Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tis the Season

Swan cygnet,
Monksville Reservoir, Long Pond Iron Works State Park, West Milford, NJ

(Photo from Wild Life
by Jan Barry)

A snowstorm has turned this area of New Jersey into a sparkling winter landscape. The rumble of highway traffic and freight and commuter trains that surround the village of South Bound Brook fades into the background just looking at the spectacular view from my garden apartment. A tree-lined section of the Delaware & Raritan Canal flows by just steps away. The canal is a favorite feeding and rest stop for migratory ducks and geese. Last winter, a flock of Merganser ducks took a liking to the stretch of waterway behind the garden apartments and entertained me for hours as they dove underwater for fish and paddled around in excited circles.

During a bike ride in the fall, a rambunctious doe galloped through an opening in the forest and ran up nearly beside me, cocking her head toward me with a look that clearly conveyed “hey, wanna race?” Last summer, a friend and I were kayaking and lost track of how many turtles we saw sunning themselves on logs, rocks and fallen trees.

I moved here to have a handy place to kayak and ride my bike and walk along the canal towpath, which stretches nearly the width of New Jersey and then runs parallel to one of the most scenic sections of the Delaware River. This 70-mile-long ribbon of state park provides a wonderful wildlife corridor as well as a great getaway for humans. It is also a vivid reminder that in the densely developed Garden State, such corridors are all that’s left in many places for wildlife and close encounters with nature.

A great holiday gift was provided by New Jersey voters in November who approved a $400 million Green Acres bond referendum. It was the 12th time since 1961 that voters approved borrowing millions of dollars to buy forests and farmlands to preserve open space in a state popularly defined by the industrial-strength commercial corridors lining the New Jersey Turnpike and other major highways. In recent years, every county and nearly half of the towns and cities in NJ have created open space trust funds that were approved by voters. Other lands have been preserved by private donations to nonprofit conservation groups and by gifts by families and individuals who deeded their beloved homestead or farm for the public and wildlife to enjoy.

In the spirit of honoring nature’s role in the winter holiday season, I created photo books for family and friends this year that feature wildlife I’ve encountered, usually in parklands in New Jersey and other states, while biking, hiking, kayaking, or just gazing out the window. You can see my Wild Life photos here.

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