Sunday, August 20, 2006

More on Bombay Hook

Last Sunday I wrote a post about DC Audubon's field trip to Bombay Hook on the previous Saturday. Trips to Bombay Hook that include stops at Port Mahon Road, like our trip in the spring, always recall for me Peter Cashwell's description of the site in The Verb "To Bird": Sightings of an Avid Birdwatcher. When I first read that book, I had not yet visited the Delaware coast, so I was unaware of how apt the description is.

In Bombay Hook, nature had been treasured and carefully set aside; near Port Mahon, nature had been invaded, found unprofitable, and left to its own devices. The marsh grass was high enough to mask a lot of the area, but the road itself tangibly displayed neglect by whacking us on the backside every few seconds. Potholes were plentiful enough to make the defacto level of the road a good six inches lower than it pretended to be. Tom eventually piloted us to the end of the marsh road and brought us to the edge of the Delaware River itself, where we were treated to the sight of human endeavor being all but abandoned. Broken pilings jutted from the water at irregular intervals. Near the beach stood unpainted and mysterious wooden buildings which listed dangerously toward the waves, while across the road a few off-kilter telephone poles struggled pointlessly to hold aloft their lines. I rolled down the car window to take in this scene of decay and laughed heartily....

Tom eventually moved upwind and joined me in an examination of the beach, which was narrow, rocky, and brushed by waves whose heavy foam was about the same color as the tailpipe of a '71 Volkswagon Beetle. In places there was a corrugated iron seawall, but in others it was either seriously bent or entirely absent. What beach there was, however, gave us a lesson in appreciating nature's handiwork, even when that handiwork seems silly at first.
The beach at Port Mahon Road is not quite as bad now as what Cashwell described. The road seems to have been improved to allow passage by cars hauling boats to a launch at the end of the road. However, the road still gives the same sense of precariousness, as if it could wash into the bay at any time. And the bay itself is littered with corroded pilings and chunks of concrete. It is a strange place to look for birds, but since horseshoe crabs can spawn there, the birds will be there also.