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

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Birding Essentials: Kathleen and Jim Amon: January 2017

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Red-throated Loon in Winter Plumage on Pond for Amons and Me: Jan. 2017

(Internet Image)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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!

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Sandy Hook’s Heroic Lifesaving Station

And preserve every inch of open and historic space in magnificent New Jersey!

 

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Tasha and I on her COLD April Birthday — at Bahrs, Sandy Hook Behind Us…

 

 

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“DUCKY DAY AT ISLAND BEACH”, JANUARY 2018

This post features a series of images of rare birds found with good friends, on last weekend’s Island Beach hikes.  Yes, it was January.  Yes, there’s been wild weather.  Know that part of the lure in winter hiking lies in defying the elements, –being OUT THERE with Nature, no matter what!  And, besides, with such friendships of this magnitude, only the highest good unfurls.

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Merganser Male, by Brenda Jones

A series of Internet scenes of our rarities awaits — so you can see why it really didn’t matter that we did not fulfill our snowy-owl-quest this time.

***

So long as I’ve been writing about nature, I’ve been ‘on my soapbox’ that Nature does not ring down her curtain on or around Labor Day.  Those of you who hike with me know that possibly my FAVORITE season to be outdoors is winter.  It hasn’t been easy lately, but NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that we had a glorious day-long exploration of Plainsboro Preserve not long ago, threading our way among glorious arrays of ice.

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Common Loon, Winter Plumage by Elisa De Levis from Internet

This past weekend, Ray Yeager, Angela Previte (superb nature photographers who live near Island Beach); Angela’s husband, Bob, -avid birder and extremely knowledge about all aspects of photography; ‘my” Intrepids, Jeanette Hooban and Bill Rawlyk and I met at the entry of Island Beach for a mid-day-long snowy owl quest.

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Loon Take-off from Internet by Dave Hawkins from Internet

Despite our January reality, a handy aspect of I.B. treks is that, –on windy and wintry days–, you can ‘hike sideways’.  I.e., get out of the wind by taking various oceanside and bayside trails, protected from gusts by dunes or forest or both .  If you Google Island Beach, on NJWILSBEAUTY, you’ll find Bill, Jeanette, Mary Penney and me down there, in an autumn nor’easter about which none of us had somehow been warned.  That storm grew more and more fierce, as we and a flock of playful merlins headed as far east as we possibly could.   Those merlins were beating their way right into the height of those terrific winds.  They executed abrupt and daring turns, to be intentionally blown back westward , right out over the bay.  No sooner did the merlins vanish than they reappeared.  We had no idea that birds, raptors, let alone merlins, PLAYED.  In that same torrent of winds, and, yes, rain, hundreds of swallows were staging for migration.  If we hadn’t been out in the elements, think what we’d’ve missed!

It didn’t take us long last weekend to discover that snowy owls do not like warmth, let alone snowlessness.

smiling Common MerganserFemale Brenda Jones

Female Merganser by Brenda Jones

Instead, we were given, –at the first bathing pavilion’s short boardwalk–.  a smooth, rotund, swelling ocean, afloat with winter ducks of many species, all in dazzling winter plumage, otherwise known as full=breeding.  Species after species of wild birds rose and fell upon voluminous swells.  Each had the dignity of a monarch en route to or from coronation,.  These birds were not feeding.  They were not even interacting.  Few were flying, though some did regularly join their relatives on that sea of molten jade.    Hundreds rode the pillowy waves, which seemed almost determined not to crest or break.  Mesmerized by the variety and serenity of these avian crowds, we paced back and forth on the warm solid sand for nearly an hour, enthralled.

bufflehead Brenda JonesMale Bufflehead by Brenda Jones.

I’m going to shock and/or let down a great many people when I say I had no need of a snowy owl that day.

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Long-tailed ducks coming in for a landing by Ken Hoehn – papillophotos.com

We talked about the probability that the bird seen by naturalist Bill Rawlyk at entry may well have been a northern shrike, feeding at the crest of a laden bayberry shrub.  Some years ago, at this identical spot, I had discovered this unique creature, being at I.B. then on a Bohemian waxwing quest.  I had no idea what that ‘masked mocking bird’ could be. Calling Audubon when I returned home, describing the scrubby evergreens and bountiful bayberries, I was congratulated upon having found a northeren shrike.  It happened again the next year at the same spot.  Each time, the Audubon person asked my permission to list my find on the hot-line.  Of course, this amateur birder gave a very pleased assent  This weekend, Bill remarked on a certain intensity in the bird — slightly heftier, a bit whiter, an arrogance not seen in mockers.  But it was the bayberry bush that decided us — major winter food for (otherwise almost chillingly carnivorous) shrikes..    Part of the fun of being with this merry crew of enthusiasts  is playing the identification game.

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Female long-tailed duck in winter/full-breeding plumage from Internet

Other trails that lured us that long sunny afternoon were the Judge’s Shack (#12) and Spizzle Creek.  In no time, we had tucked our jackets, hats and gloves back into the cars.  Most were beginning to regret not having remembered our sun block — all but the two professional photographersg us.  Ray and Angela were having a field day with their immense legends, capturing so many species so gently afloat.  I’ll let them share their masterpieces on Facebook and Ray’s RayYeagerPhotographyBlog.  I’ll give you the Internet:

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Male long-tailed duck in winter plumage, full-breeding plumage, from Internet

Snow was rare.  Ice intriguing.  At Spizzle Creek, we were all acutely missing ‘our’ osprey, egrets and herons of other seasons.  Our gift there, though, was the presence of handsome brant.  In our experience lately, brant sightings have become scarce.  Certain essential grasses are not doing well along our coasts, which also happened during the Great Depression years — nearly depriving us of this handsome species.

Brant Goose Drinking BarnegatBrant Feeding, by Brenda Jones

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Deceptively sweet northern shrike probably seen by Bill Rawlyk on Bayberry at Island Beach entry — image from Internet: (RD)

When I tell people about our January beachwalks, my listeners seem puzzled-to-skeptical.  We couldn’t have had better weather.  Fellowship was at peak throughout.  Angela’s husband, Bob, kindly served as sentinel for all the camera-wielders — alerting all as tide-thrust waves threatened to drown our footgear.  Warm we were, but not even Jeanette was barefoot this time.

Angela and Ray knew exactly where to seek 1918’s array of snowy owls.  But, after that all-star cast adrift upon molten silver waves,  snowies had become “the last thing on our minds.”

Try winter trekking — surprises await!

Always remember, these rare species could not be here without the powerful advocacy of determined preservationists.  Even though I work for D&R Greenway Land Trust, I’m very clear that the saving of our waterways is every bit as important.

In fact, I take the stand that, in our New Jersey, with its unique three (count them!) coastlines, the well-being of water is a thousand times more crucialUnder NO CIRCUMSTANCES must even one oil well take its place off our Shores!

 

 

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

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.

 

“Extreme Environmentalist” Confronts Sarah Palin – Poem by Carolyn Foote Edelmann, June 2010, after Gulf Oil Disaster

Because I will be birding pristine Island Beach this Sunday, –with five other intense bird-lovers, two of whom are the well known fine art nature photographers, Ray Yeager (of Ray Yeager Photography.com) and Angela Previte, (of Simple Life at the Shore Nature Blog), I am expecting to be in the company of gannets.  There is no more elegant, no more spectaculara shore bird in my world, especially when gannets are feeding.  We may also be gifted with long-tailed ducks, out beyond the third waves.  Island Beach remains  as impeccable as gannets, –still serene, shrubby, wind-blown and un-BUILT since creation, thanks to PRESERVATIONISTS.  We six have the sense that we must relish this magnitude, this nature at her peak, while we still can…

northern-gannet-adult-plunging

Northern Gannet Plunging, From Internet

Most of the time, dear NJWILDBEAUTY readers, I have managed to keep politics out of NJWILDBEAUTY.  Even though, as we all know, politicians threaten most if not all of the wild beauty of our (most populous, never forget it!) state; and, increasingly, of the Planet itself.

gannet-on-rocks-1web

Gannet on Rocks in Healthy Habitat

Even though I dared once refer to this state’s so-called governor as ‘our Caligula’, in these ‘pages’; and termed then-newly-nominated presidential candidate ‘the new Hitler.’

I have not revised my opinion, by the way.

Although I try to concentrate on nature instead of politics in these ‘pages.’

oiled-gannet-on-beach-from-internet

Oiled Gannet on Beach from Internet

Now enormous confrontation looms, in which politics will do all in its power to to destroy nature.  One of their cohorts, now, –Sarah Palin–, is mentioned as Cabinet material.

oiled-gannet-face-from-internet

Oiled Gannet Face, From Internet

Long ago, my poem, (in the form of a letter to Ms. Palin) –before appearing in NJWILD, which Ilene Dube asked me to launch for Princeton Packet Publications–, had won internet publication by a clean water group asking for poems about the seemingly insuperable, and now mostly overlooked, Gulf Oil disaster.  You may recall whom Sarah Palin blamed…

120424051724-bp-oil-spill-horizon-horizontal-large-gallery

BP OIL DISASTER, from Internet, which everyone continues to refer to as a “SPILL”, including internet title to this image

No one who cares about birds has forgotten the BP explosion, which was originally reported as emitting 200 barrels of oil per day.  Do note that, –even in the caption for this photo on the Internet–, the ceaseless explosions and outpourings are simply termed ‘a spill.’

I did write, in NJWILD, “If you believe that gallon estimate, you’ll believe anything.”

We all know that far more than birds was ruined in those terrible months — especially the way of life of people of Louisiana who had fished and shrimped and boated for generations.

oiled-human-protestor-to-bp-oil-disaster-from-internet

Oiled Human Protestor in Gulf during BP Disaster

You may have forgotten that Sarah and her ilk blamed the disaster (which means “torn from the stars!”), on “extreme environmentalists.”  I proudly accepted then, –and even more insistently now–, rejoice in that title.  The result was the poem below.

mutant-seafood-image-from-internet

The Livelihood of Gulf Fishermen because of BP Disaster

oiled-pelican-in-gulf-during-bp-disaster

ICON of BP DISASTER – Oiled Pelicans

Today, I mailed the poem to my my professor daughter to read it to her Literature class at a California college.  I dared challenge this formidable young woman and ardent feminist to suggest that her students have their pictures taken HUGGING A TREE, to promulgate on Facebook.  To show the shuddering world that not everyone in America agrees with its most outrageous current spokesman.  To demonstrate that the guardians of the future know what really matters.

Everyone reading this can do so, letting our allies know that some of us do have planetary consciousness.

tree-hugger-from-internet

We Need to Become a Nation, a World, of TREE-HUGGERS

WHAT REALLY MATTERS:

Liberty

Nature

The Planet

 

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW —

Remember, Margaret Mead insists, “A small group of people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

And Edwin Burke:  “All that it takes for evil to happen is for good men (PEOPLE) to do nothing.”

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

the poem of June 2010:

DEAR SARAH PALIN,

 

I understand it’s all my fault

–this Gulf oil disaster, I mean–

not only all that fire

bodies catapulted into air

then drowned

soon likely shark bait

but also this volcano of oil

spewing interminably

into our blue mantle

 

Sarah, you say

I did this

all of this and more

now some six weeks ago

with no end in sight

 

and no businessman

politician not even a general

let alone you, Sarah Palin,

knows how to stop

this tornado of oil

 

it’s also my fault, the oiled birds

— Northern gannets —

pristine as Josephine

in her Empire gown

frail white silk

adorned with gold

though not quite bees

dark eyes snapping

as each becomes increasingly encased

in ‘my’ oil

more abruptly than all those mastodons

in La Brea’s tar pits

 

now slender cormorants

who, everyone is sure, are drowning

as they swim along

neck barely afloat

no one realizing

the genius of cormorants

who can fly/swim 30 miles an hour

underwater

when they are not oiled

 

about the mpg of my car

my old car

for the ownership of which

I am quite guilty

for the replacement of which

I have no means

 

cormorants

must wave both wings

after every dive

to dry them

so that they may

dive and dive again

–no wave strong enough

to shake off ceaseless poison weight

of oil

 

it’s my fault, the reddish egrets

you know his own epitaph

–written by photographer Ted Cross

for his own recent death–

describing his multi-faceted self

on the Other Side

“still searching for the perfect photograph

of the reddish egret”

 

Ted did not have in mind

this soiled oiled specimen

trying, unsuccessfully

to lift newly leaden

legs wings and feet

out of Gulf mud muck and oil

 

it’s all my fault

and not because I use the wrong lightbulbs

in a couple of fixtures

nor because I do turn on the heat.

inside, in winter, sometimes

although I’ve been doing without air

conditioning so far this troubled year

 

it’s my fault

because I am an “extreme environmentalist”

because I think there should never be any more

drilling for oil in our country

because I deplore petrotyrrany

the privatization of profits

socialization of poverty

because I think we should start with the auto companies

 

well, what do you expect, Sarah?

I grew up in Detroit

 

I’ve never seen a wolf in the wild

as you do and deplore.

These beings you condemn to bloody deaths

I would embrace

 

nor have I encountered

a single polar bear

let alone a starving female trying to find food

for her new brood

attempting to swim with them

toward vanishing ice floes

but that’s o.k. with you

Sarah

it makes the hunting

easier

 

it’s my fault, Sarah

for I am quite literally

a tree-hugger

 

I believe that greed should end

America return to her original nobility

where people pledged lives

fortunes

sacred honor

remember sacred honor?

— ah, well, probably not, Sarah

 

I believe we are our Planet’s

keepers

 

Sarah – who are you?

Carolyn Foote Edelmann

June 2010

“This is not an environmental disaster, and I will say that again and again.”
– Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) speaking about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

 

 

 

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