Saturday, February 29, 2020


The other night I spotted a Timberdoodle in the front yard. Very cool, as we usually hear them and see them only as the evening light is fading.

What wasn't cool was the reason I was out and about in the yard.

Max, one of our cats, had escaped outside.

I followed Max out, to ensure that the Woodcock in our yard were safe. And I caught Max about twenty feet from the bird. Neither I, nor apparently Max, were aware it was that close. Max was heading away from the bird. And it was only after I picked him up and turned around that I spotted it, frozen in place.

Which helped when I took Max in, got the camera, called to Patty, and headed back out. It was still there, frozen.

The reason Max was out is that I had opened the door to chase another cat out of our yard, and I had not checked on Max's whereabouts before doing so.

This cat:

Clearly a demon, just look at those eyes.

I've spotted it several times now, and it's showed up on trail cam images as well. Not good. Cats belong indoors.

We have three cats, and only Max (on cat couch on the right) has any interest in exploring the outside world.

And Max had gotten out the night before, when we returned from Rancocas. And when I was out after him this time I heard an Eastern Screech Owl calling in the back woods. Here's hoping it will take up residence in our owl box (still hoping).

CSI Southampton

Looking out the dining room window I spotted what looked like the remains of a critter. A bird I thought, what species I did not know.

I was not entirely correct.

Fur. So not a bird, rather a mammal.

And just fur. No bones or soft parts.

Not much to go on, so I'm still in the dark and to species. Feel free to add you guess in the comments.

Um, No

Really, who woke up one morning and thought to themselves, what the world needs is:

This site has a review. Be sure to read the comments for such gems as "looks like poop" and "TASTELESS! Ugh!"

Yep, I think we have a winner.*

* Winner not included.

Friday, February 28, 2020


How many birds do you see in the image below?

The Downy Woodpecker is obvious.

Do you see the Brown Creeper?


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Amphibians Are On The Move

Thus spring is just around the corner (do planetary orbits have corners?).

It's like we never even had winter. Mainly because we didn't. I'm still waiting for the first actual snow of the season. Not looking good. Today was in the 50's °F.

But back to our story ...

Tuesday we made our annual trip to Beekman Road, a section of which is closed off this time of year when conditions are right for amphibian crossings.

And Tuesday the conditions were right.

Wood Frog

There were several species of frogs out and about.

Northern Spring Peeper

All heading to a big meet up at the vernal pool.

Bull Frog
But we don't travel an hour away to stand in the rain and gawk at frogs we have in our yard. No, the stars of the show are the Spotted Salamanders.

And stars they were. We saw five of the critters. Some guys who traveled just as far as us, who arrived twenty minutes or so prior, saw eight. But the folks who where heading down the road as we were turning back saw none (hopefully they had better luck after we left). Timing is crucial, as we learned last year when we got skunked.

No skunking this year as the critters made up for their no-show last. And to top it all off, no rain! Our best visit yet.

On The Roof

I implied in this post that I look up when I leave the office.

And on Monday evening as I left work I heard a bird 'screaming' up above. A Peregrine Falcon, which I confirmed when I got to my car and got my binoculars out.

Very cool.

Right there on the corner of the building.

That little black smudge. Alas, all I had was my pocket camera. Not the right tool for telephoto shots.

And then as I got in my car and drove away, I saw it flying over the parking lot. As least I thought it was. But I was wrong. It was still perched. There were two of them!

Super cool.

Maybe they were a nesting pair.

So the next day I brought my superzoom camera. And when I arrived the next morning I stepped out of the car and saw two birds on the roof!

And I got this shot:

Alas, I've not seen the falcons since.


And for the Birding ID challenged, they are Canada Geese.

Nowhere near as cool as falcons. Perhaps they are following me?

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Meanwhile, Back in the Yard ...

The Timberdoodles have been here for over a week.

This bird is in our front yard. I was standing in the driveway when I took this picture.

After which we got into the car and went to Rancocas.

Hmmm ...

(I did get to see Fairy Shrimp!)

Monday, February 24, 2020

Finally Fairy Shrimp

We did go back to Rancocas, the very next night in fact, to again look and listen for Woodcock. And we were again successful, with four birds joining us that evening.

But again no pictures. Bummer.

But as a consolation prize we did see these.

Eastern Fairy Shrimp. A wonderful consolation prize.

Many years ago, over ten at least, Mary Belko, the then director of the RNC, and I signed up for a citizen science project to monitor vernal pools. And that is when I first learned of Fairy Shrimp. But I had never had the good fortune to find any.

And now I have. There are at least four in the image above.

Very cool.

🦐  🦐  🦐  🦐  🦐

Mary and I planned to monitor the vernal pools at the Nature Center, as well as a WMA near her house. Alas, the folks running the project wanted the participants to monitor sites that were not on public land. And the Rancocas Nature Center is on the grounds of the Rancocas State Park. So we did not actively participate in the project. Sadly, the project ended long ago.

And had we monitored the vernal pools at the RNC, I might have seen Fairy Shrimp way back then.

I did get this cool frog picture though.

They're Pink!

Geese weren't the only things flying overhead while we waited for Timberdoodles.

Plenty of airplanes flew over as well, as we were under the flight path out of Philadelphia International that evening.

And like many clouds at sunset, the contrails turned pink.

I'm sure the 'chemtrail' idiots will have a field day with this.

Sunday, February 23, 2020


Last Tuesday evening the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society sponsored a talk by Doug Tallamy*, Professor of Entomology at the University of Delaware. The talk was in support of his new book, Nature's Best Hope (go buy it, I'll wait).

The point of the talk, and the book, is that each one of us is Nature's Best Hope. And that by turning lawn in to native plant gardens, each of us can help reverse the tide of ecological suicide our society has been committing.

It is a powerful message of hope, in that individual actions, easily done be each of us, can actually make a difference. And it ties in nicely with what we've already been doing with our War on Lawn.

And one such small thing that can make a big difference is setting aside an area for native bees to nest. I'm sure you've seen the stories about the problems with Honey Bee hives. Our native bees are also facing challenges, mainly pesticides and habitat loss. Well, we don't use any chemicals** in our yard. And now we've added a bit of habitat.

A 2' x 2' square area of bare soil, aka dirt. That's all you have to do. It helps if it is in a dry area, with a slight southern slope. But any bare dirt area should do. The bees, and all other life on Earth, will thank you.

🐝  🦋  🐛  🦋  🐛  🦋  🐝

* Last summer we spent a weekend at our friend Edie's place in the Poconos. And while there did a bit of mothing. Later that summer we went to Mothapalooza (which I'll blog about eventually ...). And at Mothapalooza each night there are multiple mothing stations set up in the surrounding forests. And on the first night, Patty and I drove up to one such station at which there were but two other people, the two guys manning the station. As Patty and I were looking at the moths we spotted one that we had seen at Edie's place. So I said, "We saw that one at Edie's place." To which one of the gentlemen responded, "It is too bad Edie isn't here this year." So I asked, "who should we tell Edie she was missed by?", to which the gentleman replied, "Doug Tallamy". And that is how we met Dr. Tallamy.

** Of course we use chemicals. Dihydrogen Monoxide for example. What we don't use are chemicals to inhibit or kill plants or animals. Nor do we use any fertilizers.

Feather Angel

Despite our precautions, several of which can be seen in this image*, panicked birds still crash into our living room window.

I don't know what happened to this one. Most impacts result in a stunned yet alive bird. Although I've no way to know the long term prognosis.

While I hope this one was ok, but that is some imprint. Sadly, I suspect the worse.

🐧  💥  🐦  💥  🐤

* We have multiple strands of paracord, one of which can be seen at the lower left, which sway in the slightest breeze. We also have three 2x4's, like the one on the right, which also help the birds to focus in front of the window. Not seen are the reflective decals. All meant to break up the reflected image of the yard. Also note the bird feeders are ten plus feet away from the window, to give the birds time to correct course.

Flying Off into the Sunset

Saturday evening Patty and I joined some friends for a bit of Timberdoodling at the nearby Rancocas Nature Center.

Alas, while we did see and hear at least three and maybe as many as six of the target species, we as a group got not a single image.

Nor did we get pictures of the Bale Eagle pair that flew low over the meadow.

The sunset was pretty though.

There were however plenty of photo ops with Canada Geese.

Flock after flock flying over toward the Rancocas Creek.

The background color of the sky varying with the direction I was shooting.

While the Woodcock show was somewhat disappointing, overall it was a nice evening.

We will of course, be trying again.

Friday, February 21, 2020

If Not for the Deer Fence ...

... Our flowers would be under siege.

The barbarians are at the gates!

Or is it the vegetarians?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

If You Had Valentine's Weekend ...

... in your "When Will The First Flowers Bloom" pool, then you are a winner!

Galanthus nivalis, aka Snowdrops, are now blooming our yard.

A species native to Europe and Western Asia, introduced via garden trade to the Eastern US. Which is the route they took to our yard. One of the first flowers to bloom (duh!) they will even push through snow. Not that we're gonna get any snow around here (temps in the 50's F this weekend).

Last spring we visited Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve, and Patty again dreamed of having a variety of spring ephemerals in our yard and gardens. Something she had repeatedly put off, because of the deer.

But now we have a deer fence. And a hundred or so bulbs later, we've got flowers.

These flowers have naturalized in our area. They are poisonous to humans and, perhaps more importantly, deer (and other mammals), and thus are not treated as food by the local fauna. Although that means, like many introduced species, they contribute little to the local food web.

The good news is that most of those hundred or so bulbs are native. And as long was we have 70% or more native species in our yard, the local food web will be a healthy one. And we are safely above that limit.

So we are all winners.


The dead deer arrived in our yard on January 11th of this year. The first Fox images where recorded seventeen days later.

It seems he or she likes the place, as it is still showing up on the trail cam images to this day.


The Days Are Getting Longer

Which means that some days, when I leave work, I'm treated to scenes like this.

Sundogs, a fractured 22° Halo, hints of other arcs.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Hostile Takeover

Sending the Bluebirds scattering ...

... a Northern Flicker takes control of the suet ...

... until something bigger comes along?

Monday, February 10, 2020


Then again maybe not ...

January 14th.

February 8th.

Winter? What Winter?

🌷  🌺  🌷  🌸  🌷

Last fall Patty (finally!) ordered a whole lot of bulbs for the garden, after threatening to do so for several years. Native spring ephemerals. Which may now be winter ephemerals.

They are sprouting everywhere.

Meanwhile at the Suet Feeder ...

... a bit of drama ...

... and while a Pine Warbler remains above the fray ...

... a pair of male Eastern Bluebirds squabble over the suet cakes ...

... until a female Bluebird arrives to calm things down.

Sunday, February 9, 2020


A small reminder that it is still winter in these here parts.

Blue Bird Bath Time

Midwinter, February 2020.

A perfect day for a dip.

And for splashing around.

Next. Perhaps not obvious, but this is a second bird.

Very splashy!

Sixty plus degrees last week in the dead of winter.

The birdbath was the place to be.