Sunday, December 27, 2020


Around this time every year I remember these lines from Rainer Maria Rilke: "And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been."

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Happy Holidays

Tomorrow brings the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, shortly after which I hope it won't seem like midnight at 5:00. And Christmas is just days away. Enjoy! Stay safe! Brighter days ahead!

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Snowy Owl Sighting


Just a snowy owl sitting on a speed limit sign in the sun. Click to enlarge.

What? There's a snowy owl sitting on a speed limit sign in the sun! Ruffling feathers!

For all the times I've been to Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in South Jersey hoping to see a visiting winter snowy owl; for the dozens of times I have seen one, but so far out in the marsh that it could have been an old bleach bottle and I wouldn't have known the difference; this week I was rewarded with this close-up drowsy owl.

Snowy owls sometimes make their way to South Jersey during the winter in response to shifting food availability further north where they usually live. Sorry about the food shortage. Welcome to the Jersey Shore!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Meteorological Winter is Here!

During a cold walk last week I saw this leafless sycamore tree among colorful bushes. I think it looks like a winter tree wearing an autumn skirt. And that might be a nice metaphor for the season. Depending on which system you use, it's either winter now or the end of autumn. Click to enlarge.

As meteorologists reckon, winter begins on December 1st and extends through January and February, the three coldest months of the year in the northern hemisphere. The system is based on the calendar and the temperature and begins on the same day every year. That's important for comparing weather data.

Astronomical winter, on the other hand, is based on the Earth's rotation and the tilt of its axis. Astronomical winter arrives with the shortest day of the year around December 22, but possibly a day or so sooner or later. This year, it will be on the 21st.

December 1st or three weeks later? We're between these winters right now. Regardless of which you prefer the sun is low in the sky these days, it's dark out early, and it's cold out there.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Swan Reflection


An immature mute swan, with a few gray cygnet feathers, leaves a spreading wake behind as it sails across the still pond. Click to enlarge. Its reflection reminds me of this from the poet Thomas Hood:   

"There's a double beauty whenever a swan

Swims on a lake with her double thereon."

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Have A Safe Thanksgiving!

The wild turkeys above saw me looking at them and headed into the woods.  
Because of the CDC's warning about the high threat of Covid-19 right now, I'll be celebrating this year's Thanksgiving at home with my household only. As they say, we'll stay apart for now so we can all be together in the future. Click to enlarge.

This is how a turkey looks in a surgical mask.

I used to wish I could be in the country so I could see wild turkeys. Now they've expanded into suburban New Jersy and are walking on the sidewalks of my town, where I took this picture. It's proof that sometimes good things happen. Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Falling Leaves


I've spent most of the weekend raking leaves for garden mulch. A great many more of them are ready to fall. I give you the poem "November Night" by Adelaide Crapsey 


With faint dry sound, 

 Like steps of passing ghosts,

The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees

And fall. 

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The 2020 Presidential Election

I'm taking a day off from nature blogging to recover from days of watching election returns. I offer for your enjoyment, the poem I hear America Singing by Walt Whitman.

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Halloween Afterglow


The decorations were delicious! Click to enlarge.

Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend. If you have not yet turned your clocks back an hour, there is still time to claim your extra hour of sleep.

Sunday, October 25, 2020



It's Halloween week!

An excellent time for long leaf-kicking walks.

Wildlife raids on decorations. Click to enlarge.

Suburban turkey sightings.

And other fun stuff.

Celebrate safely, my friends!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

2020 Amphibian and Reptile Review


I don't have the well developed sensitivity for spotting reptiles and amphibians that I have for birds, so I don't see nearly as many. Their ability to evade detection by sitting still and the use of outright camouflage probably also helps them avoid me. Exhibit one is the above photo of a deftly concealed leopard frog. Click to enlarge.

Then there are Fowler's toads that are abundant in New Jersey and that I suspect see me much more often than I see them. They blend in and sit still. Do you see one in this photo?

See it now?

Well played, hidden toad!

Adding to my roundup of amphibians and reptiles I've seen this year that haven't yet made it into a blog, I give you the red eared slider turtle. I often see them basking in the sun like those above. Basking is good for them: it helps them regulate their body temperature; make vitamin D; and dry their shells, which wards off problems with fungi, algae, and parasites.

Here's a painted turtle that I met on a sandy path in the pine barrens. I've been known to pull off a road when I see one of these trying to cross, and go back to pick it up and carry it safely to the other side.

Lastly, this week I was working in the yard on a sunny day and made a pile a leaves. When I picked up the pile later this little garden snake had crawled underneath. What a perfect spot for a snake: concealed, damp, and warmed by the sun.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Autumn Leaves

"How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days." ------- John Burroughs

Autumn is awesome. Click to enlarge.

What the heck -- one more. :-)

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Pine Barrens Gentian

This week I made my yearly September trip to the New Jersey pine barrens to look for rare and beautiful pine barrens gentians. Found them.

The buds remind me of Tiffany vases.

Click to enlarge.

There's a caterpillar on this one. I think it's a yellow-striped armyworm. It was not eating and seemed to be trying to get down. Here's hoping it dislikes gentians and goes off and finds itself a tasty invasive plant.

Pine barrens gentians bloom from September through mid-October in New Jersey, depending on local conditions. One more reason to take a long walk in the pinelands.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Autumnal Equinox on Tuesday

Meteorologists consider September first the beginning of autumn. Astronomically, autumn begins at the autumnal equinox; that's will happen this coming Tuesday. Either way you look at it, it's autumn. Let's hope for a season like the poet John Keats called "a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" with all the peace and harmony that image evokes. Click to enlarge the photo.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Praying Mantis


My pot of begonias is looking good. Click to enlarge.

Wait. What's that?

A trap! There's a mantis lurking in there!

This Chinese mantis picked a lovely spot to sit and wait for unsuspecting begonia-visiting inset prey.

I didn’t notice the mantis until AFTER I watered the flowers. Oops. Sorry. See the water drops on its face and back? Does it look mad?