Saturday, November 30, 2019

Free Trees!

Patty, who is always looking for a reason for me to dig holes in the yard, found an announcement on the interwebs that Pinelands Nursery was giving away free trees. Yippee!

So she signed up for the max allowed per person, five trees. Yippee!

🌳  🌳  🌳  🌳  🌳

When we arrived the joint was jumping. And one species she wanted was already gone. So we picked out four nice looking specimens and I carried them to the car, where I puzzled over how to fit them in. Then she remembered a friend had been looking for a Tulip Poplar. So it was five to squeeze in after all. Yippee!

Thankfully, the very helpful staff at the nursery helped me get them in the car. Where by "helped" I mean "did the work". And we headed home with five new trees. Although I only had to dig four holes. Yippee!

Because we don't have enough trees here.

I mean, just look at all that open space!


Friday, November 29, 2019

Flying Squirrel - NOT!

We have a bird feeder outside our bedroom, visible from the bed, and while enjoying our morning coffee Patty spotted an Eastern Gray Squirrel on the feeder, munching away on the sunflower seeds.

"How'd it get up past the baffle cone?", she wondered out loud. It had to be jumping from somewhere, but we had placed the feeder without a convenient launching point.

Or so we thought. Obviously we were wrong.

Banging on the window got it to scurry off. Only to return a bit later.

And this time Patty saw it jump. "It's from the roof!", she exclaimed. So it was, as you can see by clinking that link, or here.

Although it doesn't always stick the landing ...

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thanks and Giving

As you gather with friends and family this Thanksgiving ...

... and enjoy your favorite foods ...

... give some thought to those less fortunate ...

... and creatures that don't have a voice ...

... and do what you can to help your fellow planet mates.

🦃 Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃

Purple Sunsets

Chance favors the prepared mind, and my mind was prepared to look for the "purple light" at sunset.

And this past Sunday evening I glanced out the window and saw this. So I quick grabbed my camera.

And now you can see it too.

Learn more at the Atmospherics Optics site. Duh.

And keep looking up.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Dimorphic Pinion

Lithophane patefacta.

On a screen outside my home office.

A moth that perhaps shouldn't be here? 

BugGuide has no records for New Jersey.

Nor does the Butterflies and Moths of North America site.

The Moth Photographers Group has one report; the dot on the map appears to be in the Cape May area (and there is a photograph by John Maxwell, one of my go to 'bug geek' friends).

In an email exchange with John he noted that on BugGuide the moth had been ID'd as Lithophane petulca, Wanton Pinion.

And as part of that same email thread, my friend Ann-Marie noted that she had a possible L. patefacta also in South Jersey, and was in communication with a fellow who is reviewing the genus and agreed with the ID.

And the go to field guide for Moths in this area, the Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America, by Beadle and Leckie, has the moth in New Jersey, but in the northern part of the state (our place in is the southern part of the state).

So what was it doing hanging out on my deck (if it was)?

🦋  🦋  🦋  🦋  🦋

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

Monday, November 25, 2019


Since there were no birds to look at, nor photograph, at Barnegat I spent my time looking at ships.

Ships that really weren't there, where "there" was where I was looking.

Got that?

(That "guy" standing on the horizon on the left wasn't really there either.)

The ships were below, or in some cases mostly below, the horizon.

The air acts like a lens bending light rays as they pass through it. Usually, the rays travel in straight lines. But when there is a strong temperature differential the light bends, as it does when passing through a lens.

At the lens-air boundary the air is refracted, which is a fancy word for "bent". You've no doubt noticed how a straw looks bent in a glass of water. The water-air boundary also refracts the light.

The temperature gradient refracts the rays back downwards. Thus rays that would have normally shot well above my head were bent down to my eyes. My, and your, brain expects light to travel in a straight line. Thus we see the ship where a straight light ray would have come from.

A pretty cool trick if you ask me.

🚢  👁  🚢  👁  🚢

You can learn more about mirages on the Atmospheric Optics site, including my Death Valley lake that isn't OPOD.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


We woke up way too early for a Saturday. And proceeded to layer up as it was 25 °F outside, a bit chilly. Loaded up the car with optics and headed off to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.

Seems we got there a bit early. Several months early. If you clicked on the link above (or here) you may have noticed that all of the previous posts tagged "Barnegat" are dated in March. Which may explain the dearth of waterfowl and shorebirds. Other than a few bad pictures of distant ducks (which have already been consigned to the bit bucket) there was nothing, nada, zippo, there today.

In fact, if it wasn't for this Merlin, spotted by Patty who was frantically trying to alert me to the bird, I'd have no good bird pictures from the day.

The bird let me get rather close, not concerned with my approach at all.

Well, I was using a 600 lens. So I guess close is a relative term. But the bird went about its business, stretching and preening with me shooting away.

Turning disappointment into success.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Steve Versus ... the Flying Squirrels?

So after I found the cap I invested $2.33 in additional hardware to better secure the cap than with the bungie cord.

The clamps are rated at 50 lbs, surely more than enough to hold.

Loaded up with two more cakes. And now we wait for darkness.

D'oh! The cap is still attached, but it is flipped over and out! And the top cake is gone.

And as I watched I saw a Southern Flying Squirrel come down the tree and into the feeder, mulching away on the remaining suet cake. By morning both cakes were gone.

Mystery solved?

And more work to do.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Steve Versus the Raccoons, Round III

Spoiler alert: raccoons win.

🦝  😬  🦝  😬  🦝

It took but one night for the cap strap to fail.

Both cakes are gone, strap dangling on the right.

Worse, the cap is missing. Nowhere to be found.

Why would a critter steal the cap?

🦝  😬  🦝  😬  🦝

Two days later and I'm still looking for the cap. It has to be around somewhere.

Found it! See:

On the other side of the deer fence.

It's that little yellow square in the center of the image above.

Looking back in the other direction, the suet feeder is on the opposite side of the tree with the flying squirrel box on it. And note the deer fence, a non-trivial barrier for the cap to cross. 

Now we have another mystery.

To be continued ...

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Curious Artifacts

In my post about the recent Red-shouldered Hawk visit I noted the "curious artifacts" caused by shooting through the windows at our house. But in the hawk image the artifacts were somewhat subtle.

Hermit Thrush
Here as some images of recent yard birds taken from inside the house, through the dining room window.

American Goldfinch
The artifacts are much more obvious, especially in the first image above, over and behind the bird's neck.

It's nice to see the birds eating the seeds and berries and using the little frog pond for water.

Dark-eyed Junco
I'm guessing that as there are double pane windows what we're seeing are internal reflections. But that's just a guess.

I suppose I'll have to do some experiments.

Steve Versus the Raccoons, Round II

In the Feeder Fail post, I related how presumably raccoons had ripped open the new suet feeder.

So I reattached the screen. And then I added the extra bits of wood seen here. Effectively sandwiching the screen between wooden slats.

After two nights, the feeder was intact, the cakes being nibbled by birds and squirrels. But then on the third night something, (raccoon, opossum, something else?), removed the top and made off with the upper cake. Grrrr. Point Critter.

But the screen was intact and the bottom cake still there. Point Steve.

So if you're keeping score at home, the critters lead 2-1. Not Good.

🚧  🦝  🛑  🦝  🚧

So I went back to work. And continuing with the theme of using only what I already have I fashioned a strap to hold the cap on.

Two eye screws, a 'u' clamp, and a short bungie cord later I was ready to refill the feeder and secure the cap.

A bit of drilling, screw driving, and one ladder fall later (I was clinging to the tree, a real tree hugger, and landed on my feet, with only a little blood spilled where my hands scraped against the tree as I slid down). Not sure if I award points to the critters or subtract points from me. Either way, I'm farther behind.

Now the waiting begins.

And I still haven't seen any Pileated Woodpeckers at the feeder. Just those squirrels.

🚧  🦝  🛑  🦝  🚧

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Meanwhile Up In the Trees ...

As I was watching the Hermit Thrush splash in the fish pond waterfall, a gorgeous Red-shouldered Hawk flies by.

I quickly changed focus (pun!) and took some shots of the hawk.

This species is a relatively common visitor to our yard. But a skittish one. Had I opened the door to get a clearer shot (if you look closely you'll see curious artifacts caused by shooting through the window) it would have immediately flown away.

So I enjoyed it through the window as it surveyed the yard.

I hope you enjoy it too.

🦅  🦅  🦅  🦅  🦅

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Bath Time

I was sitting at my desk Sunday morning, having finished my yard work for the day (it was too cold out to do much) and looking out the window I saw this:

A bird with its butt in the air. And its head in the water.

A Hermit Thrush joining the Polar Bear Club. I did mention it was cold out, right? When I woke that morning the initial forecast called for snow, albeit flurries. But still.

And Hermie here spent enough time in the water for me to notice, find a camera, turn it on, find the bird through the deck rail posts (why couldn't they disappear this time?), and fire off some shots.

This is the second bird I've seen using the waterfall in our fish pond. The other, a female Black and White Warbler, at least had the sense to do so in the summer.

The Hermit Thrush was later seen enjoying the berries from our Beauty Berry Bush in the feeder garden.

Where we have a heated bird bath.

The thrush has not been seen using that though.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Honey Bee

Apis melifera.

A non-native species introduced by early European colonists to North America, for honey and wax, and now used in agriculture for pollination. We had a hive for one season, but were not successful bee keepers and the hive failed. Not good, but all too common for new and experienced bee keepers these days.

Honey Bees then took up residence in our flying squirrel box. Alas, they did not survive the winter (the squirrels appear to be fine).

But I know of several hives in the area. And we are surrounded by farms: corn, cranberries, blueberries, and more. Thus it is no surprise that a Honey Bees would show up in the yard. I'm surprised we don't see more.

🐝  🐝  🐝  🐝  🐝

Look closely at the image. Above the bee one can clearly see the deck railing post. Below the bee ...

Where'd the post go?

🐝  🐝  🐝  🐝  🐝

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

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Stink Bug

Apoecilus cynicus, one of the native stink bugs. And a predator of other insects and small critters.

This is the first record, on BugGuide, of this stink bug species in New Jersey. Cool.

Stink Bug

And that's a good thing as, "... the predatory wheel bug, Arilus cristatus ... and stink bug, Apoecilus cynicus were found feeding on adult spotted lanternflies in Pennsylvania (Barringer and Smyers, 2016)."*

Spotted Lanternflies are an invasive insect that is causing significant damage to a number of native plant species. Fortunately we've not found them in our yard.

Wheel Bug

And it's good to know we've two predators waiting to pounce on them should they show up.

🐞  🐜  🦟  🦗  🕷  🦂  🦋  🐛  🐝

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

* reference link.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Narrow-headed Marsh Fly

Helophilus fasciatus.

Not a bee, rather a bee mimic. The eyes give it away, they are fly eyes. But the pattern and colors send a message to would be predators, "stay away or get stung!".  A lie, but a seemingly effective one, used by many members of the insect kingdom.

This critter is a type of "Flower Fly", so called as they like to visit flowers. As many are good fliers they are also known as "Hover Flies". But Flower Fly is probably the better name, as, like the bees they mimic, they are excellent pollinators.

This critter was in the leaf litter in our side garden, having been investigating one of the rapidly deteriorating Jack-o'-Lanterns there.

🎃  🎃  🎃

It's Flies all the way Down
Fly magnets, these Jack's are.

🐞  🐜  🦟  🦗  🕷  🦂  🦋  🐛  🐝

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

20 or 368?

Given the choice of two routes from Point A, call that Florence, NJ, to Point B, which we'll call Vincentown, NJ*, with distances of 20 miles or 368 miles, which you choose?

I ordered an item on November 12. It was at the distribution center in Florence. The original delivery estimate was the 19th. It was delivered on the 15th.

I suppose it's a good thing that they beat their estimate by four days. Right?

🚚  🚚  🚚  🚚  🚚

* Southampton, where I live, and Vincentown are both in Southampton Township and share a zip code, 08088. For reasons that are unknown to me, Vincentown it the name more often used when 08088 is entered.