Welcome to week 165 of the Tuesday Photo Challenge!
You certainly hit the Road with a passion! Not only were your posts creative, but there were a lot of them! This week, as I’m on the road for work, I went through some of images from Ireland and found a nice next step along our journey: Trail! Wh…
Bhavna has had problems with a heel spur in her right foot. She’s been in pain for several weeks, but she wanted to get out of the house. I wanted to capture trail images for Frank’s weekly challenge. I remembered that Stonebridge Trails were mostly flat terrain that could be easy on her foot. She was hesitant but agreed to come with me. Neither one of us has walked the trail.
The trail wraps around the Stonebridge at Montgomery senior living community. We parked in the lot next to the Montgomery 1860’s house. We did not find the trailhead, which we later discovered was near the entrance to the 1860’s property but found a way onto the trail from behind the red barn.
We took a wrong turn at the fork in the trail, and I think ended up going south-east toward the D&R Canal toward Rocky Hill. The trail was muddy. We turned around and returned to the fork to go the other direction.
Some of the trails are part of a paved loop walkway which I think was built for Stonebridge. It’s early summer, and most of the spring wildflowers have since disappeared. However, I did find small islands of colour among the ocean of green.
Bhavna’s pain threshold was breached 30 minutes into the walk, so we took the abbreviate trail and headed back to the car.
This morning I joined members of the Washington Crossing Audubon Society and an excited group of birders on a field trip in the Princeton Institute Woods by Brad Merritt. The group met near the entrance to Charles H. Rogers Wildlife Refuge. The Washington Crossing Audubon Society hosts regular birding field trips around Central New Jersey, the Delaware Water Gap, Delaware Bay, the New Jersey shore, and eastern Pennsylvania.
The tract is a nesting ground for more than 90 species of birds and scores of others pass through the refuge; over the years more than 190 species have recorded here. There is perhaps no better place of comparable size to find warblers. A few people see up to 30 different kinds of warblers and many spot 20-25 in a single day at the height of spring migration, the first three weeks of May. As a consequence, many bird watchers and nature groups visit the area every spring. Some of the groups include the Summit Nature Club, the Trenton Naturalist Club, the Montclair Nature Club, and the Watchung Nature Club. The Annual Christmas Bird Count and the Princeton Big Day Count cover the refuge extensively.
This morning’s field trip was planned in memory of Fred Spar, an avid birder and Princeton resident who recently passed away last year.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Fred was a student-athlete who ran track at Midwood High School and Cornell University. His career had many chapters. He worked as an elementary-school science teacher before completing a PhD (1980) at Brown University, where he studied Chinese history and spent a year in Taipei, Taiwan, at the Stanford Center. He lectured at Keene State College before working 36 years as a communications consultant at Kekst & Company in Manhattan. He was a member of the 2010 class at Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative and applied his experience thereafter advising or serving on the boards of environmental and education organizations, including the Watershed Institute, Friends of Princeton Open Space, New York City Audubon Society, Generation Schools, and City Year New York. He was also chair of Friends of the Rogers Refuge, for which he worked tirelessly on improvements to wildlife habitat and accessibility for human visitors.
I didn’t know Fred Spar, but it seems he accomplished much with his life. I joined the group on this field trip, not to honour Fred, but to learn more about the Rogers Wildlife Refuge and also do a test run with the Fujinon XF100-400mm R LM OIS WR that I rented. I will be taking photographs of warblers with Ray Hennessey tomorrow afternoon.
Photographing the birds in the Princeton Institute Woods was challenging for me. The birds kept to the high branches which meant shooting with a bright blue sky as a background; which means too much backlight casting a dark shadow on my subjects. I continued along the walk, shooting wildflowers and plants until we go to an area of marshland. It was here that I was finally able to find some birds against a background that worked for photography.
There are a number of signs within the refuge, one of which explains the importance of marshes and swamps. “Marshes: act as ‘safety valves’ during peak rains; help maintain our water table; provide a highly productive habitat and food supply for fish, waterfowl birds, animals and crustacea; and serve as a collection point for high-ground nutritional runoff.” Preservation of this habitat is particularly worthwhile because marshes are disappearing at an alarming rate.
I captured some photos of the Red-winged Blackbird that had landed one on the tall grasses in the swamp. The images are not as sharp as I would like. These were captured at the far end of zoom range for this lens.
On my walk back to the car a song sparrow landed in a low branch of one of the trees immediately to my left.
To fend off seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and get some fresh air, Bhavna and I decided that in 2019 we would find our way outside despite both hating the cold. We joined the REI co-op, bought some base layers, and new jackets, hiking boots, etc. After three months of staying indoors drinking craft ales, I start to look and feel “round“, especially in. my belly.
One of the perks of joining the REI Co-op is that we get access to classes about hammocking, hiking, biking etc. This past weekend Bhavana and I signed up for a beginner’s hike; the Hike and Hops at St. Michaels Farm Preserve. The Lawrenceville REI Co-op organised this hike. When we awoke that morning, Bhavna and I were sure REI would cancel the walk. It had rained the night before, and the warmer air temp was melting the snow. We expected the trail would be too wet to hike. It was too wet but not so much to cancel the hike. We layered up and drove to the trailhead on Princeton Avenue to find a group of about eight people waiting in the parking lot.
Now over 400 acres, the St. Michaels property, which was preserved in 2010 and expanded in 2017, is an expanse of farm fields and forests on the edge of Hopewell Borough. From many parts of this preserve, the visitor has long views, lending the preserve a wonderful expansiveness which promotes a sense of well-being in anyone who walks its many farm roads and paths. From 1896 until 1973 this was the home of St. Michael’s Orphanage and Industrial School which was operated by the Catholic Diocese of Trenton. After the orphanage was closed, the building where the children lived and went to school was torn down and most of the land was leased to a local farmer. Before the diocese divested themselves of the property through development they offered one last chance for preservation if D& R Greenway could raise the funds to purchase the property. Over $11 million was raised, and in 2010 D& R Greenway succeeded in purchasing the land through a public/private partnership. It is now preserved as open space forever. The largest amount of the $11M purchase price for this property came from the State farmland preservation program. Six miles of farm roads provide walking trails throughout the preserve.
We met the trail guide Dan and his friend John. John lives in the area and is an educator in a local public school. We were given an overview of the trail and a history of St. Michaels Farm before proceeding along a soggy and muddy open field. We struggled to make our way back to more solid ground, and since I stopped for Bhavna and to take photos, we fell behind the rest of the group.
The trail was soggy; perhaps boggy is a better word. Our guide Dan had to choose alternative paths across some of the streams. On the trail, we ducked under fallen trees and scrambled over others. We forded streams with water just barely under the ankle of the shoe. Water entered Bhavna’s shoes.
I’m working from home today. We both injured a foot this weekend while on this beginner’s hike. I think the issue is that we are both barefoot inside our house. We only wear shoes for work or to go hiking. For both of us, wearing shoes is an exercise in damage control. When I wear shoes outside on walks and hike along difficult terrain, my toes curl inside the shoe; trying to get a grip. This action stresses my toes. Is this the reason Westerners have such ugly feet? It’s damaged from years of doing the opposite of what nature intended?
What made the trek worthwhile was the camaraderie of the group during the hike and the post-hike Troon craft ale we drank together at the Brick Farm Tavern.