Fine Art Photographer/Friend, Ray Yeager

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Hooded Merganser, Ray Yeager

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Male Bufflehead, Ray Yeager

Brant Goose Drinking Barnegat

Brant, by Brenda Jones

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.

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Red-throated Loon in Winter Plumage from Internet: Cornell Ornithology Lab

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.

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Lon-tailed duck, male, by Ray Yeager

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..

.

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All the Brant of Sandy Hook’s Salt Pond, Fleeing Cacophonous Helicopters, November 2016

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!

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Poison Ivy Still Life, November 2016

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SHADY WALKS: US 1 NEWSPAPER article & LAMBERTVILLE & BARLEY SHEAF FARM, PA.

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that sometimes, (if VERY fortunate), I can convince local editors to feature nature articles for their readers.  I’m very aware that people of the 21st Century, if they are not out IN Nature, can absolutely forget, if not negate her.

The perilous state of journalism in our time renders my media appearances more and more scarce.  Nonetheless, those who find US 1 Business Newspaper tomorrow/Wednesday, August 10, will see my article on four shady walks in this time of searing sunlight.  I’ve been blessed to have a new poem, “Earthwise”, in US 1’s Fiction Issue the past two weeks.

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Canalside Shade, Lambertville Towpath

Meanwhile, on  Sunday, I relished a fine shady towpath hike with Jeanette Hooban, (original Intrepid), first heading north out of Lambertville (NJ), then south, so far as the weir, otherwise known as the rapids of the Delaware River near New Hope.  There are towpaths with canal on both sides of this river that I cherish above all others.  Our side has the right amount of water in it.  Pennsylvania is finally getting ’round to filling theirs to historic levels, but it’s taking an unconscionably long time.

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Typical Lambertville Canalside House

I have to admit, since I am in terrific turbulence over the difficult diagnosis given my 20-year-old great nephew last week, my ‘eye’, –as manifested through my camera–, was seriously off during these refreshing hours.

Bear with me, nonetheless.  I will expand the quantity and quality of my meagre offering with fine photographs by Jeanette and by Brenda Jones, known to readers of this blog and its predecessor for the Packet, NJWILD.

Know that Jeanette and I relished every foot(e)fall.  That the journey WAS the destination.  And that our culminating brunch at Pennsylvania’s Barley Sheaf Inn, past Lahaska, may have been our most luminous yet.  Every sustaining visit to this haven (known for weddings) has us plotting our return, listing the friends with we MUST share this multi-faceted excellence.

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“Sunshine On Your Shoulders…” — Towering Towpath Sunflower

Exquisite as the food was, as always; chaleureuse (warm) as the welcome always is; beckoning as the grounds always are, we could barely eat for watching continuous courtship dances of various species of butterflies.

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Black Swallowtail Nectaring by Brenda Jones

Come with us to our post-hike haven — Barley Sheaf Inn:

A Barley Sheaf Dormers and Autust Sky

Barley Sheaf Inn Dormer and August Sky

A Barley Sheaf Balcony

Barley Sheaf Shadows

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Dance of the Cabbage Whites by Brenda Jones

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Barley Sheaf Inn Pond, Fed by Spring Once Essential to Indians

A Barley Sheaf Summer Garden

Barley Sheaf Inn Pool Garden

A Barley Sheaf Pool House

Barley Sheaf Inn Pool House

clouds by Jeanette Hooban

Barley Sheaf Inn Summer Skies by Jeanette Hooban

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Les Deux Carolines, Brunching in Moss Hart’s Exquisite Dining Room

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Jeanette’s Eggs Benedict by Jeanette Hooban

A Barley Sheaf Petals for the Bride

Petals for the Bride

A Barley Sheaf Tracery

Barley Sheaf Tracery, Above the Rose Petal Path

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Lotus Farewell, Barley Sheaf Farm by Jeanette Hooban

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Swallowtail and Bee — Two Pollinators to One Flower — by Brenda Jones

HIKING NJ THE HEAT-WEEKS: An Essay on Shade

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My sister, Marilyn Weitzel, Janet Black and Betty Lies Bird the Sourland Mountain Preserve Trail off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell

While every newspaper and television and Internet Weather Source has been warning absolutely everyone to stay inside, “Stay Safe”, [which smarmy phrase makes my flesh crawl], I’ve discovered something experientially that I’ve probably always known:  It’s a whole lot hotter in any parking lot, getting into or out of a vehicle, than it is in any of our nearby New Jersey forests!  I’ve decided, it’s dangerous to stay at home.  For, there, life can turn into a spectator sport.

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Pole Farm: “Abide With Me”: Shade in the Height of Summer

A Sunday ago, I hiked the Pole Farm at 8 a.m., actually about an hour too late to start, during these so-called Heat Emergencies.  Much beauty, great tranquillity, shade 9/10 of the way.  For a couple of hours, I was given gifts beyond measure.  There’s nothing on a screen, or in a newspaper or magazine to equal the elusive scent of fox, still apparent from morning trail-marking.  The cascade of field sparrows, the mew of catbird.  The pleasure of picking two wildflowers for Elaine Katz’s stone and bench – the woman who almost single-handedly insisted that this Lawrenceville (now-) Preserve was not to be a golf course or a series of intrusively spotlighted playing fields.

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Sourland Rocks Exhale Lenape Presence

A day or two later, and again a week later, starting at 5:15, I entered the Sourland Mountain Preserve off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell.  Not a man-made sound, not even a plane, did I hear in those couple of deeply shaded hours.  Not a man-made anything did I see, except some essential drainage pipes and the entry road, then densely wooded trails I explored.  One distant frog’s thrumming was heartening.  Dragonflies popped about whatever flowers could bloom in sunlit groves.  For a long time, I sat on basalt boulders leftover from creation, surrounded by mixed forest and essence of Lenapes of long ago.  There’d been rain by the second excursion, so various streamlets were caroling as I crossed them.

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Intensities of Shade at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

The next night, when her work and mine were over for the day, Intrepid Jeanette Hooban picked me up in Lawrenceville, to glide over hill and down dale to the Delaware River, –silver in late light, purling below the Lambertville / New Hope Bridge.  Moments later, we were deep in Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.  We decided to take four favorite trails:  Violet Trail off the access road; the old pond trail onto Fern Trail, alongside a flower-erupting former pond; and the ever-enticing Medicinal Trail, crossing the tough new bridges constructed or reconstructed after Hurricane Sandy.  Each of us has many demands made upon us in the so-called real world.  Each was a little jagged as we started out.  But, again, silence, flowers, dragonflies, hidden birds, and the murmur of Pidcock Creek gave us timeless gifts of memory.  Jeanette discovered a flaming spurt of cardinal flower, favorite of ruby-throated hummingbirds.  I could show her where to elusive snow trillium can emerge, yes, in snow, in March; where, in May, opulent yellow ladyslippers peek through heavy leaf cover to the left of the Fern Trail.  We examined the rocky edge of that Creek, for I’d found the Louisiana Waterthrush, first by song, then by habitat and behavior, a month ago with another friend.  There in the cucumber magnolia, I’d seen my first ever phoebe sing out his name over and over, while waters burbled busily below early one spring.  In heat-strafed July, shade was our gift at Bowman’s, enhanced by occasional water-cooled air.

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Abbott Marshlands: Spring Lake: First Willow Buds

A few days later, key birding buddy, Anne Zeman, picked me up at 7:30 a.m., so we could go to the Abbott Marshlands (in Trenton!), in quest of images for her entries for an upcoming fine-art juried exhibition: Voices for the Marsh.  New to us was the fact that Hurricane Sandy had taken down a quantity of the Marsh’s most majestic trees.  Youngsters that survived have burgeoned in the meantime, creating dense shade everywhere — 90-some percent of our walk was tree-cool, and much alongside water.  New patterns of light and shade have amplified the richesse of its fern groves, until we ran out of species names.  Not only tiny blue dragonflies, –half the size of needles–, but equally minuscule lipstick-red ones, zinged about on all sides.  Pickerel weed’s remarkable purple (hyacinth-like, but slimmer) stems rose here and there in Spring Lake and other wet areas.

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Fox Face, Close-Up, by Fine Art Photographer Brenda Jones

Again, we remembered where  Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger had shown us the five-entried fox den.  On both sides of the trail, majestic yews revealed a former dwelling in that wilderness.  Not far from there, Clyde and Warren knew to look for owls in daytime.  There’s not so much silence in the Marsh, because horrific highways are all too near, spinning out a ceaseless drone of ‘the real world’.  But after awhile, one absorbed that sound, until lapping water or locusts warming up or the sacred luffing of swans wings topped every other impression.

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Marsh: Hurricane Sandy Damage to Iconic Beech, Spring Scene

Each walk, alone and with others, proved that Heat Emergency consciousness can be overdone.  People can turn into couch potatoes out of fear.

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Beaver Close-Up by Fine Art Photographer, Brenda Jones

Beauteous preserves, rich in wildlife, await on all sides of Princeton.  There’s the thickly treed Community Park North off 206.  There’s Herrontown Woods, off Snowden Lane, and the nearby Autumn Hill.  Plainsboro Preserve beckons on the other side of Route 1, with its monoculture forest of beeches — guaranteed 12 to 15 degrees cooler in summer, warmer in winter.

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Beckoning Path, Plainsboro Preserve

Turn off the screens.  Grab a hat and water and natural insect repellant (a wonderful rosemary-based one is available at the Hopewell Pharmacy) and get out there.  Don’t be someone Richard Louv will have to describe as The Last (Child) in the Woods.

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Microclimate Beechwood Forest, Plainsboro Preserve

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT I LOVE BEST — A PERFECT HIKE

Phyllis and Tracy Meet Goat Hill December

Phyllis and Tracy Study The Delaware River from Goat Hill Trail Below Lambertville

Long ago, working at American Re-Insurance, I made two friends who remain my hiking buddies to this day – Phyllis Horner and Tracy Turner.  Every couple of months, we’re out and about in nature, either before or after a memorable meal, exploring together.  On this Valentine’s Day, the Day of the Heart, I am grateful for all my friends — especially these two, who go back to 1997.  And grateful for the health which each of us has won, despite enormous challenges, in recent years —  health that grants us continuing access to remarkable natural beauty!

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Delaware River, Mirror Still, Looking Toward New Hope and Bucks County

Trees Most Beautiful Without Leaves

December Drama, Crest of Goat Hill

 

Rocky Promontory Goat Hill December

Rocky Promontory from Goat Hill Preserve – from which George Washington Planned Battles of Trenton

 

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Teens on Rocky Promontory, Looking Toward Bucks County — note sleeveless garb in December

 

Smiling Basalt on Goat Hill

Great Stone Face — When Basalt Grins — Goat Hill Crest

 

Phyllis and the Rock God of Goat Hill

Phyllis Challenges the Great Stone Face

 

Tracy on Goat Hill December

Tracy on the Rocks, Goat Hill

 

Heat Haze Goat Hill December

Tracy’s View from the Rocks

 

Left Behind Goat Hill December

Left-Behind Birthday Present, Goat Hill Crest

This was actually my Birthday Hike, but our fellowship and the setting were my gifts.  This vivid sack, which was full, is not my birthday present.

 

Wood Gatherers Goat Hill December

This Felt Left Behind by Natives of this Site — Lenni Lenapes of Long Ago…

 

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Beauty, Human and Wild, on Goat Hill

Realize that this idyllic spot would not be there for us to hike so easily (and I wonder what it looked like to George Washington, to General Cornwallis, in the 1700’s), were it not for prservationists, conservationists, ecologists, who joined together to preserve this historic site.  D&R Greenway, where I work, is part of that preservation miracle.

Take the road to Howell Living History Farm, off 29 below Lambertville.  Turn left onto Goat Hill Road and wind through dense forest with intriguing houses full of character, tucked into the wilderness.  Turn left on Washington Road, which had no name in his day.  Park on the left and hike to majestic views, in absolute tranquillity

You can tell that I cannot tell what season this is — and that, of course, is fallout of catastrophic climate change.  This was December 12, 2015!

Not many days after Thanksgiving, actually — and this flock of eight turkeys strolled through Tracy’s yard as I took her back home, here in “Society Hill” (Society of Friends – ancient land), Lawrenceville.

There is nothing better than fellowship, wild nature, and my beloved Delaware River!

Turkeys in Tracy's Yard Society Hill December

Wild Turkeys in my neighbor, Tracy’s, yard, Back Here in Lawrenceville – there were 8 of them