Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Around the Yard

A few odd and ends from around the yard as the year comes to a close ...

I was out behind the garage and I spooked an Eastern Cottontail. It shot off toward the deer fence and, to my amazement, went straight through as if the fence wasn't even there.

Turns out that for this particular spot, the fence wasn't there. It may not be obvious in the image above, but several squares of the fence are missing. I've not yet decided how to repair it. I'm leaning towards reinforcing the areas around the hole, but leaving the hole open so small critters can come and go. We just don't want it to grow larger.

🐇  🐇  🐇

Here is a link to a tumblely Eastern Grey Squirrel, eating bird seed on our garden path. It was almost as if it was drunk. Maybe it ate one mushroom too many? Careful inspection with binoculars did not discern any physical ailment. Patty had seen similar behavior the day before. I've not seen it since, which perhaps does not bode well for our stumbler. I hope it is ok.

🐿  🐿  🐿

Another link, actually two links, this time to a Bat flying over the yard. On December 27th. We had actually seen one as we were driving back from Browns Mills for the second time that morning (don't ask, but Patty did eventually find her glasses). Uncommon even in spring and summer, curious to see now.

🦇  🦇  🦇

Our Beauty Berry bush has been a hit with the birds this year. I posted about a Hermit Thrush earlier this month. Here is a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Berries aren't the only thing on the menu. Sometimes, birds are.

Patty and I were sitting in the living room when the birds in the garden scattered. One even hit the living room window in its haste to get away (it was ok; startled us though). And then, just as it secured its prey and flew off, I spotted the hawk. Most likely a Cooper's hawk. I tried, but could not relocate it in the trees around the yard. And two days later, two rainy days later, all that is left are the wet feathers.

🐦  🦅  🐦

This morning, when I looked out the bedroom window, I noticed that a large branch had come crashing down on the driveway. A branch that had broken over a year ago and hung precariously over the driveway all that time. Finally it had fell.

And it was covered in Lichens. Someday I'll get serious about identifying the various Lichens around the yard. But for now I'll just enjoy their alien beauty.

That was in the 'front' driveway. Over around on the 'back' driveway a tree had fallen and partially blocked the way. So I grabbed a saw and headed over. The dead wood was easy to cut through.

And the dead wood was host to a variety of Fungi, another form of life that I'll someday get serious about identifying. And another that I'll just enjoy sharing the yard with.

🍄  🍄  🍄

The past week has seen temperatures in the 40's and 50's °F. But the week prior saw highs in the teens and twenties. I much prefer colder temps in wintertime.

One thing I like are the patterns the ice forms.

We live in a wet area and on what was once a blueberry farm, with plenty of nooks and grannies for water to pool and ice to form.

And then there is Needle Ice, which I discovered for myself last year.

I found it in several places in the yard on the Winter Solstice, which was the last really cold day we had around here. Good thing we had a fire.

Also on the Solstice the fish pond started to freeze over. I don't think the fish share my preference for cold weather as they move more and more slowly as the temperature falls.

As do we all I suppose. Stay warm. And in the new year enjoy the wonders that are all around you.


The last weekend before I reentered the workforce (very sad) we took a trip to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, aka Brig.

Known for the large number of waterfowl and shore birds that congregate there, as can be seen in the image below, we looked forward to a fun day of birding.

Birdless Brig

Hmmm ...

One of the target species, which Patty had already dipped on, was the White Pelican, of which a several had been visiting. Spoiler alert, we did not find them.

We did see a Northern Raccoon out and about. Somewhat unusual behavior.

Finally some birds!

Snow Buntings, which Patty is blocking traffic to photograph.

After which we headed to the Smithville Inn where I enjoyed my new favorite beer in celebration.

A good day after all.

Why Did the Turkeys Cross the Road?

I don't know.

But did they have to do it ...

... on my driveway?

(And check out the reflection in the car hood.)

Back When the Trees Still Had Leaves

We, as is our custom, had Jack-O-Lanterns in the garden.

(Although the leaves had already begun to fall.)

And I took some pictures. (Surprise!) With my iPhone. And they sat on my phone until this week.

And I don't remember what I was doing. But this one looks a bit like a painting to me.

Clearly, I kicked the tripod. Except, there was no tripod.

I have no idea how I did this. Attempts to recreate were not successful.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Oppie in a Log

While I was doing yard work, photographing haloes, and enjoying a coffee beer, Patty was exploring the woods about our place. And she found a hollow log she thought would look good in our garden.

She was right.

So she got the wagon, loaded it up (with a bit of help from yours truly) and installed said log in said garden.

Just outside our living room, in front of the triple stump.

Pretty much every night we are visited by Virginia Opossums. We're not sure how many stop by, but we've seen as many as three at a time.

It is of course the peanut butter they come for. But we don't mind. A fair bargain we thinks.

I mean, just look how cute they are!

Eye in the Sky

At least, that's what it looked like.

I was taking a break from some yard work, chipping wood left over from the Solstice Bonfire for the garden paths. Only to have my enjoyment of a tasty brew  interrupted as I looked up in the sky.

And saw it was looking back at me.

👁  ☁️  👁  ☁️  👁

I had noticed a sundog earlier in the day, albeit on the other side of the sun from this one.

So I was primed for atmospheric phenomena. But did it have to interrupt my beer drinking?

Knowing the ephemeral nature of these things, I used my phone (iPhone XS) to make these images. By the time I went into the house and returned with a 'real' camera it was gone.

Look closely and you'll see multiple contrail shadows, indicative of multiple cloud layers, adding to the complexity of the sky display.

Also cool, a Bald Eagle flew by (the black speck toward the lower right edge; bigafy to see.)

☁️  👁  ☁️  👁  ☁️

No it isn't Sauron. It is light reflecting and refracting through ice crystals high in the sky.

The lower 'eyelid' is an Upper Tangent Arc and the upper, a Suncave Parry Arc (you might recall this post, a Sunvex Parry Arc, which as featured as an OPOD; this completes the set!).

The Parry Arc is one of the rarer arcs and well worth interrupting my beer for. As always, you can learn more at the fantabulous Atmospheric Optics site.

As always, keep looking up!


One of the benefits of hosting the Winter Solstice Bonfire Music Jam with Yule log Ceremony is the left over beer. I have friends with eclectic tastes, and I quite enjoy discovering new brews.

Like this one.

A surprisingly tasty beer made with convenience store coffee. Very satisfying after a morning of yard work on a winter's day.

🍺  🍺  🍺

And if you look closely ...

... portrait of the artist in a beer can.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Fire! Food! Friends! Beer!

And Music! What more could one want?

Yule log? ✔️

Spirit Animals? ✔️

And Beer! Did I mention there was Beer? There was.

🍺 ✔️

We had our third annual Winter Solstice Bonfire Music Jam Yule Log Ceremony, this year with Spirit Animals (mine was the Wolverine, I'm tougher than I think) on the actual Solstice Day this year (how cool is that!).

Russell, on banjo, and Tom, on guitar, were joined this year by Scott on bass (the fellow in blue in the second image from the top). Some mighty fine pickin'.

🔥  🪕  🍲  🍺  🍜  🎸  🔥

A big thanks to everyone who came and made it another fantabulous event. A wonderful time was had by all.

Friday, December 27, 2019


Patty is one of those Crazy Birder People, and subscribes to pretty much every bird alert there is. Including one that is by invite only.

The Badass Birders of Burlington County.

It was that group that brought the Leconte's Sparrow to our attention.

And one of the badass birders, Dave, is in a band. The Nutcracking Fruitcakes, who get together and play only around Christmastime.

This is Dave, playing a stick with bells on it. Really, a stick with bells. Click here to see him in action. I could be in a band. Just sayin'.

We had the pleasure of seeing the Fruitcakes two weeks before Christmas, at the Flying W Airport and Resort. If you look closely at the sign to the left of the windows, you'll see that it is "Burlington County's Gateway to the World." Ok. And it has a beach club (it is 40 miles from the ocean). Delusions of granduer methinks. The beer was cold. And my sausage and peppers sandwich was tasty. Good enough.

Ok, so Dave also plays sax (several actually). But when he tries to sing they turn his mic off. Even he says he's an awful singer. He's good at sax playing though.

Now this guy has skills. You can't see, but there is a pitcher of beer on the shelf behind him. Which he was kind enough to share with me. Skills.

The Fruitcakes are an eight piece band, although only seven are visible above. The keyboardist is hidden in the back left corner. Several of the badass birders, along with their non-birding spouses, joined us for the evening. A good time was had by all.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Keeping Christ ...

... in Christmas!

Bottles Up!

Happy Boxing Day!

🎁  🍺  🎁  🔮  🎁

Two of the gifts Patty gave me for Christmas, a Sixpack and and Lensball. Fun times ahead!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

I'm Dreaming ...

... of a white Christmas ...

... like it was a week or so ago ...

... alas, it didn't last.

And sometimes dreams don't come true. The forecast for Christmas is 48°F and sunny. Oh well.

❄️  🎄  🎅🏻  🎄  ❄️

Merry Christmas!

Here's hoping 
your Christmas Dreams 
do come true!

❄️  🎄  🎅🏻  🎄  ❄️

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Cuckoo Wasp

We were sitting on the deck enjoying a meal when this critter came in for a landing. A crash landing as it turned out.

Although it was June, so perhaps it wanted to go for a swim?

Alas, the backstroke was not its forte.

So I rescued it, after getting my camera of course. It seemed ok after its ordeal.

It took off and landed on the table, this time avoiding the water.

Of course it was the metallic green color which grabbed my attention. And was the clue to what it was. I knew from the eye shape that it was a wasp of some kind. And using my field guides I ID'd it to a Cuckoo Wasp, in the Family Chrysididae. But as for what species I did not know. So I posted my images to BugGuide, which narrowed the possibilities one step further, to the Subfamily Chrysidinae.

And that is as far as it's gone. And very likely as far as it will go.

Still, a cool critter to have in the yard.

🐝  🐝  🐝

You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here

Monday, December 9, 2019

Grassland Birding

A rare bird, rare for New Jersey, was reported not far from where we live. So we decided to go see it Sunday morning. I had alluded to this in the Peek-A-Boo post. And it was a peek-a-boo bird for sure.

When we awoke it was 17° F outside. Chilly. The kind of day you want to stay in bed and sip your coffee.

And when we arrived at the site everything was covered with frost. Very pretty ...

... but very cold. And the birds were all hunkered down.

It is out there somewhere ...

So we went bushwhacking. For the first hour or so it seemed we had the place to ourselves. And while we managed to scare up some sparrows they appeared to be mostly Song Sparrows. A common species we have in our yard.

Then more folks started showing up. People we knew or people we knew, knew. And we all spread out, walking the fields, and scaring up many sparrows. Mostly Savannah Sparrows, a grassland species, but not the one we wanted. Still cool to see so many though. And we knew the target bird was in the flock with the Savannahs. So we kept searching.

After another hour the group gradually split, smaller groups searching different parts of the fields.

And then the call, "It's over here!" So that's where we all went.

And there it was. As I said, another peak-a-boo bird. Frustrating. And while the image shows that I did see it, I was the last in the crowd to do so. Oh, I had seen it fly away twice, just a blur, while others had good looks. And then it was 'gone'. Not far, as this is a 'hopper' not a 'flyer'. But in all the grass ... frustrating indeed.

But of course it was re-spotted. And I got the image above. And then it flew closer. And I got a bunch of images like this one:

More children's games. I see you!

And finally:

Really good looks were had by all. But most importantly, by me. A Leconte's Sparrow. A midwestern species which is an infrequent visitor to these parts.

We had arrived at 8:00 and left after 11:00. And it was a cold three hours. But a fun morning as well.

And I got a life bird, # 1907. Very cool.