Saturday, April 30, 2016

Look Up In the Sky, It's A ...

... Bat?

Patty and I were out on the deck one afternoon, relaxing, and an odd bird flew out from the area of the back pond and landed in the tree.


A bat. Flying in the day time. Pretty weird we thought.

Then a Cooper's Hawk came flying out from the same direction. And the bat, making like a dead leaf, successfully hid in plain sight as the hawk flew by.

And once the hawk was safely out of the picture, the bat flew back to wherever it was roosting when it was spooked by the hawk. Which, alas, is not our bat box.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Murder in the Pines

A murder of crows that is.

New Feeder Birds
I looked out the window at lunch time on Thursday and I saw a flock of fish crows, on the platform feeder, the big feeder, and on the ground. At least a dozen, maybe more.

I quick grabbed a camera, but as I approached the window they spooked and flew away. And this was the only usable image.

Bye bye.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Storm Clouds

The view as I approached home after work today.

I like the levels of light and dark in the image above.

I just missed getting a rainbow in this shot, although you can see a hint of it center, just above the tree line.

My friend Terry got this shot as she passed through the area about an hour prior to me:

Image courtesy Terry Schmidt

More storm cloud shots.

We got surprisingly little rain, which is disappointing as we can use some rain (we just planted all that new deer food!) But it did make for nice views out the car window.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Not Fun

In the "There Goes The Neighborhood" post I ended with the line, "It will be fun to watch this unfold."

It turns out "fun not included".

When we came in to work on Monday the nest was empty. The geese, nowhere to be seen.

I have to assume the building management company destroyed the nest. Now, the title of the previous post was a subtle play on the perception of Canada Geese as pest birds. And, like deer, there are too many of them in New Jersey these days.

But this is sad never-the-less.

But all is not lost. Around the other side of the building, right outside the door, we have:

Curiously, dad is nowhere to be found.

Maybe, just maybe, it will be fun to watch this unfold.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Yard Work

In our mini-meadow we had a weeping cherry tree. This non-native species was planted by the previous owners of the property. This morning Patty decided that it had to go. I was already out pulling out other non-native and invasive plants along the side of the front yard, so I added this one to the list.

Image Courtesy Patty Rehn
So after I finished pulling out all of the vines and shrubs that didn't belong, and got myself some poison ivy., I moseyed on over, pushed the tree back and forth a few times and yanked it out.

It was a small tree with short roots. Came out a lot easier than I expected.

I'm making space for all this stuff:

Which we bought yesterday at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance's native plant sale. Hopefully it is not just expensive deer food.

Time to get digging ...

Friday, April 22, 2016

He Has Risen

Magnus, Patty's Three-toed Box Turtle, that is.

Come late fall, going on fourteen years now, Magnus digs himself in for the winter.

And come spring time he digs himself out.

He is a much more reliable indicator of spring time weather than any ground hog.

Patty, fretfully keeps a vigil each spring, worrying if Magnus will once again rise from the earth.

Image Courtesy Patty Rehn
And it was she who first spotted him today, and joyfully texted out the above image.

Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

There Goes The Neighborhood

A glance out my office window on Thursday revealed squatters in the parking lot.


If not, then that's by design. As Patty pointed out when I showed her the pictures, it is surprising how well she blends in

To help us often oblivious humans, someone put up these signs.

And they are.

And unhidden.

Dad was not happy with me getting the above shot (even with a zoom lens).

He came charging at me. And then flew at my head as I walked away. As the nest is directly across from the building entrance dad is quite busy facing off all the 'threats' that pass by. Most of which have their phones out for a picture or two.

It is interesting to watch as they adjust to their new digs, observing how evolved behaviors translate to a more suburban lifestyle. In the image above it looks like they are trying to 'hide'. A no doubt useful behavior in the tall grasses where the species usually nests. Not quite as effective in a parking lot.

It will be fun to watch this unfold.

Kitchen Optics

I made mussels the other night for dinner. And afterwards, as I was cleaning the pot, this caught my eye:

Colors. Colors on the bottom of the pot. And as the pot dried the colors grew more intense.

It was very difficult to get a shot that showed just how intense the colors were. As I noted above, as the pot dried the colors seemed to grow in intensity. So I grabbed a paper towel and wiped the pot.

And the colors went away. Nooooo!

But they came back and I was able to get the shot above.

Of course I went to the Atmospheric Optics site to learn what was going on. As I suspected, and Dr. Cowley confirmed, colors arise from thin film interference. He said that they could be from either something from the mussels or from an oxidation layer on the bottom of the pot. Once the pot had been cleaned and dried completely the colors were gone. So it looks like the mussels were the culprit. Too bad, as it would have been nice to have a psychedelic rainbow pot!

And Dr. Cowley is also responsible for the title of his post. His reply to my email inquiry begins, "I rather like 'kitchen optics' - colours and effects that are seen around the home can give some deep insights into optics and physics.".

So pay attention while cooking, you could learn something cool about the universe.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


The small bird in the center of the image below is a Whiskered Tern.

I saw it on a beach in Cape May, New Jersey on September 20, 2014.

It's relatively small, has a black cap, a reddish bill, and is overall grayish (bigafy the image to see it).

And it doesn't belong on this beach. In fact, it is only the third member of its species to be recorded in North America, the previous sightings being in 1993 and 1998 (both also in Cape May). It belongs in Eurasia. And that can be a problem.

If a bird is this far from home it may be because its internal "GPS" is broken. This is likely the case with birds that arrive here in New Jersey in the fall from western North America. Their internal compass may be 90° off, thus instead of flying south they fly east. And after passing through New Jersey they continue out to sea, thinking they are heading across the Gulf of Mexico when actually flying out over the Atlantic Ocean. The ending is generally not a happy one.

The situation with the tern may not be as dire. Terns are long distance fliers, Whiskered Terns migrate up to 5000 miles each year. Thus this one may return south and cross the Atlantic to Africa. No worse off than any of the many others who visit to Cape May each year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Who Woulda Thought ...

Screwing peanut butter jars to a tree is a thing?

Well it is. I spotted this one in the woods behind our home.

Google "peanut butter jars screwed to trees" and enjoy the unintentionally hilarious YouTube videos.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Out my office window (which unfortunately adds a brownish tint).

This second one has a soaring Red-tailed Hawk right smack in the middle (it's kinda small).

I like clouds.

Which, as one of my hobbies is astronomy, is a bit curious.

But it seems I'm not alone in my appreciation.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ducks on the Pond

After seeing Mrs. Ducky Lucky had returned we waited to see if Mr. Ducky Lucky would as well. And we wondered if there would be two female mallards, as was the case last year.

And then one day we noticed he, or a reasonable facsimile, was back.

And we saw them not only on the pond but also in the ditch in front of our house, which is new this year (the ditch is old; ducks in the ditch is new).

And then one rainy evening I noticed two male mallards, walking in the side yard toward the back pond. So Patty grabbed an umbrella and we headed out to take a look.

And we saw this (sorry, a zoomed in iPhone video). It's spring, and a young duck's fancy turns to love. Which, as you can see, can get a bit intense.

Since then, we've only seen one male mallard attending Mrs. Ducky Lucky.

Update: Since I'd written the above we saw this:

Damn Tree Shadow
Two males and no female.

To be continued ...

The View ...

... from inside my new ride.

(I just like this picture.)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day Life

The trail cam is a tireless device, shooting all night and all day, twenty four/seven. Snapping away whenever there's movement in its field of view.

So we see that despite not seeing them while we are at home, turkeys do continue to visit.

Sometimes lots of turkeys. We had been wondering where they were.

Last year we saw plenty of turkeys, both in the morning before we left for work and in the afternoon when we got home. This year we have seen very few. It's good to know they are still around.

And there are squirrels.

And, surprisingly, sometimes turkeys and squirrels.

I write "surprisingly" as in the past the squirrels hightailed it out of here when the turkeys came to call. Apparently they've overcome their fear of the much larger visitors.

And rabbits. But only one at a time.

The only other mammal that was captured on silicon was this chipmunk (center of the image near the bottom of the wood post).

We've several that visit the bird feeders, often at the same time, stuffing their cheeks with seed. So it is curious that we only got a couple of images of this one individual.

And again surprising but happily missing are deer. Our fingers are crossed that it stays that way.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Night Life

Ghostlike images, shot mostly while we're sleeping. Taken by a trail cam, a christmas gift from Patty, set on autopilot. It takes about a thousand images a week, triggered by movement.

Rabbits are quite active at all hours of the night (the camera records date and time data for each image).

As you can see there are at least two in the image above. And perhaps even three in the one below. At least I think the one on the far right is a rabbit.

And that's how we know that there is more than just one bunny.

It's more than rabbits that wander about at night. And while many images are just pairs of white spots, eyes of unknown creatures passing through, others are easily identifiable.

We knew that there are raccoons. Two in the image above, some images have as many as three.

But I had not expected to see a raccoon and a rabbit in the same image. And we got such images on multiple nights.

Nor a human and a rabbit.

I did expect possums. And was not disappointed.  They are regulars.

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see these passing through.

Cats. I'm not sure if it was one or several cats. We've seen at least three different cats in our yard since we've moved here, and more at our neighbors. We don't know if they are feral or pets. We do know that we don't like that they are out and about.


One animal I was happy not to see in this last set of images were deer. They were common in previous image sets. You might have noticed a black object in the center of each image. We have three such objects placed about our yard. They're called a "Wireless Deer Fence". We bought them at the Philadelphia Flower Show this year. They work by having a scent attractant that draws the deer in to investigate. And when they do the deer gets an electric shock (a pretty good one as I can attest to from experience). Theoretically this trains the deer to stay away, as they develop an unpleasant association with the area. So far it seems to be working. But it is still early, and not much is in bloom yet. So we'll see.

Other animals I'm surprised have not appeared yet include skunk, fox, and coyote, all of which are in the area. The trail cam will keep watching ...

Friday, April 8, 2016


When I got home from work today Max, our cat, was not there in his normal greeting position, lying on the floor waiting for a belly rub.

Rather, he was on the dining room windowsill, eyes glued to something outside.


A rabbit. Perhaps the same from the other morning. I can't be sure because we've discovered there are several about the yard.

Max spent a good twenty minutes staring out the window. At times hiding behind the window feeder. Other times, as above, up and looking.

The rabbit, like the birds, paid him no never mind. Just munching away at the weeds.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Morning Visitor

We didn't see many rabbits about the place when we first moved in. We suspect it is because of how the previous owners maintained the lawn, with plenty of chemicals. It was a very nice lawn. But we prefer a more natural environs. So we discontinued the chemicals. And we're converting parts of the lawn to meadows and gardens (deer be dammed!).

And now we have more bunnies. In the past we've seen them, but usually as only visitors passing through. This one has been hanging around quite a bit. Patty thinks it might have made a 'home' under our deck and maybe we'll have baby bunnies later this spring (I worry about the local feral cats).

In any case it is nice to have them about and we hope they do decide to stay.