Assateague / Chincoteague — “Paradise Enow…”

“October’s bright blue weather” suffused Jeanette Hooban’s, Janet Black’s and my recent Chincoteague (Virginia) sojourn, start-to-finish.

Bare Fppt[romts om samds pf Assateague

Our first evening stroll on unpopulated Assateague, barrier island protecting Chincoteague from the mighty ocean, brought sunset-tinged seafoam and a beach upon which every footprint was a bare one!

In case you think, “Well, what else is new,” be aware of the season of our visit:

Bookstore Halloween ChincoteagueBookstore Book Pumpkin ChincoteagueA REAL bookstore, set for All Hallow’s Eve

Of course, most people go to Chincoteague for the ponies.  We dutifully admired them, from the water on a sunset small shallow boat tour, and from the land on a morning bus tour.

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Ponies at Sundown with SUPERB Cap’n. Dan — his tour worth our entire trip!

 

A Pony's Life - Forever Feeding AssateaguePony-life: Forever Feeding:  Ponies by land, Aassateague Nature Center Bus Tour

At nearly October-end, we were in the ocean, happily, eagerly, lengthily — especially Jeanette, who swam, swam, swam as wavelets turned pink around her. It was a mite cooler on the finer day, so beachcombing took over:

 

Jeanette Beachcombing Assateague

 

Janet Contentment AssateagueContentment Personified: Janet Black at Beach

We’re all avid readers.  We’d rented (and I’d actually bargained for them!) these sturdy chairs so we could read by the sea.  But we could barely lower our eyes to any page, given the sun’s many-colored-dreamcoat and those effects altering each wave.

Jeanette First Sunset Assateague Chincoteague Causeway

Jeanette and Irresistible Sunset(s) – on Bridge from Assateague back to Chincoteague

 

Edenic Morning Assateague

We, of course, were there for the birds — Egrets of Eden

Mornings were amazing — a series of early views:

Morning in Chincoteague Phragmites

First View of Each Day from my room at Assateague Inn, on Chincoteague

 

Dawn Picnic Site Assateague Inn and creek Chincoteague

Dawn Picnic Site, Creek and Marsh, Assateague Inn

Essence of Chincoteague at dawn

Essence of These Islands – Crab Shell of Dawn

 

Salicornia Ripening Chincoteague

Essence of Autumn in the Salt Marsh – Salicornia Ripening

 

Dawn at Assateague LIght October

Assateague Light House Outbuilding at Dawn

 

Leaf Calligraphy near Assateague LIghtAutumn’s Calligraphy at Assateague Light

 

October Blue Sky A Assateague LIghtOctober’s Bright Blue Weather Sets Off Assateague Light

 

Dawn LIght in Loblolly Pines AssateagueDawn Light in a Loblolly Forest

 

Not in Kansas..Assateague LIghthouse Keeper Home“Not in Kansas Any More…” Lighthouse–Keeper Dwelling

 

Assateague Memorial to Watermen

Barrier Island Realities

 

Sunset Feeders Assateague

Sunset Feeders, Assateague

 

Sunset Water Tour Assateague Chincoteague1

Cap’n. Dan’s Magical Mystery Tour at Sundown — Worth the Entire Trip

Best tour – Cap’n. Dan’s Sunset Cruise from Chincoteague Harbor

Best food – Bill’s Prime — three meals a day — one time we ate breakfast then dinner there — traditional and rare seafood, and remarkably personable service

Charm of Assateague Inn — quiet, on creek, with picnic table, silence, early light, little boardwalk, near Assateague Island, on quiet side of Chincoteague

Most famous food: Chincoteague oysters

Most people’s reason for being here: wild ponies, and Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague” and sequels

Favorite tour experience — Chincoteague Museum – this will appear in an entire blog to itself

Rarest animal: plump and saucy Delmarva Squirrel – one welcomed us in Assateague Light forest — but we are bedeviled enough by Princeton and Lawrenceville squirrels not to have appreciated its rarity until after the Nature Center bus tour.

 

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Missing Autumn

Where Are the Autumns of Yesteryear?

Autumn's Midas Tree Fall 2014

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

Essence of Autumn

autumn pine cones and oak leaves Brig

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

Autumn Russo's White Pumpkins

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

Autumn Crispness Canal and Delaware River near Prallsville Mills

Autumn Frames Canal and Delaware River, Near Prallsville Mills

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

Autumn's Wild Sky Montgomery

Whatever happened to autumn?

Autumnal Richesse of Mums

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

Where are the autumns of yesteryear?

 

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

Autumn Russo's Pumpkins

 

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

To Autumn

John Keats, 17951821

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

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

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


Red Cranberry Vines at Chatsworth, New Jersey

Chatsworth Bog Red Vines

 

 

 

 

MARVELS OF THE WINTER BEACH, Phase 1

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that my favorite time to be almost anywhere is when most people aren’t.  Give me “too early”, “too late” and especially “out-of-season”!  Except, that –especially for the Intrepids — there is no “out of season” in New Jersey!

DECEMBER STILL LIFE — BARNEGAT BAY — REED’S ROAD — ISLAND BEACH

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Birds’ Restaurant – Last Leaves of Autumn, Ripe Fruit of Winter

Intrepids Jeanette Hooban and Bill Rawlyk and I met fine-art photographers Angela Previte and her husband, Bob, and the redoubtable Ray Yeager, last Sunday, for an extended Barnegat Bayside breakfast.  Fellowship reigned supreme, until our photographers “had promises to keep”

 

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Barnegat Bay Breakfast-Time, December

 

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Dock Outfitters with Cafe, Seaside Heights

 

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Barnegat-Bayside Table, Dock Outfitters, Seaside Heights, NJ

 

Jeanette, Bill and I set off to bird the day away.  Indeed, it was December, but there’s no better time to stroll Reed’s Road, just around the corner from Seaside Park, barely into Island Beach State Park.

 

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New Moss of December!

 

In no time, we were deep in a forested glade, silvery sugar sand underfoot, seemingly new moss burgeoning on both sides.  Beach heather, Hudsonia tomentosa, and lichens vied for our attention.

 

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Iconic Sugar Dand Trail, Reed’s ‘Road’, Island Beach State Park

 

There is nothing silkier than the normal, natural sand that forms Reed’s Road, nothing more alluring to the foot(e).  Although well into the twelfth month, autumn’s palette erupted first on one side, then another.

 

 

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October in December, Reed’s Road Forest, Island Beach, New Jersey

 

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Native, Natural Sugar Sand — LIGHT YEARS beyond Army-Corps-of-Engineers Imported Harsh Yellow Hideous Sand!

 

There is nothing more irresistible than the tranquillity of Barnegat Bay, like an enormous silver platter, beckoning, beckoning to the west.

 

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Sugar Sand Trail to Barnegat Bay, Reed’s Road, Island Beach, NJ

 

There wasn’t a breath of wind.  Waves were delicate, hushed.  Black sparkling swathes of garnet particles beckoned, underfoot and underwater.  Off in the far distance, we could just peek at (but not photograph) Barnegat Light.

 

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Crushed Garnets in Barnegat Bay Wavelets and Foam

 

We could have found cedar waxwing and robin flocks, as many have on this trek in previous high winter walks.  Or pine warblers in early spring.  Or stately swans in other Novembers.  This day, our bird stars were the merry bobbing buffleheads, making us laugh out loud in delight.

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Spotting Buffleheads from Reed’s Road Trail

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Dapper Bufflehead Male by Brenda Jones (on Carnegie Lake!)

 

The maddening part of that excursion was that some officials in our misguided 21st Century equate slashing with trail maintenance.  We spent a long time picking up their debris, mourning over literal ‘greenstick fractures’ in towering native shrubs of all species on all sides, apologizing to nature yet again for man’s depredations.  We wanted to go straight to the State House with our fury, were it not that politicians have other issues on their minds right now.  Obviously shrubs’ and trees’ health, shrub and tree rights are very low on Trenton ‘totem poles’ of interest and respect.  Citizens’ rights don’t seem very far ahead in terms of honor.  WE THE PEOPLE have a right to our native species’ being protected everywhere, and MOST ESPECIALLY IN OUR STATE PARKS!

 

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Even the Weeds of Reeds Road Majestic, When Left to Their Own Devices!

 

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DAMAGE in the Guise of Trail Maintenance, Reed’s Road, Island Beach, NJ

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Pillage in the Wake of Trail “Maiantenance”, Reed’s Road, Island Beach State Park, New Jersey

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After Reed’s Road was “Maintained” by the Vicious

NJWILDBEAUTY readers have ‘heard’ me go on and on about reading “This Changes Evetything”, by today’s Rachel Carson: Naomi Klien.  She’s won the Sydney Peace Award from Australia, comparable to the Nobel — for her courageous expose of the multi-national, mega-funded organizations devoted to climate change denial. 

Central to the paradigm of these planet-destroyers is downright hatred of Nature, a vicious delight (obediently promulgated by the Weather Channel) in blaming every storm on so-called Mother Nature, terming even Hurricane Sandy – the anthropogenic disaster of all time — “Mother Nature’s Revenge.”  Face it, watchers and listeners.  These terms ascribing rage and revenge to the magnificent nature that surrounds us are utilized to justify destruction.  Get it!

NATURE IS EDEN.  WE ARE DRIVING OURSELVES OUT OF IT!

Meanwhile, back in Paradise:

Reed’s Road is home to proprietary pair of exquisite foxes, and sundry nocturnal raccoons.  Many the track did we follow.

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“Who Walketh Here?”

 

The animals have always known to ‘leave only footprints’.

 

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Inverse Tracks in Crushed Garnet Sand

 

Silence surrounded us, underfoot, overhead and out on the bay.  Beauty was everywhere, that had never been altered (until this brutal pruning session).  I am fond of saying that Island Beach has not been built on since initial development failed in the 1930’s Depression, and is pruned only by wind, sand and storms.  I’ll pretend that’s still true…

 

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Undisturbed Forest Floor, Reed’s Road, Island Beach State Park, New Jersey

 

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Pin Oak’s Last Gasp, Sugar Sand

 

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TRAIL GUIDES — superfluous!

 

REMEMBER, we can stroll these impeccable, usually unspoiled trails because this land has been preserved.  NEVER HAS IT BEEN MORE URGENT TO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL AND NATIONAL LAND TRUSTS. 

See to it, with your memberships, that every possible wild inch of our sacred country is preserved in perpetuity, no matter who wields what power. 

“This land is your land.  This land is my land…” — but only due to our absolute constant courageous vigilance.

While you can, get out into the Parks of our beleaguered state, let their unspoilt magnificence seep into and restore your souls.

 

CAPE MAY BIRDING: SKIMMER VISITATION

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that three Intrepids — Carolyn Yoder, Jeanette Hooban and I–, luxuriated in the haven of Cape May a week or two ago, sheltered in a restored Victorian home,  a half-block from the sea.  From its rocking-chair-rich porch, we could see dunes, bayberry, maybe even the seaside goldenrod, and the miraculous blue-grey eternality of the sea.  At sun-up and sun-down, roseate skies over dunes and waves revealed winged waves of rare and graceful skimmers.

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Nightly Gift: Cape May’s Skimmer Flock

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Why We Bird — Skimmer-Transfixed

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Heedless Hiker and Rare Flock

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“Home from the Sea” – Nightly Skimmer Reunions

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Jeanette in Heaven

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Cruel Tourist

Two men who may well have flown in from Australia for the Cape May Birding Weekend, rushed to me after a third harsh and heedless one insisted upon flushing that priceless flock.

“She walked right toward them!  She just walked right INTO them!,” one exclaimed, quivering with shock or fury or both.  In a quieter manner, the other man shook his head, almost mourning, “And to think we traveled 5000 miles to see them.”  “We don’t have them at home,” added the other.

What they did not know is that I’d accosted the first skimmer-disturber.  Another woman — slender and fit, who zoomed right INTO that sacred group.

“Don’t do this!,” I whisper-admonished.  “These birds have been feeding all day to get ready to sleep here for the night.  When you flush them, they use up calories!  Now they’ll have to go out and feed anew, and the sun is going down.  Feeding uses calories!” 

She kept right on zooming, holding her camera/phone practically in the faces of the flock’s sentinels.

“Please?!,” I urged.  She flounced up, waved her phone in MY face, giving me a grin that would require an obscenity to describe.

I apologized to the far-flung traveling birders.  “I am so sorry Americans are so cruel.”

Exasperated, I shouted a sarcasm after the relentless disturber:

“YOU are more important than birds!”

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SCATTERED! Cape May Skimmer Flock Evicted by Heedless Walkers

CAPE MAY BIRDING WEEKEND PRELIMINARIES – Intrepids at Hawk Watch Platform

Birding, –whether its interval involves weeks, weekends, or stolen moments before sundown–, guarantees the unexpected.

Below is a potpourri of impressions from the Intrepids’ Cape May week, in extraordinarily hot October.

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Sunrise, Cape May, October 2016

Above, Carolyn Yoder watches for the Cape May skimmer flock, at sun’s arrival, on our empty beach.

Below, note birdless sky at the Cape May Bird Observatory Hawk Watch Platrorm, in the face of implacable winds out of the southeast:

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Ready for Action, neglected scope and camera at Cape May Hawk Watch Platform in Hot October 2016

 

“…Home are the wanderers, home from the sea…” For a series of idyllic days, Jeanette Hooban, Carolyn Yoder and I woke and slept to the sound of waves.  Except for our superb dinner at the Ebbitts Room of the Virginia Hotel, we never left the (perfectly restored charm-ful Victorian) house without binoculars in hand.

 

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Timelessness Central, Cape May Dwelling

 

Extraordinary fellowship was the hallmark of our days and night.  Especially as Carolyn Yoder. read aloud of Whitman and of Yeats, on this beckoning porch, in pitch darkness seasoned with moonrise.

 

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Dunes and Sea from Timeless Porch of Restored Victorian Cape May Residence

 

As for birding itself…   Well, let’s just say that 21st-Century people tend not to realize the crucial factor of wind-direction, –for birders, to be sure; but even more-so, for the birds.  Fall migrants need tail winds straight and strong, out of the northwest, surging them southward.  Our four southeast-buffeted days brought glorious sunrises, sunsets, and even a delightful dip in the Delaware Bay.     Birding?  Let’s put it down to quality over quantity   –that lone whimbrel on the Skimmer’s Back-Bay Birding pontoon Cape May saltmarsh expedition, above all.

 

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Jeanette Prepares for her Dip in Delaware Bay, at Higbee Beach

 

When the keenest birder abandoned his scope and camera (see above) and the raptor workshop began to speak of optics rather than birds, we took ourselves elsewhere.  We headed for Higbee Beach, scoping it out for our final morning’s dawn.  We planned to discover which warblers (especially) had chosen to rest among dunes and shrubs, rather than take on Delaware Bay.  Basically, this Intrepid Expedition convinced us that planning and birding do not go hand-in-hand.

 

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Migrant Human Crossing Delaware Bay — well, not exactly crossing…

 

I joined Jeanette, somewhat unexpectedly, attired in my shorts and shirt, when waves suddenly removed sands from beneath my feet.  The water was divine — cool as perfectly chilled champagne, and as invigorating.  My favorite part was looking up at sky through the Bay, (neither of us had ever entered it before).  I pretend I can still taste remnant salt on my sunburnt cheeks.

We had a little competition for that body of water:

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Ferry (Cape May – Lewes, Delaware) Entering the Bay

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HIgbee Beach, Where We Would Have Spent our Last Morning, Had not FOG and Windlessness Rendered Even the Atlantic Ocean Invisible

 

We have new respect, –the three of us–, for wind direction.  Those inescapable currents act like giant policemen’s hands, holding up all in flight, causing everything from slowing to fall-outs in bird-centric Cape May.

(As I work on this blog, we are experiencing serious south-westerly wind, so fierce that it is gusting ‘my’ goldfinches right off their thistle socks.  This wind is of no use to migrants, either.  Nor to all the other obsessive birders down there for Cape May Birding Weekend, in its full swing at this moment…)

 

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Cape May Bird Observatory’s Hawk Watch Platform Sponsors

Our first day on the Platform, we had an American bald eagle implacably chasing a migrant osprey over the tree line, most likely the osprey’s breakfast.  The ‘spotters’ told us, “eagles usually win.”

Humans on the Hawk Watch Platform had time to memorize the wisdom of our brilliant ornithological mentor, Pete Dunne, meticulously and wittily differentiating sharp-shins from Cooper’s hawks.

My i.d. skills were especially honed on this journey because a dear friend, –who prefers to remain anonymous–, loaned me HER priceless Swarovski optics for the duration.  Miracles were witnessed through them, not all of them at ‘The Point.’

 

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Carolyn Yoder and Jeanette Hooban Walk Away from a Lake Full of Swans

 

A good deal of time was spent studying mute swans in coordinated pairs, on the lake below the platform, and on the lake reflecting Cape May Light.  This land is mercifully preserved, and assiduously maintained, despite dire storms, –so that birds, pollinators, native wildflowers, and humans may thrive there.

 

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Feisty Butterfly on Cape May Point Boardwalk

 

The leitmotif of our pre-Birding-Weekend days was the bell-like muffled chatter of yellow-rumped warblers in and out of high tide plant and vines.  In normal years, we wouldn’t have been able to see the ivory blossoms of high tide plant for nectaring monarchs.  Amazingly enough, we may have been granted a higher proportion of lepidopterae than birds, for most of our time on the platform.

 

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Jeanette Discovering the Gadwall, confirmed by official Hawk Watch Platform Spotter, from Cape May Bird Observatory

 

Fellowship is high among today’s birders.  The second day, Jeanette was convinced that head shape and neck design meant a bird other than black duck.  Here she is, her discovery being confirmed and identified.  Queries are welcomed and richly answered.

But even Pete Dunne noted, “When talk turns to Cape May restaurants, we know the wind is wrong on the Platform.”  I teased him that a talk on such topics would be his next article.  Pete shook his head…  “Done that!,” he noted, turning to watch a sharp-shinned hawk twisting in high erroneous gusts.

Birders tend to have many teachers, over our years of (unending) apprenticeship:  But there is no one from whom I more joyously and thoroughly learn birding essentials than Pete Dunne.  Every aspect of Cape May Point echoes his work there, since he essentially founded Cape May Bird Observatory, standing on a picnic table and counting raptors decades ago.  Pete dared declare that Cape May had the highest seasonal concentrations of migrating raptors along the East Coast/Atlantic Flyway.

 

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Raptor I.D. Flag at the Point

 

Many of us first learned of Pete in his New York Times columns on nature in general; birds, birders and birding in particular.  But I must not overlook his long list of books, among which two favorites are Featherquest and Tales of a Low-Rent Birder.

The subtly witty Pete is the Ur-speaker at birding events.  He remains the ideal guide on a day devoted to avian creatures – whether on a boat on the Maurice River or on a rather odd bus in Philadelphia, riding from the Heinz Refuge to the shaded, bird-rich grave sites of America’s earliest ornithologists, Alexander Wilson and George Ord.  It would seem that birder-feuds are less virulent now than in their day — Ord is known for fiery resentment of colleagues, John James Audubon and Thomas Say.

 

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From Far and Near

 

The miracle of Pete Dunne is that he does not hold his encyclopedic knowledge ‘close to the chest.’  Quite the contrary — there is no more dedicated, determined teacher.  As Guide, he not only wants everyone ‘on’ the bird.  Pete sees to it that you take home field marks, silhouette nuances, and nearly-nonsense jingles so that you can do all this without him.

 

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Habitat-Protectors of the Future

 

As I tell Pete most times when I’m privileged to be with him, “All of us take you with us, every time we pick up our binoculars.”

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Pete Dunne on the Hawk Watch Platform from Internet

 

 

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Carolyn Watches Birdwatchers at the Platform

CAPE MAY CALLING

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Beach Walk to the Light, Cape May

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that The Intrepids are prone to stealing the last glimmers of summer, by going away toward the end of October.  Jeanette is determined to wade, even to swim.  With any luck, newly prospering humpback whales and/or clusters of minke whales will migrate alongside our beachwalks, beginning Monday.

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Storm at Sea, Cape May

This October flight pattern  stranded me up in the Berkshires, while Sandy roared his/her impossible way throughout those distant mountains. Next-door North Adams lost power for days.  Somehow Williamstown was spared. I spent that week marooned, but warm, unlike my Princeton neighbors.  My days were spent reading thick books and watching a weather station of mere words typed — not even a commentator, not a picture, not even of Mantaloking’s destructions.

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Stormy Williamstown

For there was no way for me to come home from my three-day runaway to wild beauty of the mountainous type for nearly a week.  Driving back roads home, trees were down on all sides, and I never knew what literally lay ahead.  But nowhere on that interminable route was as ruined as Princeton.  Police cars spun blinding lights on the tarmac of familiar gas stations, for people were at each others’ throats over necessities.  It had been rather blessed, being stranded between the Berkshires, Green Mountains, the nearby Catskills.  That kind town took me to heart as a refugee.  That multi-houred drive home brought me not surcease, but power outage at home, after all that.  Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy took me in, wrapped me in wool, gave me a warm supper in their twinkling greenhouse.  To this day, I rue my blase assertion, in a cafe about 2/3 of the way to Williamstown, hearing the owners talk of the coming storm: “Oh, don’t be silly.  There aren’t hurricanes in mountains.”

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Mount Greylock Vista as Storm Nears

Other Octobers brought returns to Williamstown with Jeanette Hooban and Carolyn Yoder, followed by last year’s sentimental journey to Cape Cod.  This year, Jeanette found us a bright (probably modern) Cape May Victorian home to rent, a block from the sands.  This means the three of us can stroll in quest of birds, at this time of key raptor migration, at first light and last.  The weather’s to be good.  The birding spectacular.  A friend came to work today to loan me her Swarovski optics, –a king’s ransom in monetary value, and beyond price in bird details that will be evident for me as they only are with those phenomenal lenses.  Also beyond price in terms of trust and friendship.

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The Faithful Gather on the Cape May Hawk Watch Platform

Carolyn Yoder, my co-author of the book on Stuart Country Day School’s fifty years of excellence, is driving us.  Jeanette found the ideal setting, at a price even I can afford.  [Basically less than a night at a normal hotel…]  Jeanette’s bringing wine.  I’m bringing breakfast muffins from Lawrenceville’s phenomenal Gingered Peach bakery.  Cape May will have a bakery, but it won’t hold a candle to this!  My Cape May Bird Observatory Membership is in good order, so we’ll have access to all the latest migratory information; as well as certain birding sites only available to members in good standing.

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Skimmers Return from the Open Sea

Carolyn’s never been to Cape May.  Jeanette, I think, never overnight.  I’ll be the site-and-restaurant guide.  You all know there is nothing I cherish more than leading enthusiasts to new nature experiences.

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Cape May Irresistible, Even in Winter                 (from Internet)

We’ll do Back Bay birding on the Skimmer (pontoon boat with naturalist staff), and walk Reed’s Beach at leas one dawn when there’ll be warblers collecting and facing the dauntless challenge of Delaware Bay.  The birds, of course, are the true Intrepids.  The hawk watch platform should lend irresistible raptors, as well as the resident peregrine.  There’ll be wild swans on ponds tucked in among the dunes, and a black one has been recently sighted.  We could also find loons in those jewel-like pools.  We hope for squadrons of skimmers zooming in from the sea, and maybe even new whales and late dolphins.

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The Peregrine’s Bunker, near the Hawk Watch Platform

NJWILDBEAUTY readers may remember about the adventures of Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy, last Christmas Day.  I would be groping upward from Cape May; and they downward from Princeton, in fog so thick we could not see the hoods of our cars.  Our destination was the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge near Smithville, otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, where we have a festive Christmas picnic ever year.  Tasha pooh-poohed my dawn proposal to call our off our plans: “There’s so much fog, I can neither see nor hear the sea, and I am inches from it.  We’re not going to get any birds!”  “Carolyn,” insisted wise Tasha, “this isn’t about birds.  It’s about fellowship.”  Of course it was:

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The Christmas Red-Tail at the Brig,                          taken by Tasha O’Neill

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Tasha O’Neill and Al McIlroy in the Christmas Fog at the Brig, 2015

And fellowship will be the core of this journey, beginning Monday for the week. Three friends-of-long standing, who cherish the same things with the same passion, will stretch their wings together in setting new to two of them.  Anything could happen…  but, probably not an October hurricane.  I had remnants of that last weekend at ‘The Brig’, so that birds could not fly and we couldn’t see the sitting ones without open rain-smeared windows, so that wind-driven rain soaked us in the car.  We earned our birders’ stripes that day.  But this coming week will be easier.

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Where the Warblers Meet the Bay — Reed’s Beach, Cape May

And, o, yes.  October is an ‘R’ month.  We are traveling to the home of Cape May Salts, my favorite oysters after Wellfleet.  I told my colleagues at work this afternoon, “We’ll be o.d.’ing on oysters.”

Here’s to adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

…AND THE DAYS DWINDLE DOWN…

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Poison Ivy Turned for Fall, Sandy Hook

It’s rough when a season is so laggard that one is forced to turn to poison ivy for color.  Vines alter to let migrant birds know their fruits are ripe, ready to fuel those southern journeys.  Have YOU seen the scarlet or crimson of ivy or woodbine anywhere yet?

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Autumnal Lichen and Oak Leaves, Brigantine Wildlife Refuge Forest Floor

September used to mean fall, and there were songs to prove it.  But are there songs about October?  For that is the most difficult of the autumnal offerings for me — darker, ever darker, without the blessing of the snows…   Walking in woods becomes mysterious-to-hazardous, as sun plunges not only earlier and earlier, but more and more rapidly.

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Autumnal Glory, Prallsville Mills, Canal, –Normal Fall Color

 

Most Octobers, we have the most sublime compensation — colors like bonfires erupting in all deciduous trees, many vines, certain ‘weeds’, and even rare migrant birds arrowing overhead on their way south.

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Geese Migrating Past the Moon by BRENDA JONES, Fine Art Photographer

Not this fall.  Wherever I look, at home, at work, in the car, even when we drove four hours north to Connecticut recently, everything is the relentless, face it — boring, dark green of summer.

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Connecticut Proof of Autumn

Do I have any autumn scenes to remind me of how it ought to be?

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Canal Walk in Autumn, Delaware River near Prallsville Mills

Can looking at yesterday’s pictures make up for today’s monochrome palette?

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Brigantine Wildlife Pine and Oak Forest Still Life in Autumn

I’m never again going to take a colored leaf for granted — not EVEN brown!