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In the Bird World, A Glimpse of Nature’s Abundance

first_imgBy Andrew SpearsAT THANKSGIVING WE celebrate the wonderful plenty that we enjoy in our nation. In spite of natural calamities and our own environmental missteps, we benefit from a spectacular abundance of food relative to other nations thanks to our Creator’s grace, Nature’s design, and farmers’ toil. When we witness abundance in nature, we find reassurance and hope that nature’s survival impulse is ultimately victorious.  The bird world provides magnificent glimpses of bounty that are cause for celebration…gatherings of such great numbers that they beg us to pause and revel with them in their species’ success.  New Jersey is fortunate to host a number of annual bird concentrations of such awesome numbers that they truly qualify as natural spectacles.Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge’s Brigantine unit near Atlantic City hosts brilliant hordes of Snow Geese in November, great white masses that peel from the marshes and form dense white clouds that roll and tumble against the slatey autumn sky only to softly settle again among the reeds and tidal creeks.  The beautiful explosion of sound when an Eagle or other predator spooks these geese is a symphony that both deafens and delights the lucky observer. The annual spring stopover of shorebirds along the Delaware Bay as they gorge on Horseshoe Crab eggs before the last leg of their northward journey is another such spectacle.  Red Knots, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstones, and other sandpipers blanket the narrow shorelines of Cape May and Cumberland County at places such as Reed’s Beech, Moore’s Beach, East Point, and Thompson’s Beach.  When you hit it at its peek in late May, you will be rewarded with a jaw dropping display of such density that the sand beneath the birds is barely visible.  The migrants, most in their bright breeding plumage, form a carpet of red, black and white that slides back and forth with the lapping waves, frantically collecting the exposed crab eggs each time the water retreats.This spectacle repeats itself closer to home along Sandy Hook Bay, usually around Memorial Day.  A similar concentration of migrating shorebirds, albeit in much smaller numbers, can be encountered at Union Beach’s Conaskonk Point and the pebbly coves of Atlantic Highlands.  The shorebirds’ fattening contributes to their breeding success rates.  New Jersey’s moratorium on Horseshoe Crab harvest is believed to have helped stabilize the Red Knot numbers in recent years. Other striking bird displays occur locally in late fall as sparrows, Robins, and blackbirds move through our fields and forests in impressive waves.  Also, the stage is set for numbers of waterfowl to funnel into our bays and rivers and form into large rafts to feed through early winter until ice sets in.These and other notable bird events are curious if not miraculous.  One cannot help but wonder how these birds assemble and organize into such marvelous masses.  Their breeding and wintering grounds are dispersed across hundreds of miles yet somehow as part of their annual survival cycle they benefit from flocking together.  Certainly food supply plays a pivotal role…birds gather where the eating is good. But other factors must certainly play a part.  Safety in numbers is often true in the bird world.  A bird has better odds at surviving a predator’s strike if it is melded in a sea of brethren.  Navigation challenges might also contribute to flocking behavior.  It is easier to find your way in the company of others going the same way.  Or, perhaps, it is phenomenon simply steeped in tradition, much like Thanksgiving, when birds gather in a way their species has done for generations.last_img read more


first_imgARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 20, 2016)–Idle since mid-August, California-bred My Fiona smoked from off the pace to take Thursday’s $55,000 Santa Anita allowance feature by 3 ½ lengths under Fernando Perez. Bred and owned in-part by Terry Lovingier, the Gary Sherlock-trained filly by Ghostzapper got 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17.19.Breaking from her outside post position six, she sling-shotted from next to last turning for home and took the lead inside the sixteenth pole.“She was very relaxed today, just like Gary thought she would be,” said Perez. “I wanted to get her running away from the gate, but she was going at her own pace. At the three eighths, she started picking them up and she ran great.”A well beaten 10th going a mile on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 14, My Fiona, who is also owned by Tom Beckerle and Amanda Navarro, was off at 7-2 in an open field of six fillies and mares three and up and paid $9.40, $4.20 and $2.60.A three-time stakes winner versus state-breds, My Fiona now has six wins from 15 overall starts. With the winner’s share of $42,900, she now has earnings of $474,743. (And, her bottom line will be further augmented by a Cal-bred incentive bonus of $16,500).“This is the way she wants to run,” said Lovingier in the Winner’s Circle. “As a 2-year-old, she showed a lot of speed, but she’s much better now as a come from behind sprinter. I want to give Gary a lot of credit for the way he’s developed her. We’ll run her next time in the Betty Grable at Del Mar (seven furlongs versus Cal-breds on Nov. 13).Ridden by Santiago Gonzalez, Brainspin was head and head outside of Ponder Lea and Ultimate Holiday early, took the lead mid-way around the turn and was second best, finishing 1 ½ lengths clear of Ponder Lea as she stayed on her left lead through the stretch run. Off as the 2-1 favorite, she paid $3.60 and $2.40.Ponder Lea, who broke from the rail with Martin Garcia, was off at 5-2 and paid $2.40 to show.Fractions on the race were 21.47, 44.16 and 1:10.43.First post time for an eight-race card on Friday is at 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.last_img read more