Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday Mar 11 -- Frogs, tracks, new refuge manager and Shack stuff

Friday, March 11, 2011:

I took in my first concert of the year late today. A huge chorus of wood frogs (Rana silvatica) were absolutely in maximal voice, as loud and numerous as I’ve ever heard these earliest of spring singers. I’ve written about seeing them out and about when skim ice was still on ponds and puddles. There’s no doubt the mildness and the tons of rain are everything a waking wood frog could ask for. Spring peepers are sure to sound off in the very near future.

I did some tracking near Rte 9 and came across some buck tracks that were truly massive. I seldom give deer tracks a second look but these were something else again. It has seemingly found itself a honey hole in a wooded zone – near sweet lawns -- that is simply too close to development and noisy (traffic) to allow hunters to get at him, though a bow hunter might be just within legal parameters to shoot. I expected to see coyote tracks but there was absolutely no fresh tracks. Very odd since only weeks back the place was allegedly overrun by them. These are crafty animals, putting foxes to shame. A large group of hunters went out hunting last weekend, also expecting to easily find coyote. A lone member of the group glanced a fast-moving coyote – at 250 yards out!  There’s a high-percentage shot.


We get late-day light back tomorrow night. Spring ahead to daylight savings time. That gives me a great after-work shot at hitting the outback. By the by, we’re rapidly approaching the closing of Holgate for the plover season, April 1. Yes, it used to be April 15.

It seems that the new Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge manager, Virginia Rettig  (see below), will be down at the parking area to officially close the gates for the nesting season. One of my SandPaper writers will be interviewing her then, to get her read on Holgate and the refuge in general.

Here’s official information about her, per the Refuge:

Virginia Rettig, the new manager of the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, comes to the Refuge from Region 5 Headquarters in Hadley, Massachusetts. There she served as  Assistant Refuge Supervisor. This appointment is a return to South Jersey for Virginia.  She previously served as Assistant Manager of the Cape May NWR.

Virginia  earned her BS degree in Environmental and Forest Biology from SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She then went to Louisiana State University where she earned her Master of Science degree in Wildlife Biology. Her Master’s thesis was entitled “Use of Agricultural Fields by Migrating and Wintering Shorebirds in Southwest Louisiana.

Since earning her Master’s Degree, Virginia has had an interesting and challenging career path. Prior to joining the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia worked in: Songbird research in northern Louisiana; Aleutian Canada Geese research in northern California; Wading bird studies in Maryland.

Following her employment with USFWS’ Ecological Services Field Office in Louisiana, she started working in the National Wildlife Refuge System in various staff and management positions in: Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex, Cat Island NWR, Cape May NWR, Region 5 Headquarters.

Virginia is very excited to be back in South Jersey. She looks forward to the challenges provided by the Refuge and its unique location along the Atlantic coast.


The Causeway Shack is now in the oddest of places No, it hasn't changed positions, geographically speaking. It has seemingly begun making some legal zigs and zags. In fact, you might have noticed, while motoring by while doing the posted 55 mph (yeah, right), that there’s now a letter-sized sheet of paper attached to the lower northwest corner of the famed landmark. It is a legal notice, upon which one can sorta see just what a weird-ass legal position the decrepit-plus place has assumed.  

The wording on the cellophane-covered paperwork is dripping with legalese – helped along by rainwater that has leaked in near the top. Even without a legal dictionary in hand, it’s pretty plain that a technical “complaint” has been filed as a means to essentially warn anyone who thinks they have any claim whatsoever to the structure to contact the attorney, so-named on the document. It doesn’t say it but there’s one of those “Or forever hold your peace” feelings by notice’s end.

There is also a long and highly eclectic list of individuals named upon the document. I recognized a few as locals. Others are names known best to themselves. I can only assume these are the names of virtually anyone the attorney of the current possible/likely owner (C Akins) has found even remotely associated with any legal or even quasi-legal paperwork regarding ownership of the property, dating back to, well, whatever date is atop any old document someone can produce.

This publicly-presented document is yet again another small indication of the utterly mysterious proprietary history of this tiny piece of Bonnet Island. Interestingly, Stafford Township tax maps have the parcel listed under a block and lot number. However, among a myriad of mysteries is to whom the lot first belonged. I swear it was one of those olden ways of handling things. Some folks wanted to put a shack up for gunning and a hand shake and wink from the then mayor was all that was needed to seal the deal. In fact, it might not even be that old school. If someone wanted to slowly wade through old documents right around the time the Shack was first built, dollars to doughnuts there’s some mention of an OK given by someone.

Truth be told, the real bugaboo is who, if anyone, can totally (and legally) prove they own or owned it? That alone tells me there is some great confusion over the existing paperwork being the stuff of binding property sales.

By the by, the late Wes Bell had no doubt he fully owned that parcel of land – and the related Shack. On a number of occasions, he told me so -- and even showed me very significant-looking deeds, enhanced with strong anecdotal evidence he offered about the gal who kinda surely owned it, then sold it to Wes. When I asked if the paperwork he had was legal he got very irate – then asked me to define “legal.”

Right now it’s very much wait and see. Odds are pretty unlikely that someone will come out of the woodwork – and if you’ve seen that Shack woodwork I’d be more terrified than intrigued if someone came out of it. I’m guessing the current legal call for claimants is the last loophole before Mr. Atkins finally has legally recognized ownership. Once that is accomplished, there are actually many directions he can then go. While he has told a slew of folks he will save the Shack, he also mentioned (jokingly?) he might build himself a place there. Whatever, he’s currently skiing out West and doesn’t expect this required owner search to be done for a few more months. 

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