Monday, September 27, 2010


also Scissorbill, Shearwater and previously known along the Virginia coast as Storm Gull.

I'd suggest the addition of Penguin Gull.

; )

Do you see the similarity?

My 1917 edition of the Birds of America is a joy for many reasons, but I particularly enjoy it for the local or historical names; so often these names are much more evocative of a bird's spirit or some fundamental quality that we associate them with.

Peterson sort of dryly describes their call as *barking* or alternately as "kaup, kaup." To me it sounds like something between a bark and a quack. Members of a colony at rest on the beach will call anxiously to one another as people approach on foot and it sounds for all the world to me like a childhood game of "Marco Polo."

Listen for that next time!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Almost There

"Nature repeats itself in many forms. When I look at Queen Anne's Lace, I see outer space. When I look to the sky, I see flowers."

Some of you may have known Bobbie at Almost There and remember that she passed away back in late June of this year. I never met Bobbie, but we often kidded about meeting someday down at Cape May where she lived. In fact, I tried talking her into coming along on a Flock gathering many times; Bobbie was my Dad's age and I guess the thought of running around with a couple crazy-birder-types seemed like too much to her. I'd have been content to sit beside her on a bench beneath the lighthouse and listen to her stories instead.

So I went this morning to her memorial service at Leaming's Run Gardens and listened to her children tell her story, mostly by sharing excerpts from the writing she'd done through the years. Much of her family history and personal insights were included in a small memorial book... the opening quote about Queen Anne's Lace came from there... and this offered me a better appreciation of a woman I'd admired from afar for the last couple years.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The blues at Walnford

The cattle barn
Sky with horse
Mill reflected in Crosswicks Creek
Cellar view
Mill from the porch of the Waln house
Original haint blue paint swipe on an upper mill wall
Patch of sky with summer's last greens

More info and pics from past visits to Walnford are here.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I pick the prettiest part of the sky and I melt into the wing and then into the air, till I'm just soul on a sunbeam. ~Richard Bach

Yes, I'm still checking off items from last year's list...

: )

Kite flying has always looked like such fun to me and a little boy at the beach on Labor Day weekend with a stunt kite inspired me to get my own. A stunt kite has two lines for control and is not anything one can put up into the sky and tie off to a beach chair to be forgotten while you sunbathe.

You have to manage this thing and boy, is it fun! A gentle (or not so much) tug on either the right-handed or left-handed line will set the kite diving in whichever direction... the wind plays its hand and the kite is making loop the loops in a dangerous spiral towards someone's umbrella...


There was much giggling and some cheering, even... a brisk wind and the sun low on the beach at Cape May... the lighthouse behind us... the curiosity of an Amish family out for a seaside afternoon...

I hadn't felt so lighthearted in a long while.

And next I want to learn how to do tricks!

: )

25 in last year's 39 by 40.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who'd have guessed it?

I'd intended to post a "bad bird photo of the week" tonight, but this is not it.

Stop laughing. I can hear you, you know.

; )

I was at Cape May this past weekend and between the swarms of monarchs and tree swallows, which I mean to get to talking about eventually, there was an hour or so spent puzzling over the ducks at Lighthouse Pond in Cape May Point State Park.

I love ducks, but this time of year is awful for trying to identify any of them. There's juveniles and females and males in eclipse plumage... basically meaning that no duck looks the way we expect them to... there's hints to their identity, of course, but puzzling one's way through bill and eye color is time-consuming and generally against the way I like to enjoy birds.

This bird was a puzzle we eventually gave up on... we'd called it a teal for a while... eventually settling on a Cinnamon Teal, even though we *knew* that wasn't right...

Today there was this from The View at the Cape identifying this duck as a Northern Pintail. We'd never guessed that, I don't think... some weird Wigeon, maybe, but a Pintail?

Of course it's obvious to me now that I know what it is...

: )

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Tree swallow swarm, Stone Harbor NJ

Monarch swarm, Cape May NJ

Migration is sometimes breathtaking to witness!

*Monarch pic stolen from View from the Cape... have a read.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Most every picture of Royal Terns has this sort of feathery dandruff on their bills...


Ideas anyone?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Autumn on the doorstep

Some Borland tonight...

"Another week and Summer will be officially at an end, since we demarcate our seasons by the solstices and the equinoxes. We who live in a land of seasonal change will have Autumn on our doorstep. Even now the sun rises east and sets west, so far as the eye can see; and one hears regret that another Summer is gone.

In a sense, this is so; and yet no season, nor even any year, either stands alone or vanishes completely. Summer is rooted in Spring, and Autumn is essentially Summer's maturity. The apple now reddened on the tree was a fragile blossom, a delight to the eye and a host to the bee, only a few months ago. The honey in the comb was pollen when June was at its height, and rains of April and hot July nights now come to ripeness in the cornfields. Even before the leaves come swirling down, buds are on the bough for another Summer's shade.

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus he would never know the rhythms that are at the heart of life. There is a time of sprouting, a time of growth, and a time of harvest, and all are a part of the greater whole. There comes the time now to savor the harvest, to pause and know another year not yet brought to full finality.

The rhythm of life and thought and change will be close around us now, and the restless energy of Summer will be distilled into the stout brandy of another season. Change is ours to know and accept and build upon, even as the skies of Autumn clear and the leaves begin to fall. Fallen leaves open wider horizons to the seeing eye."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Raiding my brother's garden

I made a late morning visit to my brother's house; I wasn't really expecting to find him at home, but

the welcoming crew assembled to greet me as I stepped from the car...

and the garden sentry was especially suspicious of my motives,

but look at the bounty he's charged with safeguarding!

I nearly tripped over this young member of the pest control crew...

(what funny curly feathers, btw!)

but this was my prize!

So Kev, those couple perfectly ripe tomatoes you thought the squirrels had stolen...

that was me!

; )

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Bad bird photo of the week

It's reassuring to me that, even with a fancy new lens, I can still take especially bad bird pics...


Any guesses?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Cape May lineup

Are you in?

So far there's just Susan, Delia and me.


That's a very small Flock.

BT3 is speaking on Saturday night.

There's the Hawkwatch and the Seawatch at Avalon.

Heck... there's Sandy Hook on the way from the airport.

The Fall Weekend at Cape May isn't anything like the New River Festival or Potholes and Prairies, but this isn't West Virginia or North Dakota. What NJ might lack in charm or hospitality, it makes up for in birds.

; )

And high prices, I know.

Don't let the registration fees dissuade you. Come for a day or an afternoon, even.

We're making it more affordable this year by staying together in some ramshackle hotel and only paying for a day's worth of programs. We'll spend the rest of the weekend wandering on our own, making up bird ID's and laughing together.

Sounds fun, no?

It's Cape May... THE birding destination. You know it's on your list for "someday"... why not make it this year?

The Flock would love to have you join us.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nap time

A special treat of late summer in Cape May is the flock of Black Skimmers and Royal Terns that rest and spend the daylight hours half asleep, crowded beside each other on the beach near the 2nd Ave. jetty.

They present a curious site to beach-goers, I imagine, and always make me chuckle at just how relaxed a posture many take. How often do we get to see birds sleeping, after all?

: )

Monday, September 06, 2010

Some Sandy Hook birds

I wandered out the fisherman's trail at Sandy Hook late this afternoon, mainly to see the flock of Black Skimmers that nested there - for the first time in 25 years - but also just to enjoy some time alone. The day was perfect; warm and breezy and the throngs of beach-goers were heading in the opposite direction from me. I had the beach to myself, save for the fishermen and a couple other birders.

A couple Ruddy Turnstones wandered by and had a bath as the tide rose around us. Turnstones seem nearly as tame as the Sanderlings, yet they're much more gregarious.

Funny that I'm slowly learning the temperaments of shorebirds, even if I can't identify them most of the time!

The terns here at Sandy Hook seem like they're mostly done with feeding young, but still are spending a lot of time flying around, calling, with fish in their bills. Maybe parenthood is a hard habit to break. Maybe this fish was a bit too big and it was calling as an invitation to share.

A mystery for another summer, I guess.

The Black Skimmer colony is a joy... a finely choreographed chaos of long-winged birds and enough barking to drown out the sounds of the surf. Just amazing!

I couldn't get anywhere near as close as to those in yesterday's post (of the flock at the 2nd Ave. jetty in Cape May) but this is an active colony, with young birds not yet able to fly. By mistake I scared a couple fuzzy chicks out from their hiding spots behind bits of driftwood... that was enough to stop me in my tracks.

This pic is sweet, I think, because it shows the way that improbable bill of theirs lengthens and develops color as they age. The oldest bird, on the far left, was able to fly... the others not. I saw a couple that looked younger than even that one on the far right.

I feel very blessed that we have them breeding so close to home and hope they'll be back at Sandy Hook next summer...

Always there's one little Sanderling and I; this one almost too close for my camera.

: )

Here's hoping your Labor Day was filled with similar pleasures.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

There's two sides to every story

And it's a happy one I can't wait to tell!

: )

Saturday, September 04, 2010

How to: be happy no matter what

Say yes to a ridiculous idea.

Inhale deeply the scent of a beloved pet.

Walk barefoot on the beach.

Remember all the times you never thought you’d make it this far.

Ask a small child to help you paint your toenails.

Dance to that one song...

Take a nap.

Do something creative.

Have something wonderful read aloud to you.

Wear a shortish dress to show off your long legs. Accept all compliments graciously and with a wide smile.

Treat yourself. Maybe to ice-cream. Or fresh flowers.

Give away love everywhere and any way you can.

Go to the farmer's market and buy a pint of strawberries, then eat them quietly in your living room when you are all by yourself.

Make funny faces at very small children when their parents aren't looking.

Work out. Not to be skinny, but because becoming strong will make you feel powerful and confident in so many other ways.

Show up even if you don’t know what to say.

Water the garden.

Take time off. Travel. Meet strangers where and how they live; get a larger perspective of the world and its people and your place in it.

Read an old love letter as a reminder that you have been adored.

Sit with the ocean or under a huge old oak.

Want what you want just because you want it.

Compliment a total stranger.

Buy one bar of lovely dark chocolate and eat one tiny square a day like it is the secret to life and liberty.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Care to add to the list? What makes you happy no matter what? Let’s make a list we just can’t help but love!

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Jersey stare down

: )

The 7th Annual New Jersey Meadowlands Festival of Birding is scheduled for next weekend, September 11 and 12th. An urban oasis, the NJ Meadowlands is made up of more than 8,000 acres of wetland habitat and is home to better than 280 species of birds. A designated Important Bird & Birding Area, much of the prime birding habitat is situated on reclaimed landfill sites.

Richard Crossley, the author of The Shorebird Guide, is giving the keynote.

Maybe I'll get him to sign my book, finally.

; )

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The birds of summer

Sweet Summer...
don't end!
You bring me beach plums
purple under a September sun,

but you take the osprey
and the huge folded serenity of the egret.

The beach is more deserted every day
and the skies bluer, the shapes of clouds more bewitching

but it's too quiet!
A beach without laughing gulls is a sin against nature.

Well not really, but go with me on this people!!

; )

Summer is for sandcastles and buried treasure and sunburned shoulders;
laughing gulls animate the quiet between the tides.

Goldenrod and monarch butterflies populate the dunes
and the moon is heavy and yellow when it rises out of the surf,

but terns and swallows and kingbirds are departing
massing further south, out of earshot.

I'll miss them this winter.

The peeps, in all their feathered mystery, have been leaving since mid-July.

They come, in May, with colored finery and leave, too soon, in a confusing camouflaged rush.

They all look the same... I can't tell them apart
and don't care to, really.

Maybe if I had more time to learn them.
One more day is all I need, for sure.
Summer... don't end!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

(my niece at the piano - she's amazing!)