Belle Plain....the coveted Triangle........It is still Sunday and although I birded Forsythe in the morning, now it is towards evening and time for the Black Rail.
Yes....You see....I usually travel with no maps and usually when traveling to Belle Plain and more specifically, to THE Triangle, I manage by hap chance to have a series of turns and I find myself at THE Triangle. I left my house at 4:15 hoping to do a bit of birding at THE 'Triangle' before heading on to highway 47 and Stepson's Island Road to seek out the 'call of the wild' ---the Black Rail.
So....I traveled down the the Garden State Parkway and found I was low on funds in my EZ Pass....not sure why. Again, traveling without a map, I turned too soon off the Parkway and ended up way north on Highway 9 as I like to come into Belle Plain from Woodbine.
So...I made it eventually down Route 9 to Woodbine (a long stretch) and turned left heading in the general direction of Belle Plain. Rather then taking the somewhat immediate 'right' to the Belle Plain Office I decided to head further down the main drag out of Woodbine so I could come into THE Triangle just ever-so perfectly. I had a rough idea to turn right sometime, but when or where to actually make the right turn was a bit on the suspect side of things. Well, bad idea....I ended up, somehow....not sure how...but I managed to do a nice perimeter of Belle Plain Forest without ever really coming into contact with the place. I made it down south to Dennis and made it back up along route 347 and into Woodbine....all without seeing the actual forest. A complete mystery.
But after hunting and pecking and driving about 30 miles to get from Woodbine to Belle Plain, I found THE Triangle and started to wander about. Almost immediately a nice couple from South Carolina came up to me as they were 'lost' from their trail and wanted directions on how to get back to the campsite. Well....I didn't have the heart to tell them of my little adventure of completely missing the forest, so I had them look at the map on my iPhone....you know, that little 1" by 1" screen that kind of shows something, without any detail.
I sent them on their way with my assurances that 'over there' is the direction to go. I think they made it.....
For me.....I was at THE triangle and it was quiet....not a peep and only a few vultures which managed to cast shadows over anything I looked at and immediately drew my attention to them. I did manage to find a nice Black and White Warbler down one of the side trails. But unlike the couple I met...I took the trail back and actually found what I was looking for; that being my car.
My main point of coming to Belle Plain was not Belle Plain, nor warblers or the like. I really wanted to hit further on down the road and see if I could 'hear' the Black Rail. I wasn't going to miss that opportunity as I have in the past 'looked to hear' the Black Rail, mainly up near Lake MakePeace a few miles east of Hammonton and the Mullica area. I would venture into that Lake area around 10 at night, which was in itself a bit spooky. I always had the thought in my mind that here I was, alone....in a car.....in the dark, late at night and would come across a dead body, no rail. But after several tries at my night runs for Black Rails, I gave up on them. Until that nice couple from New York steered me to Black Rail country.
In order to get to Highway 47, I had to turn left on 347 and someplace down there, they intersected. But these roads are busy on a Sunday evening as everyone makes it back from Cape May and into Philly. One feels like they are not looking at countless cars but more along the lines of a 'loooooonnnnnnngggggg parade of ants taking their stockpiles of leaf cuttings back to the main hole. Cars upon cars, and lines of cars and more cars. One is attempting to find that one moment in time when a hole between the rows of ants appears and then pull out between the lines and rev from 0-55 (no, this is New Jersey...more like 0-75mph). I found my moment and immediately fell in line with the ants. Now I just had to find that intersection which in reality shouldn't be too difficult since I just happened to be lost in that same country an hour or so past. So I knew in the general direction I needed and I wanted to be there around 7pm at the latest, which was the time the NY couple heard the Black Rail. I found 47 and made the right turn, but how far....I have no idea. I attempted to look at my iPhone to gauge distance but even with 3 bars showing, I had no map pop up. How dow that happen? When I finally say I am going to use the map on the phone, the map fails to appear. So, I head down 47 on a slow pace and sure enough, a Jersey driver pulls in back of me and can't be satisfied with anything less than 75mph. But with my 'western' attitude.....I really don't give a rats' crap..... So we go slow. Jersey drivers may be impatient but westerners have this"you don't force me to do anything" attitude, so in this case, I won.
Wandering down 47....I finally find Stepson's Island Road and take a left....but now....where? This is a long road and I didn't hear anything except, the Black Rail is on this road. Hmmmmmmmmm..... I forgot to query the New York couple that question.