Bunker dominate the bay. They’re a big reason why dolphins, stripers, and humpback whales wander just off our beach. My grandchild calls them “skyfish” when she sees one wiggling in the talons of an osprey as it flies overhead.
Chances are you’ve seen pieces of larger bunker along the tide line–stiff, gray, dead.
This little guy was also stiff and dead, but its brilliant colors jumped at me as I ambled along the ferry jetty. A storm tide had left him on the wrong side of the rocks and the gulls had yet to find him.
I tried to toss it back into the canal, but with the stiff breeze, it fell between the jetty rocks, a treat for the crabs.
Some days I’m little more than the Samuel Pepys of North Cape May, noting the day to day changes along our tiny patch of the Delaware Bay. Pepys’ musing were punctuated by the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. We have COVID and the demise of democracy, but unlike Pepys, I’m sticking to the beach.
This afternoon was about 10 degrees warmer than yesterday, just this side above freezing. The skies were gray, the water steel, and an east breeze kept the waves down. The clouds were threatening rain, and started to spit before the walk ended.
The crab claws were just a couple of feet apart, both awkwardly lovely, blues and purples and reds contrasting with the gray day. The blue crab claw held on to a piece of seaweed, the calico crab claw clutched a strand of grass.
The rest of the crabs are likely in a gull’s gullet, if not already vomited out in a crunchy bolus.
Yesterday’s icy chill painted the jetties with ice, only three months after my last swim in the bay back in October.
Someone else has remembered the warmth as well, leaving her artistry scrawled on the beach, the rising tide slowly erasing her work, a girl dressed for the beach. Next to this was another drawing of Batman–even superheroes need a vacation now and again.
A couple of jetties down has the hull of a sunfish sailboat up on the edge of the grass. It washed up after a storm a couple of years ago, and has been banging around since. It once belonged to someone in Ben Oaks, Maryland. I wrote to the village over a year ago, never heard back.
No whales, no seals, just a few sand pipers and gulls, the detritus of the dead, and me, still breathing–that’s more than enough.
In a couple of days we will be leaving the darkest six weeks of the year behind us.
A northwest blow is going to remind us that even though the darkest days are behind us, we still have a cold couple of months staring at us.
Words shrink as the sunlight grows. Imbolc is still weeks away.
A few years ago in late January I watched a crow at the ferry jetty caw caw caw at a gull sharing a light post. The gull did not respond.
The crow swooped down to the pavement, picked up a piece of paper, then returned to its perch near the gull.
The crow carefully ripped up the paper, piece by piece, dropping each piece, one by one, watching each piece until it hit the ground, looking at the gull between pieces as if to say Hey!
When done, the crow cawed once more, and this time the gull squawked back. The crow, now seemingly satisfied, nodded, and then flew to a trash can and cawed at a few human folk, one of whom cawed back.
Christmas and Epiphany have passed, but winter is persists, and this week we’ll see our lowest temperatures of the new year.
The bay has yet to ice up, so we’ll get a little warmth off the water, but we’re headed for a couple of difficult months and so is the wildlife..
The harsh cold at night will freeze the berries, the sun will thaw them during the day. The freeze and thaw cycle will make the berries mushy enough for our neighborhood birds to enjoy deep in winter, when food becomes scarce.