A ‘Life Bird’ for Carolyn, and most welcome to both of us — The Black-Necked Stilt of Bombay Hook
Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge is half again as large as ‘The Brig’, and far more generously treed. It’s managed this year for wading birds, and we were given two life birds before we’d been in there 20 minutes.
Second Life Bird for Carolyn — Blue Grosbeak
NOTE THAT ALL BIRD CLOSE-UPS ARE FROM THE INTERNET, not via cfe camera
Mary Wood and I dared a Delaware jaunt last Sunday, because of the heat. Both Refuges are mostly birding-by-car (the ideal ‘blind’ for the birds — our presence in those metal cocoons does not alarm our avian friends) Both refuges, also, in summer, are notorious for greenhead flies — carnivorous, or at least sangiferous winged beings, whom we do not add to our ‘Lists’ for the day.
AN ABUNDANCE OF EGRETS, Snowy, that is…
Immediately inside the park, we came to a cluster of dead trees, absolutely studded with snowy egrets. Picture a Christmas Tree decorated by a hoarder, every ornament alive, with wings!
GREAT EGRET AND GREAT BLUE HERON, below snowy-egret-studded tree
Founded in 1937, ‘The Hook’ is a vital link in the Atlantic Flyway’s chain, “extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.” Urgent in both spring and fall migration, admittedly there are always bird riches among these impoundments and woods. Wading birds (long-legged shorebirds) of some species are already beginning the southward journey. Mary is already planning our next jaunt — hoping for godwits, frankly.
TREE-RICH BOMBAY HOOK, with brown-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace
SUMMER PERFECTION, BOMBAY HOOK, JULY
IMMATURE GREAT BLUE HERON — rarity for Mary and me (Internet)
EASTERN KINGBIRD SO NEAR — right beside car (image from Internet)
GOLDFINCH OF HOME — ONLY THEIRS FED ON INDIAN GRASS — NO THISTLES! (Internet)
EASTERN PHOEBE WITH NEST MATERIAL – OURS SLAM-DUNKED A GREEN GRASSHOPPER! (Internet Image)
EXCEEDING RARE TURK’S CAP LILY BLOOMS WITH SEASIDE GOLDENROD
PERCHED — EGRET RIGHT AT HOME AT ‘THE HOOK’
AN OMINOSITY OF VULTURES AT ‘THE HOOK’
Mary and I ignored her GPS most of the way, choosing 295 South, to the end of our New Jersey, to zoom over the Delaware Memorial Bridge. She’s named her navigator “Jeeves.” His commanding voice directed us on Route 1 South and 13 South in various combinations. Bombay Hook is near Smyrna, below historic New Castle. Whitehall Neck Road took us into the Refuge.
At this point, Jeeves complained, “RECALCULATING”. We had a good laugh, as I mused, “Mary, we have to remember, butlers don’t spend a lot of time in wildlife refuges.”
We couldn’t believe the swiftness of the ride, nor the mostly green beauty on 295 and the preponderance of 1 and 13. (Admittedly, Delaware’s fringes leading to the bridge are exercises in tackiness, –but briefly.) At one point we drove through blue-green just-tasseled corn on both sides of the road — “high as an elephant’s eye”.
I’ll do another blog on New Castle for our (very late) lunch — in Jessop’s pub, whose building is 300 years old. I was served Thomas Jefferson Ale in a stone mug, and a sumptuous Colonial crab pot pie…, by a ‘serving wench’ in the garb of the era. In the church next door, Lafayette had given the bride away…
It’s always a treat when someone says, “Carolyn, I have a place I’d like to take YOU to hike!” Fay Lachmann, –British-born–, has proven her friendship in a myriad of ways. Many of them had to do with various rescues around the hip operation, and in other challenging times. My first post-op Thanksgiving meal… “Carolyn, it’s not about the sheets,” as she helped this unbendable one make the bed Friday after Friady. Last week, Fay insisted on going right back to Wells Mills together, when she had only just taken her own hiking group there the day before.
Fay’s voice held uncharacteristic wispy notes, as she tried to explain why. Finally, she simply stated, “Well, it’s about laurel.”
I could probably end this blog post right here. The mountain laurel is at peak in the New Jersey Pine Barrens right now. Even though there isn’t a mountain for miles.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep…” Some of the other lines from Frost’s masterpiece were also true, as in “.,..miles to go before I sleep…” Enchanted miles in a woods that comprised almost totally of Atlantic White Cedar.
This wood was everywhere in South Jersey when that land was discovered by whalers settling Cape May in the 1500s. Other explorers were naming shore areas Egg Harbor, for example, because beaches were covered with shore bird eggs. In the 1700s, white cedar was used for shingles — as house siding and for roofs; for fence posts; and most urgently for casks carrying the tannic Pine Barrens teak water on whaling voyages. In cedar, teak water stayed fresh for three years. White cedar casks also protected wild cranberries for sailors, who otherwise would have perished from scurvy. Such usefulness doomed cedar back when we were East Jersey and West Jersey, except in Wells Mills.
Towering cedars raised their lacy greenery, inky against fresh clouds. Frail laurel blossoms leapt for the sky. Here and there, a rough-trunked pitch pine announced to the forest primeval just exactly whose forest this is, anyhow. A pine cone or two on the sugar sand trails foretold the probable future.
Silent canoeists hugged the far shore, of a tranquil lake that resembled finely pleated silver lame. Anything or anyone could’ve emerged out of it, — a mermaid or The Lady of the Lake of Arthurian days.
A single dazzling swan sailed just out of reach of the paddlers. A family of geese included a huge pale barnyard goose in the middle of five young — a switch on the Ugly Duckling Story.
Exceedingly rare plants burgeoned at points where peatwater streamlets entered the glistening lake. If I am understanding my Audubon Field Guide to North American Wildflowers correctly, this is (misleadingly named) Common pipewort. “Bog or aquatic herbs with crowded head of tiny flowers and long, leafless stalk.”
And this is purportedly Northern Pitcher Plant: “a carnivorous plant with a large, purplish-red flower.” Audubon does speak of “an umbrella-like structure.”
But mountain laurel carried the day — laurel and friendship.
A trio of poems, arrow’s in this activist’s quiver:
Probably all NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that, last Friday, the Pinelands Commission DARED approve the first pipeline in New Jersey’s Crown Jewel: The Pine Barrens. This one is “The South Jersey Gas Pipeline Project.” A pipeline by any name would smell as foul. The Pinelands Commission was founded to preserve, protect, even enhance this 1.1 million-acre wooded region, sited atop the legendary 17-trillion-gallion Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer of highest quality water.
Former NJ Governors Brendan Byrne, Jim Florio and Christine Todd Whitman joined forces to file a Friend of Court Brief to overturn approval of the Pipeline. But the forces of greed have won anew, and New Jersey will never be the same. Our beautiful state is being turned into a Sacrifice Zone, and who is to arrest this destruction?
Once, I lamented to a caller, “I’m a poet. What am I doing at the barricades?” The activist on the other end of the line retorted, “Carolyn, that’s where poets belong.”
I’m not good with barricades. Although I support and thrill to effective protest marches, they are beyond my physical/spiritual/mental/emotional strength.
The only arrows in my quiver are Pinelands poems. Here are a few, to remind NJWILDBEAUTY readers of what we are about to forfeit:
This was one of the original “Hot Poems by Cool Women”, a favorite of what we came to see as our poetic groupies, as our various new volumes reached the public through readings:
IT ALL STARTED
when we came upon
carpets of stars
cranberries in flower
trembling white below
the ice blue sky
along the hard-packed dikes
formed golden pyramids
on gleaming amber boxes
here to burst all bonds
course among broad acres
of waving stamens
at day’s end we stood on tiptoe
plucking first blued berries
from among the mauve and pink
at the tips of overarching bushes
tucked among hollies and sheep laurel
through thickets and tunnels
we made our way to the sea
mouths awash in warm berries
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
Cool Women, Volume I
I long to slip into
watch my long legs turn
orange, then burnt sienna
bathed in tannins of old leaves
and newly desiccated needles
having steeped over the centuries
between primordial banks
I belong to the Pines and its peat
whether striding or swimming
requiring levels and mystery
even on bright days
over there, on a low branch
a slim snake twines
somnolent and sure
overhead, in the pine tops
winds echo ocean
near yet far
time keeps these waters warm
enough to welcome legs
too long denied the Pinelands
see how my limbs flicker and flash
–burnished in peatwater
–flames in the depths
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
US 1 Fiction Issue,
D&R Greenway Poets of Preservation
Written in Princeton Hospital
Immediately post-op – 11 11 11
I’ve gathered apples of our Barrens
to blend with bright cranberries
sparked with honey of dawn’s bees
we two once awakened
on Chatsworth’s sandy dikes
I craft a random European tart
— ragged edges, coverless
in honor of your world that I so crave
in memory of ragged days, uncovered nights
the luminous glaze
your ignited gaze
thrown back at me
in this new solitude
every inch of rooms you cherished
our joyous kitchen above all
my fruits become a brigand’s cache
–rubies tossed with fine abandon
as I once flung caution to wild winds
when you stretched out fine hands
luring me, pirate-like, to irresistible back bays
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN
Cool Women, Volume Two
Once, I carried books of others’ poems into hearings at Prallsville Mills, in my futile, idealistic attempt to convince decision-makers not to allow “The Villas of Tuscany”, –currently “Barclay Square” –, towering condos. to profane our cherished, historic D&R Canal and Towpath.
I read words of Paul Muldoon and Gerry Stern and friends who later became the Cool Women, insisting that art is born in New Jersey beauty. Trampling her open spaces, defiling sightlines of the canal — for these travesties are visible even deep down upon her waters in a kayak — destroys not only habitat for essential wild creatures. It also spells the end of inspiration, the cessation of art catalyzed in these storied reaches.
Pipelines are nonessential, destructive, temporary in terms of jobs provided, and threaten ignition of the Pines and fouling of the pristine waters of the Pine Barrens.
Don’t let this happen. Use whatever arrows are in your quiver to preserve, protect, and even enhance our entire state!
This rich harvest tour took place through Pinelands Adventures: http://www.pinelandsadventures.org;
Which organization has come into being under the auspices of ever-militant, thoroughly vigilant Pinelands Preservation Alliance: JOIN THEM — they turn around damage to the Pines, week after week after week: http://www.pinelandsalliance.org
Without “The Iron in the Pines”, from forges such as Batsto and Allaire and Martha’s Furnace, and beyond, George Washington would not have had cannon balls nor wagon wheels for Revolutionary Battles. Pinelands shipbuilders and ship’s captains effectively fought the British and the Hessians, boldly advertising auctions of stores of captured ships in Philadelphia papers. Mullica Rivermen rowed with muffled oars to change the course of history. It is said, we would not have a country without the Mullica, without the Pine Barrens!
Who needs summer crowds, or even summer? The original Intrepids (Bill Rawlyk, Jeanette Hooban, and I) literally basked along both bayside and oceanside of Island Beach last Sunday.
Silence. Limitlessness. Sea-borne treasures. Elegant fishermen. Ravenous seagull. Artemesia in winter. Sundown like peach mousse upon a slate-blue plate. Paradise enow…
Stroll with us. We nearly took our shoes off!
Can’t you just hear the cold jingle of these shells, as waves sip in and out?
Remember that this pristine perfection exists because courageous and generous people knew to preserve it. Do whatEVER it takes, and be generous with whatever land trusts speak to you, to extend preservation of open land, sand and water in our time.
Never forget — We ARE our fellow-creatures’ keepers.
Is it November, –or is it THIS November–, that renders sun a memory?
What images, what journeys hold light so crucial to me, ever more essential, every day?
Key birding buddy, Mary Wood, and I ‘hiked the day down,’ –mostly wordlessly, often birdlessly–, after the election. November surprised us with remnant vividness.
Walk with us. Climb with us.
We owe this lovely restoration to Winnie (Hughes) and Fred Spar, and Tom Poole. I know Winnie through U.S. 1 Poets, and Fred and Tom through D&R Greenway Land Trust, where I work.
Finding these images on this gloomy day reminds that all that matters in my life is preservation, — of nature, of beauty, of wild spaces.
Oh, yes, and freedom. For the wildlings and for us.
Winnie and Fred, in their fine new signs, give honor to legendary birder, quintessential birdwalk leader, Lou Beck, of Washington Crossing Audubon.
We all give credit to everyone who reaches out, through whatever non-profits, to save the wild while we can. Thoreau was right, you know: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
Memories of this refuge especially include green herons. Not this day, not this season — but often. Sometimes, kayaking nearby, one spots green herons mincing along the banks of the (D&R, of course) canal, then lofting up into Refuge trees.
Spring brings not only winged miracles. This refuge is yellow-flag and blue-flag Central in May. Wild iris of the most vivid hues, The Rogers is worthy of a journey for ‘flags’ alone.
Invasive species had driven out cattails essential to territorializing red-winged blackbirds.
Seemingly inescapable phragmites, — bush-tailed grasses beloved of decorators–, are too frail to support the weight of males, ruffling scarlet epaulets, vocalizing welcome to females and banishment to rivals, in these woods and wetlands.
Restoration, a key facet of preservation, is visible in the final scene of Mary’s and my November walk.
While every newspaper and television and Internet Weather Source has been warning absolutely everyone to stay inside, “Stay Safe”, [which smarmy phrase makes my flesh crawl], I’ve discovered something experientially that I’ve probably always known: It’s a whole lot hotter in any parking lot, getting into or out of a vehicle, than it is in any of our nearby New Jersey forests! I’ve decided, it’s dangerous to stay at home. For, there, life can turn into a spectator sport.
A Sunday ago, I hiked the Pole Farm at 8 a.m., actually about an hour too late to start, during these so-called Heat Emergencies. Much beauty, great tranquillity, shade 9/10 of the way. For a couple of hours, I was given gifts beyond measure. There’s nothing on a screen, or in a newspaper or magazine to equal the elusive scent of fox, still apparent from morning trail-marking. The cascade of field sparrows, the mew of catbird. The pleasure of picking two wildflowers for Elaine Katz’s stone and bench – the woman who almost single-handedly insisted that this Lawrenceville (now-) Preserve was not to be a golf course or a series of intrusively spotlighted playing fields.
A day or two later, and again a week later, starting at 5:15, I entered the Sourland Mountain Preserve off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell. Not a man-made sound, not even a plane, did I hear in those couple of deeply shaded hours. Not a man-made anything did I see, except some essential drainage pipes and the entry road, then densely wooded trails I explored. One distant frog’s thrumming was heartening. Dragonflies popped about whatever flowers could bloom in sunlit groves. For a long time, I sat on basalt boulders leftover from creation, surrounded by mixed forest and essence of Lenapes of long ago. There’d been rain by the second excursion, so various streamlets were caroling as I crossed them.
The next night, when her work and mine were over for the day, Intrepid Jeanette Hooban picked me up in Lawrenceville, to glide over hill and down dale to the Delaware River, –silver in late light, purling below the Lambertville / New Hope Bridge. Moments later, we were deep in Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. We decided to take four favorite trails: Violet Trail off the access road; the old pond trail onto Fern Trail, alongside a flower-erupting former pond; and the ever-enticing Medicinal Trail, crossing the tough new bridges constructed or reconstructed after Hurricane Sandy. Each of us has many demands made upon us in the so-called real world. Each was a little jagged as we started out. But, again, silence, flowers, dragonflies, hidden birds, and the murmur of Pidcock Creek gave us timeless gifts of memory. Jeanette discovered a flaming spurt of cardinal flower, favorite of ruby-throated hummingbirds. I could show her where to elusive snow trillium can emerge, yes, in snow, in March; where, in May, opulent yellow ladyslippers peek through heavy leaf cover to the left of the Fern Trail. We examined the rocky edge of that Creek, for I’d found the Louisiana Waterthrush, first by song, then by habitat and behavior, a month ago with another friend. There in the cucumber magnolia, I’d seen my first ever phoebe sing out his name over and over, while waters burbled busily below early one spring. In heat-strafed July, shade was our gift at Bowman’s, enhanced by occasional water-cooled air.
A few days later, key birding buddy, Anne Zeman, picked me up at 7:30 a.m., so we could go to the Abbott Marshlands (in Trenton!), in quest of images for her entries for an upcoming fine-art juried exhibition: Voices for the Marsh. New to us was the fact that Hurricane Sandy had taken down a quantity of the Marsh’s most majestic trees. Youngsters that survived have burgeoned in the meantime, creating dense shade everywhere — 90-some percent of our walk was tree-cool, and much alongside water. New patterns of light and shade have amplified the richesse of its fern groves, until we ran out of species names. Not only tiny blue dragonflies, –half the size of needles–, but equally minuscule lipstick-red ones, zinged about on all sides. Pickerel weed’s remarkable purple (hyacinth-like, but slimmer) stems rose here and there in Spring Lake and other wet areas.
Again, we remembered where Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger had shown us the five-entried fox den. On both sides of the trail, majestic yews revealed a former dwelling in that wilderness. Not far from there, Clyde and Warren knew to look for owls in daytime. There’s not so much silence in the Marsh, because horrific highways are all too near, spinning out a ceaseless drone of ‘the real world’. But after awhile, one absorbed that sound, until lapping water or locusts warming up or the sacred luffing of swans wings topped every other impression.
Each walk, alone and with others, proved that Heat Emergency consciousness can be overdone. People can turn into couch potatoes out of fear.
Beauteous preserves, rich in wildlife, await on all sides of Princeton. There’s the thickly treed Community Park North off 206. There’s Herrontown Woods, off Snowden Lane, and the nearby Autumn Hill. Plainsboro Preserve beckons on the other side of Route 1, with its monoculture forest of beeches — guaranteed 12 to 15 degrees cooler in summer, warmer in winter.
Turn off the screens. Grab a hat and water and natural insect repellant (a wonderful rosemary-based one is available at the Hopewell Pharmacy) and get out there. Don’t be someone Richard Louv will have to describe as The Last (Child) in the Woods.