WHEN YOUR EASTER OUTFIT IS BIRDING GEAR…

Hold on to your Hat Jeanette Hooban at Cape May Hawk Watch Platform Easter 2017

“HOLD ONTO YOUR HAT!” – Intrepid Jeanette Hooban on Easter

Hawk Watch Platform, Cape May, New Jersey

Over the weekend, yours truly set off for New Jersey’s two birding meccas, –Cape May and ‘The Brig’/Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.  As usual, she was running away from Holidays that used to be magical, in quest of winged rarities.  This memorable journey unfolded after Intrepid Jeanette Hooban declared [some months ago], “Carolyn, Easter is YOURS!”

Cape May Hawk Watch Platform aster 2017

HAWK WATCH PLATFORM:  Support these courageous and generous donors, without whose work and words, people could still be slaughtering rare birds by the thousands, all along Sunset Boulevard.

The Climate Change that ‘doesn’t exist’ had other ideas.  Gale-winds had flags snapping almost to the tearing point.  Out of the SOUTH — the direction in which migrants need to be flying.  They may as well have faced a wall.

Wild Wind & Flags Cape May Easter 2017

NOTE THOSE WIND-WHIPPED FLAGS

Jeanette and I learned that only swans, osprey and a smattering of gulls were strong enough either day to surmount the mistral-like onslaught.

Mute Swan in Territorializing Posture Cape May Easter 2017

MUTE SWAN INSTITUTES TERRITORIALIZING POSTURE

We were given three oystercatchers at the Meadows at Cape May — walking around, seeking the ideal spot for the scrape they consider a nest.  Territorialzing was inevitable and amazingly raucous.  Get that verb though, “walking.”  At the Brig, –on the side of the renovated road, opposite Atlantic City–,  a pair of oystercatchers walked around on the pale gravelly substrate, nesting on their minds.  These could have been the pair I watched feeding one young a summer ago, in that same place, where Sandy had devoured the road.

There were a few great egrets in stunning breeding plumage.  They, also, were walking.  Terns wheeled and plunged.  A yellowlegs (I can’t tell greater from lesser unless they’re side-by-side) and some willets also tried to feed in low water, –feed on foot, not on wings.

So, right now, your NJ WILDBEAUTY Cape May activity report is being replaced this time by this poem.  It was written when the Dodge Poetry Festival was still held at Waterloo Village.  Joy Harjo, a feisty, eloquent Native American, magnificently conveyed her splendid multi-level poem, “She Had Some Horses.”

 

“SHE SAW SOME BIRDS”

                                                           (Hearing Joy Harjo at the  Dodge Poetry Festival)

 

she saw some birds who

were little and magical

and easily mistaken

— one for the other —

warbling in underbrush

and sporting, at the last moment

a red kiss

or a brassy crown or a

gold coin on a dark

rump, — and tiny, so tiny

really almost

invisible

 

she saw some birds who

were too high on a tree-

limb or a thermal

or above slate seas

and twisting — this

way and that –, hiding

their field marks

 

they could have been

peregrine or immature golden

against the noon sun but

no one can quite

make this call

 

she saw some birds

with distinctive bellies

plastered flat against

dark trunks which they were

excavating high and deep

where no one can climb

or raid or even — at the very

least — identify

 

she heard some birds

in the wide marsh

as the sun slipped

away from her and even

worse, from her birds

 

who had concealed

themselves among sere rushes

which they exactly matched

so she could not see but only

hear their rattle or click or whine

and wonder if this was her

rail, her shy bittern

 

the ones who so skillfully lose

themselves in the sedges as

she so longs to do in such

a setting,… everywhere

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

 

Advertisements

“I MUST GO DOWN TO THE SEA AGAIN…” — CHATHAM, MASS. SURPASSES EXPECTATIONS

Tall Ship, (sort-of), Mac Millan Wharf, Provincetown

Tall Ship, (sort-of), Mac Millan Wharf, Provincetown

This line from John Masefield has always been resonant to me, since long before this Michigander ever encountered an ocean.  It continues, “…the lonely sea, and the sky…   and all I ask is a tall ship…  and a star to steer her by”

Walking the Plank, Brewster Marsh, Wing Trail at Low Tide

Walking the Plank, Brewster Marsh, Wing Trail at Low Tide

I’m just back from a place of seas, bays, sounds, creeks where ‘herrings’ (alewives) ‘run’ (swim in forceful schools) in the spring, limitless marshlands crossed on planks.  Yes, I even encountered a tall ship or two, matters piratical, and wild Provincetown and other Cape interpretations of Hallowe’en, as you know from the previous post.

"Down to the Sea", Harbormaster's Life Preserver and Antique Salvaged Anchor, Provincetown Wharf

“Down to the Sea”, Harbormaster’s Life Preserver and Antique Salvaged Anchor, Provincetown Wharf

Those among my NJWILDBEAUTY readers who know me personally, know that my major haven, when I had a family, was Chatham, Massachusetts.  West Chatham, Harding’s Beach, to be exact.  A tiny grey-shingled single-floored house on Nantucket Sound, from which I could walk the beach from morning til night, down to Stage Harbor Light.  Sometimes, we’d even do it by moonlight.  Once, the girls and I even swam it, just to see if we could.  We could.

From Harding's Beach to Stage Harbor Light, Chatham, Mass.

From Harding’s Beach to Stage Harbor Light, Chatham, Mass.

Some of you also know that I lost both my beloved, beautiful, and yes, brilliant (they always want the best and the brightest) daughters to an aggressive cult during the 1980’s.  Brainwashing appears to be permanent.

Cults are worse than any Hallowe’en drama — turning all treats for the remainder of life to tricks and/or tragedy.

But beautiful places, strong fellowship, and determined creating of new memories can serve as antidote.

'Our' Home for Seven Weeks Each Late Summer in the 1970's and 80's, but tripled in size now...

‘Our’ Home for Seven Weeks Each Late Summer in the 1970’s and 80’s, but tripled in size now…

I know because I braved Chatham return with two of The Intrepids last week.

'Our' Road, Heading toward South Chatham and Harwich, unchanged...

‘Our’ Road, Heading toward South Chatham and Harwich, unchanged…

That idyllic place was everything I needed, and THEN some.

First View, Evening Arrival, Taylor Pond,Cottage, South Chatham

First View, Evening Arrival, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

First Sunset, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

First Sunset, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

You’ll be traveling Chatham and Brewster and Provincetown shores and streets with me in the weeks of this difficult month of the girls’ birthdays.

Fellowship is EVERYTHING!

Carolyn Yoder beachcombing at Hardint's Beach at High Tide

Carolyn Yoder beachcombing at Hardint’s Beach at High Tide

Jeanette Hooban following brant flock at Brewster Beach of Paine's Lane, at High Tide

Jeanette Hooban following brant flock at Brewster Beach of Paine’s Lane, at High Tide

It’s funny — seems like it was always high tide when we arrived at destinations.  True friends can re-think, rearrange, re-plan, and relish every nuance, no matter where, because we’re together.

Ur-Lobster Roll, Quintessential Cole Slaw, The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

Ur-Lobster Roll, Quintessential Cole Slaw, The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

Lobster Pot Restaurant Provincetown Lunch at Lobster Pot

Haven at Land’s End

Lobster, Avocado and Mango with Sauteed Baguette, The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

Lobster, Avocado and Mango with Sauteed Baguette, The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

You could call our meals “Early Thanksgivings” — especially the Wellfleet Oysters!

Rainy-Day Haven, Chatham

Rainy-Day Haven, Chatham

Impudent Oyster Dining Room Early for Lunch

Early for Lunch

Memorable Oysters, Impudent Oyster, Chatham Bars Ave., Chatham

Memorable Oysters, Impudent Oyster, Chatham Bars Ave., Chatham

The above was a meal as predicted drizzle began to sift from oyster skies, after a morning of seeing seals beyond counting upon ‘Chatham bars’, — a major sandbar below the main Chatham lighthouse.

Chatham Light, Storm Appropriately Brewing

Chatham Light, Storm Appropriately Brewing

I hope some of the scintillation of my Cape Cod return flashes all around you as you view upcoming mages and read scant words.

Last Fire, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

Last Fire, Taylor Pond Cottage, South Chatham

I hope that having gone “down to the sea again” with us reminds NJWILDBEAUTY readers of their own major reasons to be thankful that such luminous places persist in our 21st Century.

There may be no more important concept in our time than PRESERVATION.

DAYS OF SWANS and THRUSHES — Naturalists ‘Bird’ Despite Storms

Solitary Swan by Brenda Jones

Solitary Swan by Brenda Jones

People who are constantly battered by storms find themselves stir-crazy.  This dire condition is particularly offensive to naturalists.  When we make plans to bird anyway, observers are known to diagnose us as plain crazy.  Be that as it may, two magnificent days unfolded among birds between this week’s most recent snows.

Two friends defied public opinion to set out for Sandy Hook with me on Friday.  We carried, and later stuffed ourselves  into, gear the equal of anything I ever wore skiing in Aspen and Zermatt.

All that garb wasn’t necessary for our first spectacular birds of that day.  Removing coats at the table of Bahrs (seafood restaurant par excellence, Atlantic Highlands, feeding the public since 1917 or before), we picked up our optics before we opened our menus.

“Grebe?,” one questioned.  “Diving duck.” Another answered.  Waterbirds awash in vivid color whirled and fed, right in the tidally thin Shrewsbury River, practically at our feet.  True birders carry their binoculars anywhere a feather might show up.  They also take their Sibleys (best bird guide) into restaurants by water.  David (Allen Sibley) and sharp eyes noting a variegated beak proved that the first star of Friday’s bird show was a common goldeneye.  I had only seen a goldeneye in books.  You’re supposed to do a ritual dance when you come upon a life bird such as I did.  I left that ritual unperformed.  And yes, we did finally order, starting with fresh oysters, three different species from Maine (the tiniest the most savory), two from Connecticut, one from the Chesapeake

We tore our eyes from the goldeneye as a stunning female merganser hove into view.  She’s the one who seems to have stuck a wing into a light socket — her red ‘hair’ frizzed into the most radical of “Mohawks”.  Her mate’s hair-do (feather-do?) was equally electrifying — only a rich forest green.  Right below us, we feasted our eyes on dazzling white splotches among his back feathers, like portholes on the S.S. France.  The two mergansers fed ceaselessly in the waning tide.  Anne Zeman insisted that the female was actually tired of eating.

Beyond pilings where fishing boats usually moor, a family of merry buffleheads bopped up and down.  Black and white, round (hunters called them butterballs) as rubber duckies, they carried on in complex minuets.  ‘Buffies’ disappear so suddenly and so completely, you think you imagined them.  Then there they are again!  Either three cormorants, or one comorant three times, arrowed past, his burnished beak so vivid in that rare sun.

The palette of our lunchtime birds was gold, red, red-orange and red-gold.  Beaks and legs vied with immaculate feathers.  It was as though someone had tugged all those colors out of the Crayola box, scribbling as hard as he or she could on beaks and feathers and legs; then shone the brightest lantern onto each and every species.

Over into Sandy Hook itself, we would see more birds than cars.  That’s a first.

Right by Spermaceti Cove at the entry, where we were supposed to find oystercatchers, we flushed a great blue heron.  The three of us, [bundled to the teeth, hardly anything showing, not even our eyes, for they were deep in binoculars], were trekking along the highway verge above the cove.  Sandy had chewed up and spit out the boardwalk that always led us to far reaches to find rare birds.  We literally heard the concussion of air in wings, as a majestic great blue heron erupted at our approach.

At the hawk watch platform, at North Beach, not a creature was stirring.  Forget snowies, — snowy owls which have been sighted at ‘the Hook’ all winter, were nowhere in evidence.  Lack of snow there (warmer by the ocean, windier?) may have removed the snowies’ beneficial white camouflage.  They would have really stood out, sitting there against pale sands.  We strolled a long time toward the water, toward bridges and lighthouses and unwelcome views of Manhattan.  We were absolutely alone, among stark dune and wind-buffeted dune grass.  Flattened prickly pear looks dessicated beyond hope.  It will, indeed, rise again.  The most vivid colors waved among bayberries, those cinnamon-stick leftover leaves.

Circling back into the park, we passed all those strange gold former military dwellings, all of them Sandy-battered.  Every house had slanted props and vanished porch supports.  Haunting, if not haunted, they stared with empty eyes toward the river that had risen to ruin them.  Workmen were tending to the second house, and may have completed some sort of buttressing and renewal on the first.  It would be a pity to let that strip of history collapse into sand-strewn rubble.

One last chance to park in a small lot to the left, not far beyond the Sandy Hook Light.  Hopping out of the car, in yes, welcome sunshine, although lowering sun, we came immediately upon a thrush.  All puffed to ward off cold and blustery winds, this bird was so wild, it was as though he had never heard of humans.  He hopped and searched among leaves so near we could hear the impact of those tiny claws amidst crispness he matched so perfectly.  He stayed a long time, coming nearer and nearer, then flew and returned, to the base of a tree full of cedar waxwings.  The dropping sun intensified every carat of gold amidst those feathers.  Deciduous trees looked full of Christmas ornaments.  Then all the ornaments took off and flew west over the river.

Thrush in Underbrush by Brenda Jones

Thrush in Underbrush by Brenda Jones

In the car, driving home, we were hard-pressed to name the most significant birds.  I didn’t see it then, but writing, it becomes apparent, they were all significant.

In retrospect, the miracle of the birds of Friday was all that gold and red and red-orange — among the ducks, among the yellow-rumps, among those waxwings.  Colors we see in fires, –on a hearth or on a beach.  Warming hues our snow-strafed hearts require in this winter of discontent.  Above all, we walked that day in sun.

The next morning, I met journalist and fellow-poet, Linda Arntzenius, for a hearty diner breakfast, preparatory to an exploration of the Marsh.  Formerly called Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown, it has been rechristened “The Abbott Marshlands”.  Right in the heart of Trenton, off South Broad and Sewell Avenue, one drives down a steep driveway and parks by a lake called Spring.  Legend has it the Lenni Lenape, who gathered in the Marsh, named that lake because it is spring-fed.  Legend also insists that beavers were the first to dam it onto a lake.  This Marsh is a freshwater tidal wetland, essential for wildlife in all seasons.

Linda and I have walked its trails before, always marveling at the solitude and extreme beauty, both watery and terrestrial, that awaits in the hearts of all those towns.  Beaver lodges just beyond the lake make its storied origin seem real.  Twigs perhaps rejected by the beavers in their nightly forays filled water on both sides of the tiny bridge.  Wild yam seeds dangled like farthings from their vines, lit again by lowering light, intensifying their coin resemblance.

There was much more snow at the Marsh than at Sandy Hook.  And that snow is marble-hard, Michaelangelo material.  A trekking pole kept me upright, in whiteness that did not give under our boots.  A single turkey vulture float-coasted over us at entry, and mute swans presided in waters to the right of our trail.  They were cold, too — preferring to tuck their orange beaks into back wings.

Overhead, fish crows cried “Uh-oh, Uh-oh” as we two-legged intruders made our way in their domain.  A robin or two hopped in the midst of the forest – such an unlikely setting that we didn’t recognize the birds at first.  Of course, Linda is accustomed to British robins, rounder and brighter and somehow perkier than ours, which added to the momentary mystery.

Again, we were given sun, sun, sun.  Again, we were practically the only people there, all afternoon.  On the final turn toward Beaver Point, where more lodges awaited, two more mute swans swam about with aplomb.  They resembled the swan boats of Boston, wings raised high over their backs.

Swans are very important to Linda, not only because in Great Britain, they belong to the Queen.  They have resonance because of her beloved sister, lost to us now.  We are both the kind of person who can take comfort in a bird as a messenger from elsewhere.

Who would expect a wetlands in Trenton to provide spiritual renewal?

Well that’s how it is about birds.

Go ahead.  Defy anyone who calls it or you crazy.

More urgently, perhaps, than any other winter.  Get OUT there.  Let nature nurture you.  Let her fill you with golden light and feathers in leaves and wild calls overhead and strange fungi decorating severed trees.

Fill you, so you can get through however many storms wait in the wings.  (Pun intended.)

Wintry Ocean

Surf Fisherman in Winter Ocean