Monday Miscellany: Nature along the Delaware Coast in May

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Although it’s hard to make out, the rocks and beach are covered with shorebirds, stopping to feast on horseshoe crab eggs before heading to the arctic ….

I am consumed with shame (well, figuratively if not literally) when I realize how little I’ve posted lately.  I can’t say I have any reason for my sloth, except that I’ve been enjoying the incredible luxury of unscheduled time; in other words, I’ve been slothful because I’m slothful!  I’ve read a few books (but not written any reviews — too analytical, for my present mood); done a little museum hopping (not nearly as exciting to normal people as pub crawling); and made a half-hearted attempt to clean up a closet or two.  The closet cleaning has been quite distracting, as I’ve uncovered a number of lost or forgotten treasures —  a great old paperweight (I warn you, I adore paperweights, so you probably have a Monday Miscellany on this subject headed your way); a wonderful glass fish that’s only got a slightly broken tail — it’s got to be good for something; and a lifetime supply of yellow sticky notes!  Have any of you wanderers on the internet discovered similar wonders in your closets or cupboards?

In addition to these rather domestic activities there’s always something interesting going on in the natural world.  Even casual birders such as myself have certain little rituals they observe, particularly in the spring when there are actually some birds to look at for those of us living in the (mostly) urban portion of the northern hemisphere.  One of these, which I posted about last month, is a trip to Magee Marsh, a wonderful natural area and major stopping off point for song birds migrating through the central United States.  Another, which comes a little later in May, is a short trip north to the shores of Delaware Bay, where every spring the horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay their eggs.  In one of those marvels of the natural world, the egg laying coincides with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds trekking from South America to their far northern breeding grounds.  Unfortunately for the birds, horseshoe crabs are extremely useful in medical research and commonly used as bait, and are being heavily over-harvested, leaving the famished birds with nothing to eat.  This misuse by humans threatens to break yet another strand in nature’s great web of life.

First, for a little geographic orientation:

Delaware Bay, with the prime horseshoe crab areas marked in orange.
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A very simplified map of the eastern United States. As you can see, Delaware is a small state with lots of sea coast; south of New Jersey and New York, it’s also a relatively short drive north of Washington, D.C.

Have any of you ever seen a horseshoe crab?  They’re actually not crabs.  Popularly referred to as “living fossils,” they belong to a far more primitive species closer akin to scorpions or anthropoids.  And — they’re big!  I believe there are only four species left on the planet; three are in the Indo-Pacific area and one is found in the coastal waters of North America.

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A single horseshoe crab.  You NEVER see just one — when the tide is right during their breeding season, these things come to shore by the thousands to lay their eggs.
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This gives you some idea of what the Delaware beaches are like when the horseshoe crabs show up to lay eggs.  The shorebirds, needless to say, are delighted.
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A group of Red Knots, a type of sandpiper. They’re extremely dependent on horseshoe crab eggs to survive their incredibly long migration from southern South America to the Arctic.  Because humans are overharvesting the crabs the Red Knot population is in sharp decline.

Although Red Knots tend to be popular favorites, they’re only one among many bird species that feast on the crab eggs.  On a good day, you can also see Ruddy Turnstones, Dowitchers, Dunlins, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, and Yellowlegs.  One of the best viewing areas that I’ve found is:

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The DuPont Nature Center has a great observation deck (the photo at the beginning of my post was taken from it) and lots of information about birds, horseshoe crabs and other critters.

In addition to all these attractions, the Nature Center even has art work:

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Do you recognize this?  It’s a sculpture of a Red Knot, done by a local artist.  As you can tell by the human in the background, this is seriously NOT done to scale!

In addition to the Horseshoe Crab-shorebird spectacle, a trip to Delaware in the spring offers other delights.  You pass through several scenic little towns (but beware! many of them have speed traps!) with odd little bits of local history:

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Leipsic, Kent County, Delaware.  Population: 183.
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Bet you didn’t know that Jimmy Fox, one of baseball’s greats, was from Sudlersville, Delaware! Here’s the town’s monument to Jimmy ….

Delaware is surprisingly rural in spots, to be so close to so many east coast cities; in the spring many of the farm fields are gorgeous:

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I love this view of the farm buildings at a distance.

 

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Not a farm field, strictly speaking — more a border alongside the road — but with such gorgeous wild flowers, who cares?

 

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It’s subtle, but if you look closely, you can see there are blue flowers throughout the field.

Delaware, like many other states, also has links to a darker past ….

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Did you realize that in the 19th century areas as far north as Delaware had plantations, worked by enslaved labor?  This former plantation is now part of …
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Bombay Hook is a major reason to visit Delaware.  Although it doesn’t have horseshoe crabs, it has lots of other interesting things, such as ….
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boardwalk trails;

 

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Purple Martins (a large North American swallow) and
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Purple Martin houses (they love to hang out together)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ospreys (here you see one on its nesting platform).
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Bombay Hook provides a home to other creatures besides birds; it also has turtles (this one got a helping hand across the road, otherwise he might have been squashed) as well as ….

 

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unspecified water rodents, with Red-winged Blackbirds, and ….
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some very pretty marsh flowers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Monday Miscellany: Nature along the Delaware Coast in May

    1. Thanks! This is always a short, fun trip to make every spring; sometimes (not this year) I go to a few other places to see warblers (Delaware has some nice ones). I love Bombay Hook — there’s almost always something interesting there and it’s worth it for me just to see those Purple Martin colonies chattering away at each other and catching bugs!

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  1. Hey friend. Like you I am not posting much, reading but not reviewing, but unlike you, I haven’t been much in nature yet.
    I love this type of posts by you. I used to do so many nature walks and bird watching, but not this past year, and I miss it terrible.
    However, next week I am going to the river, and and plan to explore a bit.
    My oldest was having BBQ with a friend yesterday, and they spotted an unusual beetle I was trying to identify.
    I cleaned the supplies closet and didn’t find something I forgot I had, but I saw our many stickers and scrap book paper, which I love.
    I’m also enjoying a slow pace summer.

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  2. Silvia! So nice to hear from you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post (it was fun to write). I hope you’re doing well and that you enjoy your excursion to the river next week. I haven’t done as much nature “stuff” this year as in years past — I’m slowing up, I’m afraid — but it really makes a difference to get outside and look at the natural world. I find it personally calming (I’m a high strung type!) and spiritually renewing, to see creatures and processes that have evolved over thousands and thousands of years. I try to forget that it’s all very threatened now and that many of the things I look at are hanging on to survival with great difficulty.
    I’m going to try to get myself back into “reviewing mode” but it’s hard. I’ve been mostly reading from my Challenges (TBR & Classics) and have three books I need to write about. Yesterday, however, I took a big break to read for sheer entertainment. I’ve been waiting on this book to be published; it’s by a British writer named Mick Herron and has no redeeming social or educational value whatsoever! It’s a combo of thriller, spy, black humor and plots that are just a teensy bit over the top — I’m totally addicted.
    I’m glad you found something you loved in the supply closet! I’m such a packrat that I have layers and layers of stuff; so much so that the house is becoming almost uninhabitable. I started sorting again, but found a box of old exam papers, which I’ve been reading this morning ……

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    1. I know. Walks and trips in nature give us so much. (I’m also high strung, hahaha). I’m a creationist, but I agree with you. I too love looking at what it’s for me His Creation, and I totally acknowledge the frailty of the lives of many animals and plants. Different worldview but I hope the same respectful behavior and recognition of the need and value that being in nature has.
      I was lazy to write reviews until it just came to me. But I wasn’t going to force it.
      What a delightful read the book you mention. That’s very necessary.
      Husband and I watched and loved Badlands. Next it’s Days of Heaven!
      And… drumroll please… I started to read The Ambassadors. (Don’t kill me, I chose Spanish), and you may want to know that I ADORE it. What have I been missing? And yes, he demands the reader’s attention big time. I am willing to give it to him.❤️

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  3. I think (for me at least) that nature is spiritually renewing because it gives me a sense of something greater than humanity as a species (and certainly greater than any one human). I tend to see nature terms of “processes” involving organisms going about their life cycles–the horseshoe crabs come into Delaware Bay every spring around late May-mid June, the shore birds come up around that same time from South America and only survive if the eggs are there, most eggs get eaten, enough survive for the cycle to continue. An elegant and beautiful system, far beyond anything humanity could devise; I personally don’t think the label one attaches to it is terribly important.
    My laziness (kinder term: mental holiday) continues. I’m now four reviews behind (one Classics and three TBR Challenge) and have started my second “fun” read: a classic British detective story whose title I got from kaggsysbookishramblings: “The Murder of My Aunt.” It’s very British, very well written and very funny if you like black humor (I do). Perfect for my current mood.
    Add trumpets to the drumrolls! “The Ambassadors”!!!! Many Congrats! Do you know it took me years and years to read that book? It was my last major James novel and a major jinx book for me — I started it at least three times! Then, one day, I picked it up and just read it. And — loved it. Perhaps it’s the greatest James novel of them all and, perhaps again, easier for me to appreciate now that I’m in the second half of life. Somehow, it all just came together in that book.

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  4. It’s funny that it’s the first tittle I am reading, and now I only want to read this and the other two from his latest period and style.
    Now I know where an author like Ishiguro drinks from. I’m not sure if he has expressed any influence by HJ, but it seems to me he writes with that duplicity. Ishiguro’s sentences being shorter, but he also blurs inside thought and conscience with the outside world.
    Maybe it’s another book for our time in life when we are not that young anymore, and when we don’t need to be in control, or we don’t require a fast paced plot. I’m loving to witness Strether’s inner thoughts and anticipating his changes.
    I actually could not resist reading about HJ and this book. It doesn’t bother me knowing what happens, how it all happens it’s what interests me. I won’t know the story until I hear HJ tell it to me.
    It reminds me so much of the impressionistic Ishiguro novels which I adore: When We Were Orphans, The Artist of the Floating World, and my ultimate favorite, A View of Pale Hills.

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  5. Silvia: Guess what? I ADORE (using all caps doesn’t overstate my feeling one little bit) Ishiguro! I went through a serious Ishiguro phase several years back and, like you, read Orphans, Floating World, Pale Hills; also The Remains of the Day (have you read that one? there’s a movie!) and Never Let Me Go (my own favorite. Another movie, which I haven’t seen). He seemed to have a fairly long hiatus and when he published again, somehow I didn’t keep up. So — I still have The Unconsoled (which received mixed reviews), The Buried Giant and Nocturnes, a collection of short stories/novellas. One of my many “projects” (which I’ve never gotten around to!) is to track down some of Ishiguro’s interviews or some literary analyses of his work. There’s a “Conversations with Kazuo Ishiguro (Literary Conversations Series)” which I’ve been meaning to read for ages. Hopefully, I’ll get to it in this lifetime (or the next, if I’m lucky enough to be reincarnated near a library!).
    You draw a very perceptive link between HJ and Ishiguro (wish I had thought of it!). They both have the same subtlety and psychological insight; plot doesn’t seem to be foremost with either and both leave a certain amount (in some cases, a great deal) of work to the reader. But — it’s worth it!

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