Hope, muted

Winter just got a little sand-colored, orange-legged, breast-banded stake driven through its icy heart.*

I made my March pilgrimage this weekend to greet the newly-arrived Piping Plover at Sandy Hook, where it felt very gray and wet and winter-like, but hopeful, still. Woodcock are next, if it’ll ever stop raining and blowing!

*C. Vogel, quoted without permission from Jersey Birds, on his find of a Piping Plover at Cape May yesterday.

We nearly froze, but…

A poor photo of a lovely group of people…

The Monmouth County Audubon Society sponsors free monthly walks, regardless of the weather.


This day, early last month, we nearly froze to death at Sandy Hook, but saw Long-Tailed Ducks, Common Eiders, lots of Harbor Seals basking in the sun, and an Iceland Gull.

I’ve been responsible for planning these field trips for a couple years now and so have developed a sense of who our customers are… mostly beginners and plenty of kids dragged outdoors by their parents… plus there’s Marty.


Marty (pictured far right, smiling) is a regular on our field trips, yet I’ve never seen him at any of our monthly meetings… curious, that.

Our next scheduled outing is Saturday, March 28th at Monmouth Battlefield State Park (Marty will be there, I’m sure!)… after that it’s Saturday, April 17th, again at Sandy Hook for Osprey, Piping Plovers and other early migrants…

We’d love to have you!


Mostly it’s quiet here as I wait for signs of Spring…

but there’s been Red-Wings and Grackles the last few days…

(still no Phoebe or Plover)

but I’ve not been properly out, yet…


Winter ducks seem mostly gone from the places I know…

Instead there’s this:

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens

There were a couple minutes at lunch when I closed my eyes and imagined it July. That felt nice (and especially warm!)

I’m still waiting for a day to inspire Spring-fever in me…

March means…

Everything has its season, but no season is without color and life, wonder and surprise. He who would know the world of which he is a part must know the way the January wind shapes a snowdrift as well as the ecstasy with which an oriole greets the June dawn.
–Hal Borland

A chance at #23.
Skunk cabbage and, with luck, Hepatica.
That first Phoebe.
Pussy willows.
Grackles and Red-wing blackbirds.
The sun streaming through the bedroom window again when I wake up.
Piping plovers!
Returning Osprey!
Girl Scout cookies.

What are you looking forward to as Winter ends?


More from the flower show in Philly:

Playing with focus

Playing with color

Playing with both = MAGIC

I do a lot of playing with my camera and I make a lot of mistakes… probably those two necessarily go together. Once in a while though, something cool happens, as if by magic.

I know… the key to making that magic happen all the time is understanding and actually applying the science behind photography.

I’m only just learning to use the camera outside the comfort of automatic mode… I like portrait mode best, for its shallow depth of field, but the challenges of working outside of automatic, with aperture priority, sometimes feel too much like a math test that I forgot to study for and I just want to make a pretty picture, you know?


Add to the equation the vagaries of ISO and shutter speeds and trying to take pictures of things with wings and BLECH!! Any sense of creativity and fun is lost for me. I guess I’m mostly interested in the magic, when it happens… the mystery of the process makes photography very compelling (and intimidating!) for me.

So anyway, a little at a time I’m forcing myself to use what I understand about f-stops and all that crap… and I’m deleting dozens and dozens of photos as I learn, but celebrating the magic when it happens.

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About the flower display, called Global Terrain, the artist’s statement reads: “
The way land and sea are represented and form the texture of maps — inspired this unique display. Multiple vases and arrangements of thistle, delphinium, baby’s breath, trachilium and other plant varieties are used to replicate the look and feel of these three-dimensional depictions of the world.

I’ve only focused on a couple small parts of the display here… but Steve has a pic of the overall effect… it was really breathtaking, yet sadly difficult to photograph well, I think.

A couple reasons to see St Marks NWR

Reason #1: There was a blizzard raging back home in NJ when I took this pic of the lighthouse at St. Marks… I was barefoot with my toes in the muck.


Reason #2: More Redheads than a person could easily count. Jay from birdJam (Hi Jay!) has been talking up St. Marks for ages, but I hardly believed anyplace could have better ducks than NJ. Granted, there wasn’t the variety that I’m spoiled with in NJ, but I didn’t have to freeze my butt off to see these ducks, either.

There is something very magical about seeing “winter ducks” with tree swallows twittering low above their heads.


Reason #3: Purple Martins in February!

I’ve hardly seen a Purple Martin sit still, let alone bask on the blacktop for warmth… they all looked pretty miserable because it was so cold for a Florida winter.

Reason #4: Alligators… alligator awareness must be a learned habit. I had to keep reminding myself of their possibility… I’m pretty sure the gators at St Marks serve as an efficient population control for all the Coots that winter there.


Reason #5: Palm tree-inspired views… every so often a small squadron of Brown Pelicans would interrupt the horizon and my daydreaming. White Ibis and Tri-Colored Herons were a treat, too.

Reason #6: St. Marks is just a beautiful place, especially so in mid-winter at sunset.

I wrote more about my visit to the refuge here and here and here and here.