Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blondes, brunettes, and ...


Did you know that redheads and ruddy ducks commonly lay their eggs in the nests of other waterfowl species, like cowbirds do? Neither did I.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Too many books?

I don't have nearly enough shelf space for all my books, so they tend to pile up in all the expected places around the house. This is 1/3 of one of the 4 piles on the desk in my office - the top of the tallest pile that threatens to topple over at any moment. All but the King book are ones I've already read, but haven't found a place for just yet.

The Michael Korda book was part of the
horse obsession last summer - thank goodness that never went much beyond books! This was my least favorite of the bunch I read and I still haven't managed to recycle it to the trash.

The Pine Barrens field guide more or less lives on my desk together with a wildflower ID book on the off chance that I'll feel like puzzling over the bundle of photos I took there this spring and summer. The McPhee book is a great one, but I'm only a quarter way through it since October or so. I'm not really reading that one in a linear way anyway; instead picking it up and reading a chaper when it falls out of the pile at me.


Fields of Sun and Grass is a great book... one that I've read a few times; most recently back in April in preparation for that trip up to the
Meadowlands in North Jersey

So... I'm wondering what you all do with the books you no longer have a use for? Anything natural history related that I'm willing to part with I donate to the local Audubon chapter for fundraisers, but the rest of them? Save me from being buried, please!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Weird Monday

Asbury Park has what I think is the nicest stretch of boardwalk here on the northern shore of NJ - too bad most everyone is too afraid to walk it. It's empty like this even in the summer, except for the homeless people who sleep below it and then sit around leering at passerby during the day.

I'm caught deciding whether today felt more like an episode of The Twilight Zone or Candid Camera... ever have one of those days? Today's field visits were going fine until I ran over a gull - that jinxed me, I think. Silly gulls were fighting over a bit of bagel or something along Ocean Ave. and this one decides to drop down and grab it just as I was accelerating at the green light... I think it tried to fly underneath, but didn't make it. I hate killing things with my car!

I went by some of the local ponds to look for ducks at lunch time and every one of the good ponds is frozen. I was wandering around with my big lens looking for some open water and one of last week's redheads or hoodies when this lady in a car stopped me and asked if mine was a good camera. I started to explain to her that it was reasonably ok for the type of photos I'm capable of and blah-blah-blah when I realized that she was trying to take pics of the Canada Geese with one of those cardboard throw-away cameras from Walmart. Pfft! Shut me up quick.

My next visit was with a lady who was off-her-rocker-crazy. Before I even got in the door I knew I was in for something interesting. I'll just say it was a very short visit and I kept the door in clear view at all times.


This evening I went to the Y for a yoga class and then tortured myself for a bit with the weight machines afterwards. There's this guy that I see there pretty often, old with a really bad dye-job and he wears those ridiculous spandex exercise things that show every possible ... nevermind ... you know what I mean. He really works himself hard and wears earphones the whole time, so I guess he can't hear all the grunting and moaning he does with the strain of it, but the rest of the weight room hears it all. I sat there on the leg press listening to the obscene sounds he was making, trying to keep a straight face myself, and watching all the women in the room doing the same. At one point, all us girls were laughing openly at him, but every single guy in the room was staring straight ahead pretending not to notice. That just made it funnier to me!

What a weird, weird day.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Summer... or snow

The gray snowless sky is getting the better of my mood lately, I think. I love the winter and the chill wind, but it all seems pointless without a covering of snow to change the view some. It's all just brown and monotonous otherwise.

I walked and walked in the woods this afternoon to get rid of the restlessness and to look for some color or something of interest. Finally I settled on the boost a visit to the greenhouse would give... that stifling heat and the smell of growing things and the color! I do this often enough that the ladies who manage the greenhouse know not to ask me if I need help with purchasing something... I'm there just to wander among the flowers and soak up enough of the moist air to help me remember that winter and its gray wont last forever.

I saw the beginnings of their Spring display, with primroses and pansies and the most wonderful of hydrangeas. Bunny topiaries
and sweet little bird's nest wreaths. It's all deception now, in late January, like the seed catalogs with their pics of tomatoes red and juicy enough to make my mouth water at the thought of a summer afternoon wandering barefoot along the rows of my garden. That memory seems like such a luxury at this time of year, roaming around the garden to see what's ready for picking, sitting down beside the pond to watch the dragonflies and the fish, hanging out there until the fireflies come to flash their love songs in the night.

My heart's set on summer... or snow.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Flying-by with a hint

I haven't dreamt up anything interesting yet and we seem to need a hint. So I offer this uncropped version of yesterday's pic. There's a hint there, I promise!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fly-by ducks

Have fun with this while I dream up something interesting to say...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Horseshoe Cove sunset

"The sky is the daily bread of the eyes." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If I had the time, or better said, if my work schedule permitted it, I think I would be in a place everyday where I could watch the sun set over water. Especially in the wintertime, when the colors are just so much more spectacular somehow. As it is now, it's a race to be home before dusk, but everyday the light is lingering a bit longer. Have you noticed that yet? Spring must be on the horizon.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bad bird photo of the week

Well. This should be an easy one. The field mark I usually look for isn't visible, but I was thrilled to finally see that bit of blue on the bill. That's a first! Happy guessing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The silence of the yams

Since reading Barbara Kingsolver's book last summer about eating locally (click to read my post about it), I've been on something of a kick with other *food* books when I come across a new one. Deb's recent post on the subject, in which she shares her doubt about the viability of eating only locally grown products where she lives in Minnesota, made me feel a bit better about the difficulties I have in doing the same here - and let's face it - the growing season in NJ is considerably longer than in Deb's home state. Farmer's markets here typically run from May through October only.

At any rate, I borrowed
Skinny Bitch from a friend, mostly to see what all the fuss was about. I've never read a diet book in my life, and this one read a bit too much like one for my taste, but if you can get past the shock value of the language and past their insisting that vegan is the only healthy way to eat, you might just find something useful there. I could easily be vegetarian, but give up eggs and cheese and ice-cream? Well... I'm not there yet.

I've just about finished Michael Pollan's
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and find his measured approach a bit more helpful and, dare I say it, affirming of the food choices I regularly make. The crux of his *manifesto* is that we should eat food, but not too much of it, and mostly plants. The first two-thirds of the book are spent defining what *food is not* and explaining how the typical Western diet and our current focus on nutrition have caused so many of us to be unhealthy.

I don't want to give away all of the gems of this book, but these are a few things that have really hit home with me:

*Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
*Avoid food products that are unfamiliar or unpronouceable.
*Don't eat anything incapable of rotting!
*Shop the edges of the supermarket and avoid the middle where the *food-products* shout at you with their health claims, while the kale and carrots sit in silence on the periphery.
*Shop at farmer's markets or CSA's (
click for a list) whenever possible. Shake the hand that feeds you.
*Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
*Eat well grown foods from healthy soils. Just as food sustains us, soil sustains everything that grows in it. Everything that is put into the soil should nurture and support its ability to give and sustain life.
*Pay more, eat less. Better food costs more to produce. Food needn't be cheap, fast and easy.
*Try not to eat alone. A shared meal is part ritual, part culture.
*Only eat when you're truly hungry and then eat slowly!
*Prepare your own food and plant a garden, however humble.

I'm not so inclined to recommend books, but this one is worth noting, I think, in that it offered me an eye-opening look into the food industry and how deliberately we've been led astray from what's really good for us.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sometimes looking mean is enough...

at least Peeper seems to think so! She is such an ornery little rabbit (or at least she pretends to be) that she scares people away with all her attitude. Reminds me of a few people I know!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Savor it

Life will sometimes hand you a magical moment. Savor it.

I have no idea where this image is from or who took it, but it appeared like magic in my inbox today... thanks friend! (And please... click to enlarge!)

A few recent magical moments to share... Titmice singing their spring song during last week's January thaw... A gorgeous sunset or two at Sandy Hook... The car windshield covered with those pretty frost flowers the other day...

What gifts from nature have you stopped to savor in the last couple days?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blank map

"This is a blank map that lets you go as far as you want in any direction, with no questions asked, but it's no help at all if you want to know if you're going the right way." --Brian Andreas

Where would you go... if you could? If you didn't have to worry that it was the right way?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

iPod meme (revisited)

I thought it might be fun to do this again. Santa brought me an iPod Touch this year after Luka ruined the other with spilt coffee.

Put your iPod on shuffle and blog the first twenty songs in the shuffle.

1. Eider, Common
2. Sparrow, Lark
3. Save the Last Dance for Me - Michael Buble
4. Boondocks - Little Big Town
5. Sitting, Waiting, Wishing - Jack Johnson
6. Skimmer, Black
7. Trumpets - The Waterboys
8. Oh Very Young - Cat Stevens
9. Bring it on Home - Little Big Town
10. Owl, Barn
11. Your Man - Josh Turner
12. Want To - Sugarland
13. Forever My Friend - Ray LaMontagne
14. Ovenbird
15. Everything - Michael Buble
16. Church Not Made With Hands - The Waterboys
17. Plover, Piping
18. Song for You - Michael Buble
19. Water Ballerina - Luka Bloom
20. Tangled Up - Billy Currington

So.. what's on your iPod? Something besides bird songs and sappy country music?


Monday, January 14, 2008

A stinker for Mary

The season is all wrong and this is, after all, a decoy and nothing to compare with Mary's GB Heron pics, but I love the imagery in this poem from Mary Oliver's Owls and Other Fantasies. Hope you'll enjoy it, too.

Some Herons by Mary Oliver

"A blue preacher
flew toward the swamp,
in slow motion.

On the leafy banks,
an old Chinese poet,
hunched in the white gown of his wings.

was waiting.
The water
was the kind of dark silk

that has silver lines
shot through it
when it is touched by the wind

or is splashed upward,
in a small, quick flower,
by the life beneath it.

The preacher
made his difficult landing,
his skirts up around his knees.

The poet's eyes
flared, just as a poet's eyes
are said to do

when the poet is awakened
from the forest of meditation.
It was summer.

It was only a few moments past the sun's rising,
which meant that the whole long sweet day
lay before them.

They greeted each other,
rumpling their gowns for an instant,
and then smoothing them.

They entered the water,
and instantly two more herons--
equally as beautiful--

joined them and stood just beneath them
in the black, polished water
where they fished, all day."

There's a GB Heron who hunkers down at the edge of the farm pond where I often walk Luka when I get in from work. He is so still there, just before dusk, that he can't possibly be fishing and I feel badly for invading the end to his day with my noisy parade.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Decoys again

Quick - name that duck! I went to a new (to me) decoy show this afternoon hoping to find a nice oldsquaw to add to the growing collection here, but was disappointed. Oldsqauw don't seem to be popular decoy subjects and I wonder why. I'd thought maybe sea ducks in general aren't often made, but bufflehead and mergansers are very popular. Anybody know?

As shows go, this one didn't compare with the Tuckerton show. Very few vendors and very few nicely done decoys. So I came home with the wallet intact, at least.


First thing this morning I was reading an article in the local paper about duck hunting in the area. It seems like every year around this time certain locals get up in arms about something that's been done here forever. As a birder, duck hunting bothers me, of course, but the folks who live along the local rivers claim that it disturbs their peaceful enjoyment of their homes. I won't say anymore than that I think the issue is their peaceful enjoyment of the water and the hell with anyone else who doesn't own waterfront property. Enough said!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sweet lil' guy

Isn't he just the sweetest thing! Today was christening day for the newest member of the family - my nephew's baby - and the little man slept straight through the whole ordeal.

I also finally got to see my other nephew home from college in Montana for Xmas. I think he's grown a foot since I last saw him and has his hair cut in a mohawk (again) - kids! Nice to see him and hear that he's doing well in school; when he was little I tutored him in reading for a while. He struggled a bit during his first year at college closer to home, so this move to Montana was a chance for him to find a better fit. He says he loves it there and didn't even complain about the cold any. Plus, his grades are good!

Friday, January 11, 2008

One way to do it

Is it just me, or is this a very *guy* way to do things?


It's okay. I can make fun... he's my friend and well, let's just say this is typical behavior! Jimmy puts up the tree and all the lights in downtown Red Bank, so I guess he can take it back down any way he pleases.

Cracks me up too, to see another guy (Officer Pete) standing around supervising. Also typical!

So.. fess up guys! Looks like a fun approach to a depressing task, I think.

Image from Red Bank Green, a neat local news blog.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

1/9/08 Mid-week bunny fix

Boomer - handsome as ever, mid-nap

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What I didn't do

A while back, Beth at EasyEcoLiving tagged me to post about one thing I did at the holidays to lessen my footprint. I've avoided responding to her tag thus far because I couldn't think of anything. Then it sort of dawned on me that, maybe, my laziness with all things Xmas this year might somehow be viewed as a good thing. How's that for revisionist thinking?


I didn't waste gas running around too much to buy gifts; I didn't waste trees because I didn't send any Xmas cards nor did I do very much wrapping.

Oh wait! I thought of one thing I did - I bought lots and lots of organic produce to feed to the multitudes that showed up here for dinner on Christmas Day. So there. I did something.


Feel free to play along if you like, here in comments or on your own blog. Share some tips for how to make next year's holiday greener!

In case you haven't already seen it, have a look at The Story of Stuff and maybe you'll feel a little less inclined to ever do holiday shopping again.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Please use back door

I added pit bulls to my list of occupational hazards today, as if the possibility of random shootings, gang violence, or being kidnapped by crackheads weren't entertaining enough.


(Please note that I write this not for your sympathy, but so that my coworker Deb from my old cozy unit will stop insisting that my promotion to this field position is some kind of *racket* as she likes to call it.)

I still have all of my limbs, but barely. A sign on the front of the house directed me to the back door where I found, a little too late and a little too close for comfort, a friendly (not!) brindle pit bull. With a very strong-looking neck and a tie out which was considerably weaker-looking than anything I would think to use with my Lab puppy. And about a foot of space between the end of that lead and my pathway to the back door. Ahem.

For the life of me, I can't understand why my client who has a beautiful house and who is a truly nice person, would have a pit tied out in her yard. Other than, maybe, to protect herself and her home from the neighbors.

At any rate, I'm a dog lover and reserve most of my fear for little yappy dogs or the occasional golden retriever. Illogical, I know, but a golden snapped at me once and now I'm afraid of most of them. My sister-in-law rescued an abused pit in a cruelty case from a neighborhood such as the one I visited today. Sweet dog and good-natured as pits go, but I don't trust it. Once it had me afraid to move when it cornered me alone in my SIL's living room and wouldn't give way for me to walk past him. Silly, really, because I know the dog to be sweet, but always there's that reputation to contend with.

Oftentimes, I guess the reputation is warranted, but I wonder if others have had a positive experience with pits or other *dangerous* dog breeds. I know lots of lovable Rotties and German Shepherds and wouldn't think of fearing them as a breed the way I might pit bulls (or golden retrievers!)

Image from the HSUS.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sandy Hook Sunset

"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." --John Muir

Well... I can't quite concur with Muir, but it was a fine sunset today at Sandy Hook. The bay was like a mirror all day and the light this morning when I arrived for my volunteering at the bird observatory would have been phenomenal for photography. By the time I was done and could scan the shoreline for ducks there was nothing but glare on the bay, but that glare led to this sunset with the distant calls of oldsquaw arriving with the gentle waves at my feet.

Anybody want to ID the bird standing on the rocks?


Saturday, January 05, 2008


"She was all in black but for a yellow pony tail
that trailed from her cap, and bright blue gloves
that she held out wide, the feathery fingers spread,
as surely she stepped, click-clack, onto the frozen
top of the world. And there, with a clatter of blades,
she began to braid a loose path that broadened
into a meadow of curls. Across the ice she swooped
and then turned back and, halfway, bent her legs
and leapt into the air the way a crane leaps, blue gloves
lifting her lightly, and turned a snappy half-turn
there in the wind before coming down, arms wide,
skating backward right out of that moment, smiling back
at the woman she'd been just an instant before."
--Ted Kooser

I was delighted to come across a newly released book of Ted Kooser's poetry - Valentines - and have been challenging myself to find a new favorite of the 23 poems each day - this one is today's favorite.

Image by photographer Jeff Maion.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Disorganized like me

I came across an interesting article yesterday at the NY Times website (link) that sounded so familiar to me - as I'm sure it will to the rest of you teachers out there; but I wonder if those of you who parent boys won't find it to ring true also.

One of the major challenges that I have working with my college-age male students is a lack of organizational and study skills. I saw the same in the few years I spent teaching elementary and high-school boys. The article talks about the need for these kids to visit tutors in order to learn those skills, which, let's face it, are so basic to success in school that I wonder why they're not ever taught as part of the regular curriculum.

Teaching kids how to learn seems so... basic; yet the assumption is that kids just know how to do those things that make success at it possible. That I or any other college professor should need to spend time, week after week, showing the same boys how to organize a binder or how to keep a record of when assignments are due - how silly, I think, considering all the *more important* stuff that schools are so focused on.

The funny thing is that I'm not a very good role model for the type of behavior I teach and my students sometimes see it. Too often they get a peak into my messy school bag filled with last semester's final exams, grocery store receipts and that great new poetry book I picked up weeks ago and then immediately misplaced.


Do as I say, not as I do - right? Thank God no one ever sees the state of my desk here at home - the piles of bills mixed with the piles of books and the blotter still stuck in April of 2007 covered with fragments and whispers and book titles and phone numbers important enough that I won't turn the page.

Anyone willing to fess up along with me to being a disorganized girl?


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Seven month pupdate

Suffice it to say that Luka continues to grow in direct proportion to his ability to try my patience! Mostly, he's a doll, but he's learning about independence and the value of selective hearing. I think it's in that area that our training classes come in handy the most; when he's too focused on misbehaving I simply distract him with a sit/stay and generous handouts of cookies. What's really neat is that he's learned hand signals for all his commands, so that I needn't even raise my voice to scream at him.


This toy that has him all googly-eyed is the only one recently that he hasn't destroyed within minutes. Anything that's slightly soft or has even the tiniest bit of give is torn apart and strewn across the floor somewhere. This yellow rubber jack thingy he just drops (repeatedly) at or (more likely) on my feet - or even more annoying - under the legs of a chair or the dining room table out of his reach and then he sits and woofs at it until someone comes along and retrieves it for him, only to bounce it right back under whatever again. What a PITA!

We've taken to calling him 'Wiggles' lately - he greets everyone with his whole body in a side-to-side sway. And he is a master at stealing my spot on the couch should I get up to answer the phone or something; the thing that makes me forgive him that is that he is a true lap dog (except for his size, I guess) and seems to love having someone near to snuggle with!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

St. Mary's by the Sea - Cape May NJ
(a lovely place to watch the sun set over Delaware Bay)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

First of 2008

Today is the day when even common birds can be new and exciting again - if you keep a "year list" - that is! I had to hide my eyes from the house sparrows and other feeder riff-raff this morning so that my first bird of 2008 wouldn't be the same as every other year, but was happy enough to settle for this mallard as the first of the new year. The next couple birds were canvasback, hooded merganser, and bufflehead found in the little creek that runs through my hometown.

A New Year's tradition that I hadn't managed for the last few years is the annual beach walk around Sandy Hook sponsored by the American Littoral Society - a great group of people who love the coast and work to protect it - plus, they have the best cocoa after a chilly hike through the dunes! That walk added a few sea ducks and a loon to my little list already.

So... what was your first bird of the new year?