Sunday, April 29, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
Times being what they are, all but a very few of the landfills have been capped and closed and environmental groups are working to mitigate the damage done through years of environmental abuse. Despite its history as a wasteland, the Meadowlands is a thriving ecosystem that supports many wildlife species, some of whom are endangered or threatened. There are some 8,000 acres of wetland that remain and which constitute one of the largest tracts of open space in the NYC metropolitan area.
The point of our trip today was to get a special peak at the area and learn more about the research NJ Audubon is doing in the area, including an avian abundance and contaminants study. Our plan was to explore some of the nature trails through the marsh and wetlands, and then to take a cruise on the Hackensack River in a pontoon boat. Unfortunately it was pouring rain most of the day and the trail walk was abbreviated and the boat trip cancelled. But we had a nice free lunch. Here we're walking in Harrier Meadow which had been the disposal site for rock from the construction of US Route 280 in the 60's. Next to the meadow is a landfill, once the repository of municipal waste, that will one day be capped and turned into a golf course.
Feeling wholly unsatisfied after driving two hours and braving the wilds of North Jersey, I set out on my own in the rain to see what I could see. The impoundments around DeKorte Park had lots of waterfowl and newly arrived Forster’s Terns, and gazillions of newly hatched midges. I’m terrible with grebes, but I think this might be an Eared Grebe in fancy breeding plumage.
Tree swallows were everywhere, but I particularly liked this cheeky one! One of the scientists at the environmental center told us that she puts out between four and five hundred nesting boxes for tree swallows each spring. They were feasting on midges and busy setting up housekeeping today. We also saw some barn swallows and chimney swifts. Strangely, they have trouble attracting purple martins.
Finally, a very suspicious black-crowned night heron that had been feeding along the edge of one of the impoundments with a few egrets until I came along. The egrets high-tailed it across the marsh, but this guy hung around looking at me from his perch on an old tire. I spotted a few peeps and some yellowlegs also.
Aside from the birds, there should be lots to see here later in the season – fiddler’s crabs and diamondback terrapins and butterflies and dragonflies. Part of the park is actually built on a garbage island; a landfill site that has been capped and revegetated. There is the faint odor of garbage on the breeze and the roar of the NJ Turnpike in the background, but the wildlife seems to like it anyway. Oh and I got a raincheck on the boat ride, so look for sunnier pics sometime in the future.
Just a reminder that tomorrow is Good Planets Day at Vicki's. Be sure to stop by and cheer her on for her hard work.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Would you rather someone comment on how smart you are? Or how accomplished you are? Or how kind, maybe?
Does it matter who it is that’s making the compliment?
I spend a lot of time listening and not saying much. I pay attention sometimes to the ways that my students or my friends interact with one another. Some girls expend an awful lot of energy making themselves beautiful and then wait around for their female friends to notice. Grown women do the same. What’s the point?
Why the constant need for reassurance?
"Female beauty is an important minor sacrament... I am not at all sure that neglect of it does not constitute a sin of some kind." -Robertson Davies
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
That quote makes me laugh, but I'm sure there are those who would agree, scary as that is. Spring seems to be trying to make up for its late start in the span of a few days; the weather has been more summer-like than spring-like and the birds and insects are out in force and the flowering trees are putting on a lovely show. The robins are singing their sunset chorus now as I type. I can look forward to a mockingbird serenade when I head to bed around midnight. The chickadees have filled their nestbox in the Magnolia with moss and other soft plant fibers in anticipation of eggs. Today, my Serviceberry bloomed. Spring is good.
Monday, April 23, 2007
As nasty as it looks, most of the water we pumped out was actually pretty clear. The fish are in a holding tank for a week or so while we refill the pond and let the water settle. You can see how clear the water was in the pic below.
We rescued this lone surviving frog from the skimmer box. There was another in there that was well past stinky! I feel badly for the frogs and don't understand how they manage to die over the winter, considering all the leaves and mulm they have to burrow under. I wonder if it would be possible to catch them in the fall and bring them inside? I wouldn't want to make a pet out of a wild frog, but I hate finding them dead in the spring.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Lots of people hang out at the hawk watch to keep the counter company and to see what’s happening by. I saw a few broadwings, a red shoulder or two, and lots of turkey vultures. They tend to fly out a certain distance over the bay and then stall while deciding what to do, as they’re hesitant to cross the open water ahead of them. Most circle back and fly north via the bayshore. The dune vegetation is still very brown, but soon the beach plums will be blooming – can’t wait to see them all frothy white and humming with bees!
Saturday, April 21, 2007
I'd been wringing my hands over what to plant in this spot for well over a year. There was a spirea bush that needed to be replaced as it had grown woody and wasn't blooming well anymore. I had a list of at least ten possibilites, but the nursery didn't have any of my well-selected choices, but then I saw this tree and fell in love. It's a Golden Larch (Pseudolarix amabilis) - not a native, but it will be like having a little piece of the Adirondacks here at home. It's not a real Larch, but is supposed to be suited to heat and humidity; we'll see. Larches are unique because they're the only deciduous conifers - yes - they drop their leaves in fall, but not until they turn a lovely golden color. I love the lacy look of the foliage. I planted a few cotoneasters beneath it.
Friday, April 20, 2007
I found a really nice park within a five minute drive from my office; I'm not sure just how I never knew of it before, but I'm excited to discover someplace so nice to spend my lunch hour once in a while! There's a pond and wooded ravine and a twenty acre butterfly meadow, which is where I found the tree swallows, and bluebirds, and flickers, and chipping sparrows. Heard a field sparrow singing there today and saw my first dragonfly of the season, too. Only butterfly today was a cabbage white, but the meadow is still just winter stubble. It looks promising though!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
These were blooming on a very spindly shrub. There were no leaves yet and the flowers were on the tips of the branches; the open ones reminded me of apple blossoms sort of.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
From a review:
"Anyone who has had the honor of communing with a rabbit—nose to nose, whisker to cheek—will applaud this book. Those unfamiliar with these dear little creatures will enjoy the heartwarming tales of adversity overcome and joy achieved. Educating the public is of paramount importance to the welfare of rabbits, and the author has captured the essence of this far-reaching task. Our rescued rabbits give all who were involved in the creation of this book a “two paws up”!
~DIANA ORR LEGGETT, founder and president of Rabbits’ Rest Sanctuary and WildRescue, Inc.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Planting it in the middle of the backyard wasn't a wise choice, as it eventually grew so large as to block all sun from the patio and my brother's vegetable garden. It was twice as tall as the house and its roots found their way into the sewer pipes. The limbs were a constant threat to roof and windows. Eventually my father had it cut down after a large part of it came through the kitchen window one night during a storm.
Once it was down, the backyard never felt the same; there was too much sun and too much space. No more would it be one of the first trees in the neighborhood to show color in spring. There weren't any kids in the house by then to climb it or attach a rope swing to it.
I wonder if the new family that owns my dad's house now will plant some other tree in that empty space, although I suppose it doesn't look as if anything is missing to their eyes. But I remember the tree that stood so tall there, and am reminded of it when I see the first green of a willow's wispy branches. All that's missing from this one is the rope swing.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I'm trying to teach myself wildflowers, and it seems half the exercise is in finding them, never mind identifying them! I have to get my head out of the clouds and my eyes off the treetops and look down at my feet for a new perspective on the natural world.
The few wildflowers that I recognize I know only from books and I'm finding the wildflower ID guides to be fairly useless this early in the learning process. Reminds me of what it felt like when I was first learning to identify birds - the field guide only confuses and frustrates. I'm having better success with with a few books by Hal Borland. Who else? One, A Countryman's Flowers with photographs by Les Line, was a gift from my father a few years ago. I'm sure it's out of print, but you might find it online with some searching. What I like about it, in addition to the photographs, is that the flowers are grouped by habitat, helping a beginner like me to know what flowers to expect where. Of course a standard wildflower ID guide includes that info, but it's buried with all the other confusing stuff that makes my eyes glaze over. The categories are basic - the dooryard, the roadside, the old pasture, and brookside and bog and the book only includes 85 species, but I figure that's enough for someone just starting out. The book also features Borland's delightful essays; one for each species and includes info on growth and flowering habits as well as a bit of folklore. Of the trout lily, he writes:
"If you don't know this flower by this name, try dogtooth violet, or yellow adder's tongue, or fawn lily... The names trout lily and fawn lily come from its time of blooming - late April and May, when trout are biting in the brooks and when does are dropping their fawns in the woodland... Dogtooth violets mean May Day to me. As a small boy I gathered them for my May baskets, simply because they were one of the few flowers that always were in bloom by then."
This book is almost as good as having someone along with me, teaching and telling stories. Does anyone make May Day baskets anymore?
My husband is off with a fireman friend evacuating nursing home residents in another part of the state. Here on the coast there hasn't been any significant flooding, but inland to the west is another story. I'm proud of my DH for doing this. I guess we all have our sense of duty - me to the IRS and him to something a bit more valiant.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
My husband and I ventured out in the storm this afternoon to have a look at the ocean - can you see just how churned up it is with the storm? No, me neither. This view is typical of the northern part of the Jersey Shore - huge mansions and condos on the right and the concrete seawall on the left. The seawall is meant to keep the huge mansions from floating away in a big storm. In some towns, the people who own houses on the right side of the road (the river side) also own the rights to a private staircase over the seawall. The rest of us get to look at the concrete wall that keeps *us* safe from the ocean's fury. Yea right. The seawall only runs through those towns that are backed by the river; where it ends it's replaced by condos, hotels, and beach clubs that also block public access to the ocean. Until you get to Asbury Park.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Today's weather gave no hint of the storm to come tomorrow. Everyone seemed to have the same idea as me; to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while it lasted.
I went to two spots today looking for early blooming flowers; one had lots (more pics to come) and another had none. I don't know enough about wildflowers to understand why that is, but wonder how to find more places where pretty groundlings like spring beauties bloom.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Yes, they're metal flowers and metal birds, but we can make do, can't we?
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm glad it's Friday! I only wish the weather predictions were a bit brighter for the weekend. Tomorrow will be the day to be out and about. I only need to decide where I'll spend it. Oh the possibilities!
Sunday into Monday we're supposed to have a nasty storm - a Nor'easter - which might provide the time to veg out on the couch and make some sort of a dent in watching the boxed set of the whole 7 years of The West Wing series that the Easter Bunny left me. I'm not much for tv and totally spaced this show for all the years it was on, but I like the reruns that I catch and will enjoy the gift for many rainy days to come.
It might also be fun to head down to the beach and see the surf churned up with the storm, assuming I can get there and the roads aren't flooded out. Might make for some interesting pics anyway. Which reminds me that the Good Planets Show is happening tomorrow at Vicki's place - be sure to stop by and have a look. Vicki's toying with the idea of having *water* as a theme when the show reappears in two weeks - maybe I'll manage a decent photo to submit by then.
I would love to hear what you all have planned, especially if you live someplace where it's warm and sunny and spring-like!
Thursday, April 12, 2007
In an effort to avoid what very much feels like a popularity contest I won't choose five blogs from my sidebar to highlight. Most of you read them all anyway and know how delightful they are. Besides, most of you have already been tagged, I think! Instead, I've chosen a few blogs that I read regularly, but haven't ever linked to. Most are blogs where I don't comment often or at all, but lurk and think and quietly enjoy for one reason or another. They're all *thinking bloggers* for sure, but there's more. Have a look and find out for yourself.
Kelly at Kikipotamus the Hobo is a new friend from the Finding Water reading group. She is creative and whimsical and complex. Her writing is generous and her topics wide-ranging.
Lyn at Wandermuse is an artist/painter/photographer. She doesn't post often; she's too busy wandering around big sky country, but once in a while I peruse her archives and am inspired by her honesty and deep respect for the outdoors.
e4 at Green, Blue, Brown writes about farming, gardening, and parenting in Ohio. He's always got something interesting going on with the goats, chickens or his errant children. He writes a great blog for *thinking green*.
A Tree Grower's Diary has been a favorite for some time now, but Julie who blogs from NJ recently moved it into her other blog called A City of Nouns. Great photos and interesting tree stuff - have a look.
Another beautiful blog, Graf Nature Photography offers thoughts on nature and the environment as seen through the lens of a talented nature photographer. Good photo tips, too!
So that's my five and that means I've finally finished the homework, Vicki! Thanks again for the compliment.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Cunning magician, teach me your ways
Of magical fire, powers much higher.
Lead me to new life. Brighten my days.
The big news here locally is that a toddler was attacked by a coyote, from the Asbury Park Press (links to full story):
"As a group of children played in the backyard of a Middletown home, an animal, believed to be one of two or three coyotes that emerged from the woods, ran to and grabbed a 20-month-old boy, township officials said.
The family managed to scare the animal away, and the toddler was treated at a local hospital for scratches and teeth marks, in what wildlife experts said is probably the first coyote attack on a child in state history.
After the animal attack Friday off Kings Highway East, near Chapel Hill Road, local officials took a second look at six to eight other recent reported sightings and incidents involving pets that were attacked by what were initially thought to be stray dogs.
And while officials have not yet received independent confirmation, because of Friday's attack, and based on the description and behavior of the animals, it appears coyotes are roaming in the neighborhood near Normandy Road, the private thoroughfare that connects the main base of the Earle Naval Weapons Station with the weapons station's pier on Sandy Hook Bay, Township Administrator Robert Czech said.
"They didn't think they were dealing with a pattern, or series of incidents that related to a pack of coyotes, until we put pieces together (after) Friday evening," he said.
The other cases include four puppies that were killed and a pet cat that was attacked, he said."
My initial reaction was of disbelief that a coyote would be so bold. While I've read that they're present throughout the state of NJ, I'd never seen one myself nor knew of anyone who had seen one. Then I talked to a few people who roam the woods regularly or who live in less-developed areas and sure enough, they'd seen a few over the years.
I know nothing of the nature of coyotes, but this story leaves me feeling very skeptical. Would a coyote be so daring as to try and grab a little child? Anyone with coyote wisdom to share?
Monday, April 09, 2007
She's been bugging me for the last year or so to choose a piece of crystal from her china cabinet that I'd like to have. I've avoided doing so, partly because I have no need of any crystal, but more because I understand the thinking that's behind her wanting to give away these treasured things. She's been thinking and talking that way for a few years now since my father-in-law passed away. For a very long time she was depressed and talked of wanting to go be with her dear Hank. Her first great-grandchild seems to have turned her around and I'm glad for that, but still she has this need to give away her things.
So I relented yesterday and took this Waterford crystal vase and filled it with roses. It's the perfect size for a small bouquet of very short-stemmed flowers, yet seems out of place in my no frills early americana style dining room. I like that sort of contrast and how it reminds me of her and how different our lives are. I chose it because rather than being something to be treasured and tucked away, it's a beautiful thing that I can put to use. And my taking it made her happy.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I'll leave you with this pic of Cricket who was not interested in playing with the giant Easter egg. Her tummy was full of salad and she just wanted a nap.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
If you click on the little pic at right, you ought to be able to read a letter I wrote to the Easter Bunny when I was nine. My brother Brian found it when we were cleaning out my dad's house and thought I should save it. I get a laugh from reading my not so subtle suggestions about how much I liked candy on Easter!
Wishing a joyful Easter to all. What will you be doing? Feel like sharing any Easter memories?
Friday, April 06, 2007
Thursday, April 05, 2007
I ended up back at the park with the idea that I might find a few phoebes or some bluebirds and I was hoping for my first mourning cloak butterfly of the season. I visit this park pretty often, so know what to expect there, but it’s large and there are many trails and different habitats. Usually a surprise or two somewhere if I walk far enough. I walked through the wet bottomlands near the lake, drawn by the screaming of the peepers and flushed a few woodcock along the way. Not so much a surprise because I go there to see their courtship displays, but I was surprised with how easily they flushed! Each few steps flushed a new bird, who would fly just a bit further ahead, only to be flushed again as I walked along the wet trail. Woodcock are very colorful birds when you see them in the light of day. I also managed to flush a deer without realizing it until I saw it bounding across the cornfield uphill and towards the road.
The peepers that I went looking for went silent with my approach.
I visited a favorite tree and walked along the grass pathways that surround the farm fields here. There were no bluebirds, but I did hear a familiar song that I couldn’t put a name to right away. The song seemed to be drifting from every direction, but I wasn’t able to spot the birds singing. I’ve become very lazy lately and head out with just my camera and without binoculars. My ears are much better than my eyes, anyway. After listening for a while the words to the song I was hearing finally popped into my head, “spring of the year” and I realized there were meadowlarks in the fields surrounding me. I couldn’t see them, of course, but I knew they were out there because I recognized their song.
A hawk caught my eye drifting low and lazy over the fields and the meadowlarks flushed ahead of it. If I’d had my binoculars I might have been able to appreciate their lemon yellow and black markings as they finally made themselves visible above the stubble. Instead I watched the harrier as it flew gracefully over the field, pausing briefly and hovering for a longer look here and there, or whirling on a dipped wing to backtrack. I didn’t see it land, so guess it didn’t catch anything and finally it roamed out of my view. Before very long the meadowlarks were singing again and I went on to look for other surprises.
I think there’s a lot to be learned from visiting a place repeatedly and at different times of year. We might think we’ve seen all a place has to offer, but really, one or two visits give just a snapshot of what may be. The same can be said for our own backyards, because only by knowing what’s usual and normal can we get a sense for how special the unexpected is. Of course, the usual may be special too, but it’s nice to be surprised once in a while.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
I think the robins are the first to begin with tentative calls before the sun has brought very much light to the morning. Then it's the cardinals and the sparrows who call. As the light increases and the birds are encouraged by one another, calls turn to song. This morning I heard a white-throated sparrow singing his "Old Sam Peabody" and smiled to myself as I enjoyed a last few moments of slumber.
The rest of the morning routine is done in haste. I might spend a few minutes standing by the kitchen window with a cup of coffee watching the birds at the feeder, but by that time the house sparrows and starlings are up as well and any singing from the more talented birds is drowned out by their arguing over a perch at the free food buffet.
New birds and new songs will add themselves to the dawn celebration in the coming weeks; to the point that it becomes difficult to distinguish any one voice from the chorus of birds echoing one another in the gala that is spring. Maybe there's one in particular that you listen for to know that the season has finally arrived, or maybe you enjoy the effect of so many voices singing the same song of delight but to a different tune. I could tell you what I think, but I'd rather know what you like to hear outside your window that says Spring.
Monday, April 02, 2007
pink moon rises full
shadows cast through my window
say something of spring
"Tonight's full moon is known as the Pink Moon and also as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon. Historically, Native Americans living in what is now the northern and eastern United States kept track of the seasons by giving a distinctive name to each full moon. This name was used to refer to the entire month in which the moon occurred. With some variations, the same moon names were used throughout the Algonquian tribes from New England to Lake Superior." - from The Old Farmer's Almanac
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For more Spring/Fall Songs go to One Deep Breath. Links to poems should be updated tomorrow.
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Sunday, April 01, 2007
Speaking of foolishness, I bought this carton of Easter-colored birdseed eggs and hung them outside today just before it started to rain. I'm sure the house sparrows will appreciate all the millet while it stains my sidewalks. Of course I had to buy them (not!) because the sign above read, "Easter's not just for the bunnies - think about the birdies, too!" - well, so I did and didn't think about it until after I saw what I had paid for them. I'm a sucker for cute and useless bird stuff.
I got pulled over by a policeman for the first time in fifteen years today. I was making my usual frantic last-minute dash to arrive at the bird observatory on time. No I wasn't speeding! But my car was throwing sparks because the cover of my catalytic converter decided today that it was tired of hanging on after months and months of rumbling and plunged itself to the pavement and dragged along in plain view of the policeman. I was just picking up the phone to curse at my husband because he's put off fixing it for months when the cop turned on his lights to pull me over. I thought for sure he'd give me a ticket for being on the phone while driving. He actually asked me if I realized I was dragging something. Hello? You don't think I could hear it? He was very sweet though, and assured me that my car probably wouldn't catch on fire so long as I was careful. He even got down on the pavement to have a look. When did they give badges and guns to fifteen-year-olds? Goodness, I feel old.
So, the day at the bird observatory was very quiet because the weather was cold and damp today. But I finally have a co-conspirator (fellow volunteer) to keep company with after years of volunteering alone on Sunday afternoons. Hi Pat! The two of us were like caged lions waiting to be set loose to see the Osprey flying by outside the windows as they go about their courting and housekeeping in their bayside nests. We closed up shop a little early today and took a short walk together to visit one of the ponds on Sandy Hook where black-crowned night herons like to hang out. We only saw one way across the pond, but like a true shutterbug, Pat was snapping away with her camera. I hope we'll find an excuse next month to do that again as I'm sure the Hook will be much more birdy come the first week of May.