Wings and Water

Yesterday Ellen and I spent a few hours at the 26th annual Wings and Water Festival, put on by The Wetlands Institute, which is a research and conservation center located in the wetlands between the beach town of Stone Harbor and the Cape May County mainland. We’re long-time members of the Institute, and try to support this annual event when we can. The weather was excellent, mostly sunny and in the 70s, and we enjoyed our afternoon out.

Inside one part of the building is a small aquarium exhibit, and the star is recent acquisition Lois the Octopus. She’s very active and seems to enjoy attention. Information next to the cage explains that she is as intelligent and playful as a housecat, and indeed her tank has quite a few toys in it.

Octopi are fascinating to watch, having a rare combination of delicacy and strength, and can move quickly. The eyes seem quite intelligent.

This shot gives a better idea of size as she glides over to a person close to the tank wall. It’s a cylindrical tank that you can walk around three sides of, allowing this sort of view.

Back outside, Ellen watched an artist painting the view, with the observation tower behind her. We decided to climb it next.

Inside and up this open circular stairway…

Here’s part of the view from the top, looking northwest at Stone Harbor Boulevard, the access road. Inside the tents on the lawn are lots of nature and conservation exhibits as well as nature art and photography, and a food court.

Here’s a look in another direction, east toward the town of Stone Harbor, overlooking the deck were we had been watching the artist.

Out on the trail through the wetlands, we listened while one of the interns talked about this young Diamondback Terrapin, a sea turtle that is a major focus of the Institute. These turtles come ashore in the area every spring and summer to lay their eggs on high ground. Unfortunately, most of the high ground is along the roads, and many are hit by cars. The Institute installs low fencing along the roadsides where they can to prevent this, and monitors all the roadways regularly. If a female terrapin is found dead, hit by a car, she is brought to their lab where they remove the eggs, if intact, and incubate and raise the young. This terrapin is about 3 years old, and is ready to be released.

After that walk we drove to another event area, the Community Hall in Avalon, where we just caught the very end of Al Jordan’s talk and demo of falconry. Here he is with his Harris Hawk. While I prefer to see hawks in the wild, I’m okay with falconry, as long as it’s licensed and monitored. Falconry is a very time-consuming and difficult activity that creates a unique bond between man and bird that both seem to enjoy.

Here’s a closer shot of the hawk. We missed seeing him fly, unfortunately, but have seen falconry demos before.

Inside the Community Hall were many artists, photographers, and carvers exhibiting their work. This is my favorite of the show this year, an amazing wood-carving of a screech owl. Everything you see here is carved from wood, including the fungi and birch tree. The detail is amazing, the photo can’t capture it: every feather is perfect and very lifelike. And the carver is Al Jordan, showing another side of his talent! I wish I could direct you to a website showing more of his work, but he doesn’t seem to have one. If you attend a wildlife carving show or museum exhibit, though, look for his name.

Here’s another carving I liked almost as much, of a shorebird called a Whimbrel, complete with a Fiddler Crab in his beak. You can just see part of the first place ribbon won in the Shorebird division of the annual competition here, with awards given also for best art and photography. We always enjoy the art at this show nearly as much as the nature exhibits, demonstrations and field trips.

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