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Bayshore Summer: Finding Eden in a Most Unlikely Place Hardcover – June 9, 2010
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Bypassed by time and "Joisey" Shore-bound vacationers, the marshes and forests of the Bayshore constitute one of North America's last great undiscovered wild places. Sixty million people live within a tank of gas of this environmentally rich and diverse place, yet most miss out on the region's amazing spectacles.
Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Pete Dunne, Author of Bayshore SummerDear Amazon Reader, There was a time--and it wasn't long ago--that the Dicks and Janes and Sallys of this world went out and soaked their sneakers in streams, gleefully blackened the legs of fresh-washed jeans on rough-barked trees, and dared each other to see how many eggs were in the nest at the end of that topmost limb. Engaging the natural world was as natural as natural could be. Then they grew up. Lived busy lives. The wonder and discovery they knew as kids became a memory, not their reality--which is sad, and a trend that as a thirty-year member of the New Jersey Audubon Society staff I have battled all my adult life. Bayshore Summer, like its predecessor, Prairie Spring, is, on the one hand, an extension of my lifelong effort to bring people and the natural world together. It's also a metaphorical knock on the door from an old friend; an invitation to come out and play in a world that hasn't gone anywhere but out of fashion in many people's minds. I've lived on New Jersey's Delaware Bayshore for over twenty years, and I'm still discovering natural spectacles here in one of the last, great wild places along the Atlantic seaboard. This coastal region has survived people and evolved for four hundred years, and while in many respects the forests and marshes and communities seem immune from time, I'd encourage visitors to visit soon. Time has a way of catching up on special places, just as it transforms children who once went out every summer day seeking discovery and wonder. With luck, readers will rekindle memories of wet sneakers, bark-blackened jeans, and maybe the urge to go out, once again, and engage a world where wonder and discovery lie at the fingertips of an outstretched hand. -Pete Dunne
(Photo © Linda Dunne)
Amazon Exclusive: Photographs to Accompany Bayshore Summer
(Click on images to enlarge)
Photos © Linda Dunne
Preserved along the shores of Delaware Bay and up the Maurice River in Cumberland County, New Jersey, there are areas of natural wonder unnoticed by most East Coast drivers hurrying to cities and coastal tourist destinations. Tidal waters, salt marshes, and woodlands shelter a variety of wildlife in close proximity to villages out of which family farmers and generations of fishermen practice their trades. According to Dunne, nature writer and director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, southern New Jersey is a time-forgotten area that has been somewhat protected by high humidity, annoying insects, and bad press. Believing that industrial fisheries and real-estate development are about to permanently alter the balance of the previous three hundred years, Dunne spent a summer visiting game wardens, tomato farmers, fishermen, party-boat operators, and the graves of nineteenth-century naturalists to learn more about his beloved county. His witty and persuasive “what I did this summer” natural-history report merits reading. --Rick Roche
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Humor- "Wawa is Lenape for 7-11."
After a chapter spent on NJ's amazing variety of biting insects-"Here we laugh at mosquitoes. But in case your interested, there are plenty."
Poetic introspection: "Do you remember the serene confidence watching the dawn come up confers on a person?"
Wonderful descriptions: "There is no green like salt marsh green. It is deep and rich and pure; untainted by blue, untinged by yellow. Just pure primary green.( Note: OK, Green is a secondary color, but I like the image.) Green enough to make the Emerald Isles want to trade up."
And informative: The life of a bayshore fisherman, the constant battle between poachers and game wardens, the struggle of wildlife to just survive amidst man's "improvements" are all components that Dunne handles eloquently.
Why not 5 stars? Just a few quibbles- There's a bit too much local info, with Wawa being mentioned so often it's like product placement and two trips with crabbers was one too many. The chapters on "light pollution" and summing up all the dangers the bay faces are a bit too preachy and end the book with a definite lack of enthusiasm that deflates it a bit. There is so much joy present throughout the rest of the work that while I appreciate the message it seemed out of sync with what came before.
If you like to read well-written and thoughtful nature books, I wouldn't pass this by.
It is a natural and cultural history of one of the last wild places in the area. A mix of nature and the people of the area, it was exactly the kind of literature on place that I find so compelling. Dunne is a great biologist in his own right as well as an accomplished author.
Living out west, I really have only visited this area a few times in my life and have no in-depth knowledge of the species found there. Dunne does a great job explaining issues like over-harvesting the horseshoe crabs and how that affects the shore birds. I also enjoyed his encounters with the local culture and farmers and workers.
Where I expected this book to be a straight forward natural history of the Delaware Bay, it reads like a memoir of a maturing naturalist marking the changes of his birthplace. He celebrates the beauty and wildness of this surprising Eden in the shadow of a sixty million people, but he can't help noting that this is a changing paradise. And like many maturing naturalists he understands that this Eden is not untouched wildernesses, but a balance that man has been a part of for generations.
But now, this bayshore balance of man and nature is dying by degrees, and Dunne documents this death through shorebirds and farmers and poachers and fishermen and star light. All of which are suffering the human pressures of our most densely populated state. He explores the sliding baseline where we are generationally losing our touch with what was or could be. He explores dozens of viewpoints and facets like charter fishing where a single legal sized fluke now marks a good day, where once it would have been bushel baskets of weakfish. He also marks where a waterman now flirts with profitability, hoping his take of crab and fin fish outweighs the cost of taking his boat out of the harbor.
While this all sounds like a downer, Dunne sweetens it all with his joy of nature. Where weakfish disappear from the bay, osprey return. Where once there were tens of thousands of knots, there is still the beauty of hundreds. Where there is nature, you can still find hope and awe.
For me, the most moving part of this book is Dunne's marking of how far we have moved from our relationship with nature. It was Frightening to hear him quote Dallas Sharp, another local naturalist from another century. Sharp saw this movement away from nature and implored boys to take 10 mile adventures into the woods, and now I don't know that children can survive a 10 mile hike. Like the balance of the Delaware Bay, our engagement with wild areas is dying by degrees, and without it, our expertise and understanding are disappearing. I'm glad Dunne marked it to help us remember what was and can be.
I'm heading out to pick up Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season tonight.