Category Archives: PSA

Migratory restlessness

There is always something to savor at Cape May… any day, in any weather, at any season… something is always making its way through the skies overhead.

The time that holds the greatest interest for me is from late August until the middle of November: the fabled fall migration period. The variety of habitats: ocean and bay, salt marsh, freshwater ponds, dark swamps, woodlands and upland fields all attract a diverse array of migrants… hordes of butterflies and dragonflies, hawks and falcons, shorebirds, songbirds, bats, seabirds, owls – you name it!

Conveniently, the New Jersey Audubon Society throws out the welcome mat at one of the best times to experience migration at Cape May for its Autumn Weekend this year on October 24, 25, and 26.

Some of The Flock are getting restless and making preliminary plans to attend. Susan and KatDoc are driving from Ohio (and will hopefully avoid a stop in Camden), Lynne, I think, will cash in the ticket she bought last year and fly all the way from Minnesota (Yay!).

Other Flock members are saving their pennies for New River in April, but maybe they can be convinced otherwise. Mary, Delia, Susan, Nina, Ruthie, Jayne (can that be? Really, you’re gonna come?) – why not join us in Cape May, too? That farmhouse in W. Va. is gonna be pretty crowded and loud I think!

I’m also thinking maybe we should harass Larry into making the trip or Dave (hey – Alaska’s not that far and we could all get to meet Ghost!). Maybe Bobbie could join us for lunch and what about Heather in Pa.? The more the merrier!


I’ll sneak away there at least once before October – for the Monarchs that breeze past the lighthouse or the falcons that scream down along the dunes. I just can’t resist… there’s something in the air.

Dakota Driving

I think the people behind Birding Drives Dakota must be pretty smart: they understand that those of us from more heavily trafficked parts of the world are awed and befuddled by the emptiness of the prairie pothole region. It’s as if they anticipate that we’ll bliss out with the scenery and forget that we might just need directions to find all those prairie specialties.

They’ve conveniently created a couple maps and a glossy brochure to lead the directionally-challenged (like me!) to the best birding spots. I’d imagine it easy for more left-brained folks to navigate the right-angle distances, but I found myself constantly distracted by something… a group of pelicans kettling overhead… a jackrabbit running through a farm field… a pleasing look at cattle at the roadside… you name it! North Dakota was made for daydreamers like me, I think.

That being said, I was glad for the maps detailing the more than 600 miles of birding possibilities in the Jamestown/Carrington area alone. They make it easy to wander at will at your own pace and on your own schedule, which is the way I prefer to bird. I can handle only so much time spent in a bus with strangers peering out through dirty windows. Sure, I did some of the planned events with the festival, but there was also lots of time spent exploring in solitude, wondering what might be found at the next “X” on the map.

I wonder about the rest of you that’ve had the opportunity to attend a birding festival or two: would you rather have every minute of your trip planned and scheduled for you or, like me, do you appreciate the chance to be a little more adventurous?

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?

Posted: Invisible birds afoot

The perfect cure for cabin fever yesterday morning was the chance to be out in the sunshine while doing some manual labor to help protect nesting habitat for endangered Piping Plovers and Least Terns at Sandy Hook. A small group of volunteers showed up early in the cold to install symbolic fencing around critical nesting areas in the dunes at Gunnison and North Beach.

Sandy Hook hosts one third of New Jersey’s nesting population of Piping Plovers, but nest success has been quite variable in the last few years; the main challenges having been nest predation by red foxes, flooding and human disturbance.

It’s human disturbance that the fencing seeks to control. We installed flagged string line and signage every 50 feet along the dunes – hundreds of feet of string tied with little orange flags. My job was to count out the 50 ft. distance between signs, while those with more nimble fingers tied the string and the flags. We were a pretty small group, but got lots done thanks to the use of an auger to dig the holes for the posts; in years past every hole was done with a post-hole digger. What a recipe for sore shoulders! I think Sandy Hook has 8 protected nesting areas for plovers and terns; we completed only 3 of the 8, but other groups and the park rangers are responsible for the others.

The fencing is an attempt to keep people out of the high dunes where the plovers build their nests – people with coolers on their way to the water, people with dogs, people flying kites – any of those things could cause a nest to be abandoned or crushed underfoot.

Later in the season, around Memorial Day when the chicks are hatching, volunteers will *guard* the intertidal zone which will also then be closed to the public. The plovers and their newly hatched chicks use the intertidal zone to feed and if there’s too much activity by beachgoers the plovers can be stepped on or starve. I’ve volunteered this year to be a warden on weekends and to monitor the edge of the closed area from a beach chair – to keep people out of the intertidal zone during that critical time – and to try and educate beachgoers about why the area is closed off and why the plovers and terns are worth their losing access to the beach. You might not think it, but people get pretty pissed off about losing access to the beach. A friend of mine who’s been a warden for a number of years has often been given a hard time by people and even had her tires slashed. Can you imagine being that angry at someone who’s just trying to do a good thing for birds?

I didn’t spot any plovers yesterday, but they are back. Ospreys are due in this week. Spring at the shore and its birds are coming! I’m not sure when it’ll hit me, but one day soon I’ll have to sneak away from the office to greet it at Sandy Hook. Have a look here at last year’s spring fever post – also there is a link to one of my favorite pics of piping plover chicks – aren’t they adorable? Who wouldn’t want to spend weekends getting a tan to protect them?

And please, take a minute to read Julie Zickefoose’s essay
Offseasons which she mentioned in the comments on last year’s post. It’s a beautifully-written and touching essay and part of what made me decide to actually do something this year for these birds that I treasure so much, rather than just sitting back and complaining that not enough is being done, as I did last year. Thanks for the kick in the butt… I mean… the inspiration, Julie!

I’m including this last pic mostly for Susan, but also to mention that the nude beach at Gunnison is one of the larger areas where plovers choose to nest. Not sure that I’d want to be assigned to be a warden there, but at the very least I’d have plenty of reasons (old wrinkled ones) to get some long overdue reading done this summer!


The silence of the yams

Since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book last summer about eating locally (click to read my post about it), I’ve been on something of a kick with other *food* books when I come across a new one. Deb’s recent post on the subject, in which she shares her doubt about the viability of eating only locally grown products where she lives in Minnesota, made me feel a bit better about the difficulties I have in doing the same here – and let’s face it – the growing season in NJ is considerably longer than in Deb’s home state. Farmer’s markets here typically run from May through October only.

At any rate, I borrowed Skinny Bitch from a friend, mostly to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve never read a diet book in my life, and this one read a bit too much like one for my taste, but if you can get past the shock value of the language and past their insisting that vegan is the only healthy way to eat, you might just find something useful there. I could easily be vegetarian, but give up eggs and cheese and ice-cream? Well… I’m not there yet.

I’ve just about finished Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and find his measured approach a bit more helpful and, dare I say it, affirming of the food choices I regularly make. The crux of his *manifesto* is that we should eat food, but not too much of it, and mostly plants. The first two-thirds of the book are spent defining what *food is not* and explaining how the typical Western diet and our current focus on nutrition have caused so many of us to be unhealthy.

I don’t want to give away all of the gems of this book, but these are a few things that have really hit home with me:

*Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
*Avoid food products that are unfamiliar or unpronouceable.
*Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting!
*Shop the edges of the supermarket and avoid the middle where the *food-products* shout at you with their health claims, while the kale and carrots sit in silence on the periphery.
*Shop at farmer’s markets or CSA’s (click for a list) whenever possible. Shake the hand that feeds you.
*Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
*Eat well grown foods from healthy soils. Just as food sustains us, soil sustains everything that grows in it. Everything that is put into the soil should nurture and support its ability to give and sustain life.
*Pay more, eat less. Better food costs more to produce. Food needn’t be cheap, fast and easy.
*Try not to eat alone. A shared meal is part ritual, part culture.
*Only eat when you’re truly hungry and then eat slowly!
*Prepare your own food and plant a garden, however humble.

I’m not so inclined to recommend books, but this one is worth noting, I think, in that it offered me an eye-opening look into the food industry and how deliberately we’ve been led astray from what’s really good for us.

What I didn’t do

A while back, Beth at EasyEcoLiving tagged me to post about one thing I did at the holidays to lessen my footprint. I’ve avoided responding to her tag thus far because I couldn’t think of anything. Then it sort of dawned on me that, maybe, my laziness with all things Xmas this year might somehow be viewed as a good thing. How’s that for revisionist thinking?


I didn’t waste gas running around too much to buy gifts; I didn’t waste trees because I didn’t send any Xmas cards nor did I do very much wrapping.

Oh wait! I thought of one thing I did – I bought lots and lots of organic produce to feed to the multitudes that showed up here for dinner on Christmas Day. So there. I did something.


Feel free to play along if you like, here in comments or on your own blog. Share some tips for how to make next year’s holiday greener!

In case you haven’t already seen it, have a look at The Story of Stuff and maybe you’ll feel a little less inclined to ever do holiday shopping again.

Visiting with trees

What did the tree learn of the earth to confide in the sky?” –Pablo Neruda

Another of Neruda’s questions to ponder on a Friday night. This is one of the local trees that I keep track of and photograph now and again. Nice tree, nice view. I like to see it as the landscape around it changes. The fields just out of view have woodcock or meadowlarks in season. Maybe a bluebird or two. And harriers, usually, or a kestral. The day I took this pic I sat myself down in the tall grass there and watched a harrier for an hour or two with the sun on my face.

The leaves have finally fallen and there’s talk of a bit of snow for the weekend. Only just enough to be a nuisance, though.

The Festival of the Trees should be up and running by the time many of you read this tomorrow. Be sure to stop by for a visit.

The sun’s most gentle rays

The low light caught the velvet fur of Boomer’s ear while he dreamed bunny dreams late this afternoon. His sleepy eyes smiled at my hand against his nose… and he nudged me… a persuasion to again run my happy hand through his dark coat.

I don’t pick out sweet rabbits; they don’t come here silly, jumping figure-eights at my feet. They’re dumped, neglected, frightened. Or worse, like Boomer and some of the others here, sent to slaughter. I pass by that slaughterhouse on my way to work most days and wonder how many others come and meet their death in that place without ever knowing a gentle hand. I look away of course; I don’t have the courage to see what actually goes on there or to do the really hard work of going in and choosing which rabbits to rescue. But I’m glad to be able to support a local rescue that does.

Boomer is a survivor! A Flemish Giant, bred for show but not perfect, so he was sent to slaughter and netted his breeder about $10. His sister and companion, Cricket, passed away last May. A new slaughterhouse Flemmie, Sunshine, found her way to me shortly thereafter and has slowly worked her magic on Boomer’s broken heart. The big news here is that finally (after 6 months!) the two are spending the night together.


In the neighborhood

Vicki at A Mark on My Wall likes to refer to the people in her blogroll as her *neighborhood* and I’m stealing her jargon to point out some interesting posts you may have missed.

I don’t know about you, but when I decide to peruse another’s blogroll, I tend to start at the top and may never find my way down to the very bottom of the list. Because my list is alphabetical, I worry that you may be missing out on some fantastic blogs.

Way down at the end of the alphabet is Whorled Leaves, the nature reading blog I contribute to. We’ve been pretty quiet of late, but I have to suggest a book to the group in another month or two and would love some ideas from you all of a few good, nature-inspired books for our group to read and blog about together.

Walking the Berkshires is written by Tim, a friend at Whorled Leaves, and he recently wrote about a walk in the November woods that I found very beautiful. He’s starting a new blog carnival that he’s calling Cabinet of Curiosities to showcase the oddities in your attic. Tim’s blog is great fun for the history buff and I can also imagine Donna enjoying his occasional tales of his time spent in Africa.

Dave at Via Negativa recently wrote about a golden eagle that dropped into his family’s property in Pennsylvania. Check out the curve of those talons in the opening photo – spectacular! Dave stops by here from time to time and of late has been leaving haiku comments on the blogs he favors. Gotta love a poet!

FC at Pure Florida writes about all things…. well… Florida and this post momentarily (mostly that opening photo) made me think he had paid a visit to NJ. I love visiting his blog for the chance to read about *our* birds that have gone away, plus he finds the best things on his adventures.

Did you catch the current issue of the Festival of the Trees at Windywillow? (Scroll down as the there are two posts for this issue). The deadline for the December issue is the 29th of November. Submission guidelines can be found at the festival’s homepage.

Lastly, I’m obliged to mention that Mike at 10,000 Birds has a book giveaway offer for Bird: The Definitive Visual Guide which he reviewed here. Stop by to read the giveaway rules.

Whew – it’s a busy neighborhood!


This is what happens when you put a bored kid with a camera in the backseat while you and her mom drive around looking at scenery. She also took pics of the contents of my purse. And the sandy floor mats. Lots of pics of sandy floor mats.

Don’t forget to set your clocks back tonight. (Yes, I’m doing the happy dance because of that extra hour of sleep!) Although now that I think about it, it means that Luka will have me up at 4 to pee.


I’m at the bird observatory tomorrow so there’ll be beach pics for those of you missing the shore.