Monday, April 30, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Like the Pine Warbler, this bird shows up like clockwork each year. Since we've moved here it has arrived on April 30 2015; May 4, 2016; April 27, 2017; and April 29 this year. All within a week's time each year.

It seems to prefer the 'big house' feeder, returning throughout the day to chow down on the sunflower seeds.

Maybe it likes this feeder because of a of drama at the platform feeder?

Seems the Red-bellied Woodpecker was not interested in sharing. Good thing we have multiple feeders.


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

Friday, April 27, 2018

QuΓ©telet Scattering

Long time readers may recall this post.

Above is a shot I took with my phone, this time in my yard. A "rainbow"* in a ditch. I think it is cool.


* Not really a rainbow, a different phenomena altogether (thus the scare quotes). But just as colorful.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

X ...

... marks the spot.

Flying home from my trip out west to Redrock Country, I spotted this out the (dirty) airplane window.

A big "X" right there on the clouds.

Alas, being on a moving airplane did not afford me the ability to investigate just what exactly the "X" was marking. It must be something important for such a big "X"! But I was able to acquire the coordinates on my GPS, should I, or you, wish to explore further.

Good luck should you go searching!


And then just a little bit later there was a big target on the cloud tops.

Alas, such targets move along with the plane, so no coordinates this time. You'll need to parachute directly in to explore this one.


The big X, as I'm sure you've realized, is the shadows of two contrails; planes headed in perpendicular directions. And the target is glory. But it is fun to imagine the cloud tops as a fantastic landscape just waiting to be explored. And I've been doing so since my first plane rides many years ago. If you do go exploring, be sure to dress warmly, as it is cold out there in the clouds!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

April Showers ...

... bring April flowers!

Like Pyxie.

And Trailing Arbutus.

Tiny yet lovely.


Thanks to our friend Ann Marie for the excellent directions to the site.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

A very tiny bird and the only regularly occurring hummingbird in our area.

Eighteen species of hummingbirds have been recorded in the United States. Mostly west of the Mississippi. With the occasional stray wandering east.

Ecuador, which is the size of Colorado, has 132 different species.

We get just one.


And the Ruby-throuts aren't even here for the entire year! They show up in the spring and leave in the fall.

You can track their progress migrating in spring at this site. It seems the first one spotted in New Jersey was on April 1st, with the next sightings the 16th or later.

April 16th was when we spotted one in our yard this year. I submitted this sighting to the tracking site noted above. But it is not listed on the map. Oh well.

The males, which have the ruby throats, arrive before the females, looking to stake out territories. We know they breed here, but we've yet to find a nest (they are tiny and well camouflaged). We usually have several males, chasing each other about the yard. But so far just this one. Toward the end of their time here we can have double digit numbers. No doubt a combination of the birds fledged here, their parents, and migrants heading south from points further north.

And then all of a sudden they're gone. We leave the feeders up for a week or two more, but our hopes for a stray from out west have yet to be realized.

So we'll just have to enjoy the one we have.


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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

April Showers ...

.. bring flooded yards.

Yeah, there's not actually a stream there ...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Milky Dawn

While out in Moab I headed out early, pre-dawn early, to photograph Landscape Arch at sunrise.

And from the trailhead parking lot I took this image.

Had I done some better planning I might have gotten this shot over the arch.

Oh well, I'll just have to settle for this.

Maybe next time.

Here is a link to an annotated version of the image. Thanks to Joe Stieber for the annotations.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Knee Bone 's Connected to the ...

Is there even a "knee bone"? There's a knee cap, but it isn't really connected to any other bones. It just kinda floats there in front of the knee. And are the bones really "connected"?

Anyways ...

These are images of my right knee. I recently spent some time in Moab, Utah, hiking about Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

And toward the end of my stay my knee was not happy.

And it still wasn't happy when I got home. Thus these pictures. And physical therapy twice a week.

It's not as bad as it was, but working in the yard today led to a bit of stiffness.

I'm sure it will be even worse once I start getting old.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Three-toed Box Turtle

Magnus, our Three-toed Box Turtle.

As you can see, he or she is covered in dried mud, having just dug out form a long winters sleep. It was in the high 80s °F here the past few days, although we'll be returning to more seasonable temperatures in the days ahead.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
Magnus has been featured on this blog before, including this post that tells the backstory of how Patty acquired Magnus as a tiny turtle.


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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hope Springs ...

We had Bluebirds in the yard last winter. So I installed two Bluebird boxen in the hope they would nest here. One went unused. The other was home to a brood of Carolina Chickadees. A pair of Bluebirds have been visiting our feeders daily, so maybe this year?

We had several Prothonotary Warblers in the yard last fall. Six at one time even!

So now we have Prothonotary Warbler nest boxen in the yard and in the state forest behind our place.

It may not be obvious from the image above and the next two below, but the South Branch of the Rancocas Creek gets its start in the woods behind our place. These birds like wet woods and the boxen are placed on water's edge.

We suspect that these warblers are already nesting in the area and have been told that historically this has been the case. And as mentioned we have seen them in the yard.

We're just hoping that with these boxen we increase the chances we'll see them. Especially with the box shown below.

Which we've placed on the edge of our back pond.

These warblers should be arriving in our area any day now. Our fingers are crossed that they will decide to stay.

Mother Nature Strikes Back

Remember this post?

I think we need to go back.

The recent nor'easters have done a job on the trees at the preserve.

We got maybe a hundred yards down the trail before we turned back, blocked at both forks of a Y in the boardwalk.

Maybe they'll let me play with the power tools this time ...

Monday, April 9, 2018

They Do Mix ...

... oil and water that is. To produce colorful patterns.

We have oil heat and received an oil delivery during the day. And a bit was spilt on the driveway. Then it rained and snowed overnight. And after most of the snow had melted I went out and saw:

I was quite taken by the solid color blobs here. I don't recall ever seeing such a display.

Most oil spills look more like this:

As the day went on the smaller bloblets dissipated and the solid colors started to take on a more psychedelic appearance.

Very cool.

Keep looking down.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler.

And so it begins ...

Migration that is.

Every year about this time Pine Warblers show up in our yard.

And I've pictures of them at the suet feeders from March 2015, ...

... 2017 ...

... and April 2018.

I'm sure I would have gotten pictures in March 2018, had I not been in Utah the last week of the month, which is when they arrive. And in 2016 we were off in Ecuador at the end of March and Central Pennsylvania at the start of April (a fair trade methinks) and didn't see a Pine Warbler until September, as they were migrating south.


In the four years we've lived here at Piney Place, we've had twenty species of warbler visit the yard. Some that stay. Some just passing through. And that's just one group of the birds that pass through (our yard list is up to 113 species). And so far this year we've seen fifty-one different species of bird in the yard.


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

Saturday, April 7, 2018


As mentioned previously on this blog, we've had several nasty storms over during the past month. Resulting in plenty of broken branches and downed trees. Like the one in the image below.

We were wandering down this road looking for birds; specifically early migrant warblers.

We didn't find any. No birds. None. Forget migrants, we didn't find any birds at all.

But this tree ...

... why did't it fall completely over?

Are you kidding me?

It landed on top of the one tree across the road that was still (at least in part) standing? Look at the images again. There are no other trees to either side of the "pole" tree.

So, the top of one tree had to be broken off, leaving the trunk standing, as if it were a post. And the second tree had to fall at just the right angle to land on top of this broken off trunk. And slow enough so it didn't bounce off. And the broken off top had to be flat enough so the falling tree didn't slide off one side or the other. Really? That actually happened?


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Palthis Moth Caterpillar

A Palthis moth caterpillar.

There are two species that can be found in our yard, P. angulalis and P. asopialis. I do not know which this is. If you can ID it from these images please let me know in the comments!

I found this critter on top of one of the posts of our deck railing on March 3rd. The high temperature that day was 45° F, although it had been in the sixties just a few days prior. But the temps for the coming week would be in the thirties.

So I wonder how this little critter, and it is little, fared.

Hopefully, we'll see the moth it turned into when we fire up the moth light later this month.


The moth this caterpillar will turn into has a very curious feature, as seen in the image below.

Image courtesy of Ann-Marie Woods

My friend Ann-Marie, and expert moth-er, shared this image, showing the scales the look like hair growing out of the moth's head. As she notes in the image comments, this structure is used for finding a mate. Which results in eggs. Which result in caterpillars. Which result in pictures. Which result in a blog post.


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