Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Life Bird in Hand

When she knew she was going to Florida, Patty sprang into action. And by action I mean she signed up for all the Florida bird alerts she could.

And eBird noted that this species was being found regularly in the area.

The Florida Scrub Jay.

We drove to the area. Which was the same area we had visited in the morning in our unsuccessful first attempt to find Burrowing Owls (we did not yet know to look for the white PVC pipes marking the burrows).

We spent a lot of time driving back and forth about Cape Coral.

And we were not successful spotting the scrub jay at first. But then another couple, from Ohio but wintering in Florida, drove up and confirmed we were in the right place. So of course I immediately spotted the bird. And then another. And another. And soon we had five flying about.

The birds were eating acorns so we picked some. And, as you can see, the birds would feed out of your hand.

I had seen these jays several years ago on the other side of Florida. And those birds were quite wary of humans.

Obviously, these had no such concerns. And after getting the Burrowing Owls at the ballfields, we stopped one last time to see the jays. And we met another couple looking for the jays, who despite us being twenty or so meters away feeding the birds, couldn't locate any. We kindly pointed them out and explained the acorn trick. And as we drove away they were happily snapping photos with their phones, birds in hand.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Stock It ...

... and they will come.

Feeders and birds respectively that is.

Although we did not expect Eastern Bluebirds to show up to eat birdseed and suet (and seemingly ignore the mealworms).

They are of course welcome to do so.

One of the nice things about working at home is that instead of a parking lot, out the window I can see our yard. And any of the creatures which visit.

Bluebirds are rare visitors, this being only the third time we saw them (we are now up to four as they visited Saturday morning as well).

As to bearers of happiness, they certainly bring a smile to my face.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wild Goose Chase

Last weekend we went looking for geese. Wild geese. In Salem County, NJ, which is an hour or so south of us. We were looking for some Greater White-fronted Geese, which breed in the northern tundra and winter in California and Mexico.

And occasionally in Salem County, NJ.

(Spoiler Alert: We found them.)

But first we found some Snow Geese. Lots of Snow Geese. Thousands of Snow Geese. Which also breed in the far northern tundra. As can be seen below, they are common in NJ this time of year.

Here we see them flying, spooked by a Bald Eagle (which is somewhere in this image). This is as about as close as they got to us.

We weren't looking for Snow Geese.

We have plenty right here in our neighborhood. Here's a [bad phone] shot I took of a flock on my morning commute to work, not four miles from the house.

They've been moving from farm field to farm field, eating and leaving.

No, the geese we were looking for were not hanging with Snow Geese. They were hanging with Canada Geese. So we first scanned the place they had been reported from on several occasions, Mannington Marsh.

They were not there.

So we drove around, scanning any groups of Canada Geese we came across (not many).

And then we found a flock, with an odd goose with the Canadas.

This goose.

It may not be obvious from the first image of the Snow Geese flock above, but it was a dark, cloudy, rainy day, and thus I left the big camera home. And I was reduced to digiscoping with my pocket camera. The results are not really even 'blog worthy'. But here they are.

A close up.

At first we thought we'd found the juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose (reports said there were three, two adults and one juvenile). But further study convinced us that we had no idea what this is. It is the white eye ring that is problematic. In the end we decided that it is a juvenile Snow Goose, in a transitional plumage.

So we went back to driving around. With no luck what so ever.

We decided to head on home. Mannington Marsh was on the way so we stopped to scan again.

And way off in the distance, (to far to even digiscope), mixed in a flock of Canada Geese that had not been there on our first pass, we found them. Two Greater White-fronted Geese. Both adult birds.

The juvenile that had been with them was nowhere to be found.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With ...

... a First Day Hike!

It is Chinese New Year, so we, just Patty and I this time, went back to the Beechwoods Nature Preserve for our second first day hike of 2017.

It was a bit colder than our first first day hike. And the trails, but for a jogger and a couple of guys leaving as we came in, were empty.

We spotted some beaver handy (toothy?) work.

And what appeared to be a low budget fishing lodge.

And we wondered how famous one must be ...

... to have a sewage treatment plant named after you?


Afterwards, no party back at our place. So, since Patty had a hankering for a gyro, we went to TC Stonehouse Eatery. It was very yummy. And very filling.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn


About that 1000 mile journey, well including today's milage so far, I'm at 91.8 miles this year. Which is five miles ahead of what is needed for January. And there are still three days to go!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Six Mile Cypress

On our recent trip to Florida we stayed in Ft. Myers. On a very busy thoroughfare with hotels, motels, restaurants, gas stations, shops, even a small airport. And lots of traffic.

But just a short ride away and you're in another world. Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve.

We got there late afternoon, and followed the mile plus boardwalk trail through the wetlands.

It was a cypress swamp.

So of course there were cypress trees.

And some, but not much, active wildlife. A few birds, like the Black Crowned Night Heron below.

And some reptiles, such as alligators, turtles and snakes, some easy to see.

Others not so much.

(A snake in the water, just right of center, under a yellow leaf, halfway up from the bottom of the image.)

It was a peaceful walk, at place I could see visiting regularly had I been a local.

We ended our walk at the Alligator Lake overlook (yes there were alligators), watching the herons, egrets, and ibis fly in to roost for the night (bigafy the image; all the white dots in the trees are birds).

A nice way to end our last full day in Florida.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bird in a Hole

Another business trip, more Burrowing Owls.

This time in Florida.

The directions to find them were easy. Go to the baseball fields on Pelican Boulevard (why not "Owl Boulevard"?) in Cape Coral and look for the white PVC pipes sticking out of the ground.

We were told that the owls sit in the opening of their burrows, watching the world. And that's where we found them.

We saw several sitting in their burrows, like this one here. We drove into the ball field parking lot, picked a spot, and didn't even need to get out of the car before we saw one checking us out.

They again seemed more interested in the birds flying around above, in this case Monk Parakeets, than about us.

Still the easiest owls to find in the wild.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Uncommon Grackle

It is snowing today, five inches and counting. So I first thought this Common Grackle had done a face-plant and had a snow mask. Worthy of a photo.

But then I noticed the tail.

How would but one tail feather get covered with snow?

Not snow, rather the bird is leucistic, a condition in which melanin, and the cells that produce it, is missing.

Makes for a curious looking bird.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Recursive Spirals

Recall this post.

The image was recycled here.


Curious. And now linked.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Still Death with Feathers

Patty saw it happen. A blur between our parked cars.

Puff. And a Dark-eyed Junco was no more.

She had gone out on the deck to shake out a floor mat, startling the birds feeding there.

Focused on Patty, they didn't see the Coopers Hawk, which choose this time to strike.

Over in an instant. Nothing left but a scattering of feathers on the rocks.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With ...

... a Frist Day Hike!

This year the hike was at a local nature preserve, a mere 4.3 miles from my home, but one I had never visited. Nor even knew existed.

It was a surprisingly nice day as we headed out down the trail. Our nominal leader is Mark, the guy in the red shirt. but he is a plant geek and was soon left behind, looking at whatever was growing along the way.

Not to worry, as it was a rather straight trail ...

... along a former railroad right of way.

Which is good, as it was not a particularly well marked trail. Although it may soon be?

Approximately 1.7 miles after we started we came to trails end, at the US Post Office in Birmingham, NJ. Which serves all 33 residents of this village, which is coincidently 33 feet above sea level. (I didn't know this place existed either.)

We relaxed and waited for the rest of the first day hikers to reach the post office, slowly increasing the population of Birmingham by over 100% for a short time (we had 44 hikers).

This is Terry (shown here with a 'wood duck' head she found):

She is the coordinator of this particular first day hike; Thanks Terry! It is one of nineteen hikes, one horse back ride, and one mountain bike ride hosted by the NJ State Park Service. Such events are held in all fifty states, and not just by state park services. Other groups are now getting in on the action. I'm sure you can find one in your area.


This is our third time joining the first day hike festivities and as is our custom, we bring food and drink to share at the end. As this hike did not have a nearby picnic area we decided to host the after hike gathering at our place. And while we may not have topped the population of Birmingham we did have a nice turnout. With four crock pot dishes, plenty of liquid refreshments, and a variety of salads, dips, appetizers, and deserts.

An appropriate beverage for the NJ Pinelands methinks.

It was a very nice way to start 2017.


About that 1000 mile journey ...

A couple of weeks ago we were at Whitesbog for an owl prowl for which Patty was co-leader (with this guy). This owl prowl was coincident with the monthly full moon hike (it was cloudy, so no moonlight on this walk; no owls either). And Patty was speaking to a women who regularly attends the full moon hikes. And this women told Patty about the '1000 mile challenge', where you walk one thousand miles in a calendar year.

And now we are walking.

And I've less than 997 miles to go!

(Wish me luck ...)

When Max Met Opie

We have three cats. But only one, Max, has any interest in going outside. To satiate this desire, we've fitted Max with a harness and take him out everyday, attaching the harness to a length of strong twine attached to our deck railing.

But Max on occasion will, when we aren't paying attention, run out the door and go walk about in the yard. And one recent night he did just that.

We also have a trail cam, which took the above image of Max, in his harness, lead to face with a Virginia Opossum. Alas, this is the only image the trail cam took of the encounter. So we've no idea of what went down that evening.

Max enjoys looking out the window each evening as the opies visit the feeders. I can only wonder what he is thinking.


Max is still young, less than two years old. The other two cats, Pumpkin and Alister, are much older. No doubt this is why Max wants out and the other two are content to remain inside the house. This is a good thing, as cats belong indoors. Cats are instinctive predators and even well fed cats will kill small animals. There are also dangers about such as Great Horned and Screech Owls, Coyotes, and Bobcats that could easily take a domestic cat. And an encounter with an angry opossum or raccoon could result in significant injuries.

For more info about why it is a good idea to keep cats indoors visit the appropriately named Cats Indoors and the Outdoor Cat FAQ at Cornell. Thanks.