Thursday, October 30, 2008

Skywatch Friday

We sleep, but the loom of life never stops and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up tomorrow.
--Henry Ward Beecher

Sunset photo taken at Cape May, NJ on Sunday 26 October 2008

Visit here for more Skywatch Friday posts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hints that your friends might be just a little nerdy

So we were on a non-birdy bird walk, led by my friends Scott and Linda from SHBO, at the Beanery in Cape May. The Beanery can be a very fun place for birds, but it was really quiet in the rain and wind that day.

Good friends or good naturalists can find plenty of ways to amuse themselves when the birding is slow. Mostly we made bad jokes and acted obnoxiously. We had plenty of opportunities to embarrass ourselves this way over the course of the weekend.

Every so often there'd be a new plant we could dork out about, like these sweet gum balls that Lynne wanted to try planting at home in Minnesota or the wild persimmon fruit that I got them to taste just by promising them it wasn't poisonous.

;-)

I don't guess many non-birders dance this way when spotting a Black Vulture for the first time. A little nerdy? Yes. Fun? Absolutely.

Other than Jay's prodding it with his foot, this is not a typical scene when normal people spot a black rate snake along the trail, is it?

;-)

Nerdy.

A very pretty snake, btw, though it was a tad nervous with all our cameras pointed its way.

At some point we'd given up on seeing any birds and wandered away from the rest of the group, content to find our own fun elsewhere. Who needs birds when you've got friends that are just as nerdy as you are, anyway?

Note: Susan, Lynne, Jay from birdJam and Delia will not take offense at my calling them nerdy. We're cut from the same cloth, I think. That's why I like them so well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Birdy post

Just like last year's Autumn Weekend, I only got one life bird this time. Most anything is more exciting than last year's Rusty Blackbird, but this year's was an especially good bird... one I've missed so many times. It wasn't a really satisfying look, but I finally got a Golden Eagle at the hawk watch on Monday! It seemed to get much birdier after everyone had left for home... there was a Bald Eagle, too, and a Peregrine that put on a nice show and some Sharpie's and Cooper's Hawks and a Harrier also. In year's past I've spent most of the weekend just hanging out at the hawk watch in the state park; most everyone shows up there at some point and it's a nice place to catch up with friends and see what hawks happen by.

All of the birds we saw this weekend were common ones for me, but birding with people from out of state makes me appreciate even more what NJ has to offer. It's occurred to me in the last year that if I hope to ever see new birds, I need to travel. Of course, there's plenty of life birds just waiting for me offshore, but there's that whole fear of seasickness thing that keeps me from ever doing a pelagic trip.

;-)

Anyway... here's some pics that I'm not too embarrassed to share. Something else that's occurred to me from this weekend... I have serious camera envy and need to come up with some way of managing better bird pics.

Further evidence of my on-going love affair with the ubiquitous sanderling... even sleepy ones. I have so many pics of Sanderlings. They're such fun to watch, the sweet way they run ahead of the waves and sleep on one foot and hop away on one foot if you wake them. Sunday night there was a lone sanderling that kept us company while we watched the sunset. I guess they'll feed at the ocean's edge even past dark.

Not a common bird by far and always nice to see... a Peregrine that had been enjoying a meal on an osprey platform somewhere in the middle of the intracoastal waterway. I thought Susan might wet her pants when we spotted this one on our boat trip... her first *wild* Peregrine. I've learned to look for them in what counts as high places here at the shore; bridges, water towers, the tall casinos at Atlantic City, the railings on lighthouses.

Imagine that some people get excited about Great Black-Backed Gulls! Hi Lynne! I was excited just to get most of it in the pic.

A Snowy Egret that was nice enough to show off its golden slippers as it fed in the muck at low tide.

A Great Egret, sans the yellow slippers, being difficult and shy. I hear that there's places where these birds don't automatically fly off whenever you point a camera lens at them, but I don't believe it. I love this pic anyway.

Ah. A Common Loon... one bird that I was excited to see and Lynne was bored with. She gets to see them in the summer when they're all pretty and spotted nicely. I was glad to see just the remainders of their beautiful breeding plumage. In the winter they look so darn gray.

Part of the flock of Black Skimmers that rests on the beach somewhere between the Convention Hall and the Second Avenue Jetty in Cape May in the fall. I love walking the beach to find them. It was neat to watch them feeding in the ocean with the terns; closer to home they feed in the bay or course along the quiet creeks and usually I see just a couple at a time.

I almost got all of a Brant in this pic, our winter sea goose. They've just begun to arrive in the last couple weeks from their breeding grounds in the Arctic and I love to hear their peculiar barking call across the water because it means that all the pretty winter ducks will be arriving soon, too.

Oystercatcher! I never get enough of seeing these guys... there were a couple dozen feeding with Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers on a sandbar. We had really nice looks (and the chance to listen to the sweet music of a mixed flock of shorebirds) while our boat's propeller was snagged on a crab trap in the marsh.

Lynne's favorite birds were about in full force this weekend... we even tried to turn one perched on an osprey platform into a Bald Eagle. I was surprised to see Turkey Vultures in the salt marsh, but I guess they like the sweet smell of rotting vegetation, too.

;-)

Have you not read EVERYWHERE how I love the smell of a salt marsh? My flock friends thought that smell was unpleasant. Pfft! Smells like home to me. You Mid-Westerners can keep your pure air.

By the way, if you don't have occasion to read Susan's blog, please stop by for
this post, at least, and a video of what was probably the funniest moment of the whole weekend.

A nice group of Forster's Terns hangs out with the Skimmers and Sanderlings at the beach. Funny that I have trouble recognizing them in their winter wardrobe when it changes every year. We never found any Royal's or Caspian's, but I'm sure they were around somewhere.

I wish I had pics of that Golden or the Scoters at the Sea Watch at Avalon to share; maybe someday my camera envy will get the better of me and I'll cave for a point and shoot with a really powerful zoom.

Surprises

Surprise #1: My first day back in the office since a week ago and my desk didn't actually look that bad... the post-it note fairy exploded gangs of little pink and white and yellow papers everywhere, but the effect was kinda pretty.

Surprise #2: It snowed today here for a couple hours... big wet flakes that stuck to the orange oak leaves outside the office window. Wasn't I at the beach in a t-shirt just the other day?

;-)

I'll be back in a bit with some birds from Cape May.

Monday, October 27, 2008

9

Maybe you're all waiting for the telling of silly stories (check with Susan) or fabulous bird pics (check with Lynne) or tips for identifying sparrows (check with KatDoc) or maybe just Delia's straight-forward way of saying things (which cracks me up because she's such a hoot in person!), but if you're looking for any of that tonight from me... well, I don't even know where to begin, but to say that it was a fabulous couple of days for this member of the flock.

I'm still amazed with how easily near strangers can come together and feel so comfortable with one another. I don't guess I should be anymore, but I am. Meeting other bloggers face to face makes me really aware of how much we tell of ourselves with the little things we share here. Anyway...




KatDoc was a life bird-blogger for me and, no surpise here, she was THE serious member of the flock. She had her moments, of course, but she made it obvious that the rest of us were just *social birders* out for a good time. KatDoc means business when it comes to adding birds to her life list. She was smiling here, on our boat trip around the back bays of Cape May yesterday, happy that she'd tallied a few new birds for her list.

These two, Susan and Delia, old friends of mine now. ;-) It feels really nice to say that. We first met at last year's Autumn Weekend and once since then. We only had a day with Delia this time; time for an owl prowl, birding in the rain (again!), breakfast at Uncle Bill's and a dinner with a whole gang of people that were in town for the weekend before she had to leave for home.

Susan and me. (Laugh.) I feel almost like we're opposite sides of the same coin, if that makes any sense. She often knows what I'm thinking and'll say it in that way that only Susan can. I love her for that and the way she can make me laugh until my belly hurts.

Meeting Lynne... well, I think I'd have recognized her as a friend at first sight even if I didn't *know* her from her blog. I couldn't resist hugging her any chance I got. ;-) Of course you all know it, but she is just the sweetest person in the world and funny in a quiet way that just tickled me. I think NJ was something of a culture shock for her and I'm just hoping that she won't be scarred for life.

I'm hoping that everyone's home safely by now and sorting through their own pics and memories. Really, I'm as anxious as you are to hear what stories need to be told first. I love stories.

Stay tuned...

#9 in my 38 by 39.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunset at Cape May

Internet access has been really spotty... so none of us have gotten posts up yet, but I wanted to share just one pic from the sunset this evening. We're having fun and some of us even got a couple life birds! More tomorrow...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Laughing our way into a birding weekend

You know everyone'll get along pretty well when you can't even stop laughing long enough to pose for a pic. Susan had Lynne and I in hysterics...

and just wouldn't stop her silliness. Maybe at some point tomorrow there'll be something like serious birding. In the meantime... all that laughing you hear... that'll be the flock.

;-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lest it frost

I haven't shared very many pics from the garden this summer and seeing as the season's come quickly to an end, I thought I might better do it now. My garden favorites, the goldenrod and joe-pye, did their thing and were promptly cut down weeks ago as part of the fall clean-up the DH insists on doing. His pride and joy, the tropicals, took their sweet time in blooming this year and are now flirting with frost.

Every day he debates bringing them into the basement for safety from the threat of frost or leaving them outside to continue the show they've waited so long to put on.

His dad had a passion and a green thumb for growing Angel's Trumpet's. We've not been able to grow these trees to half the size his dad could, but we don't have a greenhouse to overwinter them in, either. He hauls them into the basement for the winter instead and practices a sort of benign neglect with a dose of water every so often hoping that they'll go dormant and wake up the following spring.

If you know these flowers, you know how strong their scent can be on a hot summer night. We've not had that this year as they started blooming so late, but still they're beautiful in their own exotic way. Each day the blossoms change shape and color, unfurling in the late afternoon light.

We try out a new variety, or color, or flower shape each year and are often surprised. This one, a double, revealed a flower within a flower. There's still a few, new this year, that are just setting buds and will probably have to do their blooming in the dark basement if his procrastination and a frost don't get them first.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Great Bay Marsh

God I love a marsh in October! I've been known to purposefully *get lost* and find myself there just when the low sun is lighting it with these beautiful late afternoon colors.

The DH was the latest victim of my subterfuge, but I didn't plan things well enough to remember my big lens and have a chance at that bird-shaped blob there in the center. Yes, it's a Tri-Colored Heron and yes, that would have been a pretty pic, but oh well. A nice find at any rate because they're not so common here in NJ.

The signs of civilization marring the view there in the distance is the southern part of Long Beach Island, btw. Great Bay is said to be one of the least disturbed wetland habitats in the Northeastern US and is a great place to get lost and find birds.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Country living fair

Country-living in NJ, you ask? Bah! Not possible, right? Apparently some people here in the most densely-populated state manage such a thing. Granted, I had to drive to the middle of nowhere to find them, but...

Did you realize that there's some market for antique tractor seats? Go figure!

The Country Living Fair at Batsto Village was an interesting mix of oddities... from yesterday's bulldogs and alpacas (with adorable underbites) to little children carted around in a circus cage...

... to steam-fueled contraptions with the sweetest of whistles. Yes, I smiled and made that gesture you remember from your own childhood to make them sound the whistle...

;-)


There were men chiseling arrowheads from bits of found stone...

and others rendering beautiful candlesticks from bits of Pine Barrens sugar sand...

... and broom-makers! Who makes brooms? Who uses brooms anymore?

... and this sweet, sleepy-eyed Barred Owl from Cedar Run.

A nice day. And I even managed to find what I hope might be a perfect gift for a flock member!

;-)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tapestry

Summer is like a shadow; turn and it's gone.

The seeds of another summer spin into the air, twirling, catching in spider webs and wool sweaters, sailing high in the sky, vanishing like migrating birds.

The wind carries them; the air stills and they settle gently to the earth, waiting for winter to blanket them in snow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Some fall color

I think I see the moon reflected there in the water?

I'm going to make an earnest attempt this weekend at getting myself organized for Cape May later in the week, but the weather is going to be beautiful, the trees are in perfect color now and there's a bird walk on Sunday at Sandy Hook, plus a neat fair in South Jersey at Batsto that I'd like to see. I think maybe I need to prioritize and make a couple lists. Lynne? Help?

What all do you have planned?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So much for my afternoon nap...

Luka has other ideas... mainly getting me off his couch!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You spend how much to look like that?

Disclaimer: This post is mostly about my hair. Try back tomorrow for something less vain.

While Susan's doing her part to keep the local car dealership in business - (Congrats Susan!) - I spent a small fortune today in support of my local hair salon. The business owner, who also happens to be the nice lady that cuts and highlights my hair, insists that if all her customers were like me she'd have gone out of business a long time ago. Apparently, the *luxury* that I allow myself once every six months or so does nothing to keep her afloat.

She does a nice job with my hair and after two hours and about five pounds of foil I walk out of there looking very natural. Like the lady who does my nails, she prides herself on that; that I should look natural after spending all that money. I wonder what the point is if I look the same either way? Maybe I should get my money's worth and dye my hair blue or something so that people will actually notice?

There was a sort of grunt and a "Short!" from the DH so I guess that's worth the $$.

;-)

I don't know what sort of magic she has in her fingertips or if instead it's the expensive array of potions she smoothes over my curls, but I leave there with my hair looking something like Marlene Dietrich's... all smooth and wavy in just the right places and shaped nicely. It never looks that way again, btw. Shouldn't that be included in the price - shouldn't my naturally glamorous look last for like a week or so, at least, before I revert to looking like I just rolled out of bed?

;-)

I'm guessing that most of us are pretty low-maintenance type girls. The funny thing is that sometimes I feel like I spend a fair bit of money in creating that illusion. Does that make the first bit of sense? I have my hair highlighted in the off-season to keep the same brightness the sun gives me for free in the summer months; I have my nails done but insist that they're kept super short and painted in quiet colors; I wear makeup that looks like I'm not wearing any. Hello? Why not save myself the trouble?

Tomorrow is
Blog Action Day and this year's topic is Poverty. Any wonder why I'm contemplating the cost of my own vanity?

Monday, October 13, 2008

A cranberry bog through the seasons

Cranberries grow in the Pine Barrens regardless of whether they're cultivated or not; those that grow along the borders of swamps are not as large as their cultivated cousins, but I'm sure they're just as tasty. Cranberry farming is said to be among the most respectful of the environment; pesticide and fertilizer use is minimal and the harvest during the month of October is quite the agricultural spectacle, in my opinion.

During the summer months, a cranberry bog is a carpet of tangled vines. When the vines are in flower in early summer, pollination is assured by placing any number of perilous beehives among the bogs. There's often nice numbers of dragonflies and butterflies, too, that feed on the wildflowers that grow along the dikes.

At some point in late summer, the bogs are flooded via the system of dams that interlaces the bogs. The water protects the tiny fruit and makes harvesting much less labor-intensive.

This man here is making some adjustment to the water level in the bog. The color of the berries just astounds me! Typical of fall, the vegetation along the dikes was covered in spider webs and there were millions of spiders everywhere... ballooning in the air, crawling over the farm equipment, climbing in my hair. Eeck! There's not ever much in the way of birds here, save the Turkey Vultures and at least 30 Killdeer stalking the dikes.

This is one of the scary-looking machines used to harvest the cranberries; I think this may be some type of conveyor-belt thingy, actually. Specialized machines... things that look like tractors for water are driven through the bogs to beat the berries off the vines so that they float to the top. The berries are corralled to one corner of the bog and then collected and transported to the Ocean Spray processing plant that's in a nearby town.

After harvesting, the bogs are drained so the vines can be pruned (or picked-over by hand for any that were missed by the beaters!) The bogs are flooded again in late December or early January to protect the vines from freezing and further irrigated, if necessary, to keep the water from freezing over. In spring the bogs are drained again and the honeybees brought back into service and the cycle starts anew.

If you're interested in witnessing this spectacle,
Piney Power has a schedule of harvest dates and directions to farms that are visitor-friendly. Two of my favorite places are Double Trouble State Park in Bayville and any of the farms along Rte. 530 near Whitesbog Village. There's some great pics of the harvest at that link also. Enjoy!