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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