Fieldwork And Fun On The East Coast

I’m back from my latest trip, which was a great combination of work and play.

It started with being one of the jurors for the Society of Animal Artists‘ prestigious national juried show “Art and the Animal” which, along with the board meeting the next day, was held at the legendary Salmagundi Art Club, located on 5th Avenue in New York. And ended with a walk through the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in central New Jersey

In between, there was a great road trip with fellow Society members and friends, Guy Combes and Andrew Denman. We had a jam-packed five days that included a visit to the Delaware Natural History Museum, Longwood Gardens, Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, the Brandywine River Museum and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

Here’s an album of the highlights:

First was Longwood Gardens, at one time a Du Pont family property.

Longwood Gardens spring border with foxglove
A favorite; Longwood Gardens varigated pineapple
A wall of orchids at Longwood Gardens

Then it was off to the Delaware coast where a comfortable condo had been put at our disposal. I had read “Misty of Chincoteague” as a child and was excited to finally visit both it and Assateague National Seashore, where we turned out to be in the right place at the right time to record this stunning encounter between two young stallions. It went on for at least a half hour and these are just a few of the hundreds of photos I shot, but it shows the pattern of interaction that emerged and was repeated at least a half dozen times.

First we saw this chestnut horse grazing off in the distance
Then this paint horse came strolling down the middle of the road right past us
He walked out to the edge of the water
And waded across to the spit
He winnied loudly a few times and then waited
The chestnut we'd seen earlier came at a fast trot
The two stopped and seemingly sized each other up
The meeting
The nose touch
A quick turn and a kick by one of them
Then they would rear up and "grapple"
Maneuvering for advantage
Both would go down on their knees head to head
And then it would start again
And it all happened in this tremendous setting of water and tideland

What an eyeful that was! We drove on, stopping to hike a number of trails, seeing a variety of birds and more horses.

From Assateague, we took a “detour” to Salisbury, Maryland to visit the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, which houses an incredible collection of hand-carved birds. Then it was back out to the coast to Chincoteague Island.

I was dubious at first, since the entry point to the island is a town that, although having lovely old buildings, was definitely a tourist destination. But I need not have worried. Once east of town and into the refuge, we were in a wonderland of scenery and wildlife.

The scenery was stunning
One of the highlights- multiple sightings of glossy ibis
And of course there were the famous Chincoteague ponies
Out on the beach were large numbers of very entertaining Franklin's gulls
And perched on the causeway railing in great light was this, I believe, Forster's tern

The next day, after a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., Andrew had to catch a plane home, but Guy and I soldiered on, paying a visit to the Brandywine River Museum, home to an astonishing collection of original illustration by N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle and many other legendary illustrators, along with galleries featuring both Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. Very inspiring, to say the least.

The final wildlife stop on the trip was the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in central New Jersey. Surrounded by rural residential development, it is essentially a bowl between the hills that collects water, forming rich swamp and wetland habitats. The main access is a boardwalk trail that winds through the swamp out to a large bird blind. But we were barely one hundred feet down the trail when the wildlife show began.

The Great Swamp
One of the first sightings, a green frog
Then we spotted two northern black racers mating right below where we were standing
It was a bit of a challenge, but I did get a few shots of this chipmunk
For the finale, I got a good look at a snapping turtle

I spent the last night of the trip at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum cottage where Guy is the artist in residence, along with a groundhog and eastern cottontail rabbits. The groundhog managed to stay out of camera range, but I did get some good photos of the bunnies.

Eastern cottontail rabbit

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