What’s In Our Water? Raritan River Info Sharing 2022

Since Summer 2019 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County have conducted pathogens monitoring for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer months.

In this video, filmed as part of a public outreach session on 3.24.2022, we present a summary of data and findings for 2019-2021 monitoring, including analysis results of genetic source. We also share information about our monitoring plans for Summer 2022, including our partnership with the EPA.

NJ Clean Watershed Needs Survey

The New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is currently conducting the 2022 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (or CWNS).  The LRWP encourages all Lower Raritan communities to participate so as to collect information about wastewater infrastructure, stormwater – grey and green infrastructure, and non-point source pollution control projects, including the needs for decentralized wastewater (or septic) systems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), in partnership with the State of New Jersey and other states, surveys communities every four years to identify any water quality or public health-based capital needs (up to 20 years) and costs in your community.  The results are published in a Report to Congress, and it is used by Congress and state legislatures in their budgeting efforts.

The CWNS data are also used to help measure environmental progress, contribute to academic research, provide information to the public, and help local and state governments implement water quality programs.  This data can influence the allocation of SRF funds and future special federal grants or funding programs.  The CWNS is your best opportunity to let our decision-makers better understand the financial challenges you face in implementing your wastewater, stormwater management, and NPS pollution control programs.

To participate in the survey, first identify any water quality or public health-based capital needs (up to 20 years) and costs in your community that were not funded by January 1, 2022.  Then, submit these community needs by completing the online survey form and uploading any supporting documentation describing your community’s new needs and costs.

CWNS online webpage registration and login instructions:

1)      Go to https://www.h2loans.com/public/needs-survey/login

2)     For your initial usage, please click on the “Click here to Register” button.

3)     After your registration is complete, enter your e-mail and click “Log-In.”

4)     A confirmation e-mail will be sent to you with a link that takes you to the needs survey page showing thelist of all your surveys.

5)     To create a new survey, click the “Start New Survey” button.

6)     You must submit any open survey before you may create another.

Please submit the survey with your community needs and supporting documents by May 31, 2022.

If you have any questions about the CWNS or need assistance in filling out the form, NJDEP will provide technical support.  If you have identified your needs but lack the supporting cost documentation, NJDEP staff can provide alternative means of documenting these costs or assist you by using a cost estimation tool.  Please contact Ketan Patel or Kyle Carlson at 609-292-3114 or e-mail at NJCWNS22@dep.nj.gov.

Happy Spring! On shadows, seasons, and the night sky

On March 21 we welcome the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere. Most of us learn in elementary school that as the Earth rotates on its axis, the tilt of rotation brings the northern and southern poles either closer to or farther from the sun. In the farther position each hemisphere experiences less daylight, and the days are cooler. In the closer position – hello Spring! hello Summer! – more concentrated sunlight results in warmer days and longer periods of daylight.

Our relationship to the sun also affects the night sky, and the visible constellations are seasonal and change throughout the year. If you make a habit of looking at the sky every morning just before sunrise or every night right after sunset, you will start to notice how a few new stars emerge in the east each day. Since the sun and stars move at different rates, the change you observe is what is revealed with a gradual tilt of the earth’s axis at approximately one degree per day.

One thing that doesn’t change while the earth moves on it’s axis is the latitude, or north–south position, of specific points or locations on the Earth’s surface. New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center explains: “The key factor determining which stars we can see on a certain night is our latitude. Latitude is how far we are north or south of the equator.”

Liberty Science Center – March 2022 Night Sky Over New Jersey

Our Raritan Watershed is 40 degrees north of the equator. Other 40th latitude cities include Menorca, Sardinia, Beijing, Humboldt County, Boulder and, closer to home, Philadelphia. Per the 1894 Kansas-Nebraska Act, the 40th parallel north also forms the boundary between the states of Kansas and Nebraska. Anyone at the 40th parallel looking up at the night sky at the same time of night will see the same stars that we do in our Lower Raritan.

As fascinating as looking at the night sky is as a way to track seasonal change, of course there are other ways to use our position in space to perceive the passage of time. Instead of looking up at the stars at night we can observe the change in shadows on our landscape. As the Earth rotates towards the sun, the sun gets closer to the zenith, or its directly overhead position. This affects the cast of shadows on the landscape around us.

Use Spring Equinox to start investigating the interplay of sun and shadow on the landscape.

Photo taken in Rutgers EcoPreserve at approximately 2pm February 20, 2022.

The photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote “To take photographs means… putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis.”

The sun rising during the spring and summer months in our sky means that heat and light reach our surface at a steeper angle. The result: noon on a summer day (the sun’s highest position) casts almost no shadows. Similarly, in the winter, the angle of the sun drops lower casting less concentrated heat and longer shadows. Just as the sun’s proximity to earth directly affects the Earth’s surface temperature, the angle of the sun also dictates the length of shadows. Areas closer to the equator experience much less of this phenomena because their relationship to the sun’s position is much more consistent year round.

Starting Monday, March 21 – the first day of Spring – we will start a three month daily “meditation” on the intersection of shadows, space and time. Will you join us? All you need is a willingness to commit to visiting a site in your neighborhood landscape every day at the same time, and an interest in tracking a shadow in your neighborhood to mark the climb of the sun. We welcome you to share your observations!

Here’s how: Choose an open area with plenty of direct sunlight, then pick an object that casts a distinct shadow. At the same time each day between the March 21 Spring Equinox and the June 21 Summer Solstice visit the object and measure the length of its shadow. Over time you should see the shadow shrink slowly. After the first month, make an estimate of how long you think the shadow will be at the end of your observations. And consider this: the days get longer, our shadows get shorter, but the sun doesn’t change size or temperature during the seasons, it is only our position that changes.

Project Update: South River, NJ Ecosystem Restoration

On February 24, 2022 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Princeton Hydro and Middlesex County Office of Planning hosted a Virtual Outreach Session to share concept plan development for the restoration of a 165-acre coastal eco-park along the South River in New Jersey.

During this webinar project partners discuss ecosystem restoration; contextualize the site and its historic and current conditions; provide drone images of the site; and discuss proposed public access opportunities, recreational priorities, ecological enhancement (including identifying optimal nest platform locations for Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons), and more.

This project is supported through a $249,639 in National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to:

“Conduct an ecosystem restoration site assessment and design for 165 acres of tidal marshes and transitional forest in New Jersey’s Raritan River Watershed. Project will result in an engineering plan with a permit-ready design to reduce coastal inundation and erosion along about 2.5 miles of shoreline for neighboring flood-prone communities and enhance breeding and foraging habitat for 10 state-listed threatened and endangered avian species.”

Raritan River Birthstone

Article and photos by Joe Mish

During one, six thousand year moment, in the eons of glacial expansion and retreat, the Queen of Rivers was born. So described by an early nineteenth century writer, inspired by the bucolic Raritan River. The beauty of the river’s pastural floodplain dotted with colorful native flowers and grasses, stood in contrast to the intermittent high, red shale cliffs. Spring floods scrubbed the red shale soil from its banks to turn the raging river into a semi solid crimson torrent. The contrast in color is dramatic where gravel lined upland streams tumble into the main river current.   

From sweet water freshet to the brackish tide water of its bay, the Raritan’s unimpeded flow expressed its seasonal moods in uninhibited water-colored brush strokes across the landscape, as if it were a living canvas.  

So, the Raritan River proper, as it is defined today, deserves the recognition of a natural wonder, a reference point in geological history, worthy of attention in a state marked by an ever changing manmade landscape. 

The Raritan’s headwaters arise from two major sources in the north, the South Branch from Budd Lake, and the North Branch from a swamp in Chester. The confluence of these two rivers join (in Branchburg) to form the Raritan River.

Facing upstream at the confluence, the river on the left enters from the south and is so named the South Branch, despite its origin in the north. The river on the right comes in from the north and is aptly named the North Branch.

If ever a natural wonder needed to be celebrated it would be the Raritan River. Toward that end I always imagined a rough stone marker of an age befitting the river queen’s origin be placed at the confluence, “the meeting place of waters”, Tuck-ramma-hacking”. Informal and primitive to match the uninhibited behavior of this ancient watercourse, a perfect partner to mark the celebrated river’s place of birth: a monument that will be submerged during spring floods and bear the scars of ice flows.  

I imagine a bronze plaque bearing the name of the river and its birthdate set among petroglyphs of animal tracks and wild flowers carved into the stone by local artists to represent the community the river serves.  

The spot for eventual placement of a “birthplace of the Raritan” marker

Bringing a dream to reality often turns to fantasy. At least now an attempt is being made to explore the possibility of placing such a stone at the apex of the North and South Branch Rivers. Through a network of well-placed friends, we have approached the state with this request to determine feasibility. A labyrinth of permits and permissions remains to be navigated if given conditional approval. At the very least, the ship has left the dock and we will soon learn if it is seaworthy.  

A stone, not yet chosen, has been promised and placement will be included. The river deserves to have a name and birthstone. Erroneously, the North Branch has official signage that declares it to be the Raritan River. If nothing else, it would be a worthy accomplishment to establish the correct identity.  

“Like a pine tree linin’ the windin’ road, I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name…..” go the lyrics to a song. What is in a name is respect. It is our nature to treat anonymity differently than familiarity.  Walk through a field, not knowing one plant from another, go from point A to point B and we naturally take a straight-line course. Eyes planted on the far side, anything in the way gets stepped upon. Guarantee that if a plant is identified to the trekker, whether it be fleabane or little bluestem, the path will be adjusted to avoid stepping on the now identified plant. So it is with names that emerge from anonymity, they project some kindred link that brings conscious thought to bear. A good reason to identify the Queen of Rivers and engender some new found respect for a natural wonder that will be here after we and our kin are long gone.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author. Contact jjmish57@msn.com.

LRWP comments on Middlesex County Open Space and Recreation Plan

Dear Middlesex County Commissioners –

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP) provides the following comments on the Middlesex County Destination 2040: Proposed Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP):

  • Balance open space purchases using County funds with housing offsets to address affordable housing crisis

The OSRP calls for acquisition of land zoned for residential development to preserve farmland and open space, however it does not contain provisions for the off-setting of these purchases with requirements for participating municipalities to increase their residential zoning density or extent. We are concerned that if adopted as currently configured, the OSRP will lead to additional upward price pressure on remaining residentially-zoned undeveloped land, ultimately translating into even higher housing costs and exacerbating the ongoing housing crisis already documented in Middlesex County’s Destination 2040 Master Plan.

We suggest that to mitigate this unintended consequence of two Destination 2040 objectives working against each other the OSRP should require those municipalities receiving Middlesex County Open Space to densify or expand their residential zoning to completely compensate for the reduction in potential buildable units resulting from farmland and/or open space purchases. These offsets should consist of at least a ratio of one created zoned housing unit for every purchased developable housing unit, but with additional credits extended toward housing set-asides for affordable housing, micro-housing, homes for veterans, and age-restricted units.

  • Contextualize recreational connectivity within the larger region

Any County Greenway considerations should include examination of large-scale network connections for recreation, specifically opportunities to link to multiple East Coast greenway networks via the Middlesex Greenway, the Delaware & Raritan Canal, and the Intracoastal Waterway. The larger metropolitan areas of New York City and Washington D.C. are roughly framed by the Appalachian Trail to the North and the potential alignment of the East Coast Greenway to the South. In addition, the Hudson River Valley to the East, the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to the west all form a larger regional trail system matrix. The Middlesex Greenway and Delaware & Raritan Canal could serve as major junctions for these larger regional networks. Likewise, supporting Blueway access from the Intracoastal Waterway up the Raritan River inland to Middlesex County could strengthen a weak link in the East Coast Blueway system.

  • Contextualize habitat connectivity within the larger region

Any analysis of ecological habitat and habitat needs must start with a larger perspective. No mention is made within the current OSRP of watershed level planning, migratory behavior linked to flyways and swimways, or other larger ecological planning efforts like those developed by the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program.

Similarly, as the Middlesex County border is so often defined by natural landscape features including watershed ridges and waterways that serve as habitat connectors, opportunities to enhance habitat connectivity must be examined within the additional contexts of neighboring County conservation and preservation efforts.

  • Present more detailed analysis of use of Middlesex County Conservation/Preservation areas

The current OSRP provides solid summary and analysis of Middlesex County Parks system usage and amenities. However, the network of hiking trails within County and publically owned conservation and preservation areas is under theorized. Considerable opportunities exist to enhance access to areas like Plainsboro Preserve, Ireland Brook, Heathcoate Meadows etc. for passive recreational activities including hiking, cross-country running, and snowshoeing.

  • Consider the role of Open Space Planning in addressing Pollution Reduction, Flooding and Erosion from an impervious cover reduction perspective

The primary cause of pollution, flooding, and erosion problems in Middlesex County is the quantity of impervious surfaces draining directly to local waterways. To repair our waterways, reduce flooding, and stop erosion, stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces has to be better managed. Through the OSRP Middlesex County has an opportunity to strategically prioritize impervious cover reduction in areas at risk through Open Space planning and other interventions. Middlesex County might consider an additional metric related to impervious cover reduction in their open space and recreation planning activities.

Sincerely,

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership Board of Directors

Raritan River’s “Swimways” are featured in BioScience!

Science writer Cheryl Lyn Dybas features the Raritan River and the dam removal work of Hydrogeologist John Jengo in her article “Birds Follow Flyways, Fish Navigate Swimways” published this week in the journal BioScience. Ms. Dybas also highlights research by Rutgers biologists Olaf Jensen and Anthony Vastano, who track the impact of dam removal on local fish populations in the Raritan, and cites additional research by Rutgers ecologist Julie Lockwood who is using eDNA (environmental DNA) to monitor the comeback of river herring and American shad in the Raritan. Cool stuff!

Ms. Dybas’ piece provides a fascinating global perspective on habitat connectivity, and contextualizes our local-to-the Raritan dam removal and fish passage efforts in a larger movement to save migratory fish species (World Fish Migration Day is May 21, 2022). We are so grateful for her attention and reporting on this work!

Interested in learning more? Read John Jengo’s wonderful essay series on dam removal in the Raritan Basin. Access tools and resources to better understand habitat connectivity planning in New Jersey in a blog post by LRWP intern Emily Koai. Learn about the LRWP’s non-dam-removal plans to simultaneously improve habitat connectivity and advance resilience planning in this article about our South River Ecosystem Restoration Project. And save the date Thursday May 12 for a special webinar presentation by Isabelle Stinnette, Restoration Program Manager, NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary Program. Ms. Stinnette will speak on Restoring aquatic habitat through climate-ready infrastructure in the Lower Raritan

New Jersey Road Salt Study

The New Jersey Watershed Watch Network’s Road Salt Impact Study is running for the 2022 winter season. Now in its third year, the NJ Road Salt Impact Study employs the help of hundreds of volunteers across the state of New Jersey to collect water quality data on chloride levels as they change throughout the season. Chloride is a constituent of road salt and tends to increase in fresh waters as salt washes off the roads into our streams and lakes.

To participate in this community science project, pick an accessible spot on a freshwater stream or lake near you. You will return to this spot six times before the end of March to measure how chloride levels change in response to road salting events. Testing takes about 10 minutes, including the time it takes to post your results to the online data portal.

Visit njwatershedwatch.org/roadsalt to learn more about the program and to request your free chloride test strips. Test packets will be mailed out in a few days.

Designing an Eco-Park Along the South River

By Johnny Quispe, Ph.D., LRWP Board Member and Princeton Hydro Ecosystem Restoration Project Lead

Learn more about this project during our February 24, 6:30-8pm Webinar!

Just 50 miles southeast of New York City, tucked between two municipalities, sits a 650+ acre tidal salt marsh which spans the shorelines of the South River in densely populated, highly developed Central New Jersey. The South River is the first major tributary of the Raritan River, located 8.3 miles upstream of the Raritan River’s mouth, which drains into Raritan Bay.

The Lower Raritan River and Raritan Bay make up a large part of the core of the NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary Program. Within the Raritan Estuary, the South River wetland ecosystem is one of the largest remaining wetland complexes. While the South River salt marsh ecosystem has been spared from direct development, it has been degraded in quality, and does not provide optimal habitat for wildlife or maximum flood protection for residents. This area is subject to fairly regular tidal flooding (particularly when it occurs simultaneously with a storm) and periodic—generally more severe—flooding during more significant events such as nor’easters and tropical storms. Hurricanes Irene and Sandy caused damage in the Boroughs of Sayreville and South River too.

In 2018, Princeton Hydro and Rutgers University, along with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Middlesex County, Borough of Sayreville, Borough of South River, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Raritan Riverkeeper, and the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, secured funding from NFWF’s National Coastal Resilience Fund for the “South River Ecosystem Restoration & Flood Resiliency Enhancement Project.”

The South River Ecosystem Restoration and Flood Resiliency Enhancement Project aims to:

  • Reduce socioeconomic damages to the Boroughs of South River and Sayreville caused by storm damage, flooding, and sea level rise;
  • Transform degraded wetlands to high-quality marsh that can reduce flooding and enhance fish & wildlife habitat; and
  • Engage stakeholders in activities about coastal resilience and ecological health to maximize public outreach in the Raritan River Watershed.

For this 165-acre tidal marsh and transitional forest “eco-park,” the project team is conducting an ecosystem restoration site assessment and design. This phase of the coastal restoration project will result in a permit-ready engineering design plan that stabilizes approximately 2.5 miles of shoreline, reduces flood risk for smaller coastal storms, and enhances breeding and foraging habitat for 10 state-listed threatened and endangered avian species.

Project Area History

This area has experienced repeated flooding, especially during large storms. For example, coastal areas of Sayreville and South River flooded after Hurricane Floyd (1999), Tropical Storm Ernesto (2006), Hurricane Irene (2011), and Hurricane Sandy (2012). Over the last century, there have been several studies and assessments completed for the South River, many of which identify this project area as a priority location for flooding improvements. The following are key reports and studies published about the project area and surrounding communities:

1930s

  • NJ Legislature’s 71st Congress published a report, “Basinwide Water Resource Development Report on the Raritan River Basin” which focused on navigation and flood control for the entire Raritan River Basin. It discussed recommendations for flood control and local storm drainage, setting the stage for future actions.

1970s

  • NJDEP Division of Water Resources published Flood Hazard Reports for the Matchaponix Brook System and Raritan River Basin, which delineated the floodplains in the South River, and its tributaries, the Manalapan Brook and Matchaponix Brook.

1980s

  • USACE New York District released a “Survey Report for Flood Control, Raritan River Basin,” which served as a comprehensive study of the Raritan River Basin and recommended several additional studies. Although the South River was studied, none of the proposed improvements were determined to be economically feasible at that time.
  • Project area was listed as one of the Nation’s Estuaries of National Significance.

1990s

  • USACE conducted a multi-purpose study of this area. This preliminary investigation identified Federal interest in Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction and ecosystem restoration along the South River and concluded that a 100-year level of structural protection would be technically and economically feasible.

2000s

  • USACE NYD and NJDEP released a joint draft, “Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement” for the South River, Raritan River Basin, which focused on “Hurricane & Storm Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration.” Because it was previously determined that there were no widespread flooding problems upstream, the study area was modified to focus on the flood-prone areas within the Boroughs of Sayreville and South River, as well as Old Bridge Township.

Towards a More Resilient South River Ecosystem

Through collaboration with our project partners and following input provided from a virtual stakeholder meeting held in December 2020, Princeton Hydro developed a conceptual design for an eco-park that incorporates habitat enhancement and restoration, and protective measures to reduce impacts from flooding while maximizing public access and utility. Public access includes trails for walking and designated areas for fishing. The eco-park can also be used for additional recreation activities such as bird watching and kayaking.

Highlights of the conceptual design include the following features:

  • Approximately two miles of trails with overlook areas, connection to fishing access, and a kayak launch.
  • ~3,000 linear feet of living shoreline, located along portions of the Washington Canal and the South River, to provide protection from erosion, reduce the wake and wave action, and provide habitat for aquatic and terrestrial organisms.
  • ~60 acres of enhanced upland forest to provide contiguous habitat areas for resident and migratory fauna.
  • A tidal channel that will connect to the existing mud flat on the southeastern part of the site and provide tidal flushing to proposed low and high marsh habitats along its banks.
  • A vegetated berm with a trail atop will extend the length of the site to help mitigate flood risk.
  • Two nesting platforms for Osprey, a species listed as “Threatened” in NJ
  • Designated nesting habitat for the Diamondback Terrapin, a species listed as “Special Concern” in NJ

Natural Treasures Hidden in Plain View

Article and photos by Joe Mish

A short rapid at the head of an island on the South Branch demanded my immediate attention, though it was an easy and familiar passage. A few quick draws and paddle strokes allowed the canoe to negotiate the exposed rocks without a scratch. The smooth open water below the rocks, this day, appeared to be non- navigable as a herd of Holstein milk cows stretched from pasture to the far bank.  The cool water must have felt so good on their udders they were reluctant to move and remained motionless, all eyes watching me silently approach.

I did my best to avoid starting a stampede and shunned the thought of owning the notoriety of being the only canoeist ever to be churned into oblivion by stampeding bovines, while paddling down a quiet river. It would certainly be an inglorious and unexpected end to a peaceful canoe trip.

The cows did give way, grudgingly, as they shifted position to allow my passage, each cow substituting for a slalom gate on a downriver run.

A a glance, the note hanging from the cow’s ear appeared to be a cartoon bubble expressing the animal’s thoughts. The cows are gone, never to return, unlike the diverse collection of wildlife populations reconstituted along our local rivers and open space.

That scenario will never happen again as the dairy farm was sold and new environmental regulations barred cattle from rivers and streams.

So it was the proliferation of dairy herds dwindled to change the perception of the character of the region from rural to land prime for development.

The absence of cows from the landscape was taken as signal that nothing remained to be saved in terms of nature or wildlife. The land without cows was sterile and devoid of life, a waste of space, only to be saved by ratables.

Unbeknownst to most, the open space and river corridor teemed with viable populations of wildlife that existed long before the cows came and remained in viable populations after the cows passed.

A common misconception about wildlife is, if you don’t see herds of animals, they don’t exist, except as anomalies. The facts are, many wildlife species, mink for example, exist in healthy populations across the state.

Animals that dominated stories of frontier days, sans mountain lions, still live among us. Tales of coyotes, black bear, otter, beaver, turkey, whitetail deer and eagles belong to wild country, pristine wilderness rarely visited by humans. Even the sound of migrating wild geese, flying a mile high in a V formation, still make the heart beat faster. The geese were travelers from the far north on a winged journey, whose eyes had seen wild places we could only dream about.

The symbol of our country, the bald eagle, until recently, existed only as marketing brands, has now established territory along our rivers, one nest producing fifteen fledglings over seven years. Eagles of all ages are now a common sight.

Trees gnawed by errant beaver looking for a permanent home line the rivers. Transients pass through each winter, occasionally homesteading for a few years. Beaver were the main attraction for early settlers and provided impetus to explore and settle the early wilderness. Again, a local animal whose lineage is associated with mountain men, wilderness and American history, remain and thrive despite the absence of cows.

As I paddled down the south branch, an oversized raptor perched on a dead tree branch extending over the river. I could not identify the species and wanted to get some images. I set the boat to drift on a course that would pass directly under the bird. To my surprise it tolerated my presence as I took my limit of images. Still thinking it was some variety of hawk, I continued on my journey. Only when editing the images, I realized I was within intimate distance of a juvenile bald eagle! I had no idea eagles even existed locally; the only one I ever saw was fifty years ago on the upper Delaware River. Consider the misconception created when the most common image of an eagle, as seen exclusively on branding, is that of an adult with a white head and tail. It is easy to ignore or mistake juvenile birds as it takes about four and a half years for the plumage to change to pure white.

The thought then occurred, beside eagles, what other unexpected wild life or endangered and threatened birds and animals existed in our midst? Rivers serve as ancient migration routes for birds and animals, the pathways imprinted in their DNA. So the opportunity exists to observe unusual species during times of migration and the possibility some may decide to take the exit ramp and remain. 

Our natural treasures are hidden in plain view, their legacy continues if we recognize their existence and the importance of protecting the land along our rivers and open space.

 

You may not see him but rest assured he sees you! The howl of coyotes in the night, strikes a primitive cord in our DNA as we share the emotion felt by our paleo ancestors, huddled around a fire, bridging the unknown with magic and mythology.  

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author. Contact jjmish57@msn.com.

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