Sun Shines on New Jersey – Thanksgiving Birding, 2014

On Thanksgiving Day, one of ‘The Intrepids’, Jeanette Hooban, and I chose many birds over one.

This seems radical to many.

Come along with us, and draw your own conclusions.

Entering 'The Brig' -- Lily Lake Road

Entering ‘The Brig’ — Lily Lake Road

It was snowing when we left Lawrenceville, –like the light, powdery beautiful flakes that swirl around in snow globes.  This was the scene as we drove Lily Lake Road off Route 9, below Smithville, at Oceanville.

Ducks to the Right of us, Ducks to Our Left

Ducks to the Right of us, Ducks to Our Left

Where Mergansers and Buffleheads Play

Where Mergansers and Buffleheads Play

The water to the left of the Brig’s entry bridge is where I saw my first truly wild mute swans, my first gadwall, and, this day, our major quests — hooded mergansers and their smaller look-alikes, buffleheads.  NJWILDBEAUTY readers know my camera doesn’t do well with birds.  So you’ll have to take our word for the fact that these black and white wonders are in this scene.

Leed's Eco-Trail Memorial 'Board'walk

Leed’s Eco-Trail Memorial ‘Board’walk

Water, Water Everywhere, Leeds Eco-Trail

Water, Water Everywhere, Leeds Eco-Trail

From the Leeds Eco-Trail, we watched a commanding great blue heron masterfully prowl his domain, successfully catching and swallowing more fish than we can count.  On the trail’s railing, a female belted kingfisher carried on in similar fashion.  A tardy osprey coasted above, lord of all he surveyed.  A massive and graceful female harrier patrolled the lower reaches.  We hadn’t even been in the Brig a quarter of an hour.

My Favorite Landscape, Preserved Wetlands

My Favorite Landscape, Preserved Wetlands

Great Blue Heron, Study in Alertness

Great Blue Heron, Study in Alertness

We took the all-too-short forested trail off Leeds Eco, which used to be complete all the way ’round, before sea-level rise, sustained too-high tides, all-too-frequent Nor’easters, full moon tides and hurricanes.

Lone Unknown Track, Forest Trail near Leeds Eco-

Lone Unknown Track, Forest Trail near Leeds Eco-

Sneak Boats with Rifles, off the Brig, in Absecon Bay

Sneak Boats with Rifles, off the Brig, in Absecon Bay

One of two sneakboats, a Tuckerton specialty of aeons ago, bristling with rifles, right off the refuge.  Atlantic City is behind this boat.  There was not a single bird, not even a gull, on this side of ‘The Brig.’  It is formally named the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.

The birds were brilliant — hiding out on the opposite side.

Brant Hiding on North Side of Refuge, far from Sneakboats and Rifles and Death

Brant Hiding on North Side of Refuge, far from Sneakboats and Rifles and Death

The Dike Road Stretching East, toward Brigantine Island

The Dike Road Stretching East, toward Brigantine Island

This road was severely devoured by Hurricane Sandy, in two places.  It has been renewed, but with what I call Army Corps of Engineer Sand — a ghastly color, thick and coarse.  It is already washing away in clusters of runnels on two sides of the observation tower.  As though the sea, having once had its way with the Brig, is determined to return…

Inside the Refuge, we were also given one trumpeter swan – enormous wingspread, thoroughly black beak, no yellow lores; some tundra swans — smaller in wing, yellow lores, in a flock; and about a hundred snow geese, silent and grounded but thrilling.  This was one of those days when the entire beauty of the Refuge took us over, scene after scene.  The bird tally would not be kept.  The beauty tally is here.

We always go over to Scott’s Landing, near Leeds Point, after ‘Brigging’.  Here are some of the miracles of that stretch, part of Forsythe, but mostly accessible only by watercraft.

Nature's Artistry Scotts Landing Nov. 2014 015

Nature’s Artistry at Scott’s Landing

Dockside Grasses Scotts Landing Nov. 2014 016

Heaven and Haven for Waterflowl Scotts Landing Nov. 2014 017

Rail Central at Scott's Landing, though none on Thanksgiving

Rail Central at Scott’s Landing, though none on Thanksgiving

Jeanette Hooban Studies How to Shoot Ducks at Scotts Landing

Jeanette Hooban Studies How to Shoot Ducks at Scotts Landing

Tranquillity Base, Scotts Landing

Tranquillity Base, Scotts Landing

Scots Landing Timeless Waterways

Scots Landing Timeless Waterways

Last Rays Scotts Landing -- A Place Beyond Time

Last Rays Scotts Landing — A Place Beyond Time

Why Preserve

Why Preserve

Then we take a short, slow ride to Leeds Point, a true fishing village to this day.  Clams and crabs are the order of the day.  The Oyster Creek Inn, at this Point, knows how to cook fish and shellfish in the simple ancient ways, in a place that bustles in summer.  Not on Thanksgiving.

Sundown, Thanksgiving, Leeds Point

Sundown, Thanksgiving, Leeds Point

“Day is done, gone the sun…”

The moral of these pictures is, preserve every inch of open space in our beleaguered New Jersey, especially the watery inches!

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Sandy Hook Spring At Last!

Bahr's  DoorBahrs Seafood Mecca, Front Door, near Sandy Hook

One of the highlights of this convoluted spring was a quick Friday journey over to Sandy Hook and back, in early May.  It’s a tradition to take my dear friend, Tasha O’Neill, to Bahrs Landing (family-run seafood mecca since 1917 or so) for her late April birthday.  Weather made us tardy this year, but Bahrs was as glorious as ever.  Bayside table, sun-on-water, fishermen returning with their catch, gulls and cormorants following the orange-clad fishermen in their bright boats.

IMG_1038Scallops and Yuengling at Bahrs, and a Lobster Roll Across the Table

We spent the entire gilded afternoon on Sandy Hook’s margins, bird-vigilant.  We were richly rewarded.

Bahr's Sign late Aprio 2010Bahrs Sign — Gateway to Delights

My camera does not do justice to birds, so the osprey nest exchanges and the courting great blue herons, serried rows of cormorants on dark pilings, and the remarkable green heron in a secluded pool will go unimaged in this post.

Osprey Flight, Sandy Hook, NJ 4-26-11 DSC_1175[2]Osprey in Flight Over Sandy Hook, by Brenda Jones

However, there are other signs of spring at Sandy Hook, in addition to rare birds.

HeronJuveniles6x6BrendaJonesGreat Blue Herons, Brenda Jones

The beach became a canvas, splashed with the unexpected soft burgeoning of beach plum and the sturdy renascence of prickly pear.

Tasha Carolyn Bahrs Sandy Hook AprilTasha O’Neill and Carolyn, Bundled for Spring Birding at Sandy Hook

In the distance, at North Beach, the Verrazano Bridge shimmered like a spider’s blue-black web against a washed out Narrows.  Wall Street rose like the wall for which it was names (between properties of the Delafields and the Harveys, I was told, in the Hudson River Valley.  Delafields and Harveys live in Princeton to this day, without requiring walls.)

Beach Plum Tardy blossoming Sandy Hook May 2014Beach Plum Burgeoning, Sandy Hook, Early May 2014

Prickly Pear Rainbow Sandy Hook May 2014Prickly Pear Renascence, Sandy Hook, Early May 2014

Aretmesia Sandy Hook May 2014Artemesia, Sandy Hook, Early May, 2014

I’ll add some images from a winter’s birding day — when the seafood was equally spectacular, and the birding frankly not gratifying.  Our best birds of winter were seen from our table at Bahrs — including a goldeneye.  Our most surprising was in a thicket surrounding a parking lot – a hermit thrush.  Above our car, in a cedar, to be sure, was a flock of cedar waxwings, who flew off as one, making lovely music.

High Clouds and Herons Sandy Hook May 2014High Clouds and Courting Herons, Early May, 2014

No thrushes nor waxwings in May, but the sharp cries of duelling oystercatchers had welcomed us to ‘the Hook’.  And the lilting love songs of osprey serenaded us throughout our sojourn.

Oyster Catcher at BarnegatOystercatcher, LBI, by Brenda Jones

Moral of the story, go in winter, even though bleak, for miracles await.

Return in spring for different winged blessings.

Get yourself out into Nature every chance you get, before climate change strips its glories.

And do whatever you can to preserve Nature everywhere you can, through your splendid local land trusts.  You know who they are!

dugout canoe Lenni Lenape at BahrsIndian Dugout Canoe, Formerly at Bahrs, Lost to Sandy