February Sandy Hook: Fun in the Sun and the Sands

IMG_0745

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!

I'll take Manhattan from Sandy Hook Windy Spring 2017 004

Manhattan from Sandy Hook on a Windy Spring Day – North End of Barrier Island

We’d planned to visit Monmouth University first for three art exhibitions, especially James Fiorentino’s of Conserve Wildlife NJ.  But the sun burst out as we headed due east, and Sandy Hook won post position.Spermaceti Cove Sandy Hook Jan 2017

Spermaceti Cove and Boardwalk, High Tide, January 2017

Ilene had not known such New Jersey treasures as Little Silver and Colt’s Neck, let alone the equestrian paradise of Monmouth County.  Our drive through Rumson’s array of true mansions brought up amazing comparisons — Newport, Bar Harbor…  And then we were crossing the glinting Navesink River, the Atlantic Ocean stretching into infinity before us.  This Michigander can never believe that scene!

Verrazano and Light House Sandy Hook Spring 2017

Verrazano and Tip of Manhattan from Sandy Hook’s Northernmost Trail

January Birding Jim and Kathleen Amon Sandy Hook Salt Pond region Jan 20176

Birding Essentials: Kathleen and Jim Amon: January 2017

red throated tloon from Internet glamour_iandavies

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

(Internet Image)

Essential Tools Sandy Hook Jan 20167

Essential Tools for Birding Anywhere, especially Sandy Hook, especially Winter: 

David Allen Sibley

There are no fees for ‘The Hook’ in winter, and never for birders (because you’ll be hiking, not swimming, not parking at crowded beach sites of summer).  I see us tumbling like children in our eagerness to get close enough to the waves.  The ocean was a pale and delicate hue, baby-boy-blanket-blue.

Reflections of a Working Harbor Bahrs Jan. 2017 012

Working Harbor in Winter, Across Navesink from Sandy Hook Preserve

No matter where we turned, everything was pristine and exquisite.  The few sounds included mutterings of gulls and whispering waves.

Where the Rabbit Trekked Sandy Hook Jan 201

Where the Rabbit Loped, January 2017

Later, on the wast side, we would be treated to the nature sound I cherish – murmurings among a flock of brant.  These small goose-like birds, ==whose shape in the water echoes small air-craft carriers–, have only just arrived at ‘the Hook.’  They swam in determined flotillas, more tourists than residents, –zipping first here, then there, as if renewing old ties.

Brant Goose Drinking Barnegat

Brant Sipping at Low Tide, by Brenda Jones

In peaceful water, toy-like buffleheads, quintessential diving ducks, bobbed up anddown, arrived and departed, vanished and materialized with characteristic merriment.

Male Bufflehead by Ray Yeager

Ray Yeager – Key Fine Art Photographer of Winter Ducks:  Male Bufflehead

Ilene was fascinated to see all the osprey nests — some on human-built platforms; some on the chimneys of venerable yellow-brick military dwellings.  Some platforms, especially at the hawk watch platform (north), had been emptied by recent storms.

Sandy Hook Jim Kathleen Amon Spermaceti Cove Boardwalk Jan 2017

Birding Spermaceti Cove in Winter — Seals on Skull Island off to our Left

Even though it was February, a heat haze of the most exquisite soft-slate-blue obscured not only the Verrazano Bridge, but also Manhattan’s Wall Street megaliths.  Only nature was in view from the platform that day.

Sandy Hook Vista North Spring 2017

View from Hawk Watch Platform on Windy Spring Day

Grasses at Spermaceti Cove looked as though they’d been repeatedly beaten into submission by a glacier, not simply by recent high tides.  Glistening mud of the inlet’s banks was spattered with deep raccoon ‘hand’-prints, where these nocturnal mammals had washed recent foods before eating.

Fall and Winter Sandy Hook Salt Pond Region Jan 2017

Sandy Hook Marsh Grasses, January 2017

I am a realist. We are nowhere near the vernal equinox.  But, yes, days are lengthening, amazingly at both ends.

Christmas on Sandy Hook Bay Bahrs Jan. 2017

Christmas on the Navesink River from Bahrs

Yes, every once in awhile, a balminess arrives.  When three friends can celebrate together, even to feasting at Bahrs, the 100-year-old Highlands seafood restaurant high above the Navesink.  Where we could down Delaware Bay oysters and other rare treats, before taking in all three art exhibits in three different buildings at Monmouth University, without wearing coats.  Then drive home in golden light, through the Battlefield of Monmouth, without which we would not have a country.

Gastronomic Haven by the Sea Bahrs Jan. 2017

 

Birders at Bahrs Jan. 2017

When Birders Lunch at Bahrs

I cannot help wondering what our colonial heroes would think of the country they fought and many died to save, in so many New Jersey battles.  But our is a noble history.  Their pledging and/or giving their lives, their fortunes, but never their sacred honor, cannot be for naught.

Patriots' Flag Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War Monument Winter 2017

Patriots’ Flag at Site of Battle of Chestnut Neck, in Pine Barrens

IMG_0746

From start to finish, Mother Nature herself had given Ilene, Tasha and me treasured Valentines.  The red and white, however, decorated Sandy Hook’s Storied Light, rather than hearts.  Lighthouses and 13-Star Flags, however, always warm MY heart.  I hope they warm YOURS!

Try beaches in winter!

Lifesavers' Station darkened

Sandy Hook’s Heroic Lifesaving Station

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

 

Tasha Carolyn Bahrs Sandy Hook April

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

 

 

Advertisements

WINTER BIRDING AT THE BEACH ~ Sandy Hook, January 6

spermaceti-cove-sandy-hook-jan-2017

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…

fall-and-winter-sandy-hook-salt-pond-region-jan-2017

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

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

where-the-rabbit-trekked-sandy-hook-jan-201

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!

the-king-of-the-foxes-sandy-hook-spermaceti-cove-jan-2017

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!

january-birding-jim-and-kathleen-amon-sandy-hook-salt-pond-region-jan-20176

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.

essential-tools-sandy-hook-jan-20167

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!

femalegoldfinch-a-happy-feeder-brenda-jones

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.

sandy-hook-jim-kathleen-amon-spermaceti-cove-boardwalk-jan-2017

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

Never mind rocks.   Give me sand and snow!

january-reflectons-spermaceti-cove-sandy-hook-jan-2017

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:

green-heron-brenda-jones

Green Heron, Brenda Jones

Where the great egret feeds on the incoming tide…

egretwingstretchmillstonebrenda-jones

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.

ospreymillstoneaqueduct-brenda-jones

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!

restored-houses-for-rent-sandy-hook-2017

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…

location-sandy-hook-jan-2017

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

Oh, yes, and what birds did we find?

common-merganser-female-by-ray-yeager

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

hooded-merganser-by-ray-yeager

Hooded Merganser, Ray Yeager

male-bufflehead-by-ray-yeager

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.

red-throated-tloon-from-internet-glamour_iandavies

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.

long-tailed-duck-maile-by-ray-yeager

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..

.

brant-fleeing-helicopters-sandy-hook-november

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!

poison-ivy-still-life-sandy-hook-november

Poison Ivy Still Life, November 2016

DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER: “Environmental Protection is Not a Partisan Issue”

 

 

Delaware, the River, and the Official Riverkeeper — Tale of Christmas and Courage

washington-crossing-delaware-image-from-internet-2cuff0553b

Washington Crossing the Delaware to Trenton, from Internet, by Leutze

Christmas is a time for every citizen in our country and everywhere, to remember:

without the Delaware River, there wouldn’t BE an America. 

This post celebrates a mightily courageous woman — Maya von Rossum — the official Delaware Riverkeeper.  She’s articulate, accurate, and brilliant.  Following her blog, or attending to local news media night after night, readers marvel at Maya’s steady focus on the many perils of our boundary water, and what must be done to reverse them.  Some situations are obvious and seemingly internal: like pollution, stormwater run-off, animal wastes and fertilizer poisoning by nearby farms.  One, which I fought to prevent, is artificially emptying her to cool a nuclear power plant.  Other dangers are less visible, certainly far more difficult to describe — matters political.  Listen with me to our spokeswoman, what she has to say about our river, our country, our freedom in these times.  AND THE IMPORTANCE OF SPEAKING OUT. 

Thomas Paine exemplified the utmost daring and determination in his diatribes, polemics, books and pamphlets in the time of the American Revolution.  It is the essence of the country our Founding Fathers dared all to create, that vox populi  — the Citizen’s Voice — is to be encouraged and heeded so that liberty may truly exist. 

Thomas Jefferson felt the war could never have been won without Paine’s words.  It is no accident that his most famous book is Common Sense.

NJWILDBEAUTY long-time readers, –especially those who came aboard when this was a Packet Publications Blog, NJWILD –, know that I’ve been fighting for the well-being of our magnificent Delaware River since I moved to New Hope from Princeton in March of 1981.   I used postcards of the painting above to announce my change of address.

baldpate-mountain-view-brenda-jones

Delaware River From Baldpate Mountain by Brenda Jones

That essential move across the river plunged me right into her perils.  Forces of greed, (though we did not bandy about that phrase in those days), a.k.a. PECO (Pennsylvania’s PSEG) and chemical firms, lawyers and judges, far-seeing realtors wanted to insert a pump into the Delaware.  To remove unconscionable amounts from this already too-thin river, and pump them to the Susquehanna River, where Del’s water would be used to cool a nuclear power plant.  A fierce protest group, Del-AWARE formed.  A newspaper was generated.  The printed word, the spoken word, and especially the televised word brought us national coverage in our battle for the river.

Our strategy meetings were held at a rather disreputable tavern, [Applejack’s – is it still there?] –appropriately upriver, on the river, above New Hope.  Remember that taverns were the meeting sites in the 1770s, where our seemingly impossible American Revolution unfolded.  I always picture early patriots, including Tom and John and George and Ben at Philadelphia’s City Tavern, banging pewter tankards on rough wooden tables, asserting “Give me LIBERTY or give me DEATH!”

In the 1980’s, near Lumberville, PA, just north of New Hope, my own friends, — women, including nursing mothers and venerable grandmothers–, lay down in front of the bulldozers set loose to ruin the river environmentlay down to save the river, and were jailed at what is now the Michener Museum.  For some reason, no one at that Bucks County penal institution seemed to have heard of the writ of habeas corpus, so those women were jailed for the entire weekend!  Patriots, indeed!  I think of this every time I view Delaware River Impressionists honored on the Michener’s former prison walls.

flood-waters-brenda-jones

Delaware in Flood, by Brenda Jones

I love our river even more than I cherish our state.  But I couldn’t lie down in front of bulldozers.  However, I could write.  I penned poems such as “I am The River Speaking” and “To Val (Sigstedt) and the Valorous” to be published in the DEL-AWARE newspaper.  One, written when the forces of greed blasted the river during the shad run, [and Nature generated a powerful mud-slide right across from the site of the proposed PUMP], ends, “Blast ME?  I’ll show YOU power!”

[To read the poems, here’s an earlier post with both in it:https://njwildbeauty.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/dump-the-pump-fighting-for-the-delaware-river-with-poems/comment-page-1/%5D

One feels so hopeless in the force of these impassive official corporate forces.  But I could also write prose, –especially letters to editors of Bucks County and Philadelphia Newspapers.  And, each week, in Doylestown, as a volunteer, I  penned position papers, releases and speeches for Congressional candidate, Peter Kostmayer.  Peter ultimately would see to it that our Del was named Wild and Scenic, for as much of her imperiled length as could possibly qualify.  He also played a major role in stopping the Tocks Island Dam Project. I’d write truths about the essentiality of saving our river one day, and see them on Page One of the Philadelphia Inquirer, as headlines, the next day.

THEN, as NOW, WORDS MATTERED – but they must be conveyed to the broadest possible public.

We succeeded in returning Peter to office, despite mockery, fury, insults, dirty tricks – like wording the Dump the Pump referendum backwards, so we had to vote YES to mean NO PUMP.  We won the May referendum to prevent the building of the PUMP. 

After which, I moved to France.  Upon my return, the PUMP was in place.  It had been a non-binding referendum.  Let the protestors beware…  However, our battle kept the greedy group from fulfilling their original plan to remove 200 million gallons a day from the River of the Revolution!

It’s almost Christmas, 1916.  Grave changes are afoot in our country, which could result in negative changes far more perilous and long-lasting than the Delaware’s unwelcome PUMP.

It’s also almost the anniversary of George’s famous Crossing, to win the two battles of Trenton and the one battle of Princeton.  Never forget that the third of our first victories took place in Princeton, near the Clarke House, near the Institute for Advanced Study [who have finally bowed to protests and will not be developing acres of that sacred battlefield.]

Soon we can attend the annual re-enactment at Washington’s Crossing on the Delaware below New Hope.  There might be enough water in our river, after all, despite this serious drought year.  People who live near major rivers know truths despite increasing insistence that global warming is a myth.  For awhile, it looked as though this year’s Re-enactors would have to walk across.

Without the Delaware River, and her bounty of shad, according to Founding Fish author John McPhee, which fed our meagerly-clad-and-nourished officers in winter quarters, WE WOULD NOT HAVE A NATION.

Because of the Delaware River, we are the only state with three coastlines — the Shore, The River, and the Delaware Bay.  Vital Philadelphia and our own Capitol would not exist without the Delaware,  Yet, she is never safe.

coursing-waters-brenda-jones

Coursing Waters, High Water, Delaware River by Brenda Jones

LISTEN TO THE DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER, HERE, AND ACT ACCORDINGLY.  Her level of commitment, devotion, and willing to sacrifice and risk, is Revolutionary.  Let Maya be our model, every one of us!

LISTEN TO MAYA.  FOLLOW HER BLOG.  IT’S TIME THAT EACH OF US BECOMES A Delaware Riverkeeper, a keeper of all rivers, of all natural beauty and the creatures — including humans — who require safe habitat in order to thrive.   cfe
1
  • Follow
    Go to the profile of Maya van Rossum

    Maya van Rossum

    Maya K. van Rossum is the Delaware Riverkeeper & leader for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Learn more www.delawareriverkeeper.org

  •