Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ducks around town

I'm lucky to live along the coast and in a place where ducks like to be in winter; each town has its' own little pond just a block in from the ocean and each seems to attract a particular variety of waterfowl...

Traveling from one pond to the next is half the fun; discovering what has shown up since last weekend is the best part. Gadwall are a nice find and under-appreciated, I think... that speckled zig-zaggeyness of their bellies is gorgeous, no?

I have trouble remembering the names of each pond or distinguishing one from the next along the circuitous route I follow by habit from town to town; I know to expect Ruddy Ducks here, but

I think of this as the Night Heron Pond (Silver Lake, I think) because there's always at least a dozen of them roosting in the shrubbery on a little island in the middle of the pond. I can sit down out of the wind and watch them materialize before my eyes. We counted 14 today without really trying and that number will increase as it gets colder.

Hooded Mergansers seem to be everywhere, on every little pond, but getting a decent pic of one is forever challenging.

Lake Takanassee is a favored spot for Ring-Necked Duck (not here last weekend!) Canvasbacks and in a good year, Red Heads. There's always gulls to sort through, if you're so inclined (I'm not) and the light in late afternoon is sweet for photos of the Mute Swans that seem to be taking over there.


The day ends at Sandy Hook with the wind, watching Gannets feeding over the hunched-up shoulders of some very cold-looking fishermen, Manhattan in the distance and kite surfers on the bay.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


All the chatter at work the last few days has been about the upcoming holiday meal and who's going where and cooking what.

It's a pretty diverse crowd and I've enjoyed hearing about everyone's plans for Thanksgiving as well as their family traditions. My own family is pretty typical, I'd guess... a huge meal on the fancy china, but the star of the show is always the variety of vegetables we prepare; we always go a little overboard in that way. It's hard for me to settle on a favorite, but Brussels Sprouts certainly top my list.

Is that weird?

(It seems like most everyone I talk to hates Brussels Sprouts!)

My answer is that if you don't like 'em, you must not be cooking them properly.

; )

So tell me... what's your favorite thing to eat on Turkey Day? Mashed potatoes piled high with butter? Or mixed with whipped turnips? Creamed (yuck!) onions? Lasagna? Arroz con gandules?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bad bird photo of the week

Cross-eyed (and beakless!)

; )

The plumes blowing in the breeze are kinda sweet, tho.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Criers of the winter to come...

Tundra Swans over Cape May - October 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fishing the sky

"What a needy, desperate thing to claim what's wild for oneself..."

Can a kept hawk ever be a *happy* hawk, I wonder?

Falconers will say their birds are well-loved and are cared for properly. I don't doubt that.

Educators who work with non-releasable birds will say that many people who otherwise wouldn't have the chance to interact with a wild thing are touched by the lives of these captive birds. I don't doubt that, either.

But keeping wild-caught birds for falconry? Purposely fishing the sky for a healthy hawk to catch and keep as one's personal hunting partner?

How is that right?

Are captive-bred birds somehow less desirable for falconry?

Anyone know?

I'm as guilty as the next person of enjoying the "horse and pony show" offered by the opportunity to be up close with a wild bird of prey, but I can't help wondering that their souls aren't somehow diminished by the contact; by being kept.

Non-releasable birds have to be thought of in a different context, I guess, because of their potential as champions and ambassadors of a species; were it not for them most people would never have the chance to see a Bald Eagle or a Screech Owl at arm's length. Or to understand the impact we humans have on them.

But falconers and their healthy wild-caught birds?

I'm not so sure how I feel about that.

My issue is not with falconers, exactly. Falconry sounds like a very cool thing to do... there was a period of time where I read everything about falconry that I could get my hands on. Dan O'Brien's books were particularly alluring to me... his stories of hunting grouse and ducks on the prairies of South Dakota with a dog and the constant sky...

Falconers are due credit, I believe, for the role they played in saving the Peregrine Falcon, among other species. The individual falconer with a couple birds that he flies on weekends as part of a greater lifestyle does not trouble me.

My issue is with those who turn to *education* to support a habit of acquiring birds. Maybe they need an educational component on their license to increase the number of birds they're permitted to keep. I have no idea, really, but I've seen a number over the years who just don't seem to be doing the right thing by the birds in their care.

Maybe I'm just being overly sentimental.

"... to be wild means nothing you do or have done needs to be explained."

Photos: Harris' Hawk at an upstate NY *raptor center*
Quotes from "Hawk" by Stephen Dunn

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


A couple more from photography boot camp...

The cold at sunup was still a novelty that weekend...

One of a hundred arhats...

A falconer's redtail...

Darn that guy for walking through my pic...

Thanks to Jayne for a bit of photoshop magic!

; )
A sweet cow with spurs...

More clouds...