Saturday, June 21, 2008

American Littoral Society

For the first time ever students from Camden and Newark met at Sedge for a program of common interest- conservation of natural resources. Six students from the Urban Trekers Program in Camden paired up with six from the North Star Academy in Newark for three days of activities. For the entire time they were at Sedge they shared everything. They began by moving their gear into one of the tiny Sedge bedrooms. After a quick lunch the newly formed pairs attempted to kayak, but a fast moving cold front with winds of more than forty miles per hour limited our paddling to the area near the dock.

Later that evening we had a visit from John Wnek. To add to the excitement, his wife Patricia who is expecting a baby any day accompanied him. John demonstrated how he tags diamond backed terrapins that the students had seen laying eggs earlier in the day. The storm stranded our visitors on the island for the night and the happy couple left at 5:00am the following morning. They did not set a record for the first baby born on Sedge Island.

Despite their lack of kayaking experience our seven-mile paddle to the dike on the second day was trouble free. Toward the end of our paddle we approached the Bahamas, the large sandbar southwest of the house. We saw a boat high and dry. With less than two inches of water under the hull and a falling tide, it appeared that the owners, young couple and their two-year-old daughter, would be stranded for many hours. Our group decided to attempt a rescue mission. With all of us pushing, pulling and lifting we managed to move the boat into deeper water. Great teamwork allowed us to accomplish what Sea Tow had been unable to do.

On their last morning at Sedge students gave oral reports on topics they had studied while on the island. As they shared their feelings about their Sedge experience Chris Williams, a senior at the North Star Academy who describes himself as a philosopher, read the following poem.

An Island Like You
An island like you
Not in the rear view
Success is a journey
Not a destination
Destination never culminates
Even after decimation
A mark is left
Whether big or little
Follow your intuition
You can never fail
What is success?
If you never fail
Opposing forces clash when not in agreement

An island like you
You may never see it
Never characterize possible as impossible
Then your mind shall never be sinkable
Key to life
Life ABCDEFG of the piano
I complain because of my ability
Offspring fly 1,000 miles for free
Money is personified as mankinds motivation
Why isn’t it fighting the temptation?

An island like you
Cannot be sought through excavation
Instead contemplation, meditation, isolation
Archeologist cannot find ones passion but only you
Even in the midst of far worse struggles, its an island like you

Sunday, June 15, 2008

MATES Shared Time Students

Of the twelve Juniors who spent two days at Sedge just prior to the end of school, only one had previously visited the island and he had come many years ago as a 6th grader from Stafford Elementary School. As a result, our usual short kayak paddle past the osprey nests and peregrine falcon was a new experience for almost everyone. We stopped at the “Bahamas” to dig for clams. With a fairly low tide and exceptionally warm water (85F) we were comfortable digging by hand more than two feet deep to find several hard clams and many Stouts Taglus clams.

The following day the group paddled to Spizzle Creek to help MATES administrator, John Wnek, stage Mega-terrapin Day. This was John’s first attempt to simultaneously collect a large number of Diamond Backed Terrapins. We began by stretching a 300 ft. Tremal net across the eastern end of a cove just south of the bird blind. Twelve students, staff and visitors slowly inched the net forward attempting to corral the terrapins at the end of the cove. The knee deep soft mud that sucked off almost any footgear made this effort extremely difficult. This sweep of the net resulted in the capture of one small male. In a second attempt we strung the net across the entrance to the cove and drove the terrapins toward the net as we splashed with our kayak paddles. Although we saw many terrapins we were only able to capture a few.

Although we did not catch many terrapins, the group had a variety of other good experiences. Many students enjoyed snorkeling in the clear water in the thorofare near the Sedge House. Several people got up to watch a spectacular sunrise and one of the girls caught an eighteen-inch blue- her first fish ever. Students and MATES teacher Kelly McMillan caught dozens of comb jelly fish and placed them in a small fish tank. Later that evening we were delighted to see the bioluminescence when these ctenophores were stirred up in the tank.

Monday, June 9, 2008

June Appalachian Mt. Club

A small but hearty group of club members paddled out to Sedge on Friday afternoon. Jim accompanied by interns Kate and Dave brought their heavy gear (including lots of food) over on the pontoon boat. By 6:00pm several members of the group had arrived to set up the five-course dinner. Delicious!

On Saturday the group paddled west across the bay to the Lighthouse Camp, back east and around Gull Island, south into Little Bay, and finally north to return to Sedge. Although no one tracked the mileage on a GPS, this trip was easily twelve miles. Some paddlers were very tired when they returned but all were proud of their accomplishment.

On Sunday we went for a shorter paddle (4.5 miles) that included another visit to Gull Island. These were Dave’s first trips in a sea kayak and he certainly could not have had a better beginning experience. We all enjoyed seeing oystercatcher chick running around at the edge of the marsh but Dave was especially excited since on his last visit they we saw only eggs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

St. Benedicts Academy

Tide and weather conditions made for a challenging experience for fourteen girls sixth grade girls and two teachers from St. Benedicts Academy. The group arrived at the Island Beach Dock when the tide so low that Tony had to use the Jon boat to tow the pontoon boat across the sand bar near the island. Later that day their first kayaking experience was made especially challenging due to a strong southwest wind that blew several boat loads of girls away from our destination in the protected waters of the salt marsh.

The wind continued to howl on the second day and rather than going paddling again we began the day with a sunrise hike around the north end of the island. After breakfast the girls wanted to do a service project on the island so they agreed to help with aquaculture maintenance. Although they were a bit squeamish at first, most of the girls spent the next two hours scrubbing bio-fouling organisms off the bags of juvenile oysters and mussels that are part of our shellfish gardening project.

Assistant Program Director Jason Kelsey and intern Shang Jen had an exciting boat ride from the Island Beach State Park dock to Sedge as they encountered a brief but severe thunderstorm that brought heavy rain and intense lightening. Undaunted by their rigorous experience they took the girls kayaking again the following morning. With a lot less wind everyone had a wonderful paddling experience

MATES May, 2008

The first two sections of Mr. Werner’s class were fortunate to experience perfect spring weather for the initial freshman experience on Sedge Island. Although it was cool and bright, the sun made it pleasant to be in the water for kayaking and clamming. Mr. Wnek was able demonstrate how to tag a diamond backed terrapin that Jackie caught earlier in the day.
Spring is in full swing on the salt marsh. The Black Brant that were so numerous several weeks ago have completely disappeared. Osprey are sitting on eggs in almost every nest. This includes the new nest on a platform put up by Project USE earlier this spring. The Peregrine falcon chicks have fledged and we watched the adults working with their young as they were learning to hunt. The Blue Mussels are still covering the bottom in the area around the island. Although they are still very small (3-5mm) they are growing very rapidly. Some small Sea Stars are around but not in any large numbers. Most evident of all is the rapid growth of the Sour Weed algae that seems to have bloomed overnight.

These groups of MATES students fished harder than any other groups to come to Sedge yet this year. They threw every kind of lure. They used clams for bait and for chum. We could see the stripers in the clear water near the dock. Unfortunately no one caught anything. The good is that they are freshmen and will return to Sedge again in later years.