Skywatching for hawks

I know it’s a Raven, but it’s the best bird pic I got today during a couple hours spent at the Montclair Hawkwatch. The hawkwatch site is NJ Audubon’s smallest sanctuary and the second oldest continuous- running hawkwatch in the country, second only to Hawk Mountain in Pa.

Finding hawks at a ridge site, as opposed to a coastal watch like Sandy Hook or Cape May, is really difficult and requires a lot of patience and much better eyesight than I have. We were looking at speck birds for most of the day! I did get to see a few kettles of Broadwings way up in the clouds (yesterday they counted 4437 Broadwings), some Osprey and Sharpies, a couple Kestrals and had a nice look at a Peregrine.

We had to be glad for all those clouds in the sky cause they gave us landmarks to help locate the birds soaring high above. A fun day, but I prefer coastal hawkwatching that doesn’t require quite as much imagination!

I met this guy there who has some fantastic hawk pics on his Flickr site.

Visit here for more Friday Skywatch posts.

Top this

So… I was done early with work yesterday afternoon and had wandered out into the yard to sort through some of the skippers that were flitting about the um… um… what’s this flower called again? Is it snakeroot? I think so. Anyway, it’s a bit weedy in the garden, but is a skipper magnet. I was only outside with the camera for twenty minutes or so and Luka is, after all, nearly grown, so I didn’t crate him and thought nothing of leaving him unsupervised for such a short period of time.

Bad idea! Maybe your dog is like Luka: you know, you spend money on toys and stuff for them and they just destroy whatever it is for them that you buy. Luka did that this week with the nice soft bed we bought for his crate. I was concerned with his elbows on the hard metal all day long, but he tore it to shreds on Monday morning. $40.00 wasted!

This time he decided to save us the trouble of that intermediate step of buying something with the money and then shredding the purchased item. Instead he just shredded the money straight away. How considerate! The DH had left an envelope of money and checks from FD t-shirt sales on the dresser and Luka grabbed it and spread it out across the kitchen floor. Thankfully, only one check and a ten dollar bill were actually shredded beyond repair.

At least I think so anyway.

Silly dog!

And then there was the chasing him through the house, laughing, camera in hand, for the sake of that Ben Franklin…

I’m not sure I want to imagine what he’ll do to top this.

Some days there just aren’t enough hours

Today started out quietly enough; I got to sleep a little later than usual because it was a field day, then my first appointment wasn’t at home so I had enough time between appointments to do some end-of-season sale shopping. There was even a cute dress that I almost bought.

Stop laughing – I have been known to wear an actual dress on occasion!

Two appointments later I was thinking about lunch, but instead went for a little stroll in the sand by the bay. There was a sweet phone call and laughter with a friend. Then sometime after 1 pm things went south.

My exceptional scheduling skills had me in two places at opposite ends of the county at the same time. Impossible to accomplish. I made a decision to see the client that lived in the worst neighborhood first (I like to be in and out of certain parts of town before the hoodlums are awake and standing around on the corners) with the idea that I would have my office call the other client to let her know that I’d be late. Well… another client beat me to the punch on that one and called my office to complain that it was 2:30 and she’d cancelled her dialysis treatment and sat home all day waiting and I still hadn’t shown up. I mostly straightened that mess out, though I don’t think I made a new friend with that lady. Pfft!

I juggled and drove in circles and that damn lady wasn’t home when I got there.

Then I had a wonderful couple hours at the Y doing yoga and paying attention to my breathing and lifting weights to vent the pent up crankiness.

I came home to a crowd of neighbors standing around in the driveway with the sweetest teenage boy who’d lost control of his parent’s car and ended up somewhere in the middle of my lawn. Poor kid! He was okay, but apprently the parent’s car was not. Thankfully the tow truck and the police cars were gone by the time I got there. The kid had come back to apologize for messing up the lawn and was met first with my crazy neighbors who teased him to no end.

I sat down here, finally, to fill out my registration for the Fall Weekend, only to be interrupted to help the DH catch an injured gull down by the boat ramp. That went surprisingly well.

Gulls smell very fishy. Maybe not everyone knows that.

It’s after 9pm and I still haven’t eaten a single thing. All day.

Drank about a dozen cups of coffee though. Can’t you tell?


So… I’m officially signed up for a couple days in Cape May next month and a boat tour that I hope won’t be rained out like last year’s. I got some other stuff done that I’d meant to do this weekend.

There’s still a dozen emails staring me down.

I think I’ll have a nap.

The light of the body is the eye

and this one’s rimmed in red!

There was no food on offer, so I’m not sure just what his interest in me was about. Maybe he was feeling companionable and thought I looked lonely at the beach all by myself yesterday. More likely he hoped I had a pocket full of potato chips! Gulls really are quite pretty when you stop to look at them. Not that I’m ready to do very much of that.


You gonna eat that?

From Liza:

The Omnivore’s Hundred:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

1. Venison (I’m pretty sure I was tricked into eating this)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari (For the first time last weekend)
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (Ick. PB is much better with bananas)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans (Red beans and yellow rice is one of my favorite things)
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (This is something of a point of pride for me)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (I love good churros)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (Apple, preferably)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (Would you expect anything different?)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano (I made my first mole in high school)
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I’m not very daring when it comes to food, obviously… especially seafood. It was fun reading about all the food items I’ve never even heard of. Most didn’t do anything for my appetite though. I guess I’m not much of an omnivore.



That bit of early evening sunlight reflecting off this yellow-headed blackbird is what makes me like this otherwise terrible pic; the quality of light in North Dakota was magical and generous. Even the moonlight seemed to fill the prairie pot holes until they popped out like mirrors of the star-filled sky.

Anyway, I digress…

These were my prairie life birds:

Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
American White Pelican
Sharp-Tailed Grouse
Yellow Rail
American Avocet
Black Tern
Western Kingbird
Bank Swallow
Sedge Wren
Clay-colored Sparrow
Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Yellow-headed blackbird

I’m still holding onto most of my North Dakota stories like precious little pebbles in the pocket of my favorite pair of jeans. Every now and again I pull one out and turn it over in my hand and decide if it’s polished enough for telling yet. Most aren’t, but I’m beginning to remember and still enjoy just sitting with those memories.

Each of the birds on this very modest list has a story of its own; its own sweet memory. I’d forgotten, I think, how nice new life birds can be. A couple of them aren’t technically life birds for me, but I’m a little quirky about claiming life birds and would just as soon wait to check a bird off that list as not be able to really remember seeing it for the first time. These are all firmly set in my memory of a wonderful couple days spent wandering in the middle of nowhere.

#16 in my 38 by 39.

A sort of magic

Except for the point, the stillpoint,
There would be no dance,
And there is only the dance.

–T.S. Elliot

I often find my stillpoint, my chance to reconnect with quiet and beauty, by the ocean. Things in my life begin to unravel and I find that I’m drawn there, to some favored cove or quiet bayside beach where I’m able to check-in with myself again. It’s not anything that I do consciously, exactly, but rather something that I find has changed in me after some time alone with my thoughts and the company of nature.

A funny thing, really, that projecting my experience outward, toward noticing the soft lullaby of the waves lapping at the sand or the dancing flight of terns, would bring me closer to the clarity of what I need to know, but that seems to be the way of stillness and contentment. A quiet sort of magic.

Your local bird club needs you!

The saying goes that when you really need people, a few seem to turn up. If you have much experience with community groups, you’ll know that it’s the same few people that always turn up… the same few dedicated faces at every board meeting, every event, chairing the empty committee spots, volunteering for yet another project.

My local Audubon chapter has been struggling for volunteers for as long as I can remember. I think someone assigned me a job at the very first program I attended, but I was eager to get involved and to learn about local conservation issues and participate. That doesn’t seem to be the case with a lot of birders. Our chapter has a healthy enough membership, but getting those people who come to the programs and field trips to step up and get involved is just impossible.

A fair number of our membership are excellent and active birders, but their interest ends in the field, it seems. The rest of our membership are people I would never recognize with a pair of binoculars around their necks; in fact I think they come to our monthly programs just for the free snacks afterwards!

I wonder where the young people are, the beginning birders, the people with fresh ideas and energy. Our club needs them. Our volunteers are a dedicated group, with diverse skills and interests, and many have held the same committee chair position for years on end, or served as president multiple times. What happens, though, is that we get tired and frustrated with the lack of support from our membership and then we end up losing those volunteers who care the most about the organization and who do the most work to support it, simply because they’ve burned out.

It happened to me almost; after volunteering to be hospitality chair (to rescue another woman who had been stuck with the job for years) – I found myself doing it and became annoyed after a couple years at being the first to arrive and the last to leave the meetings, cleaning up alone, listening to members complain about the way I made the coffee, etc – pfft! Come early and fix the coffee yourself if you don’t like it! Donate a box of cookies for once! I quit volunteering and became another of those anonymous faces in the crowd at the monthly meetings for a few years. Then my guilt got the better of me and this year I’m the chair for two committees.

Again I’m taking over for two dedicated people who simply got tired of the lack of cooperation from the membership. Funny is that one of my jobs is planning and scheduling the club’s field trips for the year… anyone that knows me at all knows what a poor planner I am. So far, the rest of the board has taken my *fly by the seat of my pants* approach with a good bit of humor; we’ll see how long that will last. My point is that I’m clearly not the best person for the job, but I’m the one willing to do it and if it weren’t me, it would be one of the other people who’s already wearing three different hats, you know?

So… if there’s a local bird or nature club that you care about, please find a way to become involved. Introduce yourself to one of those familiar faces you see at every meeting; maybe the geeky guy who always sets up the slide projector and makes sure the microphone is working, or the lawyer-type lady who brings neat things for the raffle each month, or even the blessed soul who toils away in the kitchen to get the coffee just right for you. Offer to help, maybe. Just once, even. Ask what you can do. We need you.