There is a thing known as "I and the Bird". This I & B is a creation of the blogosphere; the spawn of the boom of social sharing via the Internet. I had heard of it, and the attendant phenomenon known as a "Blog Carnival", but through no fault of my own. As nature-based blogs have increased exponentially - there are now 970 of them indexed on the Nature Blog Network - this sort of thing becomes inevitable.
I am not too hip to this stuff. Even though I've had a "blog" long before the term was coined - remember "Angelfire"? - I pretty much remain stuffed in my little corner of the World Wide Web.
But, not now! My friend, Laura of Somewhere in NJ, has tagged me, among others, to provide fodder for her blog carnival. And that's what this post is - fuel for Laura's carnival. She has coerced me into poking out from my sheltered Internet existence, with promises of riches and great fame. And, since she is from New Jersey, one of the Union's most misunderstood and least appreciated states, I can use this chance to try and shed some of the misconceptions of the Garden State.
Lighthouse at Barnegat Light, NJ, a spectacular birding spot.
New Jersey is much more than greasy-haired Guidos and their shrill-voiced tarts with hair piled high. It isn't just about Mafioso and casinos; seedy seaside resort towns full of semi-delapidated summer cottages adorned with pink flamingos and other tacky lawn ormamentation; rusty old Buicks whacked hard with the full brunt of salt-laden air; and the odd moralistic rantings of their favorite Native Son, Bruce Springsteen.
Oh yes, pinched between the great states of New York and Pennsylvania, Jersey is the proverbial annoying pebble in the shoe; a long-running butt of jokes for East Coast sophisticados. Ohio has West Virginia to dish on, New York has New Jersey. But, we shouldn't be put off by the state's rep as a a toxic dumping ground and pollution-spewing industrial wasteland - I mean, this is the place that birthed the Sopranos.
Believe it or not, for the natural history buff, NJ is one of the major MUST SEE right coast destinations. At least parts thereof. I've dipped into the files from December 2006, so that we may return to the salty waters lapping the Jersey shore and visit two of the extraordinary beasts that brave the New Jersey winter.
Looking seaward from the summit of Barnegat's lighthouse. And please, before my New Jersey friends dispatch "Big Benny" to measure me for cement overshoes, I really do love the state and have made multiple visits. And can't wait to return, if they can overlook all of my jokes in poor taste at their expense.
Braving the rocks and cold winds of the Barnegat jetty is well worth it for the birder. A winter visit will produce lots of goodies such as Long-tailed Duck, scoters, Common Eider, Great Cormorant, Snowy Owl and much more.
A bit the chauvinists, these Harlequin Ducks, I happened to notice. When pressed by an unknown threat, like me, the males would condense into a tight little group. There were hens with the boys, but when push came to shove, and potential dangered loomed, the girls were pushed to the outside of the protective flock. Sort of the duck version of the settlers circling the wagon train to guard against the marauding Indians, except the Harlequins toss their women outside the circle. When they are assured all is well, the males invite the females back into the fold. So Jersey!
If, for some reason, you find New Jersey looming on the horizon, make a stop at Barnegat Light.