Some favorites from a day spent in the Pine Barrens…

A Fowler’s Toad who was nice enough to let me get right up in his face.
Hold onto your seats! This is a really, really rare plant… Curly Grass Fern… it’s only about an inch tall.
I had company in my wanderings today, and this sweet lady had the patience to puzzle through her wildflower guide with me… we were trying to sort out the difference between Staggerbush and Fetterbush.
Beautiful! Rick Radis found Turkey Beard for us… I’d been looking for this for a couple years… now I know a spot to find it!
A dung ball… sans the accompanying beetles… I scared them off trying to get a better pic of them… very cool, anyway.

31 in my 38 by 39.

Good things and W. Va.

things with feathers, susan and the laugh that breaks free and gets loose, barred owls that talk back, dessert with every meal, curvy busrides, porch swings and the secrets they gently coax out of the dark, breakfast with bats, kathie’s meticulous journaling, mountainsides that leak water and are drenched in wildflowers, the happy sound of laughter late at night, round hay bales and curious cows, a dry set of clothes before dinner, fitting in easily, small brindled dogs, ramps, nina’s quiet smile, the squishy sound of mud underfoot, buttercups in the side yard, the first sweetcorn of the season, ovenbirds that court under a blanket of stars, a bowl of pistachios shared over the day’s photos, ironed-dry jeans, biscuits with everything, cowbell on the fly, people who imitate the drumming of grouse, morrells with scrambled eggs…

Help me to remember more?

Linda’s shoes

“There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home,” is my chuckled refrain at her throughout the workday whenever she wears them.

Despite my teasing, she knows I love those shoes and envy her the ability to carry them off.

It’s not so much the shoes that I love as much as what I imagine them to say about her.

My personal version of shoe therapy is a pair of black converse sneakers. I’ll wear them to work sometimes just to see people look at me sort of cross-eyed. That makes me a little more happy, somehow, like Linda’s red shoes.

Are shoes an unconscious signal to a particular mood for you, too? A hint, maybe, that you’re feeling sassy or fearless or… ?

From under a rock she appears…


I’ve no good excuse for going missing for nearly a week, other than an almost total lack of photographic evidence of what I’ve been up to.


There’s this, though.

A six-spotted tiger beetle that amused me for a couple minutes along a sunny path at Allaire State Park the other day. I only ever see them there… not sure why, exactly. Very pretty, as beetles go.

I’d missed out on any trips to Allaire earlier this Spring because I was in W. Virginia with The Flock. Allaire is a great local spot for warblers in migration and has some nice breeders. Best find was a Prothonotary Warbler. Anyone know if they breed there? Patrick?

I was hoping for Pink Lady Slipper Orchids, but was either too late or too early or too distracted to find any. There were Canada Mayflowers blooming, but those are so tiny and hide out in the underbrush so my pics are especially awful.

I’ll be around to catch up with you all in the next couple days and may finally try to sort through all those pics from New River.

I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day…

Such singing

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves–
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness–
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree–
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing–
it was the bird for sure, but it seemed

not a single bird, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky – all, all of them

were singing.
And, of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then–open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

“Such Singing in the Wild Branches” by Mary Oliver

Just a gentle reminder that Spring is passing, birds are migrating, wildflowers are blooming… get out and find it before it’s done!

Teacher bird

A funny thing about birds in the hand; they’re so much smaller than we realize. Sometimes it’s even difficult to recognize them for a moment or two, I guess because we’re not used to seeing them in so much detail.

Or at least I’m not.


Says Laura who refuses to wear her glasses when birding.

Ovenbirds are handsome warblers; an olive-green back and a white waistcoat spotted and streaked like a thrush. And they have very big eyes! They like to make their dutch-oven shaped nests on slopes in deciduous woods, on the forest floor.

Theirs was one of the first warbler songs I learned, because it’s so easy to recognize and so loud! When I first put bird and song together, I was surprised to imagine all that noise coming from such a tiny, inconspicuous-looking bird. Their only bit of color comes from that black-rimmed orange stripe across the top of the head.

The farmhouse we stayed at in W. Virginia was blessed with many ovenbirds in the surrounding woods. That was quite a treat for me as I’m used to having to *go* somewhere to hear their song. Something neat I learned about them there is that they sing at night… a funny sort of flight song, but I can’t find it referenced in any of my bird books. Anyone know any more about that?

Please click on the pics to make them bigger, especially that first one. It’s sure to make you smile.


Juliet’s snared you, little one, perhaps startled you into our nets…

interrupted your song or nest-building to carry you away for a moment…

our temporary prisoner, an object of study.

Tom wants only to fit you with a tiny numbered bracelet…

and to blow gentle kisses among the feathers of your breast…

to measure the distance of your wings and the length of longing in your journey…

to hold you up for a portrait; your bright eye looking to the sky for escape…

to release you, your bit of fire no longer contained; his open palm and our thanks for this moment in your life.

Sandy Hook Bird Observatory and CUNY-CSI are partnering in a banding study of spring/fall migrants, as well as breeding birds, at Sandy Hook. They put out a call for volunteers to help with recording data and running birds from the nets to the banders. Between schedules and poor weather, today was the first chance I had to help out and so I spent the dawn hours today with them, mostly trying to stay out of the way and taking pics.

#17 in my 38 by 39. Time is running short…

Skywatch Friday: Devil’s Courthouse

Devil’s Courthouse from the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Elevation 5720.

Even the vocabulary is unfamiliar to me: ridge, gap, valley, pass, switchback, hollow, notch. There’s been very little in my upbringing to acquaint me with a love for the mountains or the many words used to characterize them. I grew up in another place, with other treasures.

I’ve played in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks as an adult, where instead of sweeping views, one gets mostly strained glances at the sky through bare branches. These mountains are not so jumbled and rough; instead they’re all curves and circles, bulges and dimples and woods that go on forever uninterrupted.

For all that it felt exotic and alien, my spirits were lifted by the visible rush of spring as it crept up the mountainsides and the sweet light of sunset polishing the days. The throaty croak of ravens flying in tandem in a valley below, dark woods shot through with gleaming white dogwood blossoms, tiny hemlock cones and banks of trillium; all spoke to that part of my heart that gasps at such sights.

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