Sunday 28th August 2016 To the Airpark! (Well sort of!)
Hounds met at The Hillsborough Country Club rather than the printed venue on the meet card, Branders Farm, as Robert Brander had yet to harvest his second cut of hay and parking on it would be quite an issue. So we parked and took off immediately across to McGarrens corn where hounds worked hard to pick up a scent. The field was quite large with 10 of us in the First Flight led by Master Cindy and 8 in Second led by Master Stephen. Mr. Farrin had 13 ½ couple of hounds out and Masters Joanne and Brian, along with Lisa, Mary-Pat and Robyn were our whips for the day.
As we trotted down on the roadside of the corn, it was fascinating to see starlings taking to the wing in droves as our hounds moved through the corn and obviously disturbed them. Another good deed by our hounds, as these voracious eaters can decimate a crop in days.
I was surprised to learn (I’m sure many of you already know; but if not) that the Starling is categorized as an invasive species, introduced in 1877 by a group of eccentric birdwatchers calling themselves The American Acclimatization Society, whose aim was to introduce wild birds from around the globe to the NY and NJ area. The Times of the following year wrote; “the 60-100 birds released in Central Park, were expected to prosper”. Boy have they done just that, and these clever, resilient birds are now deemed a pest. In 2011, 5,000 were poisoned on one Princeton farm. Eek! Well I know I enjoyed seeing them sweep across the top of the corn and into the woods.
Starlings can also mimic the song of other birds including Red Tailed Hawks, but today we got the real thing and I saw at least three (or it could have been one following us!). Anyway, we shot on towards the Airpark, with Master Cindy opting to go around Dead Center of the Territory (the nickname Mr. Farrin gives For Amwell Cemetery) and up North Hill Rd. Sadly the shortcut into the bottom fields was blocked by a fallen tree, so we had to reverse and trot back. The upside was a swift gallop along three fields.
Thankfully we all seemed to meet up at the Airpark. This 700-acre track of land crosses the boundary of East Amwell and Hillsborough and was built as a back up airfield for WWII. 50 years ago it became the home of William Adams a WWII fighter pilot who named it Adams Airpark. He later started an aerial photography business. By 1956 he turned the land into a recreational area, including a small airport with a skydiving school, flight instruction, plane rentals and a lake people paid to swim in. By 1970 it had ceased all operations and John Higgins purchased the property, and it ended up as a hunting reserve.
This year it is in the process of being sold to various New Jersey Conservation groups, so we hope we can retain the right to hunt there in the future.
It was as we entered the airpark that things got a bit muddled, several reverse fields and then we caught up with Second Flight who were now in the lead and had renamed themselves “The One and a Half Field (thank you Claire). So with hounds trying hard to catch scent, we did manage to put one fox to ground, and then in the tight confines of the Airpark, we were able to watch some great hound work. At one point, after reversing fields, Master Stephen found his second flight was now behind the First Flight but he was directly behind the Huntsman with a field of one! He remarked “Katy and I just continued on hunting” things eventually sorted themselves out and order was restored. It was at this stage Dan, riding in front of me realized having been in such a rush to get to the meet, he’d leapt out of his car, got on his dear horse “Lady”, but just remembered he had left his car running! Oh boy!
We did make it as far East as Mr. and Mrs. Branders farm where hounds did a remarkable job of scenting a fox in a bramble thicket, however, he went to ground very quickly. So two plus hours out, bombers were now coming out in force, horses were hot and tired, and with ground level scent long gone Mr. Farrin blew for home. It was a very pleasant walk back with swaths of Yellow Golden Rod and Camphorweed nodding along the side of the miles of trails that Mr. Farrin had mowed just for our benefit!