Meet the new neighbors

I’m using the word ‘neighbor’ very broadly, of course, but these two eaglets set a state record, so I’m allowed to be proud! Their nest is very easily viewed and is conveniently located at one of the nicest county parks in my area.

This nest is one of 3 or 4 in my county; another is within a mile or two of home, but the exact location of that nest is a well-guarded secret. I don’t have bald eagle on my yard list, yet, but someday soon I’m sure I will.

Photo from the Asbury Park Press. Full story available here.

Spring pitch

It’s time for me to pitch the Cape May Spring Weekend to any of you that might be interested in the chance to see Cape May and its birds in the Spring. I know Susan is pushing hard for the flock to head to Magee Marsh and she’s promising foot rubs, but Ohio’s the weekend before and why not make a week of it and stop by NJ on the way home?


Click on the link above for details. The spring weekend has an entirely different feel than the fall (and hopefully it won’t rain the whole time again!) and is worth the trip, if for nothing else than the diminishing spectacle of shorebird migration along Delaware Bay. They’re also offering those wonderful back bay cruises that were cancelled for the fall festival.

I haven’t been down in the spring for a few years and it makes me sad to know that my memories of stopover shorebirds are history, even now.

Anyway… anybody want to think about it?

Overheard at the bird observatory

An egg story to rival Delia’s:

“Hello? Is this the Audubon?”

You can assume this means trouble at 10 am on a Sunday morning.

“We had a bunch of dead trees cut down in our yard…”

Uh oh. Why don’t people know enough to do this in the Fall?

“and my husband was cleaning up the stump grindings and found this egg…”

Oh dear.

“buried about four inches down in the dirt.”


“It’s huge! And I know it’s an owl egg because my neighbor is one of those people that’s into all that nature stuff and she looked it up on the Internet and she says that owls burrow down, you know, to make their nests and…”

The bird observatory is located in NJ. The person was calling from NJ.

“and the egg must weigh at least a pound and I think it’s still alive so I put it in a basket..”

Wasn’t Easter a couple weeks ago already?

“and filled the basket up with dirt and buried the egg again and it’s been out on my deck for the last couple days..”

In the sun, I hope.

“and I’m not sure what I should do because I think it’s alive and it’s so heavy and could I bring it to you and you’ll tell me what it is and maybe take care of it or whatever?”

Sure… bring it on over. We’ll sit on it and hatch it for you.


How do you think I handled this particular phone call? With patience? Did I cackle in this woman’s ear or take the rare opportunity to educate?

No. I asked her if she was certain it wasn’t just a really big rock.

Or a dinosaur egg, maybe.

Comfort foods

When I was a kid, one of my most favorite things to eat was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the dark blue box. You cooked the macaroni, added some milk and margarine and the little packet of powdered ‘cheese’and voila! Add a little salt and lots of pepper and it was delicious. (Still is, if I’m being honest.) My dad never wanted to believe that I loved the stuff so much, I mean… it only cost 49 cents for the whole box! He tried to convince me that the more expensive box, the ‘creamier’ version with the little package of cheez-whiz-like-stuff, must be better. I’d have none of it.

There’s probably nothing better than homemade mac and cheese, and the way my mom made it was delicicous, but dad could never quite master the recipe, for whatever reason. So I guess that’s partly why I liked the stuff in the box so well. Dad would try to dress it up with hot dogs or canned tomatoes, to make it seem more like something ‘worth’ eating, but no amount of improvisation beat the stuff straight out of the box for me.

Well! I found a recipe that I love. It’s simple enough, but grown up with Gruyere cheese and extra-sharp cheddar, nearly a pound of cheese, and a quart of whole milk. Yummy! I add some vine-ripened tomatoes on top with fresh bread crumbs and it’s sinfully delicious, but certainly not low-fat. But, who cares, right? Comfort food, pure and simple. Plus, the recipe makes enough for a week’s worth of lunches.

Any favorites from your childhood? SpaghettiOs? Cinnamon toast? Hamburger Helper? Have you managed to improve upon them as a grown-up?


A Jersey Girl manifesto

OK. So… Susan’s making fun of me. I’ll own up to my deep dark secret. I don’t know know how to pump gas.

Do you still like me anyway?

I tried to think of something I could make fun of Susan for. Couldn’t think of anything. Couldn’t find a single thing online, even, to make fun of her for or anything about that place in the middle of nowhere that she’s from. That says something, I think. There’s lots written about NJ and lots written about Jersey Girls. Making fun of us is a hot topic, almost. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about us, even. You don’t hear anyone singing songs about Mid-Western girls. So there.

Anyway, I spent a couple hours with my tongue in my cheek and came up with this, excerpted from a dozen different sources and meant to make you wish you were me, or at least, wish you were from NJ.

I was born and raised in NJ and while I often feel very damaged by this, I’m still pretty proud of it. I know what real pizza tastes like, and I know that a bagel is much more than a roll with a hole in the middle. I judge people by what exit they get off the Parkway. I can navigate a traffic circle–with attitude. I know that 65 mph really means 80. When someone cuts me off, they get the horn AND the finger. And they expect it. It’s a sub, not a hoagie or, worse yet, a hero, and I wash it down with soda, not pop. Yes, I drink cawfee, and lots of it. I’ve always lived within 10 minutes of a mall.

In NJ, I can watch the sun rise on the east coast and watch it set on the west. I can climb a mountain in the morning, swim in the ocean in the afternoon, and get robbed at gunpoint in Camden by night. It’s the only state where massive oil refineries and dairy farms are just a few miles apart.

Where I’m from… the shore… makeup, shoes and bras are optional, salty hair and sand under the fingernails a given, a strong attitude and a tough mouth a plus. I say what I mean and I’ve got a nice, cheerful laugh. I’m a Jersey Girl, and I’m one of the Garden State’s most enduring icons- a readily identifiable personality, as much a part of America’s cultural landscape as that other great Jerseyan, Frank Sinatra. I’m spunky and witty. I’ve got confidence- everyone from New Jersey has that confidence. A Jersey Girl is crunchy on the outside, and soft in the center. At the center of the crunchy sweet exterior, I’m tuned in and know how and what I’m working.

The Jersey Girl mystique is hard to put into words. One would never say earthy-that’s way too California. Gritty gets closer when you understand that a true Jersey Girl sleeps just fine with sand in the bed. Jersey Girls go to the beach, or “down the Shore” They’re not formal. We know good corn and tomatoes when we taste them, and we never pump our own gas!!!

So there.


Is there anything people from your part of the blogosphere are known for or made fun of for? Big hair or a bad accent or ?

Woodland stirrings…

I made it back this week to the woods and the little brook to see the beginnings of Spring emerging…
There were just a few Spring Beauties blooming, hidden among the more vigorous periwinkle. The miracle here is in the beginning… the budding that is happening everywhere in the woods. The willows are impatient, as are the swamp maples with their reddish haze; both reaching from their winter nakedness to the early sunlight for encouragement.

Flecks of gold from an early trout lily nestled in the fallen leaves of winter. Here is beauty perfected… ephemeral yet timeless in its allure. No sooner will they bloom and they’ll begin to fade, a part of the process and wonder of the season.

Squill was the flower of the moment this day and the early bees were paying attention to its carpet of offerings, however slight their nectar. My father always claimed Spring as his favorite season and as much as I love the Fall, I’m seeing now how we need Spring, or our hearts need the Spring and the chance to participate with time and sunshine; to be a part of that partnership.

The photographer’s assistant was most interested in partnering with the forest faeries to cast shade where it wasn’t wanted, or to set his rear on the prettiest patches of Squill to compete with their handsomeness, or to sample the edibility of fresh Skunk Cabbage leaves… (“Ick”, says Luka.)

Spring. Have you tasted it yet?


Birding in Delia’s backyard

Susan seems to think I have all these fabulous photos to share with you from our visit with Delia. Well… I don’t. I carried that darn camera with me everywhere and was distracted with laughing most of the time and didn’t get very many nice pics. But, there is this one from Delia’s backyard – isn’t it fabulous? As much as I love being near to the shore, I can easily imagine myself happy to have a view like this out my kitchen window. I’ve no idea what type of trees those are up on top of that mountain, but if they ever turn green or in the fall are colored with reds and yellows, and oranges – wow! Delia called that a ‘hill’ rather than a mountain, by the way, but to me used to the coast it all seemed pretty spectacular. Please click on the pic to enlarge!

It was really neat to see the places that Delia blogs about. It felt to me like she lives in the middle of nowhere, but that must come from my being too accustomed to traffic and noise and people. Made me wonder what in the world they do with themselves! But then I remembered when I first started reading Delia’s blog and she talked about building her own scope from scratch for birding, and then making an adapter for her camera for the scope she finally bought, and her posts about moon and starwatching, and all the time she spends birding in the marsh that’s in her backyard. Anyway… it seems like a nice life there in the ‘hills’ – even if there’s only one Dunkin Donuts within a hundred miles and you have to pump your own gas!

(Don’t ask – I’m sure Susan will embarass me with that story – even if she doesn’t have photos!)

So, we spent a couple hours ambling through the marsh, talking and laughing like old friends – which felt really nice – and doing the things that birders and naturalists like to do. Only we weren’t really serious about it, or didn’t bother trying to pretend to be serious. We just had fun in that easy way that near strangers can when they share a common interest. We scared up lots of ducks with our laughter, and thought of Lynne when we saw a TV, puzzled over some bloody feathers along the trail, spotted a stinker for Mary as it flew over the marsh, Susan and Delia chimped their way through a pile of canine scat – while I kept my fingers clean behind the camera! Good, clean fun… but for the picking through poop – come on girls! Yuck.

In the end, I came away feeling like a 10 year-old, jumping through mudpuddles with the silliness of it all. Who in their right mind drives all that way to show support for a friend, misses the main reason for going to begin with, and then is perfectly happy with a few hours of backyard birding and wet muddy feet before a long ride back home? (Click here for the story and opposite view of this pic.)

What I mean to say is that I’m so often amazed with the friendships that’ve developed as a result of this silly blogging we all do, yet furthering those friendships beyond just reading one another’s blogs feels like a very natural extension of the connections we’ve made here. I think to others who don’t ‘get it’, it must all seem pretty peculiar, yet we bloggers all carry around little bits of each other and one another’s lives, don’t we? Going out of our way a bit and meeting in ‘real life’ makes it feel almost like a homecoming of sorts. Or a 20 year class reunion… you remember these people, but you’re surprised with how your memory of them has changed since you last saw them (or read their most recent post.)