Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tree in a Truck

As advertised. A tree in a truck

More specifically, a tree growing in and through a truck.

And no, not in a Piney yard.

πŸ”¨πŸ”§πŸ› πŸ”¨πŸ”§πŸ› πŸ”¨πŸ”§πŸ› πŸ”¨

The company which employs me gives each  of its employees five charity volunteer days a year. And I used one of those days, along with fourteen colleagues, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. We were finishing a house in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. I spent the day moving things around and laying floor. And this truck was in the yard next door. Alas, these neighbors were not friendly, so I couldn't get a better shot.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

More Walking

The March meeting of the Burlington County Natural Sciences Club featured Jennifer Bulava, Lead Park Naturalist for the Burlington County Parks System, presenting on the Best of Burlington County Parks. It was an interesting and fun talk, and Jennifer was an enthusiastic speaker.

One of the parks she spoke about was Long Bridge Park, which we had never visited. Until this past Sunday that is, when Patty and I went for a winter stroll.

After a visit to the (heated!) restrooms, we started off down the boardwalk at the start of the trail.

It was chilly! But once we got in amongst the trees and out of the wind it wasn't so bad.

No, not these little trees, but rather the more substantial ones further down the trail.

We first passed through a stand of birch trees. Which brought back memories of my boy scout days, when the paper like bark was prized for kindling.

But only the bark that had fallen off, never taken from a live tree. That would be bad.

The trails, there are several through the park, had us wandering through a variety of upland and lowland habitats.

We enjoyed the stark winter beauty. And could see the potential for spring migration.

The Rancocas Creek forms the northern boundary of the park. And there were surprisingly few waterfowl on the creek. A few Mallards and Canada Geese were all we saw.

And this was certainly not the kind of duck we were looking for.

I count over twenty bits of trash in this picture. The area also seems to be a basketball graveyard, as I counted half a dozen floating amongst the other debris. I wonder where the court is?

We passed a couple of bird blinds, but it is too early in the season as the birds have not yet migrated back to these parts. We'll just have to come back.

But there are plenty of deer, way too many, with footprints throughout the park. Not a good sign for the health of the forest.

Nor the creatures that call it home.

It is another nice nearby park. We will definitely be return visitors.


1000 Mile Challenge update. As of this writing I have walked 266.75 miles this year. Which puts me 42.75 miles ahead of schedule. Not bad if I do say so myself.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

More Doodles

Timberdoodles that is.

On my way out to gather the mail yesterday afternoon I spooked up two American Woodcock, toward the street end of our driveway. "Cool", I thought, seeing woodcock during the day.

Later when Patty got home she thought she might try to relocate them. And she did, finding the bird in the image below.

See it? I did and didn't at the same time. I saw the lump that is the bird but did not recognize it as a woodcock (it is at the base of the tree, behind the snow line, centered in the frame). Our friend Lori, who had never seen a woodcock, came over when Patty texted we had one in view. I centered it in Patty's spotting scope. And it still took two turns at the scope before before the image crystalized for Lori.

Another image of the same bird, a bit closer.

I took these images after Lori left as I did not want to scare off the bird. And as I crept closer and closer, the bird remained perfectly still. Relying on its evolutionarily engineered camouflaged to keep it hidden.

Can you see it now? The image below was the closest I got because I was distracted ...

... by this much closer bird, that I saw moving ever so slightly, out of the corner of my eye.

It wasn't moving away but rather just moving up and down in place. A behavior that doesn't really make sense to me. If not moving away, why move at all?

In the two images you can see that it has turned slightly to get a better look at me (note the position of the bill). I maneuvered, slowly, to get a side view. And was rewarded with the image below.

After I took these shots I backed away slowly, to leave the bird in peace. And it settled down in to the leaves.

And I flushed a third woodcock which took off through the trees behind me.


I took these images late afternoon Friday. Later in the evening we saw and heard at least four and maybe five or six woodcock foraging and displaying. On Saturday while out and about in the yard just after lunch time, Patty and I encountered four timberdoodles. Very, very cool.

Friday, March 17, 2017

More Structure

In addition to hand feeding birds we also visited the beach, looking for birds of course, on our Florida trip this past January.

While at the beach we also did a bit of shelling. And I spotted these. I'm not sure what type of creature made then. But the colors sure made then stand out amongst the other bits on the beach.

It was quite hard to photograph then. The colors were actually more vibrant and vivid than shown here.

The fact that the colors change based on the viewing angle is a clue as to how the colors are made. As with the Wild Turkey feathers, it is the structure of the shell that produces the colors.


Rather than try to explain it I'll just link to these to these two OPODs, Abalone Shell Iridescence and Sea Shells. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

These are a Few of My Favorite Things ...

Birds and Colors!

This is our third year here at Piney Place, and during the prior two winters we've had flocks of Wild Turkeys visiting daily. This winter, not so much. Perhaps because it was so mild and thus didn't need to visit the feeders?

But this evening we had two wander through the yard.

And just look at those feathers. Those wonderfully colorful feathers.

Notice how the colors change as the bird moves and the angle between viewer, bird, and sun changes.

And how in the shade the feather colors vanish, but the head and leg colors remain.


There are two main sources of color in birds, pigments and structure. The red in the head and legs is due to pigments. The iridescent colors in the feathers are due to the structure of those feathers.

The pigments come from the food the birds eat. Flamingos are pink because of the pigments in the shrimp that make up their diet (I'm simplifying a bit here).

Bluejays, on the other hand, have no blue pigment in their feathers. Rather the keratin that the feathers are made of reflects and refracts the light in such a way as to look blue. Likewise with the colors seen in our turkey above, it is the feathers acting like prisms. More info can be found at these Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon sites.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ephemeral Stained Glass

I like winter storms. I enjoy watching snow fall. I like the ground blanketed in snow. I like the trees covered in ice (although it's not so good for the trees). I enjoy the still quiet of a landscape covered in white as far as one can see.

I don't like having to clean off cars.

Yesterday, after the storm passed on, I went out to do just that, clear the ice/snow/slush off of the cars.

And I was rewarded with colors!

As I brushed off the windows remnants of ice would slide down from above. Here, on the rear hatchback of my Subaru Outback. The ice would leave a thin dissipating film, resulting in an effect I liken to ephemeral stained glass.

In the image above we see the upper colors are disappearing as the film dissipates, while the colors below are still vibrant.

Here's a video showing the colors being created and then disappearing.

The colors were vivid and quite obvious. I'd never noticed this effect before. Perhaps the conditions need to be right for this to occur? And if so, what would those conditions be?

I can only hope for more winter storms to further study this effect.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Window Birding

And what better way to spend a crappy day than with a bit of window birding?

That's Pumpkin keeping an eye on some American Goldfinch.

They, on the other hand, are completely carefree about Pumpkin.