“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!

 

 

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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.

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.

SOMETIMES, BIRDERS STRIKE OUT – Intrepids in Quest of Sandhill Cranes

Jeanette Birding Near the Delaware & Raritan Canal

Jeanette Birding Near the Delaware & Raritan Canal

Friends had seen the cranes.  The SANDHILL cranes.  In nearby Franklin Township.

Friends had seen them two days in a row!

Jeanette Hooban (One of The Intrepids) and I have never seen a crane.

Now, admittedly, in the pictures sent by friends from cell phones, those birds didn’t look all that impressive. Rather dowdy, even dingy, lumpen, although on tall legs — they were not what Michelin (Guides to gastronomic shrines in France) calls “Worthy of the Journey.”

But then, we’d never seen a crane.

Well, except in (the film) Winged Migration, but sandhills are not the ones who starred in that epic.

So we devoted an overcast Sunday to going on a cranequest.

End of the Trail, Rose and Other Gardens of Colonial Park, NJ

End of the Trail, Rose and Other Gardens of Colonial Park, NJ

Odd back roads tumbled us out in one of the most nightmarish developments I had ever seen.  It was like those prophetic films, such as 2001, in which man irrevocably pays ultimate prices for progress.

Scraped earth, denuded of trees and even of crops, McMansion “TownHomes” everywhere, without a shrub, without even being alternated for privacy.  A moonscape, but I wouldn’t insult the moon.

Somewhere near what I mockingly called “an enclave”, and then it turns out that’s the name of that place, coupled with my treasured (nearby but by means visible) Delaware and Raritan Canal.

The road of the cranes was only slightly removed from destruction in the name of construction.

Cranes need slightly cropped ex-cornfields.

There was one.

As we drove along, Jeanette and I began to wonder if we’d even recognize a crane, if we came upon them.

She decided they MIGHT look something like great blue herons, and we well know those stately birds.

Heron Giving Voice Brenda Jones

GREAT BLUE HERON BY BRENDA JONES

So Jeanette drove with infinite patience, the patience of a brain surgeon, slowly down, then up, then down and up again, the road of the cranes.

There may be nothing emptier than cornrows where there ought to be birds.

Dark-eyedJunco-BaldpateMountain2-22-12DSC_3517

DARK-EYED JUNCO BY BRENDA JONES

Finally, we rejoiced to come upon, not in the corn, but in the natural weeds and scrub that bordered the croplands, some sparrows, a few juncoes, two mouning doves, all busily gleaning seeds flung down, not by a farmer on his tractor, but by the wind in the plants that belong on that field.

Song Sparrow from blind Brenda Jones

SONG SPARROW BY BRENDA JONES

So we drove away.

We thought we could find a back road along the backside of the cornfield.  Ha!  Everything up there belongs to those enclave developers.  And their hideosities are for sale “in the high $300,000s”, according to their industrial-strength sign, stuck in the bare earth.  A Mercedes turned into the Sales Office ahead of us, as we made our disbelieving way into this panorama of the future.

But Jeanette had stopped that car!  No, not to buy a condo.  To study a handsome, stately, piercingly gazing red-tailed hawk in a tree the developers had somehow overlooked.

With our magical optics, we could see the abruptly changed expression in that red-tail’s lemon-yellow eyes.  With a whoosh!, he was up and over, and o my! there was some forgotten grass on some lumpen ground.  The hawk ‘stooped’, (birder-language for zeroing on for the kill) and vanished behind a hummock.

red-tail lunch D&R Canal Princeton Brenda Jones

RED-TAILED HAWK BY BRENDA JONES

Jeanette said, impishly, “Shall we very slowly drive over there and watch it tear the prey from limb to limb?”

Listen, I’ll take any bird experience.

But before I could even nod, let alone verbalize, that hawk was back in the tree.

Raptorial fast food.

Because were there in the presence of his majesty, and there was no way we were leaving before he did, we then treated to a cloud of juncoes, flaring white petticoats.  And then, lo, bluebirds beyond counting!  They were so brightly blue and that almost-robin red, for they are cousins, and even the females so vivid, we decided they were halfway to indigo buntings.

BluebirdColdSoilRd3-10-12DSC_4449

BLUEBIRD IN WINTER BY BRENDA JONES

The aforesaid developers had put in a scraggly array of rather meagre trees.  I hope they did it in early fall, not in November.  But these trees did not look grounded.

And across the road, near the raptor feast site, an array of handsome, tall trees lay scattered, dirt balls facing the road and the $300,000+ mchouses.  They looked like toys abandoned by a petulant toddler. They did not look like they are going to survive January blasts and worse, without having been put in the ground in plenty of time to establish strong roots.  Even so, the few scraggly trees were fine for the bluebirds, who merrily filled them, like bright Christmas ornaments, then float-coasted down to the ground for seeds or whatever. There surely aren’t any insects or worms about in this vile weather we’ve been enduring.

Not only that, a merry mockingbird crowned the tree like an angel, then flew to the top of one of the mcroofs.

Mockingbird at Sunset in Winter

MOCKINGBIRD PUFFED BY WINTER COLD  BY BRENDA JONES

Just then, ‘our’ red-tail took off in a zoom, rising effortlessly toward something we hadn’t noticed.  God forbid a field or a habitat should be left to the mice and the voles and the butterflies and the bees and foxes and maybe even a coyote or two, and some skunks, some raccoons.  Trails, even, so the people can get out of those “little houses made of Ticky Tack” which Pete Seeger so scorned, Seeger-the-prophet.

Untitled

FOX OF ISLAND BEACH, IN DAYLIGHT, BY RAY YEAGER

(what SHOULD be happening in the fields of Franklin Park)

No, there isn’t a field.  Well, yes there IS, actually.

A playing field.

With towering bleachers and blinding shiny metal poles taller then anything in the enclave, each one studded with equally blinding shiny metal hooded lights, that will ruin the nights of the people who attempt to sleep in the enclave.  Who have no idea how blinding such lights can be in the dark, nor how loudly players and fans will carry on under those lights…

Well, the hawk was nothing if not an opportunist.  No tree in New Jersey that I’ve ever seen is as tall as those lightning-blinding metal poles.  Straight to the top he flew, master of all he surveyed.  No prey would be missed by this master.

Jeanette and I went on over to the Colonial Park Rose Garden, to see what it’s like for roses in winter.

Entrance Rose Garden Colonial Park January 2015

ROY ANDRES DE GOOT MEMORIAL ROSE GARDEN

Unusual.  Strangely beautiful.  Gripping sometimes, especially among fragrant herbs, some still green:Winter Green  Roses at Rose Garden Colonial Park January 2015

Winterberry Bounty Rose Garden Colonial Park January 2015

WINTERBERRY BOUNTY

Julia Child Roses in Winter Rose Garden Colonial Park January 2015

THIS ONE’S FOR FOOD WRITERS PAT TANNER AND FAITH BAHADURIAN AND POET BETTY LIES —

MY CO-JULIA-FANS

Roses in Winter Rose Garden Colonial Park January 2015

THE LONG VIEW

But for this preservationist, who spends the majority of her time trying to convince people to appreciate and save natural New Jersey, it was winter in my heart.

Sure-footed mammal tracks Rose Garden Colonial Park January 2015

SURE-FOOTED MAMMAL IN HERB GARDEN – PROBABLY SKUNK

Opossum Track Rose Garden Colonial Park January 2015

DETERMINED OPOSSUM

When I beg you to do whatever you can to save wild New Jersey, on land and on water and in the air, I am NOT KIDDING!  Even though D&R Greenway has managed to save around 19,000 acres, folks, it is not enough.

We didn’t find cranes.

Our fear is that, next year at the time when their inner navigational systems compel them to that cornfield, it will have more $300,000+ dwellings and poor pitiful trees, and no nutrients for cranes!

Dear Mr. Snowy —

Snowy Owl, First NJ Sighting, LBI, November, 2014 by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer

Snowy Owl, First NJ Sighting, LBI, November, 2014 by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer

Oddly enough, this is a letter to an owl.

I avidly studied a recent Audubon article on the phenomenal irruption (visitation by many creatures not usually in our region) of snowy owls, particularly in New Jersey, during the winter of 2013.  Although I read everything I could find on snowies, after being gifted with their presence, at the Brigantine last year, I learned much that I never suspected from this splendid nature magazine put out by National Audubon.  Sometime in the night, after finishing the startling story, I wrote what you might call a fan letter:

Dear Mr. Snowy

here I thought you’d been driven down here

by an unaccustomed dearth of lemmings

that your sleepy golden eyes

encountered in wild reaches

of Brigantine Refuge

signified starvation

that being this far south

is half a hell for you

lacking your protective background

of snow on sand or tundra

but now I learn

that science

geolocators

and feather samples

reveal you to be absolutely bursting

with health and vigor

part of exceptionally large clutches

in your native Arctic

that you are capable of taking down

your very own relatives

–black ducks, mergansers, eiders–

not only coasting, pouncing

on Jersey mice and voles

but taking spectacularly in flight

and even sometimes on water

you can end the lives

of great blue herons

meanwhile, you sit here

blinking on snow-sifted sand

planning next kills

There is an intriguing sequel to writing this letter.  A few hours after I penned it, I was at work at D&R Greenway, where my job is to do what it takes to save New Jersey land, especially as habitat, especially for birds (my personal mission.)

In walked Ray Yeager, new friend and new artist to us.  Ray’s spectacular photographs, –not only of wild creatures, but also of wild preserves–, were the most purchased art works in our previous exhibition, “People of Preservation.”

Ray had just completed a seven-hour vigil along a very specific part of the Jersey Shore.  With the season’s first snowy owl!

Its portraits filled his camera.  We all crowded around, marveling.  With Ray’s permission to share his masterpieces, including for a November 26 article in US 1 (Business) Newspaper, “A Winter’s Tale,” I attach his most recent snowy.

Realize that irruptions rarely take place back-to-back.  Decades can separate them.

Know that November is early, even for a ‘normal’ irruption.

Get out on winter’s trails, in remote and treeless stretches near our coast.  You may be gifted with snowies, likely or not!

And do whatever you can to preserve what remains of our beleaguered state’s open spaces, so such wonders can unfold.