Category Archives: In the new neighborhood

Considering Scaup with Crossley

So there’s been this huge flock of Scaup resting at the base of the Oceanic Bridge between Rumson and Middletown the last couple weeks… quite the spectacle for local folks who never pay attention to such a thing.

Busy with tennis and lunch dates, you know.


I was glad to find people there, glad to find “normal” people curious about this big conglomeration of ducks that seemed to appear from nowhere.

The great mass of them were Scaup sp. with a couple Red Heads mixed in, Brant and Ruddies at the fringes of the flock.

While I “know” that these are mostly Greater Scaup, I wondered what wisdom Crossley might have to offer…

Lesser on the left… Greater on the right

Greater is known to form large flocks in winter in coastal estuaries.


Frequently mixes with very similar Lesser Scaup.


Sometimes obvious, but at other times separating from Lesser a real head-scratcher.


Iridescent green head often appears black, but rarely purple.


I finally saw that purple iridescence on a couple Lessers on Lake Como this weekend and it’s so very obvious when the light is right…

(one hardly needs to pay attention to the bulgy cheeks of the Greaters that Crossley mentions!)

I’m enjoying sorting through the local waterfowl with the new Crossley Guide… have you bought a copy yet? What do you think?

Strange bedfellows

All the little ponds here along the coast are frozen solid, mostly. Each has at least some open water and that’s where all the birds are congregating. Fletcher Lake between Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach had this Great Blue Heron (who looks scarily hungry for some Mallard flesh!), many Mallards, a couple white domestic ducks, a Pintail(!!!), a Wigeon and a Black-crowned night heron sleeping along the shoreline.

A couple blocks away in Spring Lake we found a single Snow Goose feeding on the postcard-sized lawn of a beach house with a small group of Canada Geese.


I find myself inclined to worry about wildlife when everything is frozen and snow-covered, but remind myself that wild things are good at surviving. They do much better than I ever could, for sure…

Ducks around town

I’m lucky to live along the coast and in a place where ducks like to be in winter; each town has its’ own little pond just a block in from the ocean and each seems to attract a particular variety of waterfowl…

Traveling from one pond to the next is half the fun; discovering what has shown up since last weekend is the best part. Gadwall are a nice find and under-appreciated, I think… that speckled zig-zaggeyness of their bellies is gorgeous, no?

I have trouble remembering the names of each pond or distinguishing one from the next along the circuitous route I follow by habit from town to town; I know to expect Ruddy Ducks here, but

I think of this as the Night Heron Pond (Silver Lake, I think) because there’s always at least a dozen of them roosting in the shrubbery on a little island in the middle of the pond. I can sit down out of the wind and watch them materialize before my eyes. We counted 14 today without really trying and that number will increase as it gets colder.

Hooded Mergansers seem to be everywhere, on every little pond, but getting a decent pic of one is forever challenging.

Lake Takanassee is a favored spot for Ring-Necked Duck (not here last weekend!) Canvasbacks and in a good year, Red Heads. There’s always gulls to sort through, if you’re so inclined (I’m not) and the light in late afternoon is sweet for photos of the Mute Swans that seem to be taking over there.


The day ends at Sandy Hook with the wind, watching Gannets feeding over the hunched-up shoulders of some very cold-looking fishermen, Manhattan in the distance and kite surfers on the bay.

Memento mori

There is no need for me to keep a skull on my desk,

to stand with one foot upon the ruins of Rome,

or wear a locket with the sliver of a saint’s bone.

It is enough to realize that every common object

in this sunny little room will outlive me.*

Yet another vacant lot in Asbury Park where urban blight is being reimagined daily as art (or kitsch?) The long abandoned foundation pillars were wrapped in colorful fabric months ago by a local artist; the stone cairns and mementos left behind lately seem a futile offering to the fickle gods of real estate development.

*from Memento Mori by Billy Collins