Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Turkey Vultue

Turkey Vulture.

A key member of nature's clean up crew.

Not the prettiest of birds and not one you want roosting regularly nearby. They can be stinky with a capital PU!

I was sitting on our deck last Sunday, relaxing after that snowstorm, and as usual there were vultures soaring overhead, both Turkey and Black Vultures. And the Turkey Vultures seemed to be flying lower than normal. I could even hear their wings flapping. So I got up and moseyed around to the other side of the house, and spotted them roosting in the woods on either side of our road. The one above on our side, that below on the other.

Of course I couldn't let this photo op pass by.

I had walked around our property to see them. I walked back to get the camera. I walked around again to get the shot. I was going around as not to spook them by walking directly under them. And I had left the camera card in the card reader attached to my computer. So another round trip. Fortunately, they waited patiently for me and posed for a few shots before flying off. Coincidently on our ride down to see the Snowy Owl that morning we had talked about memory lapses and such.

I'm appreciative of the work they do in the ecosystem. And am just a wee bit jealous of their ability to soar above the yard. I just hope they continue to soar to roost sites somewhere other than here, albeit with the occasional visit like this one.


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Snow Scenes

The third nor'easter in as many weeks is bringing springtime snow. Lots of springtime snow.

I was working from home and was able to snap a picture now and then, between meetings. And while out shoveling.

I was out shoveling rather often.


The storm it brought plenty of birds to the feeders. At one point we had over forty Dark-eyed Juncos.

And a lonely Eastern Bluebird.

A pair of Wild Turkeys wandered in and out of the yard all morning.

The snow sticking to them as well.

Not all birds come to eat at the feeders.

American Robins found a snowless patch up against the house and were busy looking for worms and other tasty morsels. Apparently they were successful as then were there for some time.

And not every critter that comes to the feeders is a bird.

Southern Flying Squirrels are nightly visitors. And the snow did not stop them.


The snow was very pretty.

But also evil. We lost power at around 12:30 am. And did not get it back until 6:30 pm. And we had several more trees with broken branches.


Today most of the snow has melted. Gone. It is spring you know.

It is March 22nd. Shouldn't we be in the "out like a lamb" phase?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Special Ingredient

Green cabbage. Shredded carrots. And Star Wars.

Wait, what?


And in a refrigerator of a very dedicated Star Wars memorabilia collector, many years form now, in our very own Milky Way Galaxy, will be an unopened package, well past the "enjoy by" date.

Maybe he (and it will be a "he") should have put it in the freezer.

Just sayin'.

It seems there are multiple packages. Collect them all!

(You're gonna need a bigger freezer ...)

Snow Day

It was "snowing" at the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR on Sunday.

Squalls of Snow Geese broke out around us on north side of Wildlife Drive.

They flew past the car on one side.

And then back the other way on the other. We suspected it was a Bald Eagle that was getting them all riled up. But we were not able to confirm this (I did see one do so on Friday when I was there).

There was a Ross's Goose reported with the Snow Geese the day before. The two are quite similar in appearance. Ross's Goose is rare around here.

We did not look for the Ross's goose. We did see people who were.

Should one want to find the Ross's Goose mixed in with this flock of Snow Geese, the last thing they want to have happen is for the flock to get up, fly around, and land all reshuffled, and thus need to start their scanning all over again.

Those people were not having fun.

We were, as in this snow storm we were looking for a Snowy Owl.

And we found it!

Alas, we saw no Snowy Egrets nor Snow Buntings. Maybe next time ...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Timberdoodle


Image courtesy Patty Rehn

Also known as the American Woodcock.

There were several in our yard this evening. Including the two above, which were feeding near each other. A mating pair? Our fingers are crossed.

We began our driveway stakeout just before sunset, setting up chairs and cameras on the side of our driveway.

Patty had the 400mm lens, me a 200 mm (but with a wider maximum aperture).

I spotted the first one down at the end of the yard, by the road.

Too far for a good shot, you'll need to bigafy the image to see it, smack dab in the middle.

One of our favorite yard birds, we've had them every year since we've moved here. Perhaps more than anything else, it is there arrival that let's us know that spring is coming.

I found one in the same area this morning. We had friends coming over and I was able to show them the bird in our spotting scope. How cool is that?


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

If You Had ...

... Viola tricolor, aka "Johnny Jump Up", as the first flower to bloom in our yard this year you win!

A European species introduced to North America, it has been quite successful this side of the pond.

But methinks the map for New Jersey needs to be updated ...

... as we live in the county shown in white under the "New" in "New Jersey".

Monkey Monday!

The last of the monkey species we'd see in Panama.

Geoffroys Tamarin.

We spotted them a short walk from where our ride got stuck.

The fellow in the pink shirt was the driver that got us stuck. Our guide was able, after the original driver could not, to free the truck. It would have been a long walk back to camp.

Of the three species we saw, these are the only one that does not have a prehensile tail.

And unlike the others we saw these only this one time. But like the others they were curious about us.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco.

Slate-colored variety. A sparrow that breeds in Canada and comes south to the US for winter.

This past Wednesday we had a late winter storm with wet heavy snow. Tree branches were snapping all around us. I recorded some and texted the recording to my family. Also in the recording, a video, were many Juncos at our feeders. One of my sisters asked why there were birds there, "don't they fly south for the winter"? For these birds this is south.

A common winter visitor to Piney Place, in comparatively large flocks. We've had upwards of forty birds at times. All over the property. Not surprising given the total population is estimated at 630 million. That's a lot.

These birds, along with a couple of other sparrows, White-thoated and Fox, signal winter's come when the arrive in our yard and spring is here when they are gone.

Alas, as of this writing they are still here. A lot of them.


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

I Don't Think "Non" Means What You Think It Means ...

Wait, what?

And the rule for flammable gas is?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Neighborhood Pine Barrens

Once upon a time much of Southern New Jersey looked like this:

Sand and pines. The Pine Barrens.

And then ... people. Slowly at first. In waves that waxed and waned. And then, lots of people. And they all need someplace to live. And work. And much of the land has been turned into housing developments. And office buildings. And shopping malls.

And we need housing developments (I live in a house). And office buildings (I work in an office, although I work at home more and more ...). And shopping malls (hmmm ... I do most of my shopping on-line).

Fortunately, back when we had leaders in government, some of this was saved. Not all of it. But quite a bit.

And thanks to the efforts of many folks, it continues to be saved, parcel by parcel. Acre by acre.

And 1300 of those acres, on the western edge of the Pinelands, is the Black Run Preserve.


The Black Run Preserve exists in large part because of the gentlemen shown above, John Volpa. He has championed the preservation of this island of pristine Pine Barrens surrounded by development.

There are plenty of trails.

And vernal pools.

Great for frog watching, or at least, frog listening!

Cedar swamps.

And old bogs.


It isn't all pristine. For reasons that aren't really clear to me, folks to this day take all manner of trash deep into the woods to dispose of. I mean, why go through all that trouble? If it were me, I'd dump it as close to the road as possible. But then, I'm not in the demographic that dumps stuff.

And it is not clear that this car, a Caprice Classic, was being dumped. Kids out for a joy ride that went way wrong? A stolen car that needed to be hidden? A really bad drunken idea? Or just a woefully wrong turn down a sand road short cut that wasn't?

Whatever, it is a reminder that "civilization" is never all that far away.

The for sale sign is a nice touch. But who came all the way out here to take the engine? Or conversely, who dragged a car without an engine all the way out here?

Inquiring minds want to know.


Click: Black Run Preserve to learn more about this special place. Go visit. Become a member. Support the preservation of a little slice of what most southern New Jersey used to be. Smack dab in the middle of civilization.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Puddle Sunset

On Saturday Patty and I, and others, went to Whitesbog for the full moon night hike. Where as usual, the full moon was not included.

It had rained heavily on Thursday, and the ground was still soaked from the previous rains. And there were plenty of puddles in the parking area.

So when I stepped out of my car I saw this:

And now you've seen it too.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Monkey Monday!

The sounds of this creature were ubiquitous during our visit.

The Mantled Howler Monkey.

Given the dense foliage of the rainforest, they were more often heard than seen. But this group was right off the road on Boxing Day last year.

It was especially cool to see the youngsters, who seemed to be just as curious about us.

The howling is a low roar. At times I thought it was an aircraft flying over only to realize I wasn't in New Jersey, duh! I tried, with rather limited success, to record the howling. But in the end my phone was just not up to the task. It didn't help that people would the talking and moving about whenever I tried.


I've written before about watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom as a kid. And dreaming that I could see all the wonderous creatures highlighted in that program (but even as a kid I could do without the hokey insurance references). It is so cool and I am so fortunate to be able to live that dream.