“DUCKY DAY AT ISLAND BEACH”, JANUARY 2018

This post features a series of images of rare birds found with good friends, on last weekend’s Island Beach hikes.  Yes, it was January.  Yes, there’s been wild weather.  Know that part of the lure in winter hiking lies in defying the elements, –being OUT THERE with Nature, no matter what!  And, besides, with such friendships of this magnitude, only the highest good unfurls.

Merganser male Millstone Aqueduct Brenda Jones

Merganser Male, by Brenda Jones

A series of Internet scenes of our rarities awaits — so you can see why it really didn’t matter that we did not fulfill our snowy-owl-quest this time.

***

So long as I’ve been writing about nature, I’ve been ‘on my soapbox’ that Nature does not ring down her curtain on or around Labor Day.  Those of you who hike with me know that possibly my FAVORITE season to be outdoors is winter.  It hasn’t been easy lately, but NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that we had a glorious day-long exploration of Plainsboro Preserve not long ago, threading our way among glorious arrays of ice.

common loon winter plumage from Internet

Common Loon, Winter Plumage by Elisa De Levis from Internet

This past weekend, Ray Yeager, Angela Previte (superb nature photographers who live near Island Beach); Angela’s husband, Bob, -avid birder and extremely knowledge about all aspects of photography; ‘my” Intrepids, Jeanette Hooban and Bill Rawlyk and I met at the entry of Island Beach for a mid-day-long snowy owl quest.

common loon winter take-off from Internet

Loon Take-off from Internet by Dave Hawkins from Internet

Despite our January reality, a handy aspect of I.B. treks is that, –on windy and wintry days–, you can ‘hike sideways’.  I.e., get out of the wind by taking various oceanside and bayside trails, protected from gusts by dunes or forest or both .  If you Google Island Beach, on NJWILSBEAUTY, you’ll find Bill, Jeanette, Mary Penney and me down there, in an autumn nor’easter about which none of us had somehow been warned.  That storm grew more and more fierce, as we and a flock of playful merlins headed as far east as we possibly could.   Those merlins were beating their way right into the height of those terrific winds.  They executed abrupt and daring turns, to be intentionally blown back westward , right out over the bay.  No sooner did the merlins vanish than they reappeared.  We had no idea that birds, raptors, let alone merlins, PLAYED.  In that same torrent of winds, and, yes, rain, hundreds of swallows were staging for migration.  If we hadn’t been out in the elements, think what we’d’ve missed!

It didn’t take us long last weekend to discover that snowy owls do not like warmth, let alone snowlessness.

smiling Common MerganserFemale Brenda Jones

Female Merganser by Brenda Jones

Instead, we were given, –at the first bathing pavilion’s short boardwalk–.  a smooth, rotund, swelling ocean, afloat with winter ducks of many species, all in dazzling winter plumage, otherwise known as full=breeding.  Species after species of wild birds rose and fell upon voluminous swells.  Each had the dignity of a monarch en route to or from coronation,.  These birds were not feeding.  They were not even interacting.  Few were flying, though some did regularly join their relatives on that sea of molten jade.    Hundreds rode the pillowy waves, which seemed almost determined not to crest or break.  Mesmerized by the variety and serenity of these avian crowds, we paced back and forth on the warm solid sand for nearly an hour, enthralled.

bufflehead Brenda JonesMale Bufflehead by Brenda Jones.

I’m going to shock and/or let down a great many people when I say I had no need of a snowy owl that day.

long-tailed ducks in flight from Internet Ken hoehn

Long-tailed ducks coming in for a landing by Ken Hoehn – papillophotos.com

We talked about the probability that the bird seen by naturalist Bill Rawlyk at entry may well have been a northern shrike, feeding at the crest of a laden bayberry shrub.  Some years ago, at this identical spot, I had discovered this unique creature, being at I.B. then on a Bohemian waxwing quest.  I had no idea what that ‘masked mocking bird’ could be. Calling Audubon when I returned home, describing the scrubby evergreens and bountiful bayberries, I was congratulated upon having found a northeren shrike.  It happened again the next year at the same spot.  Each time, the Audubon person asked my permission to list my find on the hot-line.  Of course, this amateur birder gave a very pleased assent  This weekend, Bill remarked on a certain intensity in the bird — slightly heftier, a bit whiter, an arrogance not seen in mockers.  But it was the bayberry bush that decided us — major winter food for (otherwise almost chillingly carnivorous) shrikes..    Part of the fun of being with this merry crew of enthusiasts  is playing the identification game.

female long-tailed duck from internet

Female long-tailed duck in winter/full-breeding plumage from Internet

Other trails that lured us that long sunny afternoon were the Judge’s Shack (#12) and Spizzle Creek.  In no time, we had tucked our jackets, hats and gloves back into the cars.  Most were beginning to regret not having remembered our sun block — all but the two professional photographersg us.  Ray and Angela were having a field day with their immense legends, capturing so many species so gently afloat.  I’ll let them share their masterpieces on Facebook and Ray’s RayYeagerPhotographyBlog.  I’ll give you the Internet:

male long-tailed duck from INternet

Male long-tailed duck in winter plumage, full-breeding plumage, from Internet

Snow was rare.  Ice intriguing.  At Spizzle Creek, we were all acutely missing ‘our’ osprey, egrets and herons of other seasons.  Our gift there, though, was the presence of handsome brant.  In our experience lately, brant sightings have become scarce.  Certain essential grasses are not doing well along our coasts, which also happened during the Great Depression years — nearly depriving us of this handsome species.

Brant Goose Drinking BarnegatBrant Feeding, by Brenda Jones

northern-shrike-from internet

Deceptively sweet northern shrike probably seen by Bill Rawlyk on Bayberry at Island Beach entry — image from Internet: (RD)

When I tell people about our January beachwalks, my listeners seem puzzled-to-skeptical.  We couldn’t have had better weather.  Fellowship was at peak throughout.  Angela’s husband, Bob, kindly served as sentinel for all the camera-wielders — alerting all as tide-thrust waves threatened to drown our footgear.  Warm we were, but not even Jeanette was barefoot this time.

Angela and Ray knew exactly where to seek 1918’s array of snowy owls.  But, after that all-star cast adrift upon molten silver waves,  snowies had become “the last thing on our minds.”

Try winter trekking — surprises await!

Always remember, these rare species could not be here without the powerful advocacy of determined preservationists.  Even though I work for D&R Greenway Land Trust, I’m very clear that the saving of our waterways is every bit as important.

In fact, I take the stand that, in our New Jersey, with its unique three (count them!) coastlines, the well-being of water is a thousand times more crucialUnder NO CIRCUMSTANCES must even one oil well take its place off our Shores!

 

 

STONE CIRCLES — POEM

 

 

 

Sourlands Rocks 08 08

Rock as Smiling Dolphin Sourlands 08 08SOURLANDS ROCKS OFF GREENWOOD AVENUE TRAIL

(For you — newest poem, read in the Open Reading following Princeton’s Cool Women’s memorable performance Monday, at Princeton Public Library.  This poem was inspired by reading Jim Amon’s, naturalist, memories of Sourlands hikes  in the newsletter of the Sourland Conservancy.  It will appear in their spring issue.) 

STONE CIRCLES

 

it’s about the rocks

towering

megalithic, actually

 

clustering

on either side

of this Sourland Mountain trail

 

turning in at the blue blaze

there is change

in the air itself

 

those who purloined these sentinels

seem not to have reached

this deeply into sanctuary

 

leaving sunlight and oven birds

I step into sacred sites

feel our brother Lenape

 

noiselessly entering

focused on the keystone

where the chief presided

 

councils were held here

decisions determined

smoke rising from pipes

 

transitions were planned here

from hunting to gathering

then back once again to the hunt

 

a 21st-century pilgrim

I bow to these predecessors

apologizing for all our

depredations

 

Carolyn Foote Edelmann

November 13, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

Idyllyic Trail, the Berkshires: Hopkins Forest, Williamstown, Massachusetts

This is part of a collection of posts on our recent Williamstown, Massachusetts, hiking excursion.  Two dear friends joined me for almost a week in mountains, early in May.

Clark Trail Tiffany Effect

Clark Trail Tiffany Effect Before Hurricane Sandy, October Scene

That idyllic college town is surrounded by impressive mountains, –changing shape, color and majesty every few hours.  Rumor has it that Melville was inspired to write Moby Dick by gazing at the hulk of Mt. Greylock from his Berkshire hideaway.

Mt. Greylock from below, Williamstown, Mass.

Mt. Greylock from below, Williamstown, Mass.

As NJWILDBEAUTY readers already knows, alluring trails are everywhere — even on the grounds of the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute of Art, and ditto re the Bennington (VT) Museum.

"Nothin' but Blue Skies, From Now On..."

Mountains Everywhere, en route to Bennington VT – 9 miles from Williamstown

We’d spend four hours in woods alongside streams, earning ever-changing views with every few steps — then lunch, and do art museums all afternoon.  My idea of heaven!  Our attention on the Hopkins were delicate and often rare [spring flowers]  ephemerals tiptoeing into light on every side.

Clearing after Storm, Apple Barn, Bennington VT

Clearing after Autumn Storm, Apple Barn, Bennington VT

Words are not the point for this post.  Let the pictures carry you with Jeanette Hooban. Carolyn Yoder and me, on Hopkins Forest trails, my Berkshire favorite — as spring awakened in those sacred mountains.

Hopkins Parking Sign -- We are not in Kansas (i.e., New Jersey) Any More

Hopkins Parking Sign — We are not in Kansas (i.e., New Jersey) Any More

Jeanette Forging into Hopkins Forest

Jeanette Forging into Hopkins Forest

Berries of Spring in Hopkins Forest

Berries of Spring in Hopkins Forest

First Foam Flowers, Hopkins Forest

First Foam Flowers, Hopkins Forest

Still Life With Granite, Hopkins

Still Life With Granite, Hopkins

Rare Princess Pine and Canada Mayflower, May in Hopkins Forest, Williamstown

Rare Princess Pine and Canada Mayflower, May in Hopkins Forest, Williamstown

True Solomon's Seal, Hopkins Trail

True Solomon’s Seal, Hopkins Trail

Fungus Doing the Work of the Woods, Hopkins Trail

Fungus Doing the Work of the Woods, Hopkins Trail

Newborn Beech in the Beechwood, Hopkins Trail

Newborn Beech in the Beechwood, Hopkins Trail

Unfurling Fiddlehead - Spring Genesis, Hopkins Trail

Unfurling Fiddlehead – Spring Genesis, Hopkins Trail

Off They Go, Into the Hopkins Forest

Off They Go, Into the Hopkins Forest

Shy Trout Lily Peeks Out among Tree Roots, far from its usual favorite streamside habitat

Shy Trout Lily Peeks Out among Tree Roots, far from its usual favorite streamside habitat\

Hopkins Forest Signs

Hopkins Forest Signs

The Happy Wanderers, Hopkins Forest Trail, Williamstown, Mass.

The Happy Wanderers, Hopkins Forest Trail, Williamstown, Mass.

Berkshires Hike – Clark Art Institute Forest, Williamstown

How can a journey among three friends to a region new to two of them turn out to be perfect?

Especially when these three, who do bird together on long excursions, have, nevertheless never gone anywhere overnight together before?

Our fellowship, already splendid, deepened with every new trail or museum, bird and wildflower.

Perfection is always the reality in Williamstown.

The best thing about Williamstown is that it is entirely ringed by mountains.  Out every window of the Clark Art Institute, beauty stuns, in serious competition with Ghirlandaios, Winslow Homers and Renoirs on the walls.

To run an errand is to be surrounded by mountains.

To eat an unexpected and vivid Mexican supper (see earlier post) is to sit across a babbling river from a steep mountainside entirely forested.

To wake to mountains, that shadowy mountains are your last glimpse at bedtime, –there is no greater privilege.

I am still wordless regarding this spectacular journey.  It’s never easy for a poet to admit that a picture is worth 10,000 words, but it’s truer and truer in my experience.

Here is the scrapbook of perfection: some of the trails on the grounds of the Clark.

Teepee of 21st Century, Clark Art Institute Trail

Teepee of 21st Century, Clark Art Institute Trail

One of Few Signs, Clark Art Institute Trail

One of Few Signs, Clark Art Institute Trail

First Sensitive Fern, Clark Art Institute Trail

First Sensitive Fern, Clark Art Institute Trail

First Trillium, Clark Art Institute Trail

First Trillium, Clark Art Institute Trail

Beechwood Glow, Clark Art Institute Trail

Beechwood Glow, Clark Art Institute Trail

Cairn at the Crossroads, Clark Art Institute Trail

Cairn at the Crossroads, Clark Art Institute Trail

Tadao Ando's First Clark Art Institute Building

Tadao Ando’s First Clark Art Institute Building

Normandy Clouds, Boudin and Jongkind Clouds, Clark Art Institute Building by Tadao Ando

Normandy Clouds, Boudin and Jongkind Clouds, Clark Art Institute Building by Tadao Ando

Eternal Sentinels, Clark Art Institute Woods

Eternal Sentinels, Clark Art Institute Woods

A QUESTION OF VALLEYS

Delaware River image 1 green hills

Delaware River Valley

A QUESTION OF VALLEYS

Throughout most of Robert Macfarlane’s books on old ways and wild places, I’m right there with him. But I part ways with this adventuresome author, –quite literally–, when he speaks of the capacity of valleys to “shock our thoughts.” Macfarlane’s idea of a valley involves “cresting a ridge,” and “significant dropping away of the ground” at his feet.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone 1

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

It surprises me to disagree with this powerful, experienced, eloquent writer. I’ve ‘journeyed’ with him for weeks now, learning not only amazing trails in Scotland and Ireland mostly, but also a string of new vocabulary words to equal my year in Provence. I honor Macfarlane and yet I beg to differ as to the meaning and effect of valleys.

Goat Hill View of Delaware River Valley Brenda Jones

Goat Hill Preserve View of Delaware looking north, by Brenda Jones

The last thing that comes to my mind concerning valleys is edges or crests.
I do rejoice in his emphasis on valleys’ capacity. What would be my valley words?
wide / broad
deep / profound
often wooded,
comforting
welcoming
enveloping
gentling
soothing
often blessed by waterfalls
laved by streams, sometimes invisible, even inaudible.
silence except for birdsong, and/or breezes in treetops
secluded
subtle
places of solitude
rich in grandeur

Materhorn reflected

Materhorn Valley

I feel wrapped by every valley I revisit in memory.

Hopewell Valley Paintking by Joe Kaziemierczyk

Hopewell Valley from St. Michaels Preserve

by Joe Kazimierczyk

Macfarlane’s “edge-dropping-off” phenomenon was the harsh reality in Provence’s Gorge du Verdon. I drove it, –rather well, actually–, but there was no welcoming atmosphere, such as suffuses me in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

Gorges du Verdon Valley 1

Gorge du Verdon, Provence, France

 

Even studded with trees and tumbled with rocks, the valleys I’ve hiked and kayaked have been hushed.

Delaware River Kayaking at Bulls Island

Kayaking the Delaware River North from Bull’s Island

I seek valleys as antidotes to our harsh world, this arena of bustle, noise and harm

Maroon Bells storm

Maroon Bells Valley, which I’ve known only on skis

In the depths of valleys, light trickles in like sunrays pouring from distant cumulus clouds. It’s something about light juxtaposed with darkness, and its effect on me is uplift, otherwise known as hope.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with rainbow

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone With Rainbow

Valleys cradle life: In certain seasons, in certain valleys, salmon splash and writhe en route to natal sites. Eggs will be released in pristine pools, above glistening pebbles, in soundless eddies of whatever waterway blesses that valley.

Oregon Columbia River Gorge from Cascade Locks

Columbia River Gorge, May 2014, by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Remoteness and stillness are essential for this recurring miracle. Along their way, creatures from ospreys to eagles to bears, and God knows how many microbes, will have been nourished, while the sapping away of salmon essence nourishes towering trees.

Indian fishing for spring chinook in Oregon Des Chutes and White River trip, May 2014 006

Indian Fishing The Old Ways, Des Chutes River, near Columbia

Oregon 2014 by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Some valleys, such as the Columbia and its tributaries, belong to the Indians, their ancient ways and skills.

Tying the Net Spring Chinook Run along Oregon Des Chutes and White River trip, May 2014 010

Tying the Net, Des Chutes River

Oregon, 2014 by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

“Valley” has a somewhat different meaning in our Hopewell Valle, our Delaware River Valley. Here, ‘the Valley’ is something to be protected at all costs, both land and water. At D&R Greenway we have worked day and night, since 1989, –protesting, writing, negotiating, funding, pondering, discussing, acting, publicizing, celebrating, even literally building trails and weeding, then planting the natives of the Delaware Valley. We create art and science events to call attention to the urgency of preserving these valleys and their sacred waterways, in perpetuity. We were founded to save waters and lands of the Delaware & Raritan Canal. We’re now in seven counties, including the lands and waters of the sacred Delaware Bay, guarding the watershed, of that essential River, and the sea to which she journeys.

Table View Black Bass Autumn 2010

View of Delaware Valley from Table at Black Bass Inn

by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

In the 1980’s, a broad array of people from New Jersey and Pennsylvania fought and lost the battle to prevent “The Pump” from removing 200 million gallons a day from our tidal river. We did succeed in lowering the amount of water taken daily, to cool a nuclear plant on the Susquehanna. It is hard to hold full gratitude and pride for a partial victory. But the Delaware, creator of this valley, thrives because of those efforts. Some of its reaches have been officially named “wild and scenic.” Some of its reaches welcome the holy shad each April, on their run to their natal territories.

Delaware's Watery Beauty, Spring

Peaceful Delaware River Spring from Bull’s Island

by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Once, hiking in bathing suits and bare feet, my family climbed down a Jamaican valley, accompanied by a blithe waterfall. At the bottom, we sat for timeless time, in the salt sea, blessed by the freshwater falls. That startling juxtaposition remains rare. That Jamaica valley recedes into mythic time. But the blending of salt and fresh takes place each day in our Delaware, all the way up to Trenton. One spring, a whale demonstrated this reality by coming so far after shad in the spring that it could be seen at the Scenic Observatory on Route 295 adjacent to Trenton.

East Point  The Beckoning   Delaware Bay

Delaware Bay at East Point Light

Fall 2014, by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

The valleys of memory take many forms. For me, none involves “shock”. Macfarlane is a phenomenal writer, and taking virtual hikes with him enriches my days and nights. Valleys are not, however, about edges dropping away below my feet. Valleys are refuge; valleys are home.

Materhorn Valley image evening

How the Materhorn Valley Shelters at Night

when you’re staying/skiing in Zermatt

Long ago, I fell in love with Robert Frost’s description of woods as “lovely, dark and deep.” Valleys are the true possessors of that description.