Archive for July, 2010

Prime Hook, Log Canoes and Deer

July 30, 2010

Yellow algae of unknown origin spreads across the saltwater-tainted marshes of Prime Hook.

30 July 2010 • High Summer

Prime Hook Refuge stands at a crossroads.  Will it be a food-abundant freshwater marsh or will it be a continuation of the extensive saltwater marsh system that has earned Delaware its description as two counties at high tide and three counties at low. Hopefully wise heads will prevail and the management of the national refuge will fill breaches in the dunes that are allowing saltwater to intrude and start using the expensive and wonderfully functional water control structures that can keep extensive areas of the system filled with fresh water. Here are some photos taken last week that illustrate what’s going wrong at Prime Hook.  I’ve also included two other photos of recent happenings on Delmarva.

Water rushes across the dune breach from the interior of Prime Hook, just south of Fowler's Beach Road. The photo shows the dense base on which the dunes build and shows that the level of the marsh is higher than the level of nearby Delaware Bay, where these waters are flowing.

This sign at the water control structure along Fowler's Beach Road details the public and private partnership that made the freshwater marshes of Prime Hook such a unique and important asset for waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway.

This photo shows the water control structure along the Fowler's Beach Road, designed to keep freshwater from Slaughter Creek and Prime Hook Creek in the refuge, and saltwater from the marshes to the north out.

This photo shows the refuge water control structure at Petersfield Ditch along the Broadkill Beach Road. Neither this one nor the one along the Fowler's Beach Road are activated to hold freshwater in the refuge system. Both photos show water rushing through the structures, leaving the refuge, at a time when fresh water is sorely needed in the impounded areas.

On a recent trip to the Chester River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, we passed through a log canoe regatta near the junction of the Chester and the Corsica rivers.  Rock Hall Yacht Club sponsored the annual regatta and it was a beautiful sight. The air started light and then built into a brisk breeze out of the southwest which kept the men and women who ride the hiking boards busy.

Racing log canoes on the lower Chester River.

And finally, while riding home one evening from Rehoboth this week on the Junction and Breakwater Trail, we spotted this herd of deer silhouetted against long tubes of harvested alfalfa in Earl Warren’s soybean fields along the trail.  Early and his family recently opened Rustic Acres produce stand and soon will be offering organic milk products from dairy cows on the Holland Glade Road farm.  “Our cows don’t eat anything but what we raise here,” said Warren.

Deer in a soybean field along the Junction and Breakwater Trail.

Guarding grape vines, building guard rails

July 19, 2010

Nassau Valley Vineyards winemaker Mike Reese and something the birds don't like.

19 July 2010

It’s the time of the year when crops are maturing, heading toward harvest, making farmers and growers nervous about how to protect their investments of labor and dollars.  At Nassau Valley Vineyards, following a disastrous year in 2009, the winemakers are watching a decent crop of grapes filling out.  They work different angles day by day to protect the grapes, spraying for certain bugs and molds, trimming back leaves to make sure the grapes get enough sun and circulating air.

Clusters of wine grapes are guarded carefully so they will make it intact to fall harvest.

Mike Reese, head grape overseer and winemaker, took to the vines last week with colorfully menacing balloons mounted on tall flexible sticks. The hope is that the threatening eyes on the balloons will prove more threatening to hungry birds than the attraction of the grapes.

Nassau Valley grows several varieties of grapes including Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. The juice of the grapes is then carefully processed to coax out the best balance between flavor and natural alcohol prior to bottling. Nassau has won a number of prizes in recent years for the quality of their wines and is hoping that this year’s promising harvest yields good juice for more wines that people will enjoy drinking.

New guard rail to protect a new light

Delaware’s Department of Transportation, through a private contractor, recently installed a  $7,000 guard rail opposite the Savannah Road entrance to Cape Henlopen High School.  The guard rail will protect a pole being installed for a new traffic signal being placed at the intersection so a crossing guard will  no longer be needed.  DelDOT spokesperson Tina Shockley said Cape Henlopen School District asked for the new light.  “We agreed that it was warranted and are moving ahead with placement,” said Shockley.  She said the district is paying for the new light which will be maintained by DelDOT.

Jason Rashid,  a traffic system designer with DelDOT, said the new guard rail includes a Type 2 Attenuator on its north end to minimize damage to any southbound vehicle which might strike its end. “The old style guard rails wrapped down and around at the end and sometimes would launch a vehicle if it was going too fast when it struck the rail. The new-style attenuators are designed to absorb the impact of the crash by crushing and cause less damage to the vehicle and driver.”

Shockley said the property owner along whose property the rail is positioned was assured that the guard rail could be moved to accommodate development of the property in the future if that becomes a plan.

The black and yellow-striped area of the guard rail is a crash attenuator designed to crush and absorb the impact of a crash in the event it is struck by an oncoming vehicle.

Purpose-driven Woodstock in Dewey Beach

July 15, 2010

The professional sound stage, colorful umbrellas, dancing people of all ages and jovial spirits fit well together on the wide beach of Dewey.

15 July 2010

Delaware Coast Gulf Aid made for a great happening on the sands of Dewey Beach last night.  A little bit of rain added dimension but no disappointment as those who plunked down their $25 to help the people and wildlife in Lousiana knew that what was falling from the clouds wasn’t oil and for that they were smiling and grateful.

People from throughout Delaware’s Cape Region converged on Dewey for the festivities. They came by foot and trolley and bike and car. When they reached the beach, they lined their sandals up along the snow fence and barefooted to the entrance.  There they met smiling faces who answered questions, sold them 50/50 tickets, and headed them off to pizza, pulled pork, beer, wine and sodas.

It was all cool.  Steve Milrod, who’ll you’ll see below, dressed for the rain and enjoyed cold beers while he listened to Lower Case Blues kick out some classic blues.  “Our family is from New Jersey. Now we’re all over the place.  I live in Indianapolis. We try to get together each year for a family reunion and this year we chose Dewey Beach.  This is a great event.”  As you’ll notice, Steve wasn’t real worried about his hair getting wet.

Dewey Beach showed its great sense of community with the Gulf Coast event.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see an annual event geared toward making the world a better place.  It’s a good way of life.

Steve Milrod of Indianapolis.

Two well-known Dewey Beach characters - Rick Judge, left, and Todd Fritchman - were among the thousands who showed up for Delaware Coast Gulf Aid.

Rehoboth work continues while turkeys graze

July 14, 2010

Looking northward from the Rehoboth Avenue drawbridge.

14 July 2010

Nature brought sorely-needed rain recently, clouding the streams, slaking the thirst of drying roots, filling the kernels of field corn, and easing the stress level for Sussex County farmers.  In Rehoboth Beach, which thrives in summer on sun and rain alike, work is continuing on the overlook and decorative walkway improvements behind the Rehoboth Beach Museum.  The overlook and walkway will further integrate the museum, chamber of commerce and Grove Park complex into the canal system and will be a popular stopping point for visitors, walkers and bicyclists.

In a field along New Road recently, dark objects in young soy bean plants caught my eye.  I stopped the truck, backed up and took a look. Five wild turkeys gathered in the rows, far from a hedgerow and the protective cover of a band of woods that backs up to Canary Creek.  The feathers of wild turkeys glisten golden in the sun.

Two days later, after the recent rains, a bald eagle soared above Nassau, silhouetted against the big puffy clouds of mid July.

Wild cherries are ripening now, falling from branches, staining the ground a deep dark red, making a feast for birds and beast.

Wild turkeys in a soy bean field west of Lewes.

Snow goose, fireworks and holiday traffic

July 9, 2010

9 July 2010

The Canary Creek snow goose, lured by gifts of cracked and whole corn, has made its way out of the marsh east of the New Road bridge and now spends a fair amount of time perched on bridge abutments and other parts of its construction.  I mentioned the cracked corn in a recent Barefootin column in the Cape Gazette.  Judy Roberts, whose family has lived in the Canary Creek environs since the late 1600s, wrote to say that geese don’t eat cracked corn, but rather whole kernels of corn.  So far it seems to be scarfing up whatever is left on the bridge.  I hope the domestication of this wild bird doesn’t lure it into complacency to be taken out by car if it somehow wanders into the road.  It still preens its feathers constantly which makes me wonder if it is growing new feathers and it is instinctively working them into shape. Maybe it will fly again some day.

Record holiday crowds

The perfect July Fourth weekend forecast brought record crowds into Delaware’s Cape Region.  Rehoboth officials said their fireworks show attracted in excess of 100,000 people – more than ever before,  In Lewes, I have never seen more people in town during the day for the children’s games, boat parade, Doo Dah Parade and the July 4 fireworks. On Friday, July 2, drivers of delivery trucks had their work cut out for them in Lewes and Rehoboth trying to get food and drink to the restaurants and bars to keep up with the weekend demand. On Market Street in Lewes and on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach traffic came to a standstill midday as large trucks with open doors, stacks of food-filled-boxes and anxious drivers stopped in the middle of the street to make their deliveries.

We can keep talking about becoming more bicycle and pedestrian oriented but we’re moving that anyway as certain times create traffic gridlock.