RAINY-DAY BIRDING – ISLAND BEACH, NOVEMBER

View from the Coast Gard Watch Window, Island Beach, Rainy November Day

View from the Coast Gard Watch Window, Island Beach, Rainy November Day

NJWILDBEAUTY readers surely know by now, to borrow from Coleridge, Nature does not “fold up her tent like an Arab, and as silently steal away” after Labor Day. Quite the contrary!

These few images recreate Nature’s fulness, despite rain, last Saturday, November 7.

Drama, beauty, even miracles awaited us, as we tugged on our slickers and headed out on the beach.

"Down to the Sea Again" -- Fishermen Head to the Beach

“Down to the Sea Again” — Fishermen Head to the Beach

The Weather Guides had insisted there was only a 30% chance of rain for the Island Beach region.  But, as my urologist husband used to insist re surgery percentages, “For my patient, it’s 100%.”

For Jeanette and Me, 100 percent!

For Jeanette and Me, 100 percent!

For Jeanette Hooban and me, rain was indeed 100%, sometimes more ‘percentier’ than others.

"The Intrepid" Wades the Atlantic Merrily, November, 2015

“The Intrepid” Wades the Atlantic Merrily, November, 2015

Fishermen to the South of Us

Fishermen to the South of Us

The Day of Calm Fishermen

The Day of Calm Fishermen

Where the Pole Was

Where the Pole Was

The Track of the Fishermen

The Track of the Fishermen

"Could they be gannets?" - Jeanette Intent

“Could they be gannets?” – Jeanette Intent

We were welcomed by foxes.  You can either mentally zoom and crop on my terrible images, or just Google Ray Yeager Photography Blog to see (probably our very foxes that very day) his fine art superb images of the ruddy regals of Island Beach.  Thanks, Ray, for beauty, majesty, and everything from sleeping, leaping to fighting.

Fox Couple of Reed's Road - Right at Home, and the Rain didn't Bother Them, Either

Fox Couple of Reed’s Road – Right at Home, and the Rain didn’t Bother Them, Either

This Healthy Fox Was That Close to my Car - but my hands were shaking...

This Healthy Fox Was That Close to my Car – but my hands were shaking…

The foxes opened our outdoors day.  Whales were our finale.

As we turned to leave the fishermen’s beach, we took one last, reluctant look at the serene, majestic Atlantic.  Take the image below and multiply it by twenty or more.  All flowing south, just beyond the third waves.  A little larger than dolphins, but making that same loopy motion.  Not so frolicsome.  Very sure.  A singleton.  A threesome.   Four side-by-side.  The longer we looked, the more we saw.  As relaxed in their journey as our fishermen — who stopped everything to watch.

Later, in the Coast Guard Building, –newly opened and you can go upstairs to see what those heroes saw as they watched through storms–, the men painting the front room told us they were probably minkes, definitely on migration south.  They spend most of their lives on Island Beach.  This is the time they might be seen  But there was awe in the men’s voices, as they advised, “That was really special…”

Single Minke Whale, from Internet

Single Minke Whale, from Internet

Lavallette is not far above Island Beach.  We’d stood so very long in the rain, mesmerized by whales, that we decided rewards were in order:

Compensation

Compensation

A craft brew, with a Pennsylvania name, possibly Nockamixon.  Rather metallic.  Good with

Rainy Day Rewards at the Crab's Claw in Lavallette

Rainy Day Rewards at the Crab’s Claw in Lavallette

The oysters on the right are Delaware Bay — a miracle of resurrection.  Once there were more millionaires per block in and around Shellpile and Bivalve, NJ, because of oysters, than anywhere in the world.

Then MSX (multinucleated sphere unknown) wiped out the industry, the oystermen, the millionaires.  But New Jersey and Rutgers have undertaken heroic efforts to bring these hefty, meaty bivalves back to our (almost unknown) Delaware Bay and to our plates  They were divine.

Those on the left are Virginia oysters.  Not so large as Chincoteague, to be sure, but savory, briny and electrifying.

Hearty Virginia Oysters, Crab's Claw, Lavallette

Hearty Virginia Oysters, Crab’s Claw, Lavallette

Flounder with Lemon and Capers, Crab's Claw, Lavallette

Flounder with Lemon and Capers, Crab’s Claw, Lavallette

Our beautiful entrees were so delicate, probably only moments out of the sea.  They often mention, on their menu, the day’s special as “whatever is running.”  Meaning whatever fish are off-shore that day.  I always get the child’s view of a fish running on its little tail.

As NJWILDBEAUTY readers can experience, here, with Jeanette and me, Not fall nor rain, winter nor snow, can keep us from our appointed rounds, reveling in Nature, letting her bestow her countless gifts.

Remember, the Nature part of our excursion (and most if not all of them) could never happen without preservation.  Support your local land trust.

SOURLANDS HIKE – Non-Technology Walk

The Smiling Rock, Sourlands Trail off Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell

The Smiling Rock, Sourlands Trail off Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell

Every once in awhile, I give myself the mandate to walk a trail without technology.

This is an interesting challenge, even though I NEVER use a cell phone on a trail!

Today’s Sourlands Technology-less mandate extends to my other addictions — the camera and my binoculars.  I found it really hard to leave them behind.  As in ‘at home’, so I was not tempted to weaken at the last minute.

The images here were taken, I think in the 20th Century, I include these two scenes to give you the flavor of the Sourlands Preserve experience.  This post relies on words, not photographs.

Intriguing question — am I addicted to my camera and my optics?  I did feel, initially, quite naked without them.  Almost instantly, however, I became aware of heightened senses, as though my entire being were a sounding board, an enormous lens, a fragrance-detector.  Without peering through anything, focusing anything, I had become a force field of antennae.  Everything was grist to my mill.

Anyone who hikes in the Sourland Mountains knows that there are boulders everywhere.  I was 1000 x more aware of these ‘diagnostic’ basalt beings, than through lenses!  Some do have almost human, and some powerful reptilian fissures.  But my reaction today went far beyond resemblances.

The aura of Sourlands rocks speaks, in oracular tones, when one is opened by the absence of technology to the gestalt of the walk.

Dappled light.  Threatening skies.  Instant solitude, silence, refuge indeed!

The beechwood forest has just leafed out.  There is no light to equal that flickering through new beech leaves, as NJWILDBEAUTY readers know from the first Berkshire images from last week.  The forest floor is as awash as it will be in autumn, only with pink-brown-to-pale beech leaves, just relinquished.  This process, which brings acid nourishment to the beeches to ensure the nut harvest, usually occurs in mid-April.  It’s almost the end of May.

Ovenbirds overhead fill the forest with eee-errr, eee-errr, eee-err!  My theory is that they’re high in the trees to draw predator attention far from their forest-floor, oven-shaped nests.

The long long trail is lined at the outset with airy pale magenta wild phlox, flat blossoms on frail stems.  Each burst is harshly tugged by surprisingly strong windbursts for May.

The path is far gentler than I remember.  Softer, and more rarely interlaced with roots or studded with rocks.  This response on my part could just be the difference between walking the Sourland Mountains and hiking last week’s Berkshire and Green mountain trails.

Perhaps the deer management of the Sourlands is beginning to work — a result devoutly desired by all who cherish birds and flowers.  Our deer infestation has removed the forest understory throughout this wild region.  These powerful basalt boulders protected this region from most farming and most developing, but cannot fend off deer.

Only deer management, yes, HUNTING, can do this.  It is essential.  Deer herds devour native plants that evolved with our birds and pollinators.  This gives carte blanche to the invasives, which have no insect holes in them, because they feed no insects.  Therefore, breeding birds and seeking pollinators cannot find the essentials with which they have evolved over centuries.  “NO INSECTS — NO BIRDS” — It’s as simple as that, as Sharyn McGee, President of Washington Crossing Audubon, taught us in Jared Fleshers prize-winning, straight-talking, beautiful and even powerful Sourlands Film.

True Solomon’s seal emerges alongside the trail, ‘ringing’ its tiny pale bells.  Later on, in a different configuration of forest, I’ll find false Solomon’s seal, its finial creamy bloom like a puff of smoke.

Big healthy clumps of violet leaves, –like nosegays prepared by My Fair Lady, only lacking the purple blossoms–, hearten me as I climb.

Small ordinary yellow blossoms appear.  Later, in deeper woods, near a stream, I will find rarer ones.  Both are the hue and glossiness of buttercups.  The ordinary one has five round petals and fat leaves like geraniums.  The extraordinary one has six leaves, pointed like daisies.  It’s very tiny, its tall pointy leaves like grass someone forgot to mow.

I pass several stretches of wetlands on the main trail, normally echoing with frog chorus.  If I hear a single frog today, it’s more of a cough than a croak.  The so-called wetlands resemble messy deserts.

High on the left, a phoebe calls out its name with a certain pitifulness, though it IS territorializing, and will be in the same place exactly on my way back.

There should be wood thrushes in forest this deep.  Deer destroying understory removes safe sites for their lives, as well as for ovenbirds.  Ovenbird nests may be a bit safer, because often tucked into strong tree roots.

Dark Christmas ferns are tall and strong in shady stretches; hay-scented fern delicate, airy and much less vivid green, in splashes of sunlight.

Here and there on the path are tulip tree ‘tulip’ flowers, all bright orange (brighter than Princeton) and wild chartreuse.  Indians used these very straight sun-seeking trees to make dug-out canoes, there being a decided dearth of birches hereabouts.  If you need birches, as Frost did, as I do, try Berkshires or Northern Michigan.

Probable rose-breasted grosbeak overhead in this stretch — identified by mellifluousness.

Silent robins on the trail.

Duelling pileated woodpeckers call attention to their ownership of territory on either side of the path.

The mutter or purr of red-bellied woodpecker, suffuses another part of the forest.

This is a place so dense that I am glad of every bit of teaching to bird by ear, by naturalists and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and long-ago tapes..

Sourlands Rocks in Preserve off Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell

Sourlands Rocks in Preserve off Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell

The presence of basalt megaliths increases on both sides.  I’m keeping an eye out on the left for blue blazes, leading to what I call ‘Council Rocks’.  Yellow blazes off to the right lead to a stream-side trail I will take after I reach my goal, ‘Table Rock’.

Now, on the blue trail, silence increases to empty-cathedral level.  The hush is overpowering.  Reverence is mandated.

I am in the domain of ferns as understory and trees on every side:  upright, slanted, crooked, split, and felled.  Sandy-shattered trees are tattooed all over with turkey-tail fungus, paled by severe winter conditions.

The blue trail, however, belongs to the rocks.  If I stood on the shoulders of the tallest man I know (who would NEVER permit such familiarity), we would still not be able to reach the top of these leftovers of volcanic activity.  Spewed eons ago, they are being weathered incessantly into rounded and fissured shapes.

Among these entities, presence, even majesty reigns.  Awe is essential; even worship.

These rock-entities, though so imposing, are generous.  They accept my praise and welcome my ingress.

In my tightly tied sturdiest shoes, with trekking poles used like pendulums for balance, I make my way between deities with broad shoulders. The one I call “Table Rock’ welcomes me.  I sit a long time, studying the Council Rocks where no Indians are visible, but so many are palpable.

Now, I can walk back to the car, the technology that brought me to my non-technology walk site.  For these hours, all my senses have been engaged.  I have been and felt hundreds of miles from civilization, even though Princeton and Philadelphia and New York are all too near.

All along the route, every two or three hundred paces, I have received the gift of a whiff of fox scent.  ‘Eau de renard’... Nothing wilder.  Nothing more precious!

This walk exists because of preservation.  Keep it going, at all costs.  Nothing more vital to our state and its citizens.

My sister, Marilyn Weitzel of Illinois, and my friends Janet Black, then of Kingston and Betty Lies of Montgomery Township, New Jersey, try to find Sourlands birds in dense canopy:

<y sister as Lookout for Birds of the Sourlands

LET’S HEAR IT FOR SNOW!

A Graceful Bow

A Graceful Bow

A select group of friends and I have begun to admit the truth this winter — we love snow!  (You know who you are…)

Incredible Lightness of Being

Incredible Lightness of Being

We are going to miss the snow when she finally gathers her mantle and swooshes off-stage.

Bread Bits on Snow

Bread Bits on Snow

The more the Weather Channel tries to turn Mother Nature into the villain (so we don’t realize that it’s we ourselves who are turning the climate against us), the more we privately exult in her beauty and power.

Crested Twig - Snow wraps the vertical!

Crested Twig – Snow wraps the vertical!

I wrote to one of my Secret Snow Pals this week, as our Saturday snow seemed to fizzle out around 9 a.m., instead of intensifying, “I suddenly realize that a minute without show is a minute without life.”  His wordless comment was a priceless video of his son in his first hour upon skis, upon snow…

Snow Visitor

Snow Visitor

Another Snow Pal, all on her own today, began exulting about the forms of the trees, still revealed now.  She actually is photographing and sketching intensively before the return of their leaves, which she calls “blowsy”!  I love it.

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I had an article, in the fullness of autumn, in US 1 (Business) Newspaper, about my impatience for winter to take its bow.  One of my main reasons is so that the sculptural qualities of each tree will be fully apparent.

Snow as Sculptor

Snow as Sculptor

O.K., I know snow can be dangerous.  So can fire.  They are elements in the most sacred sense — full of energy and bearing transformation.

When Ice Rules

When Ice Rules

As I have written elsewhere, including the Times of Trenton, on the importance of prolonged cold, the miracles it calls forth, if it weren’t for snow, I wouldn’t know about fox visits.

Fox Prints in Snow Below my Study Window

Fox Prints in Snow Below my Study Window

One of the best-received of intense poems given me in the year 2000 has to do with a fox, “that long-legged adolescent, who came to my song, in a time of beach plums and first frost…   but now, it is snowing, and the ruddy one curls, half cat, half pup, about my calves, to lure me to the cave..”  (Cool Women, Volume I)

Fox Signature at 23 Juniper

Fox Signature at 23 Juniper

I don’t see the foxes of Juniper, but they leave their signature on snow.

Fox in Snow by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer   (Ray Yeager Photography Blog)

Fox in Snow by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer (Ray Yeager Photography Blog)

Ray Yeager, fine art photographer whose work stars and sells so frequently at D&R Greenway Land Trust art exhibitions, has a splendid photography blog.  Which see, and which follow.  Ray does see the foxes in snow and in the night, at Island Beach State Park.

Wounded Majesty at Height of Storm

Wounded Majesty at Height of Storm

Somehow, trees at Society Hill have been harmed by the use of erroneous chemicals.  This is one of my favorites — its top all contorted by the poison.  A suit is ongoing and useless.  I want them to have the convoluted parts of the trees in my back yard trimmed, so that the majestic ones may pour all of their energy into nourishing the healthy parts.  Snow really brings out the elegance and heartiness of the wounded trees.

Softness of Snow

Softness of Snow at 23 Juniper

Can you see why I don’t want this magical phenomenon to stop, let alone melt?!

Even the Rescuers are Beautiful in Snow

Even the Rescuers are Beautiful in Snow

Even the snow removal trucks take on beauty and majesty.

Study View in Snow

Study View in Snow

Who wouldn’t write, in a setting like this?

Snow-Crested Illegal Bird-feeder Holder

Snow-Crested Illegal Bird-feeder Holder

We’re not allowed to feed birds at Society Hill, the only drawback besides the chemically altered or killed trees.  This shepherd’s crook was left by the previous tenant.  The astounding lightness of this snow — caused by exceptionally low temperatures in air and on the ground — is practically tactile in this picture.

Shadow Play on Snow

Shadow Play on Snow

Snow is both artist and canvas.

The Goddess Statue in the Snow

The Goddess Statue in the Snow

My dear friend and fellow poet, Penelope Schott, gave me this deity from her garden on Canal Road, when she moved to Portland.  The Goddess seems to be calling forth first sun.

Avian Visitors

Avian Visitors, Night Visitors, on the Welcome Mat

I am so deprived of birds here that I had to take a picture of the tracks of one, in the soft snow on the back door, French door, welcome mat.

Neighbor Lad's Snowman After the Snow

Neighbor Lad’s Snowman After the Snow

I am privileged to watch my neighbors’ five-year-old being pulled on a little red sled, gathering downed limbs, to turn into arms on his snowman.

***

A new member of the Snow Fan Club has been added, due to these words — exactly, what the other members and I have said, we have to be clandestine about this passion for snow:

I have to confess I love snow too, though it’s more complicated now than it used to be. I drove into & out of Princeton both Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and it was magical.
[ANYONE ELSE?  Snow Fans Anonymous….  cfe]
A Dear Friend and Fellow Poet sends this, after reading this blog, and says, Yes, why NOT add it to your blog:
So we add Robert Frost’s inescapable wry wisdom:
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
to say that for destruction ice
is also great
and would suffice.
I think this poem says it all about humanity. Alas.

SNOWBOUND — REMEMBERING THE MARSH, — A Winter Walk

Not all winters tie one to the house!.  Some draw you outside, inexorably, delightedly.

Here are some rare but typical scenes of what used to be the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh, now the Abbott Marshlands.

Come wander with me, no matter the weather.  Come relish New Jersey’s wild beauty.

Marsh Weeds in Spring Lake

Marsh Weeds in Spring Lake

The Lake was purportedly named by Indians because formed by an ever-renewing spring.

Marsh Frozen Spring Lake Winter 2014

Spring Lake Mostly Frozen — But Life Exists Herein

Marsh First Willows 2013

The Wonder of Willows, Marsh

Marsh, Where Muskrats Ramble

Where Muskrats Ramble, Near Spring Lake

NJWILDBEAUTY Readers know I have an enormous need to see either New Jersey’s wild creatures, or evidence of their presence, or both.

Beaver Lodge, Marsh -- in winter, beaver keep waters open for rare ducks

Beaver Lodge, Marsh — in winter, beaver keep waters open for rare ducks

Beaver Fppd

Beaver Food

Goose Trails, Spring Lake

Goose Trails, Spring Lake

Marsh Sandy Damage 2013

Eponymous Beech Tree, Damaged by Hurricane Sandy

Fallen Trunk Decorated with Fungus, Marsh

Fallen Trunk Decorated with Fungus, Marsh

Turkey Tail Fungus on Felled Trunk, Marsh

Turkey Tail Fungus on Felled Trunk, Marsh

This winter walk was taken with Town Topics writer par excellence, Linda Arntzenius.  Sometimes the iced trail was so narrow that only one boot at a time could make its way.  Hardly ever could we walk side-by-side, but what beauty was ours!

And such silence!  Sacred soundlessness — how very rare in the modern world.

Beavers' Midnight Snack

Beavers’ Midnight Snack

Where Turtles Lurk and Thrive

Where Turtles Lurk and Thrive

In season, one learns to seek tiny dark triangles in spring lake, triangles that move right along, for they are the heads of the lake’s majestic turtles.  Sometimes, also, in the lake, snakes swim.

In winter, walkers can follow the straight trails of foxes, out for a stroll or a hunt, and discover the wing marks of rising birds in fresh snow on downed trunks.

To get to the Marsh, take Route 1 South into Trenton to the South Broad Street exit.  Drive as directed round the arena, and turn left/south onto Broad Street.  After Lalor, which angles only on your right, look for a church with two steeples, followed by a red light at Sewell Avenue.  Turn right onto Sewell and go about five blocks until the road Ts at the Marsh itself.  Drive through the gate and park near the lake. Usually, you will be welcomed by stately swans in all seasons.

To learn the Marsh, check out http://www.marsh-friends.org.  Get onto their e-mail mailing list for hikes with Ornithologist Charlie Leck, Botanist Mary Leck, and Mercer County Naturalist, Jenn Rogers.  In all seasons, these merry experts will introduce you to the creatures who thrive in New Jersey because individuals and groups such as D&R Greenway preserved this freshwater tidal wetlands.