February Sandy Hook: Fun in the Sun and the Sands

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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!

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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.

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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

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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…

 

 

WHEN YOUR EASTER OUTFIT IS BIRDING GEAR…

Hold on to your Hat Jeanette Hooban at Cape May Hawk Watch Platform Easter 2017

“HOLD ONTO YOUR HAT!” – Intrepid Jeanette Hooban on Easter

Hawk Watch Platform, Cape May, New Jersey

Over the weekend, yours truly set off for New Jersey’s two birding meccas, –Cape May and ‘The Brig’/Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.  As usual, she was running away from Holidays that used to be magical, in quest of winged rarities.  This memorable journey unfolded after Intrepid Jeanette Hooban declared [some months ago], “Carolyn, Easter is YOURS!”

Cape May Hawk Watch Platform aster 2017

HAWK WATCH PLATFORM:  Support these courageous and generous donors, without whose work and words, people could still be slaughtering rare birds by the thousands, all along Sunset Boulevard.

The Climate Change that ‘doesn’t exist’ had other ideas.  Gale-winds had flags snapping almost to the tearing point.  Out of the SOUTH — the direction in which migrants need to be flying.  They may as well have faced a wall.

Wild Wind & Flags Cape May Easter 2017

NOTE THOSE WIND-WHIPPED FLAGS

Jeanette and I learned that only swans, osprey and a smattering of gulls were strong enough either day to surmount the mistral-like onslaught.

Mute Swan in Territorializing Posture Cape May Easter 2017

MUTE SWAN INSTITUTES TERRITORIALIZING POSTURE

We were given three oystercatchers at the Meadows at Cape May — walking around, seeking the ideal spot for the scrape they consider a nest.  Territorialzing was inevitable and amazingly raucous.  Get that verb though, “walking.”  At the Brig, –on the side of the renovated road, opposite Atlantic City–,  a pair of oystercatchers walked around on the pale gravelly substrate, nesting on their minds.  These could have been the pair I watched feeding one young a summer ago, in that same place, where Sandy had devoured the road.

There were a few great egrets in stunning breeding plumage.  They, also, were walking.  Terns wheeled and plunged.  A yellowlegs (I can’t tell greater from lesser unless they’re side-by-side) and some willets also tried to feed in low water, –feed on foot, not on wings.

So, right now, your NJ WILDBEAUTY Cape May activity report is being replaced this time by this poem.  It was written when the Dodge Poetry Festival was still held at Waterloo Village.  Joy Harjo, a feisty, eloquent Native American, magnificently conveyed her splendid multi-level poem, “She Had Some Horses.”

 

“SHE SAW SOME BIRDS”

                                                           (Hearing Joy Harjo at the  Dodge Poetry Festival)

 

she saw some birds who

were little and magical

and easily mistaken

— one for the other —

warbling in underbrush

and sporting, at the last moment

a red kiss

or a brassy crown or a

gold coin on a dark

rump, — and tiny, so tiny

really almost

invisible

 

she saw some birds who

were too high on a tree-

limb or a thermal

or above slate seas

and twisting — this

way and that –, hiding

their field marks

 

they could have been

peregrine or immature golden

against the noon sun but

no one can quite

make this call

 

she saw some birds

with distinctive bellies

plastered flat against

dark trunks which they were

excavating high and deep

where no one can climb

or raid or even — at the very

least — identify

 

she heard some birds

in the wide marsh

as the sun slipped

away from her and even

worse, from her birds

 

who had concealed

themselves among sere rushes

which they exactly matched

so she could not see but only

hear their rattle or click or whine

and wonder if this was her

rail, her shy bittern

 

the ones who so skillfully lose

themselves in the sedges as

she so longs to do in such

a setting,… everywhere

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

 

Brigantine Return – Last of the Winter Birds

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that ‘The B rigantine’, or Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, near Smithville, New Jersey, has been closed to humans other than construction workers, since September.  I’ve now made two trips to the re-roaded, re-opened refuge.  I am happy to note that rarities are in residence, or in tourist mode, to a high degree.  This late March Saturday, we were treated to the last of the winter birds, and one life species for me — WHITE IBIS — two in a tree with a Great Egret, on the way to the Gull Pond Tower.  Most of these images are by my dear friend and superb bird artist, Brenda Jones.  All of them are wild nature, roaming free, thanks to far-sighted altruistic politicians of yesteryear.

A thousand thanks always to consummate birder, Mary Wood, who not only drives us in her silent Prius, which does not alarm the wildlings.  But who gave me her spectacular (second pair) of Swarovski binoculars, which finally allow me to see eye rings…

In case you wonder why people bird….

 

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Imagine Two White Ibis in One Tree — (Internet Image)   We left before they did...

Great Egret Brigantine Forsythe Brenda Jones 2

Great Egret – We also saw this one wading about (a first for us!) in sparkling Absecon Bay

bufflehead Brenda Jones

Brenda’s Serene Male Bufflehead — We had three females, two males.

Female Bufflehead Bull's Island Stockton NJ Brenda Jones

Brenda’s Intricate Female Bufflehead

Mute swan Brenda Jones

At one point, we had the mute swan and the 5 buffleheads ‘in one glass’

(meaning we could see all without moving our optics)

Osprey on winter tree Brenda Jones

We were this close to the first returned male osprey, — serene, imperious on his nest.  His mate is due to return in about two weeks. 

Green-Winged Teal Brenda Jones

We had green-winged teal beyond counting, at the inlet from Absecon Bay

snow_goose_laura_frazier_blackwaternationalwildliferefuge_cambridge_md from internet

We were given snow geese in numbers of this magnitude – Laura Frazier at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, from Internet — our were at rest upon the waters, serenading us with that musical murmur before departing for cooler climes…

Female Harrier Comin' In on a Wing Brenda Jones

Brenda’s Spectacular Female Harrier – I also spied “The Grey Ghost,” the elusive silvery male northern harrier, coasting along the tree line in a field to the west of Route 206, before we’d even turned into the Pine Barrens.

Song Sparrow from blind Brenda Jones

We heard, but did not see, the song sparrow at the northeast corner of the Refuge.

black brant in water from Internet

Internet Image of Black Brant in Water — We were given flocks on both sides, –bay and impoundment — and overhead in elegant waves.

Chickadee with Berry Brenda Jones

We frequently heard and ‘almost saw’ chickadees.

Red-winged Blackbird Brenda Jones

We heard and saw newly returned red-winged blackbirds.

Our finale bird at the Brig was an American Bald Eagle hiding out, disguising its imperious white head and diagnostic white tail in a black and white paper birch overlooking the final pond.

Eagle perched Brenda Jones new camera

“THE GIRL WITH THE CHARTREUSE ANKLE” ~ Island Beach New Year’s Day

Winter Still-Life, Island Beach, New Year’s Day

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New Year’s Morning Wrack Line, Island Beach

 

So it’s come to this:  In order to walk Island Beach and Sandy Hook, –especially twice in one winter week, as currently planned –, I turn to my splendid chiropractor, — Brandon Osborne, D.C., of Hopewell, New Jersey.  On the heels of that nearly significant recent birthday, new ministrations are suddenly required to sustain my sometimes rebellious body.

 

peroneus

Peroneus Longus – who can bark, “Don’t Mess With Me!”

 

The peroneus longus, –which one possesses, whether one wants one or not–, on the outside of each leg, leads down to the ankle bone.  My left Peroneus, (rhymes with Polonius), gravely dislikes soft sand, — especially dune trails leading up and down in order to get to the sea.

 

After P’s last rebellion, Brandon insisted, laughing, “The best medicine for Peroneus is more soft sand.”  Multi-faceted workouts engendered thereby actually stress Peroneus, rendering him stronger each time.  Brandon has me weave new leg-buttressing routines, among my yoga postures.  And he’s come up with a fine plan — move my appointments to the nights before beach-days, and he will protect my recalcitrant foot(e).  He will tape the offending tendon.

 

Behind me, Brandon asked what color I prefer, –of a pretty short list.  I blithely answer “green”.  (never far from work at D&R Greenway; never far from being a very “green” person.                  I expected the color of winter pine trees.          Wrong:

 

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Yoga-Ready, New Year’s Morning, 2017

 

This development had me literally laughing out loud, since my motto for this significant year, is “OUTRAGEOUS!”   (Exclamation point included.)    I do yoga for an hour to an hour and a half each day, holidays included But there’s a little more to it than soft sweet grace:

 

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Final Yoga Moments, New Year’s Day, 2017

 

I tend to do whatever Brandon suggests-to-insists so I can be outdoors as much as possible. New upright exercises involve standing high on toes for longish periods, legs together, then legs farther apart.  In the beginning, doing 30 of each seemed impossible.  Now it’s only the last six or so that weary me/us (Peroneus and me).  But they do not hurt.

 

Seeing that wild ankle decor Thursday, I marveled, “But, I feel like an athlete, taped for the fray.”  Brandon abruptly asserted, “You ARE an athlete!”  This is the person who had been felled by rheumatic fever at seven.  From then on, tennis, biking around the block, all jumproping – [and I had been the star], and roller skating were forbidden for life.  After which swimming to the end of the dock at camp became impossible.  (Until my 2011 hip replacement p.t., I had not set foot(e) in a gym, and was absolutely terrified to begin.)  Well, better late than never.

Brandon’s other prescription involves that very soft sand.  The picture below proves this morning’s obedience to his mandate:   You are coming with us along Reed’s Road to Barnegat Bay — first stop on my every I.B. pilgrimage.

 

Realize that this is the original sugar sand for which New Jersey’s Pine Barrens are famous.  Be very aware that this delicate, even exquisite pale grey substance is light years beyond the dingy practically ochre grunge dredged up and brought in (especially in Sandy-battered Mantoloking) by the infamous, Nature-negating Army Corps of Engineers.

 

Island Beach sand feels like superfine sugar.  Its chinchilla hue plays off the tawnyness of beach grass, to say nothing of cinnamon-stick brown jettisoned bayberry leaves.  Walking winter sand trails, it is as though Cezanne himself had been orchestrating the palette of each trail.

 

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Soft Sand, As Prescribed, Bayside, Island Beach

 

Island Beach is a ten-mile stretch of pristine beauty, about which you’ve read and read in these electronic pages.  The landscape/dunescape could be Wellfleet and Truto leading into wildest stretches of Cape Cod’s Provincetown.

 

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Spring-Green Dune Trail, Island Beach Ocean Side, by Angela Previte

 

Why it’s worthwhile for me to do whatever Brandon Osborne, D.C., directs —  long-tailed rarities of the winter sea:

 

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Long-tailed duck, Female, December Sea, Island Beach, by Angela Previte

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Long-tailed Drake, Winter Sea, Island Beach, by Angela Previte

 

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Rare Snow Buntings of Late December, by Angela Previte

 

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Snowy Owl 2016 by Angela Previte

 

Rarities arrive, of course, at Island Beach, because it has been preserved.  Support your local, state and national land trusts, so that wild nature can thrive in our time.

 

Island Beach’s ten miles were to have been developed, as you’ve learned from me before.  The Great Depression put a stop to almost all building.  Magnificence remains at every turn.

 

Mostly (until recent brutal trail maintenance on Reed’s and other roads and trails  — this will be a blog unto itself later), the State Park’s trees, shrubs and grasses have not been pruned, –save by wind, sand and storm.

 

Rare birds coast overhead; court and build nests; dive through waves of ocean and bay; madly fish — especially Northern gannets, who create geysers as they plunge.  Most amazingly, merlins and swallows play exuberantly during Nor’easters — going as northeast as they can into the very teeth of the gale.

Wind has other effects.  See its creative partnership with remarkable compass grass:

 

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Compass Grass Does its Thing in Strong Northwest Wind

Even the weeds turn into artists in the hands of the wind:

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“Artist-in-Residence” – Compass Grass on the Oceanside, Island Beach, New Year’s Morning

The sea itself has been busy sculpting — all we need is a sphinx:

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Sea As Sculptor, New Year’s Eve Morning, Island Beach

 

This day I shared this beach with dear friends, Angela and Bob Previte.  You know her fine art, stunning portraits of New Jersey’s winged miracles, from her own blog, “Simple Life at the Shore.”  (Which see!  Which FOLLOW!)  Delightful hours have been spent with her, with them, in recent months, in the park that serves their back yard.

 

We hiked merrily for hours, though they were concerned about Peroneus.  Angela had witnessed its giving out after a particular steep trek in summertime, [see green dunescape above.]  Even so, at Trail 7A, we skimmed along the boardwalk; trudged dutifully through the softest sand, –arriving in a particular ecstasy upon firmness created by winter’s high tide .

 

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First Day of the New Year in Stunning, Impeccable New Jersey

 

We were not the only ones on the sands, this day.  Everyone we meet was simply blissed out by the perfection that we shared. We’d congratulate one another on knowing what to do with a New Year’s Day.

EXCEPTION!

All except the woman  walking boldly and illegally atop a dune.  This person asserted to Angela that she was not doing exactly what she was even then doing.  I’ve experienced many forms of denial in my life, but this was egregious.  We tried to beckon the transgressor away from making those deeply destructive footprints, to no avail.

 

I’m in don’t-mess-with-me mode, in my OUTRAGEOUS! year.  So I called over to her — “You are breaking the fine roots essential to the grasses that hold these dunes in place!”  She moved defiantly onward…

 

But, everyone else, I would describe as almost reverent this day.

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Fellowship and Solitude, Walking South along Island Beach Sands

Our own fellowship today was profound.  It will be repeated, –“take often as needed.”  Maybe I should thank Peroneus for Brandon’s prescription…

 

In the Year 2000, a great love was granted me along these unspoilt sands.  The picture below seems to represent the mighty ocean in whisper mode, hinting of secrets…

 

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Atlantic Whispers, Island Beach, January 1, 2017

Sandy Hook June Scenes with Jeanette-the-Intrepid

We go to the Shore to cool off, right?  Not last Saturday!  Sandy Hook was as steamy and stifling as Manhattan, despite intense winds that had the flags in whipping/ripping full-out mode.  Nonetheless, Jeanette Hooban (the original Intrepid) and I made the most of our day there on Saturday.

You should know that The Powers That Be want to desecrate / destroy forested areas of Sandy Hook, in order to construct buildings to house vehicles.  Any chance you get to protest this travesty, take it.  Sandy Hook is a key segment of the Atlantic Flyway, essential to birds in migration in spring and autumn.  Nests of rare, threatened, endangered species are everywhere.  Write editors and congresspeople, insisting they honor habitat, for once facilitating the lives and hatchings of these spectacular birds!

 

Black_Skimmer_by_Dan_Pancamo

Black Skimmer Skimming, from Internet

Star of the day was either the black skimmer skimming on the ocean side (they usually prefer bays and impoundments), or the strutting oystercatcher, also on the ocean side, so near hordes of New Yorkers screaming in the surf.

American_Oystercatcher_Strutting from Internet

Oystercatcher Strutting, from Internet

great-egret from internet

Great Egret Landing, from Internet

The winds were so high that all water surfaces were pleated like the cotton plisse of childhood summer pajamas.  Neither the ospreys nor the egrets could see into the water to fish.  Seven egrets surrounded an oxbow pond, beside the Shrewsbury River.  It seemed that they were stabbing blindly in quest of lunch.

osprey-with-bass from Internet

“Osprey Packing a Lunch” from Internet

That entire day, –and we confirmed this with other birders–, we only saw one osprey ‘packing a lunch,’ the waters were so turbulent.  This one was flying practically from the entry toll booths (it’s free to bird there!) to a nest on a chimney of the officers’ (ruined) houses, where his mate searched plaintively.  We told her, “He’s on his way.  He’s having a bad day at the office.”

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Osprey Nest on Officer’s House Chimney, Sandy Hook

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Ruined Officers’ Houses 2 Years Ago – they look exponentially worse now!

Prickly Pear in Bloom Sandy Hook

Prickly Pear Cactus in Bloom, June 2016, Sandy Hook

Salt Spray Rose Sandy Hook June 2016

Salt Spray Rose in Bloom, June 2016, Sandy Hook

Mysterious House Sandy Hook

Mysterious Officer’s Mansion, Sandy Hook

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Extremely Hazardous Area – Old Battery near North Beach, Sandy Hook

sandy-destruction-close-up-sandy-hook Decaying Porches

Sandy-Rearranged Bricks, Officers’ Houses

Jeanette Meets the Atlantic Sandy Hook June 2016

Jeanette Merrily Wades in the June Atlantic, Sandy Hook

Impressionist View New Yorkers in Atlantic at Sandy Hook

Impressionist Scene, New Yorkers Streaming to, Screaming in, the Surf

ISLAND BEACH: BAREFOOT IN APRIL!

 

 

My normal reaction to climate change, –formerly known as global warming–, blends shock, horror, and determination to convince everyone to do whatever you can to turn this catastrophe around.  Every once in awhile, I have to admit to guilty delight.  As in Jeanette’s and my barefoot day with Ray Yeager (fine art photographer) at Island Beach last weekend.

Barefoot Jeanette Island Beach April by Ray Yeager

Barefoot Jeanette and Barnegat Light, April Beach Day, 2016, by Ray Yeager

Jeanette Hooban and I miraculously met Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer who specializes in Island Beach and Acadia National Park, even though our restaurant meeting place hadn’t opened for the season as promised. We tucked into a massive breakfast somewhere else in Lavallette, having no idea where Ray might be, then headed into the Park.  There was probably never a more spectacular oceanic beauty  than we were given that day.

The Old and The New Island Beach April 2016

“O, Say, Can You See?” – Surf of Sunday at Island Beach

 

Blue Horizons Bayhead April 2016

April Surf, Bay Head, New Jersey

 

Roll On  Bayhead Morning Surf April 2016

Jeanette and Bayahead Surf April 2016

Early Morning Solitude, April, Bay Head

Jeanette tumbled hard for her first osprey on the nest, out by the ten-mile nearly empty entry road.  “That’s the closest I’ve ever been to an osprey.”  “You want osprey, I know how to get you much closer than this.”  So we changed our plan to go straight to the tip of the Park and hike to Barnegat Light.  Spizzle Creek Bird Blind drew us.  Not five minutes onto the trail, there was Ray.  So we were able to spend the day together after all.

Discussing Bird Possibilities Island Beach April 2016

Discussing Birding Possibilities, Spizzle Creek Trail

The air that sunny day was full of osprey.  Carrying fish.  Feeding one another.  Portaging nest materials.  Even mating.  Singing their frail but penetrating love songs.  Displaying wing designs of the complexity and brilliance of Navajo rugs, as Jeanette described it.  Look up Ray Yeager Photography Blog (and follow it) in the next few days.  I’m sure he’ll feature that displaying osprey over the real tree in which the real birds were building a real nest.  In other words, this was no platform!

First Osprey on Nest Island Beach April 2016

First Osprey on the Nest, Next to Entry Road

Great egrets moved about the mainland near the Sedge Islands on Barnegat Bay, with the dignity of monarchs.  Snowy egrets were either fighting or courting or both, and comical as circus clowns.  Their golden slippers were usually deep in marshwater, but their antic behavior proved the identifying feature.  These shore birds are exceptionally at home along Barnegat Bay and among the Sedge Islands.  Not long ago, an environmental hero named Pete McLain, brought the osprey back to the Bay and peregrine falcons back to New Jersey.  I was lucky enough to kayak with him two years in a row, and hear the legendary tales.

Morning on Barnegat Bay Island Beach April 2016

Exquisite, Now Healthy, Barnegat Bay, thanks to Preservationists / Environmentalists

Healthy sinuous waterways glistened, as though diamonds that can float had been flung along their edges.  The waters themselves were that burnished chestnut color, otherwise known as peat tones, characteristic of Pine Barrens habitat.  The Bay had a palette of dreamlike delicacy.

Barnegat Bay Clarity Island Beach April

Barnegat Bay Clarity, April, 2016

Land's End Barnegat Bay Island Beach April

Land’s End. Barnegat Bay: This is New Jersey!

 

Sparkly Healthy Brnegat Bay sland Beach April

Sparkly, Healthy, Barnegat Bay – Kayakers’ Heaven

I’m showing all these Bay pictures, because most people admit they’ve never hiked that side, seen that watery miracle.  I also want to give you the feeling of appeal, even magnetism of Island Beach waters that day, that soon had us taking off our shoes and walking in hot silk sand.

Bare Feet of April Island Beach 2016

My Toes, Relishing Hot Sand, Finer than Talcum

But mine weren’t the only toes relishing that sand…

Sleeping Fox  Island Beach April 2016

“To Sleep, Perchance to Dream” — I have never come upon a sleeping fox before!

 

Balletic Fox  Island Beach April 2016

Elegant, Balletic Fox, Awake in Daytime (they’re nocturnal!)

 

Fox Tracks Big Dune Island Beach April

The Track of the Fox

 

Fox Farewell Island Beach April 2016

Fox Farewell of an April Morning

 

First Moss of Spring  Island Beach April 2016

First Moss of Spring – And I’ve been reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Irresistible “Gathering Moss”

 

Ray Yeager in his Element Barnegat Bay  Island Beach April

Ray Yeager, Usually ‘the King of the Foxes’ — they come out to him with their kits at midnight…

 

Photographer and Beachcomber Island Beach April 2016

The Photographer and the Beachcomber, Oceanside

 

Dune Patterns Island Beach April

Dune Patterns of April, Oceanside

 

Maple Flowers Island Beach April 2016

First Red Flowers of Maple Trees, Bayside

 

Exquisite Barnegat Bay Island Beach April

Exquisite Barnegat Bay — “Paradise Enow…”

 

Skate Egg Case Island Beach April 2016

Skate Egg Case, Way Out of Season — April

“DUMP THE PUMP” – Fighting for the Delaware River with poems

Bulls Island and Delaware Bridge Solstice 2014 006

Delaware River’s Wild and Scenic Reality

Once upon a time, there was a sacred river.  Her name was Delaware.  In the 1980’s, people blasted our river, that joins New Jersey to Pennsylvania — blasted her in shad season, in April, in order to build a pump.  A pump to take out 200 million gallons a day from my beloved river, and send it over to the Susquehanna, to cool a nuclear power plant.

to EMPTY this River!

Red Kayak from Delaware Footbridge Bridge Solstice 2014 005

Red Kayak, HIgh Water, Delaware River from the Bull’s Island Footbridge

Once upon a time, there was a group called Del-Aware.  Grass-roots, indeed.  People who fought with every tool they could imagine, fought against chemical companies and the power company and lawyers and judges and realtors.  Fought to keep our Delaware, –which may be the only undammed major river in our country–, to keep her whole and safe and clear forever.

John McPhee insists that shad from this river saved the lives of Washington’s starving soldiers in nearby Valley Forge.  In other words, saved our country.

View from the Bridge  - April Delaware River

To Keep Her Free and Clear Forever – Delaware from Bull’s Island Footbridge

Friends of mine, women, nursing mothers and grandmothers among them, were jailed for putting their bodies in front of the bulldozers, brought to Lumberville to build the Pump House.  I don’t know whatever happened to the writ of habeas corpus in Bucks County Pennsylvania in the 1980s, but those women spent the weekend in jail, in Doylestown.  I’ve been in the Michener Museum’s cell, out in their courtyard, so I know how meager and degrading were their lodgings all that weekend.  God bless James and Mari Michener, who turned that jail, ultimately, into a major museum of Delaware Valley Impressionist art.  I stare at its stone wall every time I visit, remembering my courageous women friends, walled in by it and corporate greed, for an entire weekend.

I have always been ashamed that I did not have the courage to put my body in front of vehicles bent on destruction of my river.  I have always honored my friends who were so fearless.

I put my pen and my checkbook to use for the River.  Joining Del-Aware, going to wild meetings at Applejack’s upriver, writing poems for the cause’s newspaper, whose name I think was The Citizen’s Voice.

We fought for our referendum, and it won, even though worded backwards.  We had to urge people to Vote Yes to Vote No.  I drove around Bucks County stapling up enormous posters, alerting those who wanted the ban the pump to vote YES.   We knew they didn’t want the pump.  We didn’t know if they could bear to vote YES to prevent it.

Water tumultuous Brenda Jones

Falls Along the Delaware River, by Brenda Jones

We won, yes.  And when I returned from my year in Provence, the Pump had been built.  Water was being removed.  The Susquehanna and the power plant were being suffused with Delaware’s liquid life.  Why?  It was a non-binding referendum.  Oh, yes and miles of land that always failed perc tests had suddenly passed them, so an epidemic of McMansions profaned Bucks County upon my return.

People still say, “It’s impossible, what you tried to do.  To fight all those implacable forces.”

Maybe it was.  Impossible but essential.  It was our battle, our citizens’ joining.  Our stands for what was right.  Our love for the river.

Delaware's Watery Beauty, Spring

Spring Azaleas on the Pennsylvania Side of the Delaware, from Bull’s Island Footbridge

The Congressman, for whose re-election I worked each week, writing his position papers, speeches and releases, the noble Peter Kostmayer, at least managed to get any part that qualified of our river named officially Wild and Scenic.  It’s cleaner by far now.  Shad run again.  Crowds suffuse Lambertville and New Hope now for each spring’s Shad Festival.

Flood Waters Brenda Jones

Delaware Flood by Brenda Jones

People joined hands and stood up for what was right.  At least, we managed to get the water volume lowered that is stolen from our river of Independence.

Fog along Delaware Titusville Brenda Jones

Delaware Island in Flood and Fog by Brenda Jones

Here are two of my Delaware poems, that were all I could manage, in terms of holding my own hands up against those vile bulldozers:

Val is Val Sigsted, who lead the fight.  This poem was born the night I drove across the river with all windows open to feel the riverwind, hearing of our referendum’s victory, as I returned from theatre in Manhattan.  In the play, the key song had been “There’s a Small Hotel, with a wishing well…”, composed, I had always been told, at the Delaware-side Stockton Inn.

TO VAL AND THE VALOROUS

 

I am the River, speaking

out of my depths

out of the bounty of my shores

with cleansing winds

from my tumultuous clouds

 

for streams who suckle me

for shad yet to be born

for generations of wildfowl for whom I am nursery

for lilting swallows nesting at my banks

for the ocean who cradles me at last

 

to you who float me, tend me

you who cast your nets within me

you who paint me, weave me

you who sculpt beside me

you who sing me

you who work to save me

 

I, Delaware, carol thanks

I, who had been barrier, am bond

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

May 1983

In the Web  Delaware Bridge

Delaware Footbridge from Bull’s Island to Black Bass Inn, in PA — “I who had been barrier, am bond…”

Yes, our river, which many see as dividing two states, in the 1980s, joined them.

Table View Black Bass Autumn 2010

TAble View of the Footbridge over Our Delaware, from the Black Bass Inn

Here is the other — may these mere words catalyze others to fight for what is right in our country, for our citizens, for our rivers above all, for Nature Herself.

This was written during a dire flood, long before the referendum, when the literal Power Company of Pennsylvania blasted the river during the shad run.

Gooseterritorialdefense Brenda Jones

“One Gander…” by Brenda Jones

 

POWER COMPANY

 

one gander dozes near the broached canal

taking no notice of the river’s fury

boiling through isolate skunk cabbage

 

brown water churns like lava in broad tubes

turns trees to whorling pinwheels

massive drums to agitated corks

 

my river vomits onto picnic sites

I focus on her, seething at abutments

numb fingers awkward at the lens

chilled by new winds our angry river sources

in her headlong freedom ride

 

I return to find her licking at my carwheels

as mallards swim the yellow parking lines

she gulps hyacinths whole beyond the vanished footbridge

 

I drive along our river’s threatened banks

bristling with dawn fishermen, fellow pilgrims

at the shrine of independence, the river rises

determined as the General, crossing

 

near the site where men employed by Power

blasted as the shad began their run

the Delaware claims my road and I retreat

hear on every side, our river shouting:

 

“Blast ME? I’ll show YOU power!”

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

 

 

Eagle on Nest Bull's Island Towpath Hike 2015 Spring

Eagle Head, Left Side of Bull’s Island Nest

What it’s all about in the end — HABITAT!

Support your local non-profits, defending Nature everywhere, especially where sacred rivers are concerned.

 

 

 

 

 

“VISITATION” ~ Eagle Poem

American Bald Eagle Brenda Jones profile

Princeton’s American Bald Eagle, Monarch, by Brenda Jones

Long ago, when Ilene Dube asked me to create a Princeton Packet Blog on nature, she particularly asked me to include some of my poems.  In Cool Women readings over the years, “Visitation” was a favorite.

American Bald Eagle and Sculler Brenda Jones

‘Princeton’s’ American Bald Eagle and Sculler in Morning Fog, Lake Carnegie, by Brenda Jones

It was written, frankly, to a very vivid vision.  You can tell from the tactile descriptions how supremely real this scene was to me.

Eagles 2 Carnegie Trees Dec Brenda Jones

‘Princeton’s’ Mated Pair of American Bald Eagles, by Brenda Jones

It was years ago, and wintertime, when eagles court and nest, as they are now, all over our state.

Eagle gathering nest materials Brenda Jones

Eagle Gathering Nest Material, by Brenda Jones

At the time, there were no Princeton eagles.  But, within weeks of this vision, I came upon ‘our’ female, on a tree near the end of the sculling race venue on Carnegie Lake.  How serene she was, awaiting her true love.  How peacefully, majestically he soared around that point, float-coasting onto a tree not too near.  It was as though she had always known he would arrive.

Amer Bald Eagle flying straight Brenda Jones

Majestic Soaring American Bald Eagle over Carnegie Lake, by Brenda Jones

It was January 3rd, my real sighting.  My dear friend Janet Black’s (one of the Intrepids) birthday.  The sun was going down, but the curtain was rising on the courtship  of the male and female bald eagle who would then begin, successfully, to raise and to fledge young, each year on the shores of our fake but essential lake..

Eagles Immature side-by-side Brenda Jones

Immature ‘Princeton’ Eagles, Side-by-Side at Carnegie Lake Nest, by Brenda Jones

As dusk triumphed over the January daylight, for the first time in my life, I heard the eagles, ‘our’ eagles, singing love songs.  I was very aware that this courtship meant that our waterway had been preserved and healed enough to nourish eagle generations.

EagleJuvenileflyingoffwithfish3-1-11DSC_7643

‘Princeton’ Immature Bald Eagle, One of its first flights, by Brenda Jones

But “Visitation” is not a hopeful poem.  Published in Cool Women, it is my own song of despair over habitat despoilation.

Eagles Immature Brenda Jones

‘Princeton’s’ Juvenile Eagles, ‘branching’, by Brenda Jones

But, sometimes, despair can be conquered by life itself.

Brenda Jones, fine art photographer, has given me great gifts of bird images over the years.  I send you her eagles, ‘our’ eagles, to remind you, as Brenda and her husband, Cliff would do, to support your local land trust; to save land and water in New Jersey every chance you get. 

Because saving land is saving habitat. 

Because saving land is saving huge swathes to absorb CO2 and slow catastrophic climate change. 

 

Because eagles, frankly, are essential. 

 

Here is “Visitation”, after whose writing, despair turned to delight:

VISITATION

 

I finally reach

a windy crest

my turquoise jacket

welcome against

spring’s late chill

 

I feel more than see

the eagle settle

upon flat granite

to my right

he gulps that entire landscape

at one glance

 

slow, steady,

I extend

my arm

so he can step determinedly

onto my padded sleeve

 

my eyes are not one inch

from his

so gold, flickering

flames surrounding the dark centers

as coronas ring an eclipse

gaze steadier

than any

I have ever known

 

gusts ruffle

his dark shoulder feathers

stirring blue glints in sun

the air could not be more electric

if he were bearing

thunderbolts

 

he rests his left cheek

against my own

 

inside my heart

small fists tattoo

within that rosy cage

some prisoner

implores escape

wakens me

to life without eagles

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

 

 

STILL SEEKING SPRING — AVIAN SURPRISE

Spring 2015 defeats me.  I have stopped looking for its arrival in natural settings.  When an entire week goes by without wearing my ski jacket. the new season will have arrived.

Here is a photo essay of a recent bi-state excursion to find the vernal:

View from Footebridge from NJ to PA at Bull's Island below Frenchtown

View from Footbridge from NJ to PA at Bull’s Island below Frenchtown

Last week, in quest of spring, I spent more than three [but fewer than four] hours at Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve, below New Hope, Pennsylvania.  You know from my recent post that most of the world in that exquisite refuge was brown, with some courageous and welcome exceptions.

That Delaware view was taken mid-river that same day.  I walked west from Bull’s Island over the Delaware, because interstate walking is a rare past-time for someone from Michigan.

As you can see, on the New Jersey and the Pennsylvania sides, most trees remain bare.

Beautiful Bridge Structure, Empty Trees

Beautiful Bridge Structure, Empty Trees

Spring on the Delaware River Footbridge at Bull's Island

Spring on the Delaware River Footbridge at Bull’s Island

Ultimately, on the footbridge, the winds were so fierce, I did not set Foote in Pennsylvania.  My mother would say, “You turned tail and ran!”

However, NJWILDBEAUTY readers who know me in person remember that I tend to ask, perhaps too often for some, “Where is the Gift?”

Come with me on the Bull’s Island Towpath and answer this question in mid-April in New Jersey/Pennsylvania.

Emptiness of Spring -- Bull's Island Towpath mid-April 2015

Emptiness of Spring — Bull’s Island Towpath mid-April 2015

Alluvial Plain near Bull's Island Towpath Trail

Alluvial Plain near Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

Mile Marker 21 - Bull's Island Towpath Trail

Mile Marker 21 – Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

House in Empty Woods Bull's Island mid-April 2015

Farmhouse Opposite Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

Alluvial Plain Adjacent to Bull's Island -- When the Delaware Floods, This is Where She Goes, What She Nourishes

Alluvial Plain Adjacent to Bull’s Island — When the Delaware Floods, This is Where She Goes, What She Nourishes

Endangered Species Ahead

Endangered Species Ahead

Eagle on Nest Bull's Island Towpath Hike 2015 Spring

American Bald Eagle on Nest, in sycamore – a first for me:

6/10 Mile Below Bull’s Island Sign

That tiny head is pure white, in person.  See for yourselves!

If any of you still wonder, why preserve?  The above hint of an eagle sighting is our answer.

This parent is strong, serene, vivid.  She faces our benevolent yet powerful, and yes, fish-ful Delaware River.   This eagle pair is likely to raise healthy young, so there will be more eagles on more nests in our riverine future.

Never forget that, in the 1970’s, there was but one eagle nest, at Bear Swamp, near the Delaware Bay, and it was unsuccessful.  DDT thinned their eggs, which therefore cracked and could not hatch.  Brilliant and committed people, beginning with Rachel Carson in her seminal, earth-changing “Silent Spring”, turned this around.  Naturalists in New Jersey went to the Chesapeake for healthy eggs.  They gingerly carried these treasures to the Bear Swamp nest.  Those unknowingly surrogate parents raised and fledged young, who returned to the area.  So the eagle Renaissance of New Jersey began.

This day, of Bowman’s followed by Bull’s Island followed by Lambertville, [through the spotting scope set up at Homestead  Farm Market (across from the CVS and Rago)], then to ‘our’ Princeton Mapleton eagle’s nest, brought me three eagles on three nests in three towns in three hours. 

The Lambertville eagle nest is on a power tower in the River, visible from the toll bridge when driving to PA from NJ.   The other two are in preserves.

I suddenly realize, if those Bull’s Island trees had been leafed out for this person longing for spring, I might never have spotted the nest, for the warning sign came south of the impressive  nest…

WHY PRESERVE!

Princeton's Eagle Nest, Mapleton Avenue, Above the D&R Canal State Park

Princeton’s Eagle Nest, Mapleton Avenue, Above the D&R Canal State Park

“Emerging Signs of Spring” — recent Times of Trenton Article

Brave Skunk Cabbage in March, Bowman's

Brave Skunk Cabbage in March, Bowman’s

My NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I am always avid for signs of the coming season, no matter what it may be — including winter.

Rich Rein of US 1 (Business) Newspaper, published my account of being impatient for the spare beauties, –especially the true sculptural form of trees–, of that approaching season.

At the same time, The Times of Trenton kindly accepted my article on the importance of prolonged cold for the full health of wild creatures.

Last week, The Times presented the story I’d titled “Where is Spring?”  They honored me with the title of Guest Columnist, and again blessed my story with a handsome photograph by fine artist Michael Mancuso, who is masquerading as a journalist.

Salamander in hand, early April 2015, by Michael Mancuso of the Times of Trenton

Salamander in hand, early April 2015, by Michael Mancuso of the Times of Trenton

“Emerging Signs of Spring”, Guest Columnist, Carolyn Foote Edelmann

 

This year, not even naturalists can find spring.

We have been taught that the season arrives with the vernal equinox, when day and night are virtually equal; and that equinox leads to lengthening sunlight. Longer days, we have. But where is spring?

Each naturalist has his or her own proof of spring.

For one, it is the blooming of witch hazel. Good, because last night I saw a witch hazel tree in Lawrence in full, brassy bloom. They can blossom in December and January. Does blooming witch hazel make a spring? .

For many home gardeners, spring means snowdrops, which can pop through January drifts. Last week’s snowdrops at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton were up, but they looked frail and drained, as though their journey through snow and ice had sapped them of all energy.

For many, spring means the bird-like chirping of tiny frogs called peepers. A colleague at work heard both peepers and wood frogs in Hopewell a week ago Friday. Although I know well where to look and listen, I have not heard a single trill. Peepers do not begin their incessant chorus until it’s been above freezing for at least three nights. Which it hasn’t.

March 27, Jenn Rogers, our merry Mercer County naturalist, led a troupe of brave souls out into dusk and darkness at Hopewell’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve. Rogers and confreres had set out on an “Owl Prowl.” Not an owl was heard nor seen. But the group was treated to the full dance and aural phenomena of woodcocks, over and over, until full dark. When woodcocks rise, it’s spring.

These fortunate explorers, under Rogers’ tutelage, were then able to see and hold female and male salamanders, moving from winter quarters to their spring egg-laying waters. The group also encountered a number of frogs, still, yet ready for action, visible beneath skim ice on the vernal ponds. If salamanders have made their historic night-time journeys, it’s spring.

Near Greenwich, where New Jersey’s legendary tea burning taught the British we would no longer submit to the crown’s dictates, we could not leave a female American kestrel flitting in and out of a long line of bare trees. Nearby, a spurt or two of crocus, some dark purple mini-iris and one effusion of daffodils seemed to certify spring.

A flutter of vivid bluebirds under the leafless shrubs of Stow Creek, eagle central, seemed more important, dare I say it, than that site’s legendary eagles.

Last Sunday, I spent significant time in Salem and Cumberland counties, where America’s avian symbol is everywhere right now. We studied eagles on nests, incubating eggs, performing nest exchanges and feeding hatchlings down near the Delaware Bay. Eagle spring comes earlier than that of other species. However, regional naturalists are concerned that many Delaware Valley eagles are not yet on the nest. Timing is everything with the eagle family. Much more delay and it will become too hot for the young with all those insulating feathers. Hard to believe in “hot” right now.

Our incontrovertible spring proof may have been the osprey on its unlikely nest alongside Route 55 near Millville. Ospreys winter separately, returning to the same nest on the same day. When ospreys are reunited, spring is here.

If you need to certify spring, go straight over to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, below New Hope, Pa. Return every weekend, until the forest canopy leafs out. Spring’s ephemerals, irrefutable proof of the new season, will be blanketing the ground. In the woods, spicebush shrubs sport tiny chartreuse flowers, almost the color of fireflies. Their twigs, scraped with a fingernail, give off the healing aroma of benzoin, part of this spring herald’s Latin name.

Signage, flower maps and informed volunteers in their Twinleaf shop will lead you to hepatica, twinleaf, bloodroot, spring beauty, trout lily and early saxifrage (rock-breaker). Bowman’s grounds will soon resemble a studio floor, continuously spattered by some errant artist.

In wettest places, an unmistakable spring herald rises — skunk cabbage. This waxy plant emerges like a monk in a cowl, colors swirling from burgundy to bright green. Skunk cabbage can melt ice, as its flower generates 60 degrees of heat. Its rotting meat scent is purportedly irresistible to pollinators. Which, frankly, are what spring is all about.

Above all, remember: Spring is inevitable. Even when trees remain black and brown. Even under skies that Henry David Thoreau described as “stern” back in his laggard spring in the 1800s. For him, as for us, this season must emerge.

Use all your senses. Watch for pollinators, even houseflies. Listen for wood frogs and peepers. Try to scent spicebush and the loamy perfume of awakening earth. Touch the soft green tips of emergent daffodil or narcissus leaves. Even when everything seems brown and grey and black and taupe, know that spring is being born.

Carolyn Foote Edelmann, a poet, naturalist and community relations associate for the Delaware and Raritan Greenway Land Trust, writes and photographs for NJWildBeauty nature blog (njwildbeauty.wordpress.com).