Category Archives: Outdoor spots

Winter Remnant

It’s the first full day of spring but winter’s snow remains. Here are a few photos from today’s walk near Duke Island Park and the Raritan River in New Jersey.frozen canal

tree reflection

raritan river

bridge

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Pothole Bathing

pothole bathrobin bathWe have two areas in our yard where birds in the neighborhood can get freshened up on a dusty day. In front, there is a large stone birdbath. In the rear, we have a small pond with a very shallow stream of water running over a ledge. Many birds land by the pond and walk over to the ledge for a quick rinse. By far, however, the all-time favorite bathing spot is the pothole in the street in front of our house. Every time it rains and water collects in the hole, a variety of birds come – some solo, some in small groups – to bathe. Maybe the hole is the perfect depth and width to attract them, or maybe they just like muddy rainwater, whatever the reason, it attracts more visitors than the birdbath and the pond.grackle bath

Sunset Fence

picket fence sunset
Linking to “Good Fences” at Run-A-Round Ranch.

Winter at the Beach (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes)

1. Setting the scene: Snow on the beach

1. Setting the scene: Snow on the beach

2. Interaction: The snow has mostly melted near the rocks and ocean

2. Interaction: The snow has mostly melted near the rocks and ocean

3. Detail: Snow inside a seashell

3. Detail: Snow inside a seashell

See other interpretations of the “Threes” theme at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

One Loud Wren

wren We only have one wren that visits our backyard, but he makes his presence known very loudly!

See other “One” photos at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Our Owl-less Outing Near the Ocean

sand and snow fence

Snow on the beach, but no owls

snowy owl bag

This trash sure looked like a snowy owl from a distance!

seawall fence

Lots of gulls, but no owls

heron on the path

A great blue heron on the path near the cove

sanderlings

A group of sanderlings

After reading all the news articles and blog posts about this year’s snowy owl irruption in coastal northeastern areas of the U.S., we decided it was our turn to see a snowy owl in the wild. So, earlier this week, on a very cold and windy day, we drove to Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area in Highlands, New Jersey, to have a firsthand look. We chose to go to Sandy Hook because snowy owl sightings had been reported there. My eagerness was fanned even more after viewing some of the gorgeous snowy owl photos posted on Flickr by fortunate owl spotters.

Sandy Hook has several different beaches along the Atlantic Ocean for swimming, fishing and nude sunbathing(!), as well as a historic military area, nature/hiking/biking trails and a bay side. Since it was quite frigid, there were very few people at the park. At first, we explored some of the beach areas, then we headed toward Ft. Hancock. After that, we walked along a cove on the bay side. The scenery was beautiful. Unfortunately, we did not see any snowy owls, not even a quick glimpse of one. As a consolation for our owl-less outing, however, there were plenty of entertaining gulls, several great blue herons and a small group of sanderlings running back and forth with the waves.

Linking to “Friday’s Fences” at Life According to Jan and Jer.

Autumn Color

fence

While taking a walk in the park, I found a little section by a fence that seemed to be bursting with autumn color — from the golden, end-of-day sunlight on the trees, to the carpet of fallen leaves. There was even a bench nearby for someone to sit and contemplate the scene. Linking to “Friday’s Fences” at Life According to Jan and Jer.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

horizonIt was so nice last weekend to spend an afternoon exploring the “real” Jersey Shore at Sandy Hook (Gateway National Recreation Area). I especially like going to the beach in autumn when the crowds have thinned out. It was beautiful to look across the sand and the water toward the horizon where the New York City skyline spreads out. (Below is the same photo, zoomed in to show more detail.)nyc

See other “Horizon” photos at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Life Along The Wire Fence

This wire fence made a great backdrop for a few photos this week. See other interesting fences at Life According to Jan and Jer.

Wire fence and thistle

Wire fence and thistle

Eastern phoebe sitting spot

Eastern phoebe landing spot

Monarch nearby

A nearby monarch

Fence post

Fence post

Looking through the fence

Looking through the fence

Pretty bee attraction

Yellow flowers attract a bee

Fences Needing TLC

Two fences in disrepair for “Friday’s Fences” at Life According to Jan and Jer.fence summer barn with fence

Simple Fences

Plain and simple beauty

Plain and simple beauty

The fence is simple, but the lions make a bold statement

The fence is simple, but the lions make a bold statement

Linking to “Friday’s Fences” at Life According to Jan and Jer.

Wood is Good: The Birds of Vermont Museum

owls whooping cranewarblersowl flying bird museum buildingIn the movie, “The Big Year,” the character Kenny makes the statement, “Birds wait for no man.” On a recent road trip, we found a place where the birds do wait. In fact, you can take your time as you observe more than 500 birds, including migratory species, ducks and raptors. How is this possible? The birds are hand-carved from wood.

When our summertime travels brought us northward, out of New Jersey, we ended up visiting the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington, Vermont. This museum is home to a meticulously designed collection of wooden birds that are displayed according to their natural environment. The craftsmanship is amazing. Each carving is actual size and extremely detailed, posed to capture the personality and behavior of the bird in its habitat. For example, the kingfisher had a freshly caught fish in its beak and the nuthatch was positioned on the trunk of a tree.

As we first entered the museum, we were immediately drawn to a windowed viewing area to watch the live birds visiting the outside feeders. A row of binoculars lined the windowsill for the guest’s viewing pleasure. When the hummingbirds and other species flittered near the window, an outside microphone picked up the sound so you not only saw the birds, but heard them as well. For a chance to see more live birds, you could sneak back outside to hike around a nature trail.

The curator chatted with us for a while, answered questions, and then showed us a quick, informative video about the museum’s history and the artist, Bob Spear. After that, we explored the upstairs and downstairs collections on our own. The collections included replicas of Vermont’s nesting birds, as well as endangered and extinct species. There were sections for birds of the wetlands and raptors. Even a life-sized Tom turkey was on display. Many of the plaques identifying the carvings contained a scannable bar code allowing you to hear the bird’s call. In the artist’s workshop, you could see various wooden shapes being transformed into birds. The collection is continuously being added to. The latest project is to complete the carving of the ducks and shore birds section.

The Birds of Vermont museum gives you an opportunity to study the details of birds in a way that a one-dimensional field guide can’t. Although the birds are hand-carved, they are lifelike. There was a lot to see, but my favorite carvings were the owls, wrens and warblers. If you are taking a road trip this summer, plan a visit to the Birds of Vermont Museum.