Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Thing So Beautiful - Mute Swans

I have to confess that my whole notion of New Jersey has been the opening scenes of the Sopranos. The words "New Jersey" have conjured the worst  stereotypes of guys named Guido and gum cracking dames with whiny voices and bad red hair. Both of these cartoon characters wear gobs of hideous, big, cheap jewelry. So far, I haven't met these people, though they may be lurking in any of the multitude of shopping malls around here. Until yesterday, it had seemed like New Jersey was endless parking lots, malls, concrete and cars. Though I had not met up with any hit men or hookers, New Jersey wasn't redeeming itself to me. But yesterday, David and I went south along the Garden State Parkway to Oceanville to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Brigantine Division). There, I saw one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, these Mute Swans. Birders refer to this Atlantic County wildlife refuge as  simply "Brigantine," though it's not actually in the town of Brigantine. It is an amazingly beautiful expanse of some 40,000 acres of southern coastal salt marsh which are visited by 275 species of birds, some of them rare like the piping plover. Compared to Maine in winter, and the concrete jungle we had  been visiting to the north, the place was alive with birds. The stands of reeds and rushes were pulsing with the calls of Red-winged  blackbirds, Meadowlarks, mallards and honking geese. The sun was shining and it felt for all the world like spring. That alone would have  been exhilarating. There was not a soul there but us, either. We stopped several times just to kiss each other and exclaim about the birds. We came around a corner on a trail and there, in a meager slip of open water were these swans. I could not get enough of them and took an embarrassing number of photographs. Mute swans are native to Europe, not the Americas. They were introduced here to beautify parks and estates. Some of them escaped and have successfully established breeding colonies. They have become a problem as they are very aggressive and compete with the naturally occurring birds. They are big, too, bigger than the Canada geese which are in the millions in New Jersey and are also a problem. Nonetheless, we brought the swans here because we are in love with them. They are the epitome of grace, beauty and romance. When David and I first saw these, in fact, we just sucked in our breath in awe. Maybe it was because we saw them in the wild or maybe because we had been so starved for anything seemingly natural. It's too bad that they are actually a big, bullying bird, an ornithological wise-guy mobster that will stomp on native ducks then take their lunch money.


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  1. I have great memories of two visits to Brigantine many years ago. Mute Swans are of course very common over here and certainly very photogenic. FAB.

  2. Hey, lady, watcha you language 'bout da Garden State! I send Vinni over and breaka you kneecappa! Heh, heh.

    But seriously, folks... Although my experience in NJ has been restricted mostly to Fort Dix, Newark Airport, and a few weeks living near Cherry Hill while attending computer training, I know that there are some very photogenic areas in NJ. Nice shots of the Mute Swans.


  3. Welcome back; can't believe you and David were making out all along the NJ turnpike.....how romantic! Have you no shame???

  4. Yes, Ted, and were were both in the back seat of the car.

  5. Even though your swans are beautiful...I take offense to your blog...
    Hula Girl...better known as Jersey Girl

  6. Hula,
    You know of course, I would never do anything to offend you on purpose. My point in the blog was only that Jersey has an image problem. And, it's not deserved because, look at that incredible wildlife refuge for one thing. Not to mention your lovely daughters. And, well, of course - you. For that matter, I think in many ways Maine has image problems, too. People think we are a bunch of toothless hicks that eat lobster all day and have moose in our yards. Wait a minute! That's ME!

  7. Breathtaking! Lovely lovely birds (but you can just feel their POWER)
    and extra lovely photos.

  8. You know I really do love your blog, and read it eagerly. But I have to draw the line at your love affair with mute swans. Stated simply, they don't deserve to live. At least not in North America. We've lost Connecticut to the blighters. Let's hope and pray we can keep them the hell out of Maine.

    (There is a pair living on a private pond in southern Maine, which I have seen. If you hear of a swan slaughter in the near future, please don't tell anyone about my views. No...on the other hand go ahead and tell everyone. It would be my honor to throw myself on the swan grenade to save all the rails, waterfowl, bitterns, etc now living comfortably in the marshes of the pinetree state.)