Category Archives: In the neighborhood


The iceboaters weren’t the only ones enjoying the ice on the river this weekend. Lots of people came out to skate and play hockey. They were also plenty of dog walkers. I watched this pair for half an hour or so – laughing the whole time. Each started out with some trepidation when first on the ice.

But nervousness quickly turned to doggy-glee and silliness.

There was lots of racing around and the inevitable sliding when trying to stop.

I’m not sure what you call this, but it looked like fun and less dangerous than the boating. I’d imagine their arms must get tired.

These two wandered at will on the ice and didn’t get run over or cause any accidents

I went back today and saw some of the beautiful large iceboats. Many of the older ones are made of wood and are passed down in families. I’m just too lazy this eveining to download those pics from the camera. The ice at shore was getting soft by late this afternoon, but that didn’t stop some fools with baby carriages (can you imagine!) from going for a stroll on the ice.

I also went today to a *Seal Walk* out at Sandy Hook, but that was a total bust; there was a huge turnout – must have been at least a hundred people – but no seals. I’ll keep my eye out for them and hopefully will spot a few one of these days.

Come sail away

Just be sure to dress warm!

I’ve been waiting all week for the Navesink River to freeze up enough, in hopes that the iceboaters would come out of the woodwork, and today they did! Aren’t they beautiful?

Unlike regular sailing, in iceboating there is minimal friction, so you can sail upward of five times the speed of the wind. Therein lies the thrill. Sitting low, so close to the ice, they say it feels like you’re going 100 miles an hour. Sometimes the wind is so strong that only one side of the boat makes contact with the ice. Can you imagine the thrill?

The Navesink only freezes every three or four years, so the people who practice the sport have to travel to wherever the ice is, and we spectators have to wait for the chance to watch them. I’m hoping tomorrow will bring the bigger boats and the races; a regatta of sorts.

Officer’s Row

Volunteer day again at the bird observatory and I didn’t see a soul out at Sandy Hook – not even any fishermen – so you know it had to be bad! The wind was really whipping across the bay and it felt like the frozen arctic today.

The bird observatory is housed in that smaller building all the way to the right, partially hidden by the sycamores and hackberry trees that grow around it. There’s a long row of 18 buildings like this that front the bay and which are known as Officer’s Row from when Fort Hancock was an active army post. There’s all sorts of gun batteries and nike missile sites that I may bore you with photos of someday. Anyway, nowadays most of the officer’s quarters are empty except for a few local environmental organizations like NJ Audubon, the Littoral Society, and Clean Ocean Action. A pair of Osprey usually nests on the chimney of one of these buildings each summer also.

On summer days when I volunteer I love to sit out on our porch and watch the bay; I even like to do it on reasonably mild winter days. The sunsets on the bay are spectacular! Even though our building is smaller than the officer’s housing (I think it used to be the doctor’s quarters and the hospital was next door) I imagine it was a very nice place to live. Not so on days like today with that wind! Keeping house must have been nightmarish too, with the constant salt-spray on the windows, not to mention the sand being tracked in all the time. These are the things I think about to pass the time when no one visits.

Winter beach

Given a choice, where would you spend a winter’s day? Deep in a forest, high on a snowy mountain, beside a quiet lake? Hawaii? In the absence of other options I choose the beach. Fall is my favorite season at the ocean, but a February day at the shore with a biting wind makes a person really appreciate the comforts and warmth of home. I think I need to be reminded of just how blessed I am, especially at this time of year, when the walls are closing in on me.

For a person who’s attuned to nature and the cycle of the seasons, February holds the promise of Spring to come. Our winter birds will begin singing this month and the great flocks of Grackles and Red-Wing Blackbirds that mark winter’s passage should arrive. Great Horned Owls are nesting. Skunk cabbage will poke its head out in wet places by month’s end and red maples should begin to show some color at the branch tips.

It’s still winter in February at the shore. There is ice and wind, and solitude. The Oldsquaw and Mergansers court on the glassy surface of the bay. There is little color to distract you from the cold, but for the occasional glint of sea glass brought ashore by the wind. With luck you might find a harbor seal hauled up from the bay to bask in the sun at low tide. An exceptional year for the birder would find a snowy owl in the dunes at North Beach. To repay your wanderings in the wind and cold there might be a small flock of snow buntings instead of a snowy. There are rewards to be found, for sure. Spring peepers and woodcock and plovers are just around the corner.


The contented person enjoys the scenery of a detour. – Author Unknown

I headed out of the house late this afternoon with scope and camera and no real plan about where I might end up. I was hoping to find the large rafts of scaup and goldeneye than I’d heard mentioned on the bird hotlines; the river had begun to freeze during the last few days of cold weather so I thought they might be hanging out in the bay, but there were only the usuals there.

I know of one other spot on the river where large groups of scaup often settle and set about trying to get there. The problem is access. While I live in an area surrounded by rivers and marshes and the ocean, it’s near impossible to get to any of them because of the multi-million dollar homes that line the shores of every waterway. I swear those views are wasted on the wealthy! We commoners have to settle for the view from the one public dock along the river or the bridge that spans it, but of course the ducks were nestled in that little cove beneath the castle on the far shore. The dead end street that runs beneath some of those mansions on the water is often a good place to see ducks close, but when I finally found my way there today and got ready to set up my scope – along came two fire trucks with sirens blazing, followed by a few police cars, and then the blue-light yahoos and off the ducks went to the far shore of the river.

But I did have this view from the day – from the bay side at Sandy Hook with the company of gulls and a few cold fisherman.

Take my picture, please?

Last weekend while I was driving around looking at *fancy* ducks at some of the coastal ponds in the area I was approached by this pretty lady(?) and her companion. I was trying to take some pics of a pair of canvasbacks from my car. All of the ducks were in the middle of the pond – too far away even for the long lens – but these two saw me stopped at the roadside and swam over, got out of the water, and climbed up the bank and stood beside the car eyeballing me. I felt bad for not appreciating their more common beauty, so I switched lenses and took a few photos while they posed so nicely. Why can’t the canvasbacks and hoodies be this cooperative?

I’m kidding, of course. This duck wasn’t interested in having her picture taken – she was looking for a handout. I didn’t have a single thing to offer her, not that I would have anyway. There’s a reason the ponds are posted with “no feeding the waterfowl” signs.

All of the ponds the ducks frequent (both migratory and domestic) are in residential areas, surrounded by homes. Most are passive-use municipal parks and often attract large numbers of Canada Geese and Mute Swans. People using the parks like to feed them and that attracts more of the beggars and probably drives away the migrant waterfowl. It also dirties the water, and in the case of Wreck Pond, which is tidal, creates a significant environmental problem.

Better just to tell her how pretty she is and go on my way.

Dropping in

I did my volunteer gig today at the bird observatory and spent an hour or two afterwards stalking the less-than-abundant waterfowl with my camera. Sandy Hook should be really good now, but the huge rafts of ducks I expect to see in the winter aren’t here.

My favorites, the long-tailed ducks, were too far out in the bay for even my 200-400mm lens to reach nicely. They are such beautiful ducks; black and white with short, pointed dark wings. They were very vocal today – the males almost yodeling – have you ever heard them sing? Listen for them; you won’t soon forget the sound of their courting.

Despite this lens that’s near as long as my arm and which seems to weigh about as much as I do, the few small groups of waterfowl were little more than specks in a sea of blue. But the Canada Geese and Brant at Plum Island were close enough and cooperative and the light was good, so I found a dry spot in the marsh to sit and spent an hour or so in the company of these common birds. This pic was my favorite, a Canada dropping into the marsh and caught in the middle of putting on the brakes to land.

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The Good Planets show will be here again next Saturday, in case you’ve been newly inspired to submit a photo. Send one or two pics to me at lc-hardy AT comcast DOT net sometime before Friday. Wasn’t this week’s show grand? Thanks to all who submitted photos and stopped by to comment.

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Every so often I get brave enough to tackle HTML code and add the links of some blog friends to the sidebar. In the last week or two I’ve added quite a few from my bookmarks that I hope you’ll visit sometime. One of those friends, Vicki of Outside In, calls the community of people she links to her neighborhood. That’s a nice way of looking at it, don’t you think? What I find really neat is that often once I add a link here, I see that some of you are visiting that blog and making friendships of your own; maybe initially because of that link. I know that I’ve made some friends because of the links you include on your blogs. Anyway, that’s just my long-winded way of saying thank you for being such kind and supportive people. It’s nice to see people being nice to one another, you know? Oh, and go drop in at Vicki’s; she’s got a great blog and is very funny. Here’s a link to her most recent post which had me in stitches.

The Christmas Church

While out and about to do some shopping today, my husband and I visited a church in the neighborhood where I grew up. It’s always been a favorite of mine because of its Christmas ministries and their beautiful candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

I tried getting a nice pic of the poinsettia star in the sanctuary, but even climbing up the stairs to the balcony didn’t help much. The star is about 15 feet across and made up of hundreds of plants – really very pretty. Part of why my husband and I chose Christmastime for our wedding is because churches are so beauitiful at this time of year that we didn’t need to spend any extra money on flowers to decorate with.

The church also has a few displays that tell the story of Christmas and of the life and ministry of Jesus. I wasn’t able to photograph either, but there is a reproduction of Herod’s Temple and a Putz. The Putz is a sound and light show that brings the story of the nativity to life with a 40 foot model of Israel and the three main cities of the Christmas Story.

Outside the church is a creche with donkeys, sheep, and goats – which of course is my favorite of all the displays. The church has been doing this for more than 50 years and it draws a lot of people to the site who then wander inside the church and maybe learn a bit more of the meaning of our Christmas celebration. The creche was what first brought me to visit this church as a teenager, and I have nice memories of attending services on Christmas Eve and then stopping by the creche to see the animals in the quiet after midnight on Christmas Eve.

I was a little bothered by signs on the fence letting the public know that the church has the animals checked out by a veterinarian and the SPCA and reminding us that they are farm animals and able to withstand our *frigid* NJ winters and are well-supplied with food. Apparently they’ve had a hard time with people worrying over the welfare of these animals! That didn’t stop a lady from feeding them two loaves of white bread, despite the signs asking that the public not feed them, never mind the hay strewn about everywhere for the animals to eat. Some people just can’t help being silly, I guess.

Sandy Hook Light

As much as I’m prone to fuss about the lack of visitors during my monthly 5-hour stint at Sandy Hook Bird Observatory, I do appreciate the quiet of sitting on the porch and watching the boats in Sandy Hook Bay. Today there were a few Buffleheads and Red-Breasted Mergansers for company, but the Oldsquaw I look for were a no-show. In a month or two, if I’m lucky, I’ll find harbor seals sunning themselves on the rocky shores of the bay.

I finally got caught up with paper-grading that I’ve avoided for the past few weeks. Glad to not have that hanging over me anymore! I had only ten visitors all day and they all showed up at the same time. So while I was trying to give info to a pair of enthusiastic new birders, I was also trying to monitor the lady shopping for new binoculars. Birders are an honest group and we encourage people to scan the bay as a means to getting a feel for a pair of binoculars. In the midst of so many visitors coming and going and asking questions, I admit to a bit of nervousness with the lady walking in and out of our shop with thousand dollar optics to test them on the porch. For all of my cajoling she left without buying, but the new birders got more information than they probably wanted.

I passed by the lighthouse on my way and took a pic for any of the lighthouse afficionados. Sandy Hook Light is the oldest standing lighthouse in the country and is now landlocked; more than a mile from the ocean’s shore at the tip of Sandy Hook due to the shifting sands of our shoreline, when once it was just 500 feet from that point.

The bunny next door

My neighbors are nice people; they mean well. Their kids *love* this bunny. But this is his life, day in and day out. He’s out there in the freezing cold of winter and the steamy heat of summer. He has shelter and shade, and food, but none of the comforts of a house rabbit. He is missing out on a lot, as are his owners.

Some info about the realities of life as an outdoor rabbit is available here.

Someone from PetBunny sent along this little poem:

All I Need to Know about Life I Learned From the Easter Bunny!

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Walk softly and carry a big carrot.
Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.
There’s no such thing as too much candy.
All work and no play can make you a basket case.
A cute little tail attracts a lot of attention.
Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.
Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.
Some body parts should be floppy.
Keep your paws off other people’s jellybeans.
Good things come in small sugar-coated packages.
The grass is greener in someone else’s basket.
An Easter bonnet can cover the wildest hare.
To show your true colors you have to come out of the shell.
The best things in life are still sweet and gooey.