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My Little Paradise

I love nature.

I have a particular adoration for birds. Not just flashy, exotic birds like bee eaters or the lyre bird (check out this small clip from you tube showing the lyre bird mimic other sounds. Wait for the camera clicks, chainsaw sounds, and car alarms.)

I can be mesmerized by the most common of sparrows, sitting, watching their moves, reactions, and dynamics between each other.

Here in Toms River, I am about a mile away (as the crow flys) from the ocean. There, is a natural barrier island called Island Beach State Park. It is a roughly 10 mile stretch of nearly pristine beach, with a habitat of fauna and wildlife that would be the envy of any state park service.

It also contains the largest Osprey colony in New Jersey.

The Osprey, a magnificent raptor-like bird of prey, is in its own family called Pandionidae. It is also my favorite bird.

Here is a beautiful you-tube video of the Osprey in action. (For some reason, I can't embed it, but it is definitely worth the click)

Every year, the Ospreys arrive back to the park, and spend their summers fishing, flying, nesting and breeding on the top of about 26 man-made platforms. They arrive mainly from the shores of Costa Rica, where they spend their winters, basking in the sun, fattening up for the next migration. It's about a 3000 mile journey, one in which I am alway astounded. For when these birds arrive back to our little protected enclave, each pair finds it's way to the same 4'x4' nesting platform, without fail. And almost always to the day on April 25th, barring any nasty weather along their long, arduous flyway.

They are a majestic bird. With deep wing beats, keen eyes, and a unique, exciting way of fishing. Circling up from above, they can spot a fish from about 100 feet up, engage in a fast dive, where at the very end they extend their talons out in front of their bodies, hooking the fish with deadly effect (they have one of the highest attempt/catch ratios in the raptor world)

And when they catch a fish, they turn it around head first to decrease wind drag.

Amazing stuff, for a birding geek like me.

I love the whole atmosphere of the park. The smells, which range from fresh, salty air, to a rather nasty sulfur-like stench from decaying reeds and eel grass, to the soft, sweet pleasure of honeysuckle riding in a stiff bay breeze. Hundreds of different plants and trees dominate the landscape. Sassafras, beach heather, cedar trees, and beach plum (which is made into a jam that I have not yet tasted) are a few. All lending to a unique contour and shape of the dunes and flatlands of the island.

The beach is beautiful. Off-limit dunes with dune grass covering their rises, protecting their integrity from the sometimes angry Atlantic Ocean. Sea shells of all makes, driftwood, and, unfortunately, some occasional human debris dots the serene, otherworldly aura this place offers up to us.

Sometimes I take pictures, sometimes not. But everytime I find something new, something else that rewards my decision for taking the time to trek on over, make the walks though the trails, and stop thinking about the small, constructed world in which I live.

Sometimes you get tired of the world. It drains you, like a mental virus, weakening your desires, souring your disposition on everyday life.

The only thing you can do is go on, live for yourself and the others you love, and try to mitigate the downtimes.

But it sure is nice to have a place to get away.


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Comments (11)

Its hard to believe Jersey ... (Below threshold)
epador:

Its hard to believe Jersey has beautiful wildlife and nature, but it does, and it is great you get to enjoy it. I used to sail on the bay and the ocean in my little Laser back in the day. Beats driving by Secaucus every day on the Turnpike.

Now in the NW I can sit on my back porch in town, and watch bald eagles down the street, all manner of hawks and owls in the woods, a raven who talks if you feed him dogfood, and the damn seagulls They sound like a bunch of socialists :"mine, mine, mine!"

The goldfinches are back, and hummingbirds too! Spring has sprung.

Shawn! Tom's River NJ. That... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Shawn! Tom's River NJ. That brings back fond very fond memories of the very early 70's. A lot of partying happened in the cedar lakes. Of course, Seaside is where my wife and I honeymooned in 75. I live in Texas now, and have for 34 years, and I do not have many good memories of my northern years, but your area is one of great times. Take care of the birds. ww

Cool video. I live in Long... (Below threshold)
BeachBumBi8ll:

Cool video. I live in Longmont, CO which is just a bit northeast of Boulder. Unfortunately, we don't get any ospreys, but we do have Bald Eagles. There is an old tree by the side of the road to Boulder where the eagles regularly roost. I did not realize until I saw my first live eagle, how really big they are.

Love the whole David Attenb... (Below threshold)

Love the whole David Attenborough bird series!

Here on Cape Cod, we have ospreys all over the place, not just in protected wetlands, but nesting on top of cell and radio towers. Beautiful to see, and unmistakable when heard.

For a more mundane fix, head on over to the eBirdseed blog; recent photos of orioles at the feeder, with video to come: orioles, cardinal, cat bird, and a glorious surprise!

The horned owl is my favori... (Below threshold)
David:

The horned owl is my favorite bird; there is one that has a nest near my house, and I sometimes see it swooping among the trees. Speaking of birds, I saw a starling this morning attempt to sheperd its hatchlings across a busy road. One of the babies (who I guess couldnt yet fly) was run over by a car; the mama walked over, poked it and hopped around, then went back over to its surviving offspring, spread her wings, then rushed them off of the road.

And this bird just happened... (Below threshold)
Jason Author Profile Page:

And this bird just happened to "evolve" this ability out of nowhere. Mmm-hmm. What a joke! God is simply amazing in the awesomeness of his Creation!

Here's an outstanding Ospre... (Below threshold)
KennyR:

Here's an outstanding Osprey slideshow:
http://www.miguellasa.com/photos/sspopup.mg?AlbumID=1001578

I like blue jays.T... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

I like blue jays.

They always seem to be perching right above where they want go. Straight down, grab, then straight back up. And no fake fighting for scraps,etc from blue jays. Beak to grackle's chest, grab food, fly up. None of that jumping and squawking ceremonial crap. No siree.

As a bird enthusiast you ma... (Below threshold)
Jan S:

As a bird enthusiast you may want to know that bird migration patterns have been moving further north over the last 40 years. Some states such as Texas are losing entire species to norhern states.

Anchorage Daily News

Audobon Report on changing wintering and breeding ranges for birds.

Thanks for the nice post ab... (Below threshold)

Thanks for the nice post about birding and Island Beach State Park.

The park really is a neat place to visit. When you go there you can even imagine what it was like at the beach in NJ 100 years ago. The whole peninsula was not very developed until things started building up in the early 1900's.

Here are some interesting aerial pictures of Lavallette that shows this. Here are also some bits of cool nature stuff about Island Beach's natural areas.

Not all that far north of y... (Below threshold)

Not all that far north of y'all there are osprey nests on a water tower in Wall, a cell phone tower along Route 18 near the Marconi Rd. exit, and in the southeastern most of the three large towers in the "Deal Test Site" (aka Palaia Park).

Wonderful birds. I especially enjoy when they arrive and spend their first few days back doing home improvements on their nests. The nest at Deal Test site was completely wiped out two winters ago so they had to completely rebuild it. They are astonishing fliers and can haul quite a load of building materials.

Best of all, however, is when it is time for the ospring to make the big jump and become fledgelings. Watching them spend the next week or two developing their flying skills is just wonderful.

Last year had the added advantage of watching a second male try and move in on the first males mate. Some very interesting flying - like dogfights - went on then.

Great birds those osprey. Lovely. ENORMOUS talons relative to their body size.




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