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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Another Snow Storm Coming?

Last week. And maybe again tomorrow. Click to enlarge.
But winter won't last much longer. Helleborus and snowdrops are blossoming and spring officially arrives in just 9 days. 
Here's an apt bit of poetry by Robert Seymour Bridges:

While yet we wait for Spring 

While yet we wait for spring, and from the dry
And blackening east that so embitters March,
Well-housed must watch grey fields and meadows parch,
And driven dust and withering snowflake fly;
Already in glimpses of the tarnish'd sky
The sun is warm and beckons to the larch,
And where the covert hazels interarch
Their tassell'd twigs, fair beds of primrose lie.
Beneath the crisp and wintry carpet hid
A million buds but stay their blossoming;
And trustful birds have built their nests amid
The shuddering boughs, and only wait to sing
Till one soft shower from the south shall bid,
And hither tempt the pilgrim steps of spring.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Beaver Dam

I was walking on a trail in a nature preserve in south Jersey the other day when I came to this sign. Closed by beaver you say?
There was an orange warning finger, so I was definitely going that way.
I passed this. Beavers?
Then I passed this. Can't look any more beaver-gnawed than this.
Then the path ended in a pool and a beaver lodge. How cool is that?
Closer. Click to enlarge.
And to the right -- a beaver dam!
A big beaver dam. See it curling away like an S?
And here's the pond that the dam contains. Good job, beavers. I thought I heard a tail slap so maybe a beaver saw me, but I did not see it. I'll be back to check on progress here later, so hopefully I'll get a beaver to pose for me then.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

23 Days Until Spring

In 2012 I spotted this butterfly in New York City in March. Click on the photo above to enlarge it and see if you can spot the butterfly. Its color and shape matches almost exactly the pale petals of the flower so I almost missed it.
Yet there it was. It was my first butterfly sighting of 2012 and more dramatic than usual.

Just wanted to point out that we had a day with undeniably summery temperatures in the Northeast this week, and there are just over three weeks until official Spring. It is not too early to begin to hope for the first butterflies of 2018.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Eye to Eye

This is my cat, Chase. When she’s in bright sunlight her pupils are thin vertical slits. I recently read a paper by Martin Banks, et al. about the pupils of terrestrial animals and why they are different shapes. Click here for the paper. The vertical pupils of cats, it turns out, are typically seen in ambush predators that are active day and night; hunters that sit still at close range and then pounce (which describes Chase to a T). The  pupil shape gives the cat a special kind of depth of field that allows her to estimate distances without moving her head. Stealthy! Click to enlarge.
This goat, on the other hand, has eyes on the sides of his head and horizontal pupils. The study found that’s a common arrangement for grazing animals that are always watching to see who might be sneaking up on them. According to the study, the horizontal pupils help light to enter the eye from in front and behind but not so much from above and below, giving the goat a nice panoramic view of its surroundings and some help evading danger.
Any questions?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Herringbone Root

I saw this while I was taking a walk yesterday. The root has grown through the cracks between the bricks in the sidewalk, turning at barriers and efficiently finding its way. I wonder how long that took? Click to enlarge.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” 
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Zoo Squirrel

Big bowls of fresh greens, carrots, dried corn, healthy pellets, and other delicious things are intended for residents of the Cape May County Zoo in Cape May Courthouse, New Jersey, but lucky local squirrels easily get past some of the fences and share the bounty. This one is making itself at home. Imagine a bowl of breakfast you could fit a couple of people inside! Click to enlarge.
OMG -- there's corn? I love corn!

Sunday, January 28, 2018


I spied this groundhog walking along the shore of the Delaware River last fall. Groundhogs have a lot of common names, so you may know this animal as a woodchuck or a whistlepig or something else. Its scientific name is Marmota monax. I wonder if this one was starting to get the urge to hibernate. He looks well fattened and ready for a long winter's sleep. 

After having spent a few months in an underground burrow avoiding all the snow and storms we've been through, according to folk tradition, the groundhogs are expected to emerge this Friday, February 2nd, to predict how the rest of the season will go. They say if the groundhog sees its shadow it will run back into its burrow and we will get six more weeks of winter. But if it is not so startled, it will stay outside, signalling the end of winter.

There's an older holiday of February 2nd that also includes a weather prediction -- the Christian feast of Candlemas. A folk rhyme about it goes like this:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another fight;
But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

One thing we know for sure is that spring will come eventually and it is not too early to anticipate its arrival. 

Click to enlarge.