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!

 

 

 

 

 

SEA and SEASIDE VISTAS of Cape Cod — Through Henry Beston’s ‘eyes’ – “The Outermost House…”

Cover, Henry Beston's "Outermost House" on Nauset Beach

Cover, Henry Beston’s “Outermost House” on Nauset Beach

Perhaps the most enticing phrase in Henry Beston’s Outermost House (just re-read for easily the 15th time, during and after our Cape Cod sojourn) is “I like the seven windows of my larger room.”  Those of you who know me know I spent 5 yes perilous years in a Canal-side, forest-surrounded apartment, which had barely any windows and less light.  I am free of that situation now, but seven windows in one room would be more precious to me than diamonds, even without the Atlantic Ocean or Nantucket Sound or Cape Cod Bay within listening distance.

Henry's Nauset Retreat before 1978 Blizzard

Henry’s Nauset Retreat before 1978 Blizzard

Because of his views from the Eastham beach house, Henry could exult, “Into the bright, vast days I go.”  Carolyn Yoder, Jeanette Hooban and I also poured ourselves into bright vast days.  Unlike Henry, we did not trek the midnight beach, no matter the weather, preferring the luxury of snap/crackling fires and favorite films instead.

Vastness was particularly rewarding below Chatham Light, where seals beyond counting were basking and humming (! I kid you not!) on a Chatham bar — sandbar, just beyond our reach.

Chatham Light

Chatham Light

Seals at Rest on Chatham Bar

Seals at Rest on Chatham Bar — “the long grey line” -=- of HUMMING Seals

"into the vast bright days we went" -- Race Point Beach, Provincetown

“into the vast bright days we went” — Race Point Beach, Provincetown

Bright healthy beach pea thriving on unspoiled protected Provincetown's Race Point Beach

Bright healthy beach pea thriving on unspoiled protected Provincetown’s Race Point Beach

Spouting Whale as Drawn in Provincetown Race Point Sand, by our predecessors on that beach

Spouting Whale as Drawn in Provincetown Race Point Sand, by our predecessors on that beach

Sun Creating Our "Vast, Bright Days", drawn by predecessors in Race Point Sand

Sun Creating Our “Vast, Bright Days”, drawn by predecessors in Race Point Sand

Shorebird Signatures and Dune Grass, Race Point, Provincetown

Shorebird Signatures and Dune Grass, Race Point, Provincetown

Barefoot October Surfcaster, Provincetown, Race Point Beach

Barefoot October Surfcaster, Provincetown, Race Point Beach

right whale as seen from Race Point Beach (photo from INternet)

right whale as seen from Race Point Beach (photo from INternet)

Tail of Right Whale as seen by us from Race Point Beach - Feeding in Enormous Circle -- Photo from Internet

Tail of Right Whale as seen by us from Race Point Beach – Feeding in Enormous Circle — Photo from Internet

And Carolyn Yoder, who held the glasses at that  moment, saw this very rare, calm, powerful creature spout.

Fragile Leopard Crab, Race Point, shell whole despite powerful waves

Fragile Leopard Crab, Race Point, shell whole despite powerful waves — see all the colors of authentic Provincetown sand!

Sea-Washed Stones, Race Point -- far more stones than shells!

Sea-Washed Stones, Race Point — far more stones than shells!

I select scenes from our various sea-side treks, gllmpses that convey our time, not in an Outermost House (which the Blizzard of ’78 washed out to sea anyway), but a Marsh-side, pond-side house in South Chatham.

Explore with us.  Experience the pristine beauties of the Cape, saved by President Kennedy not long before his death.  He, –man of Hyannis–, well knew the Cape’s value and its peril.  He braved the wrath of many forms of financiers during his tenure, –not the least of whom were those who would develop/destroy the sacred essential sands from just above Chatham to and beyond Provincetown.

Land's End, or Beginning, Provincetown

Land’s End, or Beginning, Provincetown

"Vast, Bright Brewster Beach"

“Vast, Bright Brewster Beach”

Raptor Alert, Alarmed Gulls, Brewster Beach

Raptor Alert, Alarmed Gulls, Brewster Beach

Tide-Dislodged Peat Clump, "primordial ooze" and the dune grass that creates it, Brewster Beach

Tide-Dislodged Peat Clump, “primordial ooze” and the dune grass that creates it, Brewster Beach

Jeanette Skips Out into Low-Tide Revealed Sandbars and Marshes

Jeanette Skips Out into Low-Tide Revealed Sandbars and Marshes

Henry Beston, in one of his countless memorable paragraphs, writes of “the restless sea and the mutable land.”

In Cape Cod, land is still principally mutated by wind, sand, sea and its tides.  Thanks to severe preservation measures in the 1960, under our soon-to-be-martyred President Kennedy, Cape Cod is a paradise of the natural.

Preserve whatever you can in your territory, wherever it is!

Deserting New Jersey

Seaside Broom, Reed's Road, Island Beach, NJ

Seaside Broom, Reed’s Road, Island Beach, NJ

A few images from exquisite Island Beach, an au revoir for a week on Cape Cod with two of The Intrepids — Jeanette Hooban and Carolyn Yoder,  Leaving at dawn – have not been at the Cape since the late 1980’s.  Used to spend seven weeks each summer in Chatham with my girls, a barefoot existence, where nature itself compelled me to become a birder,  Hudsonian Godwits used to prance around our beach blankets at Harding’s Beach, looking across the Sound to Nantucket and the Vineyard.  A red-necked phalarope whirled in the water, and a long-tailed jaeger perfectly imitated his image in my brand new Roger Tory Peterson – because the girls kept asking, “Mom, what’s THAT?”

Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach, NJ

Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach, NJ

Island Beach brought us kinglets everywhere, swallows, sparrows, a great blue heron or two, osprey nests.

Osprey Neighbors, Barnegat Bay, Island Beach

Osprey Neighbors, Barnegat Bay, Island Beach

As usual, my camera does not do birds — but it does like the plants of IB – so here are some samples of last weekend.

Clouds Caught in Wetlands, Bayside of Island Beach

Clouds Caught in Wetlands, Bayside of Island Beach

A la prochaine — until the next time.

Whirling Grass (wild winds) and Fox Tracks, Island Beach

Whirling Grass (wild winds) and Fox Tracks, Island Beach

Oceanside, Island Beach, October

Oceanside, Island Beach, October

Carolyn