Sunday, August 5, 2012

Nature Walking at Cape May Point State Park

I followed the yellow trail
 So here's what happened to me yesterday: I spent the afternoon at the Cape May Point State Park Beach. I ate my Basil Hummus sandwich and read a pretty big chunk of Moby Dick. After about three hours, I thought I'd pop over to the Nature Walk to grab some quick photos to illustrate a post about the park. I was wearing my bathing suit and flip-flops, and I only had my iPhone. The glorious beauty of the walk drew me in further and further, and so with sandy feet in flip-flops, I hiked the 1.3333-mile yellow trail.

This is an interesting walk. The trail is partially tricked-out with Trex boardwalks, partially sand, and partially gravel. There are not many yellow signs to follow, but the trail is more-or-less obvious. If there's any doubt, the lighthouse stands by to offer guidance. You can't really get lost with this beacon watching over you: 

The CMP Light on a hazy summer day

The walk winds through forest,
Flip-flop-friendly Trex walk through the forest
through the meadow,
We switch to a dirt trail at the meadow.  
and through the marshy spots.

Some days this look-out looks out on water, but yesterday is was almost dry.

The yellow trail takes us through a mallow wonderland.
Have you noticed the white flowers in these photos so far? Those are Rose Mallows. Marsh Mallows! They were out in full bloom yesterday. They love this hot humid weather. You may see them in white or pink (both are seen at Cape May Point) and you can be sure they are Rose Mallows because they have red centers. There are other similar flowers that have yellow middles: not Mallows (H. palustris). The ancient Egyptians were the first to use the Mallow (the root, I think) for a sore throat remedy. The French created a meringue candy which is similar to our modern mass-produced s'more ingredient. Our modern marshmallows don't contain any part of the actual plant.

As I walked the yellow trail, I saw hundreds of butterflies: yellow, black, purple, Monarch. The bugs did not show interest in me, but I knew they were there. Their chirps and whistles all around me mingled nicely with the mindworm playing in my head, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #5. I noticed a lot of bees, and thanks to an informative sign I learned that these bees are non-aggressive Rose Mallow Bees! They burrow in the ground and mate in the Rose Mallow flower.
Rose Mallow Bee nests in the hard-packed ground

That little round island is covered with terns.
 The birds were staying away from the trail as far as I could tell. They were near the water.  I am not a great birder. My method of birding goes like this: I notice a bird that looks different somehow, and I grab a photo. Then I go home and compare my photo to photographs and drawings in my library of birding books, being careful to consider what birds are likely to be where I shot the photo. Or, I go on bird walks or boat tours with professionals who can tell me what I am looking at. I'm getting better with the shore birds likely to be seen in Cape May, and yesterday I correctly identified the many terns hanging out near the little lake. (I got verification from a group of birders set up on the trail with their scopes and binoculars.)

Cape May Point is internationally famous as a birding spot. This is because of its unique position on the coast, about halfway between where some birds winter and summer. They stop off here and let us photograph them, count them, and talk about them. Think about the amenities Cape May offers: salt water, fresh water (Lily Lake), seafood, and sanctuaries. Some birds nest here. I've written about the Ospreys and Laughing Gulls a few weeks ago here: and a couple of months ago here: But yesterday I was prevented from a yellow trail side trip by this sign:

Black Skimmers, Least Terns, and Piping Plovers are back there in the dunes enlarging their families. This is a state park after all, and we want to encourage them to nest here.

What a glorious day for a nature walk! My flip-flops did fine on the yellow trail (in case you were wondering) and I think my iPhone photos give you a good idea of the Yellow Nature Trail's summer beauty. I'll go back soon to explore the red and blue trails!

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