Southern oddities

Just a couple things that tickled me from along the way…

And you all tease me about NJ and its toll roads?

The particular pleasure of watching your fat expertly glazed at Krispy Kreme… ack… too sweet! And what’s up with *waffle houses* and *biscuit houses*? And sweet tea? But absolutely no decent coffee anywhere within a 50 mile radius?

The mountain version of internet service, evocative of the days when two tin cans and a length of string constituted phone service… and the folly of hosting 17-some bloggers who were then forced to pirate a wi-fi signal wherever possible.

A *new* river that flows north. Backwards.

Right. We don’t really do mountains in NJ. WTF?

Rare red trilliums that are um… white? Or is it yellow? I have so many pictures of trilliums I’ve forgotten who’s who. W. Virginia is awash in trilliums. They should better protect their flowered hillsides, I think.

The whole Southern fascination with B-B-Q. I never got a look at the pit, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t made out of half an old oil barrel.

I think this could probably be an on-going list, as we all remember things…


High country miscellany

Whoever was in charge of scheduling flock members for field trips did a good job of separating me from the more raucous members of our group. Maybe they somehow knew that adding me to the Susan, Mary, Lynne and Beth mix would just be too much for anyone to bear. As it was, I did trips with Kathie, KatDoc, Nina, Jane and Tim. One day, for Cranberry Glades, I was all by myself and very quiet and well-behaved.

I missed the chance to be silly with the others, but one benefit of being on different trips was that the others could tell me what to look forward to on each trip. The highlight of the High Country trip for everyone was the bobolink field that we visited late in the day. Bobolinks and Meadowlarks aren’t new birds for me, but seeing them this way, surrounded by mountain views, was a new joy.

Another joy, whenever I’m out birding, is meeting dogs along the way. These two local pups barked their way suspiciously into our group, and Jane, a self-proclaimed cat person, interrupted her quest for bobolinks for a little doggy-love.

Nina took this pic of me that I’ll use when I win Birder of the Year.


That little dog attached himself to my ankle. Cute!

I carried that ridiculous lens everywhere for a week and took all of three bird pictures. The next time I go to W. Va. in early May I’ll bring my macro lens so I can take pics of all the wonderful wildflowers that bloom there. I wish the festival would have advertised that aspect a bit better for the likes of me.

There were lots of little, slow moving things to take pics of that I couldn’t really give justice to with my big lens. I had to back up a half-mile to get this soft pic of a funny fungus we found growing in a little vernal pool. We tried making it into Golden Club, but decided instead that it was some fungus that I can’t remember the name of. Connie Toops stopped me at breakfast the following morning to tell me the name of it, and well… I hadn’t had enough coffee yet, I guess.

The second of my three bird pics… a sweet Chestnut-Sided Warbler. My eyesight is pretty poor and I tend to use my ears first for IDing birds, so I kept confusing these with Hooded Warblers which were everywhere! No matter how many times I listened to the songs of both on my birdJam or asked one of the field trip leaders to help me tell them apart, it didn’t help. At least the Chestnut-Sideds aren’t nearly so skulky as the Hooded Warblers.

I was hoping to see a bear at some point on the trip, but the closest I came was seeing some bear poop. I didn’t take pics of it, instead I was amused by everyone else taking pics of it. Silly birders!

World Series Day

Sandy Hook Century Run Team 2009

(except for the ones who bailed out before 5 pm.) Note Linda in front in dead bug posture.

We had a fantastic day and ended with 134 species! Wow! What I love about Sandy Hook, and what I guess I missed birding in W. Va. is variety and the chance to witness migration as it happens.

There were Palm Warblers in every beach plum

and Clapper Rails that played hide-and-seek all day long

cooperative Cuckoos

and Yellow Warblers willing to pose

and the most spectacular sunset to end the day.

But there were also flocks of shorebirds, and Blue Jays, and a nice little hawk movement when the fog finally lifted, and Fowler’s Toads calling in the dunes, and Nighthawks, and a Mississippi Kite or two, and night herons taking off from North Pond at dusk…

I could go on and on, but I’m tired enough to be delirious. 16 hours of birding will do that, I think.

A nearly shameless plug

This Saturday is World Series Day here in NJ when teams of birders set out to find as many species as possible in one day. I’ll be out there, for the 11th year in a row, with the Sandy Hook Century Run Team. My first year, it rained buckets all day and I’m afraid the weather is shaping up to be the same this Saturday.

Migration is at its peak in NJ during this, the second week in May, and all told World Series teams have raised more than 8 million dollars through the years for conservation causes.

Our team is birding in support of the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory where I volunteer and I’d love it if you’d toss some money our way! A fun way to pledge is an amount per species… we usually see between 120 – 130 species from dawn to dusk.

So far I have pledges for 37 1/2 cents per species… I’m hoping to get that to $2.00 per species. Leave me a comment if you’d like to pledge.

Thanks! Wish us luck!

A place for silence

A visit to Cranberry Glades Botanical Area was the field trip I was most looking forward to in West Virginia. Part of the Monongahela National Forest, these wetlands hold plants more typically found much further north; ones I know from the Pine Barrens here in NJ and from my visits to the bogs of the Adirondacks. The landscape is unexpected and especially beautiful for its peculiarity here.

A half-mile boardwalk through the glades and surrounding bog forest protects the fragile environment while allowing close looks at False Hellebore and Marsh Marigold growing among Red Spruce, Hemlock and Yellow Birch trees, all of which can live shallow-rooted in such a wet area. Late summer will have the glades stippled with Orchids and Cotton Grass under a bluer than blue sky. Sundews and Pitcher Plants will be devouring insects under the hot sun.

The views are dramatic: rimmed by mountain ridges and pines, made even more primordial steeped in fog, garnet-colored Cranberries leftover from last fall lie hidden among the tiny vines covering the peat and Bog Rosemary and Serviceberry were in bloom. You can see winter there, still, up on the ridge. Cranberry Glades is nestled in a bowl among the mountains at 3400 feet.

As is my habit, I fell back from the group at every opportunity, preferring instead the tranquility of Hemlocks and Rhododendrons bathed in sunlight. Louisiana Waterthrushes and Blackburnian Warblers sang insistently with the Spring Peepers as I tried to appreciate the lack of human noise in this otherwordly place. Ravens called to one another above me.

Moments of grace and beauty were plentiful on this trip. My camera captured only a few of them, but being out there to experience them fully is what makes the day for me. I struggled for pics of the Canada Warbler that taunted and sang just out of view, but once I gave up on that, this little guy popped up and posed as pretty as could be.

A flock pic

and this isn’t even all of us!

We bloggers pretty much invaded the New River Birding and Nature Festival this year… whether as a part of the Flock, friends of the Flock, or as leaders on the various field trips.

At times we were so loud and obnoxious, I thought for sure they would kick us out and beg us never to return.


Not me, of course, I’m the quiet one.

Pictured above, in the back row are Bill Thompson, Tim, Nina, Jane, Barb, Kathie, Lynne and me

Next are Beth, Kathi and Mary (who saw 38 life birds and as of Saturday couldn’t remember one of them!)

Bunched up in the front are Jane, Kathie and Susan.

Not there for the photo, but also blogging about the festival were Kathleen, Julie Zickefoose, Jim McCormac and Jeff Gordon (who can really sing – who knew?)

There’s plenty of talent and diverse persepctives on that list to keep you all busy while I unpack and do laundry.

Enjoy browsing!

Planes, trains and automobiles

Susan took this snarky pic of me last night during the last couple moments of the New River Birding and Nature Festival and I wondered where I’d find a use for it.


She, apparently, had a leisurely drive home from West Virginia and has found time to blog some about our week there. And insists that we all do the same. Tonight.

Laura thumbs her nose at Susan again.

My trip home involved two car rides, three airports, one really slow shuttle bus and a couple too many hours in the Cincinnati airport.

All’s well that ends well, but I’m exhausted after thirteen plus hours getting here and anything more than a tired smile will have to wait until tomorrow.