Turn and look again

The colors of the fading sun made me take a fresh and attentive look at this scene transformed by ice and shadow and I saw something quite beautiful then. Like many, it’s difficult for me to admire the things I see everyday because there is so little novelty, but without admiration for the common there can be no attentiveness to its beauty.

My focus this day were the Hooded Megansers that were concentrated in the bit of open water around the dock and pilings on the river. Cursing the fading light just as the ducks became accustomed to my presence there, I packed up my things and began the walk back up the hill to my car. I turned and looked again and saw the colors of the setting sun and the rest of the scene with a new perspective; rather than an impediment to my view of the birds, the sun and ice had made the everyday into something sort of wondrous. Just a short time earlier in different light it was the same old view and nothing that would cause me to even notice it. I learned that it’s wise to turn around and look again, and renew my enjoyment of things with fresh attention and open eyes.

A valentine rose

“Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?”
– Pablo Neruda
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Just a little something for you to ponder on a Friday night in February.

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He wrote spectacular love poems and simple humorous odes, as well as political and historical poetry. He’s been one of my favorites since college, and I remember his poetry as being among the first that I could enjoy without the benefit of a bilingual dictionary. The snippet of a poem above comes from one of the last works before his death in 1973 callled, “A Book of Questions”.


The trees are bejeweled with ice; late yesterday afternoon when the storm cleared and the sun was first visible it reflected the blue of the winter sky and glistened like saphires. In the moonlight it was diamonds. The drive home at dusk today reflected the palest of amethyst.

A day without electric, or heat, or coffee (!) makes one appreciate just how much we rely on modern conveniences. The daylight hours were fine, fun even; an enjoyable day spent under a blanket alternating napping with reading. A walk through the neighborhood to see the beauty and destruction wrought by the ice storm was a welcome break from the quiet house.

When my husband took his dinner break (his only break during yesterday’s 17 hour workday) and came home with the Valentine’s roses, I was more interested in a cup of coffee and a burger from anyplace that might be open and had power to cook me something.

The night was something else. It’s very hard to occupy yourself in the pitch dark with no company on Valentine’s Day. So I went to bed around 10 pm which must be an all time record for me. My husband stumbled in from work some time later, having spent most of the day cutting up fallen trees and keeping the roads somewhat passable for those foolish enough to venture out. Most people don’t appreciate the hours that public works guys put in; they only complain that their street wasn’t cleared well enough or soon enough.

There was a small flock of robins who spent a miserable day in the holly tree in the front yard eating ice covered berries. They refused my offers of water-softened raisins, cherries, and blueberries but did appreciate a pan of water, kept from freezing, to drink. This morning they were back, with a few cedar waxwings, but still they looked miserable and ready for Spring.

Not what you think

To help me learn to use my new macro lens, Bev suggested a while back that I practice photographing little plastic frogs or something. It just so happens that I have a few of the real things around so last night decided to take some pics while I had them out of the tank for cleaning.

Technically, these are toads and not frogs and they didn’t make very cooperative subjects. They kept climbing on top of one another trying to escape the holder that I had them in. It was fun to practice anyway. I’m sure my husband was convinced of my insanity when he was ambling off to bed and I was taking pictures of the fire-belly toads in the kitchen sink. Such is the life of a frustrated photographer. 😉

To further damage your impressions of me – the toads were an anniversary gift from my husband a few years ago. No jewelry or chocolates for this gal! Every so often the DH goes out on a limb and strays from the safe gifts; it’s always interesting when he does.

They’re cute little guys and are very warty. They also have bright reddish-orange bellies. I feed them mostly crickets, but they’ll also eat waxworms or mealworms or very small guppies. Right now I have four of them, but it’s difficult to keep too many together because the larger ones seem inclined to bully the smaller ones and not allow them to eat. When the mood strikes them and they’re feeling amorous, they bark like little dogs.

If you’re in the mood for pics of truly amorous animals, stop by the Dharma Bums blog to see photos of a pair of Bald Eagles caught in the act. Love is the air and Spring can’t be far off now.

What is it about Cape May?

A few of us (Susan, Lynne, Pam, and Mary) are trying to put together a plan to visit Cape May together this fall for NJ Audubon’s Bird Show (link to last year’s weekend). I think I’ve been appointed the official tour guide because I’m local. The pressure of that has me a little nervous; I love Cape May, but do I really know it well enough to show off all that it has to offer? No, not really. I have my favorite spots and favorite times of year to visit, but probably those aren’t the best times or places to see birds – which is what people visiting Cape May from afar will want to see. They’ll want to experience the spectacle that Cape May is known for.

I don’t think that the best of Cape May can be experienced in any one season – each has its own unique experience to offer. While I can jump in the car on a late May day to see shorebirds on the Delaware Bayshore or migrating monarchs in late September – what does it offer in late October/early November that will give a sense of what it is that makes Cape May so special?

Recently there’s been a discussion on NJ Birds about the top places to bird in NJ. I’ve been pleased to see the discussion turn more to the merits of some of the top bird-related experiences one might have in NJ, rather than relating it to any one particular place in the state. Considering the vagaries of weather and migration, I would agree that it’s difficult to limit the discussion to a particular time or place.

In an effort to further entice you guys (or maybe some others who might like to join us) I’m including a list from the NJ Birds discussion of some *experiences* that we might witness in Cape May in the late Fall. I’d like to see those of you that know Cape May as well or better to add to the list. Maybe we can come up with a top ten list of sorts?

  • That near-mythic, near-annual “big” day somewhere around Halloween when every scoter, and other littoral migrant in the western north-atlantic decides its a good day to fly past the Jetty in Avalon.
  • A late fall Buteo flight- the kind that produces Ravens and Golden Eagles.
  • Bald Eagles doing just about anything just about anywhere in NJ- remember when there was one nest in an undisclosed location in Salem County, and 5-8 was agood fall?
  • Fall warbler fallout
  • Short-distance migrant flight/fallout (kinglets, robins, hermit thrushes, yellow-rumps, etc)
  • Major nocturnal migration of thrushes and other land birds
  • A marsh at dawn
  • A peregrine hunting
  • Gannet/scoter migration

Can you add to this list?

Photo of the lighthouse at Cape May taken in late September/early October – my favorite time of year for a visit.


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.

Hay day

Big news here. All week we’ve been waiting for delivery of our quarterly hay order. It arrived today and the bunnies are celebrating the end of their self-imposed hunger strike. They’re spoiled and won’t eat anything but the stuff that comes straight from the mountains of Nevada. We ran out of it last weekend, after I ordered an extra 25 pounds just before Christmas. I’m embarrassed to admit what I pay for it. The hay itself is expensive, but having to pay 2 times the cost of the hay just for shipping makes me feel like I’m being taken advantage of. I’d imagine hay-making to be a very lucrative business, but really, I know better.

There used to be a wonderful hay company in Canada, just outside of Ottowa, that I ordered from for years. They grew a beautiful mix of timothy and orchard grasses that was loaded with dandelion flowers. It was pesticide free and the bunnies loved it and the price was reasonable. Then they went out of business and I was forced to find another hay that the rabbits would eat. There’s plenty of timothy available locally, but even that top-quality horse hay is not appetizing to the bunnies. A 7 dollar bale will last for six months because I use it only to fill their litterboxes. The hay I buy now is way too expensive to be litterbox filler! I dole it out by the handfull and still 75 pounds won’t last me three months! Doesn’t that sound like an awful lot of hay for five rabbits and two guinea pigs? I mean, I do feed them lots of greens and pellets too.

Lots of people find this blog by searching for “rabbit poops too much” which I think is just hilarious. Of course they poop a lot – that’s a good thing! The rabbits are pooping out all that hay that I pay a small fortune for. I’m repaid by having plenty of organic fetilizer for the garden, but still.

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I was forced to migrate to the new Blogger this evening. I knew it was coming, but it might have been nice to have a choice about the timing. I was hoping to make a quick post tonight and then get started on grading papers; instead I had to fangle around with setting up new accounts and worry that I would foul something up. Hopefully it was a successful *migration* – I haven’t been brave enough to look yet!

A motley crew

I dug around in that huge tub of *stuff* from my dad’s looking for an idea of what to write about tonight and came up with this pic from my sixth birthday party. I’m the one wearing the tall crown and pigtails. We were a motley bunch of kids! These were all my little friends from the neighborhood. I’m kind of amazed that I can remember all of their names 30 years later, even though I’m not in touch with any of them. Once in a while I run into the tall girl standing behind me on the left; her dad still lives with his new wife across the street from where we grew up. My husband and I visit them at Christmastime and bring cookies.

My birthday is in June, so I always had a party in the backyard. I don’t remember doing much of anything besides running around in the bushes and eating ice-cream sandwiches. I laugh remembering that, considering the highly-orchestrated birthday parties people have for their kids nowadays. It must have been enough for my mom to have 8 or 9 of my friends over at the same time and keep us from getting into very much trouble.