RARITIES IN RAIN — ISLAND BEACH IN NOR’EASTER

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I run to nature every chance I get.  Here is a (mostly) photo essay on being at Island Beach in a Nor’easter none of us realized was our fate.

It was a day of beauty, drama, and rarities.  But, above all, of fellowship, as Mary Penney’s picture of Jeanette Hooban and Bill Rawlyk attests.

Fellowship in Nor'easter by Mary Penney

Fellowship in Nor’easter by Mary Penney

This was taken at storm height on the Atlantic side, where we could barely stand some of the time.  However, above our heads, merlins headed over and over toward the highest waves, where wind was wildest.  These aerodynamic masters made abrupt U-turns over buffeted waves, then allowed themselves to be flung back across this exquisite barrier island.

The merlins were neither feeding nor forming for migration.  They were playing.  So were we!

Flags Whipping at Entry to Island Beach  Noreaster full blast

Flags Whipping at Entry to Island Beach == Noreaster full blast

Another title for this image is “O, Say Can You See?”  We could

(1) see tattered Old Glory;

(2) see increasingly occluded skies;

(3) see hundreds of swallows filling those skies;

4) barely see through our glasses or salt-coated optics, in fact barely see through our eyes.

Looking out rain-soaked car window to three friends heading out through tallest dunes at road's end

Looking out rain-soaked car window to three friends heading out through tallest dunes at road’s end

Two of the three are barely visible on either side of one of the warning posts.

GPS shows road's end at land's end

GPS shows road’s end at land’s end

I am a collector of land’s ends, and this is one of my favorites.

When you walk through these dunes on a normal day, Barnegat Light presides across its turbulent inlet, far in the distance.  Not this day!

Friends Return from Land's End Walk

Friends Return from Land’s End Walk

 

Heading Nor'east in the Nor'easter, toward the Atlantic with reputed ten-foot waves

Heading Nor’east in the Nor’easter, toward the Atlantic with reputed ten-foot waves

 

Note that boardwalk ends abruptly, having been chewed by Sandy.  All three of my friends righted Nor’easter-downed poles that mark the route of the proposed completion of boardwalk.

 

Compass Grass Draws Nor'easter Circles on the drenched sand

Compass Grass Draws Nor’easter Circles on the drenched sand

 

Artemesia - the Dune-Saver

Artemesia – the Dune-Saver

Seeds for this plant purportedly first arrived upon the sands of our country, having been carried in holds of clipper ships.  When ships foundered, boards floated ashore, carrying artemesia.  That was the Cape Cod story in ’70’s.

 

What Naturalists do in Nor'easters

What Naturalists do in Nor’easters

 

Survival Tactics

 

Nor'easter-whipped spume

 Spume, Wind-Driven, Rolls Down the Beach

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Contemplation of the Infinite

Contemplation of the Infinite

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Scant Protection at Extreme Northeast, Island Beach

Scant Protection at Extreme Northeast, Island Beach

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Boardwalk to Barnegat Bayside

Boardwalk to Barnegat Bayside

 

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No Personal Watercraft

No Personal Watercraft

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Barnegat Bay in Nor'easter

Barnegat Bay in Nor’easter

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Beach Access Reality

Beach Access Denied — Since Sandy

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Hunkered Down, Atlantic Side

Hunkered Down, Atlantic Side

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Bayberry Autumn, Atlantic Side

Bayberry Autumn, Atlantic Side

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Wild Rose Hips, Atlantic Side

Wild Rose Hips, Atlantic Side

 

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Hudsonia Grove, Atlantic Side

Hudsonia Grove, Atlantic Side

This is a very rare natural native beach plant that will have tiny yellow flowers in spring.  It is thriving in this storm.

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'Gimme Shelter' - Interpretive Center, Atlantic Side

‘Gimme Shelter’ – Interpretive Center, Atlantic Side

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Alone With the Storm

Alone With the Storm

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No Vehicles Past This Point

No Vehicles Past This Point

 

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Nor'easter Intrepids

The Intrepids

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As you can see, Island Beach, “The Natural”, New Jersey’s true “Jersey Strong”, is perfectly designed to withstand storms.

Sometimes, humans are, too.

Swallows Play in the Nor'easter

Swallows Play in the Nor’easter

My camera is not powerful enough to point out all those tree swallows.  But they were everywhere in the air, like pepper on a roast.

Remember that barrier beaches were meant to be barriers, not dwelling-places!

This preserve was saved by farsighted people, after the Great Depression wrote ‘fini’ to major resort development.

Preserve every bit of open New Jersey space.  Our future, and that of the planet, depends upon open space.