Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pretty Miss

Okay bunny people... I need a pep talk or a kick in the butt or something, please.

Missy... she's 7 years old now... youngish for a bunny, but she's been sick for so long. For at least 3 years I've been trying to manage this respiratory infection she has -
Pseudomonas - if you care to read about how impossible it is to get rid of. I did the antibiotics (oral and injectable) but saw little long-term benefit. I tried nebulizing her with little result. So I settled for managing it with long-term Baytril. The last six months or so it's not been managed well at all. The discharge from her nose and eyes is constant; to the point that I can't keep up with it and most of the fur from one side of her face is always in the middle of falling off and regrowing. Not comfortable or pleasant-looking.

The last two months or so she's not been grooming herself at all. Her face is so tender that I almost don't dare touch it. I have to clean her ears for her. She's not able to manage a litter box anymore so I moved her into a hay-filled cage. A desperate act, that, for me. Things just keep getting worse... her bottom is a mess, despite what I can do in that regard. A full in-the-sink-bath (another desperate act) didn't help. She's almost lost use of her back legs and can't get out of her own way. Very sad.

But... she still loves her hay and salads. And perks up to be petted and fussed over. I'm just feeling like I'm not taking care of her properly, like she's beyond getting better and will only continue to get worse. Until it's just all sadness and being uncomfortable, you know?

I don't know that I have it in me to put her to sleep, but it's so hard to watch this happening and feel like there isn't anything I or my vet can do. I think I know what I need to do; I just don't quite have the courage yet.

Friday, May 30, 2008


spring twilight
trimmed with pinking shears
plaited petals

The peonies are blooming! Is it just me, or do they inspire poetry in you, too?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lazy bunny fix

Too cute not to share - thanks Mary!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Momma told me so

I've been playing with this forever; trying to get an essay written that I can share with my family and that feels true and right. I even went so far as to make both of my brothers write one, with the idea that their memories might inspire some of my own. Theirs are great and touching, but they didn't have the desired effect on my own writing... I'm still struggling along with it. One of these days, whenever mine is finished, I'll share them all here.

Anyway... part of what that template causes you to reflect on are some of the stories that make up the history of your family. That started me thinking along the lines of the crazy things we were led to believe as kids. Those little lies our parents or older siblings told us to fuel our imaginations or to make us behave or to frighten us or even, maybe, to make the everyday seem magical.

The lies parents tell is a popular blog subject, apparently, but
this post was a favorite among the many I came across.

I made a list of the things I could remember being told and would imagine that many of you will share a similar list if you were to think of it. Maybe you find yourself repeating the same lies to your own kids for the sake of convenience or whimsy.

- "If you don't eat something, you'll blow away in the wind!" (A favorite of my Grandpa's.)

- "I promise I won't let go." - when the training wheels first came off.

- "Of course we leave the hall light on for you all night." (I was especially scared of the monsters that lived under the bed.)

- "Your teeth will be ruined if you keep sucking your thumb." (My oldest brother was probably in braces at that point and all those wires and rubber bands looked really scary to 7 year old me.)

- "Your face will freeze that way."

- Sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyes.

- "You'll catch a cold if you go out like that!"

- "You're too young for coffee... it puts hair on your chest."

- Fibbing makes your nose grow.

Mostly harmless, right? Little lies. Have any to add?

And then, of course, there were the real lies we grew up believing:

- "If you tell the truth you won't get in trouble."

- "You'll understand when you're older."

- "It'll only hurt for a second."

- "I'll be right here when you come back."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

White sweet May again*

A gentle breeze has been slowly dropping the petals of our neighbor's black locust into our pond. I love the snow-shower effect of it in late May and their fragrance is so wonderful on a humid day like today. No wonder the bees and hummers are drawn to it - there must be some sweet nectar inside the flowers!

I'd hoped for a close-up pic, but it's too tall. This gives you an idea, though, of why I like these weedy trees so much... the afternoon sun glimmers among the branches, full of late May light, and the flowers dance in the air. They're somehow related to wisteria - can you see that in the pendulous flowers? Plus they have similar pinnate leaves, but locusts have thorns, too. Especially thorny are the young ones that like to come up everywhere in our lawn. They're one of the very few trees that I can reliably ID at all seasons; their bark is dark and deeply furrowed and they tend to grow in waste places, in old fields, along the roadside. Like other members of the pea family, black locusts fix nitrogen in the soil which makes it possible for them to grow in the poor soil found in those places.

I learned something new from Wikipedia about members of the pea family: their leaves fold together at night or in wet weather. I wonder why that might be... anybody know?

*from "The Locust Tree in Flower" by William Carlos Williams

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nesting plovers

"A problem cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness in which it was created."
- Albert Einstein

With my back to their nest scrape and its symbolic fencing, I spent yesterday watching the beach crowd grow around this one plover nest that I was charged with *protecting* and was struck most by contrasts: the natural dune grass and pebble strewn high beach where the plovers make their nest amid bits of drift sticks and broken clam shells and in front of me the ocean with its equally vibrant and churning masses of bikini-clad sun-worshippers.

It's a wonder to me these birds manage to survive at all here in NJ, but survive they do. For my first 7 or 8 hours spent watching them, most everyone was respectful of the fencing, so long as they noticed it. Wayward balls and children tended to wander beneath it freely, but most responded nicely to my calls beginning with, "Sweetie... you can't be in there!" - though there was this one little boy - crossed arms and all - who refused to budge. That's when the teacher voice came in handy.


Those hours also gave me the chance to watch some bits of plover behavior that I'd not seen before. Mostly I felt badly for the bird left to set on those eggs in the blazing sun; I wonder what it does to occupy itself for all those hours. Every so often I'd notice there were two birds; switching duties, I guess, and I watched the other walk to the end of the fenced area and then fly off to feed in the intertidal zone among the kids playing.

Kite-flying was a problem, as it mimics predators like gulls, but I had a hard time convincing people to move far enough away to not frighten the plovers; plus that resitriction doesn't seem to be posted anywhere on the beach that I could refer them to. Never mind that the plovers are invisible to anyone without binoculars... I could only find them because I had that stick near their nest to use as a point of reference!

It was a wonderful day at the beach... the osprey and oystercatchers kept my eyes to the sky... and the terns were the perfect background music as they fed just off shore. I'm spectacularly sunburned for my efforts and didn't want to leave yesterday before the crowds of people did. Funny that I should feel so protective of these birds so quickly.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A don't

This has got to be the most ridiculous thing I saw all day... wool-lined UGG boots. At the beach. On Memorial Day Weekend. Ugh!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Where's the beach?

Spotted along the drive on the interstate in Pa. to visit Delia a couple months ago...

The shore traffic has started already; yesterday I got caught in a traffic jam on the Parkway out to visit clients... time to revisit the backroads to the beach and avoid the carloads of city people that take over here come Memorial Day. The boardwalk shops are open, boats have been unwrapped from their plastic winter protection, storm shutters are up and awnings come down... the summer solstice isn't until the 20th of June, but this weekend is the real start of summer at the Jersey Shore.

I'll be out in the morning at Sandy Hook to watch over the few plover nests that remain after last week's storm washed most of them away. Wish me luck at that and remind me to put on some sunblock.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Things that are good

blackpoll warblers in the neighborhood, cupcakes, singing along with the car radio, Neruda's poems of love and the sea, a little boy entranced by the wind, walking barefoot in the grass again, just ripe avocados, a new tin of Carmex, memories, Friday lunches with Deb, sleeping with the windows open, this song, moonlit trees, black raspberry ice-cream from that little place on the way home from the beach, saying hi, peonies about to bloom, penny stamps, talking on a friend's porch, dandelions, bookstores, bunnies and the smell of hay, people on the street who make eye contact and smile, horses at the gate as I pass by, the lines on his face, being on time for a change, the shy laughter of new friends, that first cup of coffee, friendly pondfish, seashells in the bottom of my purse, unexpected magic, long holiday weekends with an extra day off, being trusted for advice, a birthday trip to look forward to, old people who tell racy jokes, the smell of a marsh at low-tide, having just enough of everything and knowing it...

Inspired... I paid attention to the little things... somedays there are a 1,000 things that are good, other days it might help to remember days like today.

What was good for you?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Twirling memories

Blame it on Mary, but I'm here with no clue what to write tonight and she wondered if we knew any majorettes and, well... I thought of this pic from a million years ago of my mom on a rooftop in Jersey City. She's holding a baton, but in the funny way that my mind and eyes play tricks on me, I see a little falcon on her fist if I look too quickly. Do you see that?


Anyway... my mom was a twirler and my dad played the trumpet. Both of my brothers tried to play the trumpet growing up. Brian was pretty good, I think, but then I remember a story about Kevin smashing his trumpet on the dresser at some point in frustration at the klunkers. German temper, you know.

Me, being the only girl and having the responsibility to take after my mom... I tried to be a twirler. I was little and uncoordinated. The farthest that went was the Halloween costume my mom sewed for me one year - rust colored velvety stuff with the golden braids across the chest and the little skirt - just like in this pic - only my legs weren't nearly as nice then. And there was no hat or cool boots. I remember practices in the school gym - trying to twirl, dropping the darn thing over and over, banging myself in the head with it - you get the idea. Not good! There was also a stint in marching band in high school that found me as uncoordinated with a clarinet as I was with a baton.

Clearly, I missed out on the coordinated and musical genes.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Name that decoy!

Have I mentioned lately how much I love shorebird decoys?


I've more or less run out of room for any more of them, which is probably a good thing! There's avocets running across the tops of bookshelves, peeps peering around the corner of the tv stand, even a great egret skulking in the living room... never mind the various duck decoys that have found a place here.

This newish one is a favorite, though. Can you recognize it?

I only wish I could convince the relatives to shop for me at decoy shows rather than wherever it is they find all that kitschy bird stuff. Anybody feel like sharing pics of bad bird stuff they been gifted? I'd bet most of us have lots of things buried and hidden in closets! Maybe we could arrange a bad-bird-kitsch swap!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


"Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 19, 2008

Found 'em!

So on Saturday I finally found those trilliums I've been searching the woods for...
only they were $40.00 each at the local garden shop. I had trouble deciding if I wanted one dozen of each or two.


Honestly, I'm glad to see them selling native plants, but $40 for something Luka would probably lift his leg on? Pfft! I'd rather keep searching for them in the woods.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Oh... to be 17 again and a couple months away from graduation! I pulled the yearbook off the shelf today while cleaning and realized it's (yikes!) twenty years since I finished high school... where's the time gone? What happened to that girl with the open, easy smile? What ever happened to the two hoodlums that were in that art class with me?


I don't think you could pay me enough to go back to high school or to see most of the people I graduated with. I'd bet it's that way for most of us. College was a much happier time, I think. I wasn't nearly as awkward or as shy and I was able to enjoy the beginnings of adult freedom without any of its responsibilities. I'd always had a job or two, but no bills to pay; lots of schoolwork, but plenty of time to pay attention to it; my choice of fun diversions - days at the beach, concerts in the city, a summer in Spain - all that freedom and all along I was in such a hurry to be grown. Seems silly now that I didn't realize how good I had it then.

Truth be told... it's pretty good now. Funny, though, to look at that old pic of me (having one almost-good-hair-day in my 37 years!) and see how clueless I was. That, somehow, is the biggest benefit of youth... being oblivious.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What's not to like about a parade?

I got to perch like a bird at street light height today to photograph Red Bank's centennial parade. Red Bank's not my hometown, but I spend enough time there and feel like I know just about everyone, so it feels like home to me.

There were politicians and dozens of firetrucks with their sirens wailing, girl scouts and church groups. And clowns. I liked the clowns best. This was the closest thing to a marching band - don't high school bands do parades anymore?

Besides the clowns, there were people in funny hats waving and smiling in great old-fashioned cars like celebrities. Small town life... fun!

The firemen were very happy cause their trucks were shiny and they got to play with the lights and sirens without having to rush off to save anyone.

Firemen smile much more easily than policemen do. Ever notice that? He's my friend and I still couldn't get a smile out of him! Jeez... definitley not in a parade state of mind.

Part of the fun of a parade and a camera is the opportunity to take random pictures of friendly strangers with funny t-shirts.

Marching through town with an audience on the sidewalk seems to bring out the charisma in some people... this trowel-waving garden club lady was hilarious! She and her cohorts take care of the summer plantings in the downtown area.

The kids in the parade had a ball.. though I wondered how some of the little ones managed to last the whole distance of the parade... it was at least an hour long and snaked from the river on the east side of town to a picnic at a park on the west side.

Tomorrow the fun continues with a boat parade on the river, but I have to miss that for a surprise party.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Softly the evening came

"Softly the evening came." -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On World Series day, we spent the hours around dusk at North Pond; the others were mostly looking at birds, but I was watching the clouds.


It had been overcast all day, but the sky began to clear in the late afternoon and some of us stood around appreciating that nice light cast on a Canada Goose floating on the pond while we looked for a bittern... on the beach plum and scotch broom and cypress spurge blooming in the dunes. A beautiful place to end a long day.

With the chasing mostly over and the last of the death marches done (I skipped the last one and missed 12 Piping Plovers!) we were hoping then for just a couple night herons, or nighthawks, or woodcock, or owls... we relaxed and found a rock or old fencepost to sit on. Gradually the stories began...

Birders have great stories, you know. Many of us have traveled to interesting far-flung places (not me!) and oftentimes we travel with the same people. Even if we've not birded together, there's a certain easy camaraderie among most birders that feels really nice. Of course, after 12+ hours together on a big day, we tend to get a bit silly and punchy from the lack of sleep/food/caffeine, but that just adds to the fun.

When you consider that our team will have raised at least $3500 for conservation causes, and that's small potatoes compared to most of the other 100 or so teams, I guess it's easy to understand why I like doing it so much. Great birds, good friends, great stories, a good cause...

Plus, we ended the day with nighthawks and a barred owl. What more could you ask for?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


A flower that, like me, likes to close its eyes at mid-day for a nap; most commonly known as Star of Bethlehem.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A day in May

This Cape May Warbler was the most recent *life bird* for me since the exciting Rusty Blackbird in Cape May this past fall.


A handsome bird who put on quite a show... a treat in spring and not anything I thought I might chance upon so easily. I'm not a lister, really, but I do try to keep some record of what I've seen and where, if it's significant. The longer one spends paying attention to birds, the harder it is to come upon new ones, so that makes each a bit more significant that way. It wasn't so much about seeing this new-to-me-bird as it was about enjoying the moment with others who were as excited with it as me, or appreciating how nice he looked against the blooming beach plums and flitting in and out of the poison ivy brambles. Janet and I spent a long time looking at him after the others had moved on to the next bird.

Warblers in spring are like a prize for us birders, you know? Imagine if all birds were so colorful and charming and active... I think the world would be full of birdwatchers... who could resist? These birds are the reward for the dead days of June and July, or the late summer days spent on a salt marsh fighting greenhead flies for a chance at a southbound shorebird or the winter days in a biting wind looking at ducks with tears streaming down your face. If only it were easier to take a beginner into the woods on a spring day and have them see these gems of the bird world!

Before I started learning about birds, before I was aware of them, I couldn't have imagined the chance of anything so beautiful. It makes me wonder how others can miss it... do you do that? Wonder how the rest of the world is able to not see such beauty? Not hear their sweet spring songs? What does the rest of the world do with a day in May?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The nimble frolic of terns

"Don't think just now of the trudging forward of thought,
but of the wing-drive of unquestioning affirmation.

It's summer, you never saw such a blue sky,
and here they are, those white birds with quick wings,

sweeping over the waves,
chattering and plunging,

their thin beaks snapping, their hard eyes
happy as little nails.

The years to come -- this is a promise --
will grant you ample time

to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
than this deepest affinity between your eyes and the world.

The flock thickens
over the rolling, salt brightness. Listen,

maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world
in the clasp of attention, isn't the perfect prayer,

but it must be done, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,
is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,

but of pure submission. Tell me, what else
could beauty be for? And now the tide

is at its very crown,
the white birds sprinkle down,

gathering up the loose silver, rising
as if weightless. It isn't instruction, or a parable.

It isn't for any vanity or ambition
except for the one allowed, to stay alive.

It's only a nimble frolic
over the waves. And you find, for hours,

you cannot even remember the questions
that weigh so in your mind."

I feel myself so fortunate to have the company of terns to waste a few hours with. Like sanderlings on the beach in fall and winter, the terns have a rhythm to their movements, appropriate to the season and my mindset somehow, that lets me wander to the most playful of places.

Watching them is something of a seduction; my sense of time is lost to the lullaby of the rising tide... there in the glare of the bay is a promise and I sit and watch it becoming. My eye falls on the pilings and wonders at their history... are there treasures hidden below or ruins? The sky is almost too big and the sun too bright to take in all at once, so I follow this one bird dipping in and out of glare and shadow, in and out of water and air, suspended, finally, somewhere between hope and reality.

"Terns" by Mary Oliver

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monthly pupdate

Luka's turning one next month... it's hard now to remember that he was ever this small and cute!

Just when I start believing that he's very smart and well-trained... he's learned to retrieve his own collar and leash from the table when we let him out of his crate to go pee... he does something incredibly pupply-like and stupid. The other morning I stepped out of the shower to find him sprawled on the couch eating a bar of Neutrogena soap, wrapper and all! You know the nice soap, from a hotel, that was sitting in a bag on the top of my desk? Right. He retrieved it.

He eats rocks... why should I be surprised that he'll eat soap, too!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

World Series friends

World Series Day is primarily about birds for many, but for me it's also a chance to get together with all the friends I bird with at some point during the course of a year.

2008 was the 10th year of the Sandy Hook Century Run and I've managed to have a part in each of those ten years. The first year it poured rain the whole day and was awful and I swore I'd never do it again! We've not had such awful weather since, thank goodness, but it does take a certain type of person to subject themselves to a full 18 hours straight of birding. This is about half of our team of 32 - others arrived later than our 5:30 am start or left before our 9 pm finish - but we ended with many of these 16 or so listening to a Barred Owl calling somewhere off in the distance.

Some of us are very serious and persistent in looking for birds... others not so much. I tend to fall into the latter category, enjoying instead the chance to chat and look at the clouds and generally goof off. My friend Lou is one of those "very serious birder types" and found our day Surf Scoters lazing on the bay... he'd moved away from NJ about 5 years ago, but appeared yesterday and I was so happy to see him again. We'd birded together on Sunday mornings at Sandy Hook for years before he moved away.

We all recognize that fabulous smile... Patrick from The Hawk Owl's Nest was one of four co-leaders for the day. If you want to read a proper report of our big day, one that focuses on the birds we saw, read his post and have a look at the Cape May Warbler that was probably THE bird of the day for many and a lifer for me.

Some of us are more willing to go the distance to find birds and Patty is that... she trudged through water and marsh at the salt pond at North Beach in hopes of scaring up something good for us to see... this Canada Goose pair wasn't so happy about the intrusion.

It was a slow day for migrants and that left time to pay attention to other things on the coast. At Plum Island we found a good number of horseshoe crabs wrong-side-up on the shore of the bay and Susanna and others methodically righted each crab to free them back to the water.

Sometimes, especially mid-day when one is inclined to be cranky and feel especially sleep-deprived, it's nice to just walk along the bay and appreciate the sand and the sun. I took this pic of Gail and then joined her.

Part of what's especially nice about being part of a "Century Run" team is that we needn't be quite so serious or competitive about finding birds... we can have fun and just enjoy the day and each other's company. We are sometimes serious, though, like when the group marched in line through the field at K Lot at North Beach to find sparrows... there was this mouse-like bird that we'd hoped would become a Grasshopper Sparrow, but I'm not sure we ever made that ID.
Janet and I became fast friends as volunteers at the bird observatory a couple years ago and we had a very serious role to play in this year's World Series. A couple years ago she and I found the very rare Eurasian Collared Dove on World Series Day (totally by accident!) and so were the designated spotters for the almost-as-rare White-Winged-Dove that had been found at Sandy Hook a couple days ago. We never found it yesterday, but we kept each other going and laughing throughout the day. When the rest of the team went on a second "death march" to the salt pond, she and I stayed behind at the hawk watch to appreciate the view and keep an eye out for any odd-looking doves.

A Century Run team accepts birders of all ranks... the beginner, the wanna-be, the lazy, the expert-who-needn't-make-the-death march-because he's seen everything! Rich Kane held a comfy chair at K Lot while we marched to the salt pond.

During lunch at Spermacetti Cove we had the chance to spot a few birds for the youth team from the Newark Museum... kids... almost excited about birds... imagine that! Sandy Hook was only one stop of many for their team. They were a great group to meet and I hope they did well for their efforts.

Scott from SHBO is the main energy behind the team and is a generally good guy. Great birder, excellent storyteller and seen here trying to rescue a horseshoe crab from fishing line tangles. He had me in stitches at the end of the day telling stories about trips to North Dakota, finding dead bodies while birding... you name it and Scott has a story for it.

We ended the day with 117 species... not bad... a respectable number, I'd guess. For me the nicest part was the chance to bird with so many friends.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Looking out together

Today was World Series day here in NJ: when we crazy birders attempt to see as many species as possible to raise money for conservation. We had a great day, but I was at it from 5:30 this morning until 9 tonight and I'm just too pooped to think straight. That'll have to wait until tomorrow.

It's also a year today since Cricket passed away and I thought I'd share again this favorite pic of she and Boomer. Last year this time was sad for me; it's nice now to see Boomer happy and laying about with a new bunny friend the way he used to with Cricket.

Anyway... the pillow calls...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Picniking with lily of the valley

You all know that I love to play with my photos... a couple times people have asked what editing tricks I use. I've been hesitant to share any techniques because, well... I just play around with Photoshop until I find something that I like. Let's face it: Photoshop is cost-prohibitive and really-frickin'-complicated, so I don't see the point in trying to explain the little bit that I've figured out.

At any rate, just today I came across a free site that offers many similar effects without the multiple steps that I normally resort to and even some that I hadn't been able to figure out on my own with Photoshop. It's free and painless with
Picnik. Have a look at what I was able to do in just a couple minutes with this shot of a lily of the valley from my garden; I must have taken 3 dozen pics, none of which I was happy with:

Auto-fixed for color

Vignetting effect to add focus; an improvement I think.

Holga-ish; I love this and know it would involve multiple steps in Photoshop. This is my favorite of the lot and perfect for the subject-matter.

Inverted lomo-ish effect; certainly different!

Focal black and white + focal soften; there's potential in this effect, but this isn't the right photo for it, I don't think.

Have some fun... share the results... get creative with your pics!