Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Party pics of my handsome relatives

My brother Count Dracula, party host, keeper of backyard chickens. The other brother, trying to be The Fonz, with his buddy the choo-choo train engineer.
The pretty nieces. Anybody care to guess which little girl goes with which big brother? ;-) The in-laws: Devil Lady, Pink Lady and a friend-in-law whose name I should know but don't.

Halloween is such a non-event when you're a grown-up. It's nice to have a party to get dressed up for and be silly. Speaking of non-events (or of being silly), I have not seen a single trick-or-treater all day, except for a few at the office.

Sure, we got a lot done today....

Monday, October 30, 2006

I won ten million dollars!

No, not really. But I thought the DH and I pulled off our Halloween Costume Party ruse pretty well. People who didn't see us arrive in the Prize Patrol truck or me carrying around the humungous $10 million check and bouquet of roses wondered what I was supposed to be with my bathrobe and hair in curlers.

My husband was perfectly happy to not have to *dress up* - wearing a suit is dressing up enough for him. A friend of ours who owns a sign shop made our props - the check, the balloons, the Prize Patrol signs for my DH's truck. We even won a contest for the *most unique* costume - not bad considering I had no ideas until a day or two before the party!

Wish I could take credit for the idea, but I found it (and lots of other great ideas) on a site I linked to in the comments on my previous post about the costume party. If anyone is looking for last-minute ideas, that site is worth a look!

I have some more pics to share of the other partygoers, but Blogger is as cranky as ever about loading them. Maybe tomorrow!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Falling back

"When we set the clocks back an hour last night, we told ourselves we were changing time, taking back that hour we spent for longer evenings last April. But the sun rose unchanged this morning, on its own schedule, and the only change was in the position of the hands on those ticking machines by which man meters his own life. We adjusted our own gauge of the hours somehwat closer to the reality of night and day, the sun, the earth and the year.

Time has its own dimensions, and neither the sun nor the clock can emcompass them all. All we can do with the astronomical absolutes of time is note them, divide them as we please, and live by them in our daily routines. Beyond that, our own emotions, our hopes and fears, our worry and our relief, shape not only our days but our hours with only casual regard for absolute or arbitrary time. The busy day can be brief, the suspenseful hour endless. Who can prove, by any clock ever devised, that time on occasion does not stand still? The interval between heartbeats can be a terrifying eternity, and the pause between two spoken words can shape the dimensions of all our tomorrows.

Time is all around us, the time of the hills, the time of the tides, the lifetime of a man or a tree or an insect. We participate in time, try to shape it to our own necessities; but when we change the clocks we aren't changing time at all. We are playing with figures on a dial that denotes but cannot alter the flow of forever." - Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons

Is everyone feeling as mixed up as I am today? I woke up to a clock that said 11:00 and was pleased that I hadn't slept all of this blistery Sunday morning away, after all it was actually only 10:00. Stepping into the kitchen and pouring my coffee I was perplexed to see the clock said it was 12:15. Hmmm... the computer and vcr both said 11:15 so my husband must have set some of the clocks back while I slept. Now as I type it's 6:30 and full dark. All day I've felt behind in my routine, but the clock tells me it's early, there's still time. So it will be lighter in the morning for a while, but dark so early at the end of the workday. This change is easier for me to adjust to, for some reason, compared with the spring, when I feel cheated of time and groggy for days until I'm used to getting up an hour earlier.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pausing along Cedar Creek

Since high school I've visited Cedar Creek a number of times to camp or canoe, but more recently to try my luck with a kayak. The 17 mile trip through the meandering tea-colored water lasts about 4 hours and offers glimpses into the acres of cedar swamp and pine barrens habitat that comprise Double Trouble State Park in eastern Ocean County.

Last weekend I visited the park on foot for the first time to explore the trails and the historic village that preserves a cranberry farm and sawmill. Wandering through the woods I came across this view from the floodgate at the Mill Pond Reservoir. A group of kayakers had stopped for lunch as I passed by on my way to the white cedar swamp on the far side of the reservoir. According to my bird books, the area has nesting Wood Duck, as well as Black-throated Green and Black-and-white warblers. I'd never seen any nesting birds, other than Tree and Barn Swallows and Purple Martins, during my summer paddles down the creek. The barn swallows are ubiquitous and nest under the many small bridges that cross the creek.

For the most part the water is very gentle and slow; well suited to someone like myself who isn't entirely comfortable in a tippy vessel on the water. My last visit 2 summers ago was my first time in a kayak, rather than a 2 or 3 seater canoe, and I can say that I much prefer paddling alone in a kayak to struggling in a canoe because I am so uncoordinated. That visit was the first time that I hadn't tipped and dunked into the water at least once! In most places Cedar Creek is very narrow and curvy with overhanging branches that like to grab onto the unsuspecting paddler and send you into the cold water.

I especially like the many places to stop and rest along the way. Most of the trip is through dark woods, but suddenly you come upon an opening like the reservoir or a marsh before heading back under the dark and close trees. There are many shallow places with sandy beaches that invite a break for swimming and snacks. All of my trips on the water have been with a group that seems most concerned with getting to the end, rather than pausing along the way. That last visit stands out in my memory because it was made with my coworkers; among them Kathy -she who loves Turkey Vultures - and we paused often to take in the view or to swim. We arrived at the pick-up point at least two hours behind the rest of our group, who thought we had gotten lost somewhere along the way. We both were puzzled that anyone wouldn't want to get lost, for an hour or two, in such a peaceful and beautiful place.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The beanery

I was feeling a little under the weather today (actually I played hookey, but shhhh, my boss sometimes reads this) so I headed to Cape May thinking the salt air might help me feel better. This weekend is NJ Audubon's Fall Weekend and Bird Show, so there were lots of birders around and lots of birds. I was practically tripping over yellow-rumps and kinglets all afternoon. More than once while walking through the dunes I had to duck from the path of an oncoming sharpie in pursuit of a meal.

I avoided the hoards of birders as I'm prone to do and instead wandered some of my favorite spots alone, but did stop by the convention center to say hi to Amy from Wildbird on the Fly and Sharon the Birdchick. I missed running into Patrick from The Hawk Owl's Nest. I'm tired now from so much driving, most of it in the rain, but wanted to share just one favorite pic from today.

This was taken at a place birders call "the beanery" - the property is mostly farmland (lima beans, specifically) and woods. Wet woods, as you see here, where prothonotary warblers can be found in the springtime. NJ Audubon has some sort of agreement with the property owners, under which they *lease* birding rights on the property for their membership. Neat idea, I think. It was quiet today, but for the previously mentioned yellow-rumps and kinglets (golden-crowns, specifically). Lovely until it started to rain and I was startled once too often with shotgun fire that sounded too close for comfort. More pics some other day. 'Night.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

10/26/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Boomer is most interested in the possibility of eating; he'd prefer pumpkin pie and a nap.
Freckles wonders why everybunny is having their pic taken with this big orange thing.
Peeper is rather unimpressed with the Halloween decor.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

%*&^^!!@ Blogger!!

Blogger is behaving badly. Hopefully it will let me make a post this evening.

I couldn't even visit any of my friend's blogs.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Costume party, anyone?

My big brother (looking ghoulish above) has had Halloween Costume parties for years. There hasn't been one in a few years, but this Saturday he's picking up the tradition again. They're great fun and my brother and sister-in-law really go all out with decorating the house and having lots of good food. The two of them are also the most creative with coming up with costume ideas and think of the best things. My father was also great with his costumes and seemed to get a real kick out of doing the unexpected. The pic above is from 1990, I think, in the time leading up to the Gulf War. Dad went as a sheik, complete with oil can. Another year he wore the most outrageous wig as Howard Stern. My husband and I have always struggled to come up with a costume - and this year is no different. Neither of us have any idea what to go as. So far the DH's only suggestion has been that I wear bunny ears and he'll borrow the dog's Xmas antlers... we're badly in need of some creative thinking on this. The pics from the first year we attended (in rented clown suits) have mysteriously gone missing. I thought we looked adorable, but my husband was humiliated by the experience. The following year, in a nod to our common love of coffee (and in tribute to how we met - while I was in college working at a 7-11) we went as coffee with half-n-half. I thought I did a pretty good job of recreating the artwork on both the coffee can and the carton of milk, but we couldn't sit down or eat easily with the costumes on.
Dad as Arnold Schwarzenegger and my brother Brian as a box of tide. His wife that year did a fine impression of a dirty pile of laundry.
This was an easy costume for us to do. My DH wore his turnout gear (he's a volunteer fireman) and I went as his dalmation, complete with bone and hydrant.

Each year the stakes seem to be raised in terms of a great costume; my brother is just too creative for the likes of me! I find myself anticipating what they will come up with, yet I'm always surprised. If anyone has any last-minute easy ideas for costumes I would love to hear them.

Monday, October 23, 2006


"Hung there in the thermal
whiteout of noon, dark ash
on the chimney's updraft, turning
slowly like a thumb pressed down
on target; indolent V's; flies, until they drop.

Then they're hyenas, raucous
around the kill, flapping their black
umbrellas, the feathered red-eyed widows
whose pot bodies violate mourning,
the snigger at funerals,
the burp at the wake.
They cluster, like beetles
laying their eggs on carrion,
gluttonous for a space, a little
territory of murder: food
and children.

Frowzy old saint, bald-
headed and musty, scrawny-
necked recluse on your pillar
of blazing air which is not
heaven: what do you make
of death, which you do not
cause, which you eat daily?
I make life, which is a prayer.
I make clean bones.
I make a gray zinc noise
which to me is a song.

Well, heart, out of all this
carnage, could you do better?"
Margaret Atwood

A friend of mine is very fond of Turkey Vultures; she's not a birdwatcher, but is someone who loves nature and the out of the doors and all animals. Knowing my love of birds, she often mentions vulture sightings to me. I like to give her a gift at Christmastime and struggle to find something appropriate. Kathy is hard to describe. She's almost twenty years my senior, a child of the 60's and a hippie at heart, yet she was raised in a very wealthy family from what I understand. We work together at social services and her pragmatism and forthrightness with our clients is sometimes startling to me. I've known her for many years, yet feel that I don't really know her at all. Suffice it so say that she is not easy to shop for. One year as a *gift* I brought her along on a winter birding trip at Barnegat Light to see Harlequins and Short-Eared Owls. We froze our butts off and the short-ears were a no-show, but Kathy was a trooper standing out on the jetty.

Following a day spent kayaking in the Pine Barrens a few summers ago she told me that she considers Turkey Vultures to be her totem or spirit guide. She sees them often during her meditative walks through the Barrens. Finally knowing that she had a *favorite* bird I then set out to find her the perfect vulture-themed gift. Not! Turkey Vultures, it seems, are not the poster-child for avian beauty or affection. This year, though, I think I may have hit the jackpot with Letters from Eden by Julie Zickefoose. There's an essay all about tv's and pencil sketches and even a personalized inscription that Julie wrote special for Kathy.

I did a little digging around on the Web to see what I might find about vultures as totem birds and learned that the vulture is a powerful totem, bringing purification and signaling an end to hardship. I also found a creation story about how the vulture saved the world (which I'll inlcude below) and a neat American Indian Trickster tale about vultures.

In the earliest of times, the sun lived very close to the earth - so close in fact that life upon the earth was becoming unbearable. The animal world got together and decided to do something about it. They wanted to move the sun further away.

The fox was the first to volunteer, and he grabbed the sun in his mouth and began to run to the heavens. After a short while, the sun became too hot, burning the fox's mouth, and he stopped. To this day, the inside of the fox's mouth is black. Then the opossum volunteered. He wrapped his tail around the sun and began running toward the heavens. Before long though, the sun became too hot, burning its tail, and he had to stop. To this day the opossum has no hair upon its tail.

It was then that vulture stepped forward. Vulture was the most beautiful and powerful of birds. Upon its head was a beautiful mantle of rich feathering that all other birds envied. Knowing that the earth would burn up unless someone moved the sun, the vulture placed its head against it and began to fly to the heavens. With powerful strokes of its wings, it pushed and pushed the sun further and further up into the heavens. Though it could feel its crown feathers burning, the vulture continued until the sun was set at a safe distance in the sky away from the earth. Unfortunately, vulture lost its magnificent head of feathers for eternity.

I wonder how common it is for people to think of having an animal or bird as a spirit guide. Totem animals are those that a person feels connected with or particularly drawn to. I don't know that I feel such a connection to a particular bird or animal, but wonder if you do. ;-)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A random sort of Sunday

The birthday boy cutting the lawn - what a way to spend your birthday. "Just like any other day," he says. He bought himself that big honkin' mower this spring and drove it through the fence and nearly into the pond the first time he used it. Sadly I wasn't there to take pics of that! He blamed it on the funny hand controls - yea right!
We turned off the pump and filter on the pond this afternoon. One day this week we'll get the net out to cover it, so I figured I should take a few last pics of the fishies until spring. The garden is so quiet without the waterfall running, but I won't afford to run it all year. My rule is that the heat doesn't go on until the pond is shut down and my husband has been almost shivering watching tv in the evenings so getting that done was a priority today, birthday or no.
I planted some pansies in the newly mulched beds and in the basket of this bunny statue that marks the spot beneath the serviceberry where Mr. Bean, my first flemish giant, is buried.
I also put in pansies and some decorative kale in the other little garden for bunnies that have hopped on to the bridge. This spot is so pretty in late spring with a huge bleeding heart and budding peonies that I like to keep it pretty in the fall also.
I love the fall colors of the grasses and dogwoods in the back garden. I don't know the name of this fountain grass, but I have five or six of them scattered around the place.

So now there is a birthday dinner to cook, followed by sugar-free pumpkin pie instead of birthday cake (and peanut butter cookies for me) for dessert. Papers to grade and laundry to do. Bunnies to feed. Dog to get out for a stroll. The list goes on.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


My husband's parents were married on October 21, 1945. She was born and raised in NJ (and has lived most of her life down the street from the childhood home that she was born in). He was born in California, but grew up in Tennessee. She was around 17 years old when married, he had already been to war and was stationed at the nearby army base on his return. They met at the roller-skating rink. This is a scan of the only picture from their wedding day - her dress was light blue. They honeymooned in Newark, NJ. We gave them a 50th wedding anniversary party in 1995, but my father-in-law passed away before they celebrated their 58th.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Boy's Toys

I sometimes think my husband gets a kick out of sending me to buy the biggest and heaviest tools as gifts for him. Very seldom am I sent to find anything that I can easily carry or wrap nicely.

His birthday is this Sunday, and rather than totally spacing his birthday as I often do, I knew just what to buy for him this year because he kindly pointed it out to me on our last visit to Lowe's to buy new blinds.

The object of his desire is that Bosch Power Box. I'm not exactly clear on what it does, besides that it plays music, stuff plugs into it, and you can drop it from a few stories up without breaking it. Most importantly, his friend Pete has one; I think that must be why he wants one. Toy envy.

It was light enough that I was able to carry it out of the store without any construction workers feeling sorry for me, but I don't have a clue how I'll wrap it.

I wonder if my husband feels as out of his element when shopping for gifts as I do. Does he roam around the bookstore or camera shop with no real idea what he's buying, like I do when browsing the tool section? Does he wish that I liked jewelry or perfume or some other easy to purchase thing? What do wives buy for their husbands besides tools?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

10/19/06 Mid-week bunny fix

I totally stole this pic from the October BunFun newsletter sent out by Leith Petwerks. I'm not sure which looks more annoyed at being a pumpkinhead - Patches or Flynn. Leith sells great bunny stuff, by the way!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Before first frost

Angel's Trumpet in the long light of an autumn afternoon

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Winter refugees

During the summer months my houseplants live outside on the screened patio; with the threatened frost this past weekend I brought them inside from their fair weather sojourn. The problem now is where to put them all. For the moment I'm keeping most of them in my office where they'll be safe from marauding bunnies and clumsy dog tails. They're crowded together on this little plant stand in front of the sort-of-south-facing window, up high enough that Peeper can't reach them without really trying. I've found her once or twice atop my desk, so it's possible.

The Asparagus Fern in the back is my longest lived houseplant; I think I've had it for 3 or 4 summers now. I like to keep it out on the sunporch with the big bunnies, but it has grown considerably this summer and I found Boomer and Cricket doing some inspired pruning when I first brought it in and put it back in its usual spot. I have fairly good luck with Peace Lilies, so I keep quite a few. I can't manage to make them bloom ever, but the foliage is pretty enough without flowers. They aren't so happy spending the summers outside, as I can never seem to keep enough water on them. My jade plants do terrific out on the patio, though. Last year I took a few cuttings and was able to *trade* them with friends (I read that it's bad luck to give Jades as gifts, so I only trade them for cuttings of other plants. lol!)

The orchid that I bought back in April is still alive and is sending out these funny things (pictured at right) that I'm not sure are roots or stalks that will bloom. I'm not sure what to do with them. Ideas anyone?

I like to have my houseplants back inside because it's so much easier to care for them, but they do seem to suffer with the darker days and dry conditions inside the house.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More from the cranberry farms and bogs

I'm including this photo of a commercial cranberry farm to give an idea of how large the operation is. In the immediate foreground is the canal that surrounds the bog, just visible to the right is a gate used to control water flow in and out of where the cranberries are grown and harvested. Elevated dikes surround each bog. I think most farms flood their fields prior to harvest and leave them that way during the winter freeze to protect the cranberry plants. Most, if not all of these *wet-harvested* cranberries are destined for the juice market and I believe that the farmers are part of a cooperative that produces for Ocean Spray.
All of the equipment used in the harvest was at the far end of view, but if you use your imagination you can see that green machine with the yellow hose on it that is the *boom* used to corral the loose berries. I learned during the visit to Whitesbog Village that these booms were adapted from those used to clean up oil spills. It used to be that cranberries were harvested by people wading in the water and pushing the berries forward to a corner of the bog to be picked up on conveyor belts or the like, but the current method is much less labor-intensive. In the early days of cranberry farming, the berries were *dry harvested* by women and children walking the fields using metal or wooden scoops to pick the berries from the vines, much like blueberries, I guess.
Back to the abandoned bogs at Whitesbog - I took this pic of a few yahoos on motorbikes riding across the sandy dikes that traverse the bogs.
Here's the bird pic of the day - that speck in the middle is a kestral forced to flight by the motorbikes. When I first arrived they were perched on the scrubby sand piles along the dike and would occasionally fly from their perches to hover over the brush below.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Postcards from a cranberry bog

The *where we live* photo meme post that Laura at Vitamin Sea started a few weeks ago has me thinking like a tourist. Rather than staying home the past few Sundays (grading papers like a good teacher) I've been dreaming up places to visit that I usually just breeze past on my way to somewhere else. It's been a good excuse to get a homebody like myself off my duff and keep the camera in good working order.

I've been very pleased with the complimentary comments posted here about the beauty of my home state; I understand that NJ is not often thought of as so picturesque. Most of my travels searching for photos have brought me to the shore, whether close to home at Sandy Hook or further south to Cape May. Today I headed south again, but just a little ways to the tip of the NJ Pine Barrens and then headed west into the bogs and cedar swamps of the pinelands.

The pic above left was taken just outside of Whitesbog Village, which was home to the largest cranberry farm in NJ during the early 1900's. I spent a few hours roaming the sandy roads that traverse the abandoned bogs and blueberry fields, and watched red tails and kestrels hunting despite the clamor from kids on motorbikes and ATV's. I'd heard of Whitesbog before, among birders, because the area attracts Tundra Swans in late winter and Gull-billed terns in September, although I'm not sure that is still the case. Would Patrick know?

Cranberries are still grown commercially in the area, although the blueberry is the state fruit, and by nosing around down enough sandy dirt roads (an awful lot of them labeled for some gun club or another) I came across an active bog in the process of being harvested. The beauty of the harvest was hard to describe - I think just the combination of berries against the water, with the blue sky and pine forest in the distance. From what little I know about cranberry harvesting, I suspect a machine had gone through this part of the bog earlier in the day to *beat* the cranberries from their vines and the wind in the vast open bog had pushed the berries to one corner where they would later be harvested with the use of a boom to keep them corraled in one place. There is a complicated system of canals and gates to flood and empty each bog as required by the season. Of the twenty or so working bogs that were visible in this one field, only five were completely flooded and three, like this one, yet to be harvested. Most of the others had some water remaining on the margins, and the expected herons, egrets, and waterfowl that one might expect to be there. Of course I have more photos, which Blogger stubbornly won't allow me to load, but they were mostly meant to give you an idea of the size of a cranberry farm. Very big and windy on a chilly October afternoon.

It was a nice way to spend a few hours, there was no traffic jam on the way home like last Sunday, and it sure beats grading papers! I'm thinking of going back next Friday for a sunset hayride through the bogs, followed by pinelands songs and stories around a campfire. I'll at least get back to see the Tundra Swans in February.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Do I want a ninebark?

We've been looking for a small tree or shrub to replace this old bridalwreath spirea for a few years now. I almost hate to yank it out because it's been there forever and the mockingbirds sometimes like to nest in it. The center of the shrub is woody and it hardly blooms anymore, so today I went to the nursery around the corner hoping for a bargain. The nursery stock was all 25% off, but I didn't find anything that grabbed me.

I asked one of the owner's sons if he might recommend something; he's always made good suggestions in the past so I trust his ideas. He suggested I consider this Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) pictured at right. I liked the reddish purple foliage and the pinkish white late spring flowers sounded nice. I wasn't sold on it though, so instead took a few pics to show my husband.

I checked my Manual of Woody Landcape Plants by Michael Dirr to see what he has to say about the Ninebark. From the section on landscape value: "Quite coarse and therefore difficult to use in the small home landscape; limited in usefulness because of rather meager ornamental assets; bark on older stems exfoliates into papery strips exposing a rich brown inner bark; unfortunately, this character is masked by the foliage and dense tangle of stems." Also, "The Minnesota Landscape Aboretum has a large collection of ninebarks and after looking over the entire group, I still came away with the opinion that about anything is better than a Ninebark."

Well... I guess that answers my question!

Do you have a favorite shrub or smallish tree? Can you suggest something that might be nice as a specimen for full sun in the middle of our back yard? I'd prefer something that blooms and has berries that the birds might find tasty. My husband is inclined to plant a pine, but I want something a bit more showy in such a prominent spot.

Friday, October 13, 2006

From flower to fruit

How innocent were these Trees, that in
Mist-green May, blown by a prospering breeze,
Stood garlanded and gay;

Who now in sundown glow
Of serious colour clad confront me with their show
As though resigned and sad,Trees, who unwhispering stand umber, bronze, gold;
Pavilioning the land for one grown tired and old;

Elm, chestnut, aspen and pine, I am merged in you
Who tell once more in tones of time,
Your foliaged farewell.

- Siegfried Sassoon, October Trees

Thursday, October 12, 2006

10/12/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Dual draftdodgers, April 2004

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Postcard of a favorite feeder bird

"Your perch is the branch
and your boudoir the branch also.
The branch, the rough branch!
evergreen boughs closing you about
like ironed curtains
to complete the decor.
The sun pours in
as the roughing wind blows
and who will conceive the luxury,
the rare lightness of
your fluttering toilette like him,
he who is lost and alone in the world?
Princess of the airy kingdoms
the sky is your wardrobe
and yellow roses
the frilled chrysanthemums bending
to the late season your park.
Among the clouds your couriers
post to embassies
beyond our fondest dreams
and heaven, the ancient court of saints
whispers to us
among the hemlocks
insistently of you."
-William Carlos Williams

Egret's Nest asked for a pic of my "favorite easy-to-see bird feeder regular bird" and in response I offer this scanned pic of a white-throated sparrow taken the Christmas after I got my first *real* camera. Like most of my bird pics, it's not very good, but at least it's in focus and you can tell what bird it is. I haven't gotten much better with bird photography in the 5 years since, but I'm still trying. ;-)

White-throats are here now; at least I think I'm hearing their lispy call notes, although I haven't laid eyes on one yet. They are too shy, in all but the worst of winter weather, to come to the feeder nearest the house. Instead I scatter seed for them and the juncos in the back corner of the yard where it borders the scrubby field that shields our yard from the park and athletic fields behind us. They seem to me to be cheerful little birds and not nearly as prone to grumpiness as the song sparrows who are with us year round. I like to hear their "Old Sam Peabody" song and will often whistle along with them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tagging monarchs at Cape May

I was able to see an impromptu monarch tagging demonstration on Sunday in Cape May. Their Monarch Monitoring Project has been conducted since 1991 and they've tagged tens of thousands of migrant monarchs in the 15 years since.
The butterflies are kept in an envelope in a cooler while waiting to be tagged. In this pic the naturalist is demonstrating how a small amount of the butterfly's scales are removed (with a lovely painted fingernail) in order to make room for the tagging sticker to be attached.
She explained that each tag has a unique number and the address where to send the butterfly (or the tag) should it be recovered. 3M makes the stickers just for tagging and they don't hinder the butterfly's ability to fly at all.
Each butterfly is weighed and measured and a general assesment of its body condition is made. All of this info is recorded along with the tag number. With that, the butterfly is ready to be released and to resume its journey to Mexico. All that is needed is a cute little girl with nimble fingers.
The hand off. Ready...

The monarch lingered for a moment or two on the little girl's palm before flying to the shrubbery nearby to warm in the sun.

Yearly counts and census info, as well as a brief history of the project, is available from NJ Audubon at this link. Certainly worth a read if you're interested in more information.