Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day Two.

12-31-11: SHORT HILLS: Our trip home was hellish, but more about that later. Here's the second day, our first full day of adventure.

12-24-11 ISLA BARTOMOLÉ, GALAPAGOS: We left Santa Cruz after bedtime and motored around the island to the fueling station on Baltra. We left the boat on zodiacs while the crew serviced the boat and went to North Seymour Island with our guide, Christian. North Seymour is a flat, weathered volcanic island where we walked the trail seeing land and marine iguanas, frigate birds nesting, immatures and males frigate birds with their red pouches inflated, blue footed boobies and their immatures, sea lions, mocking birds, lizards, the usual set of creatures. Then we snorkeled from the zodiacs. There was a bit of surf that carried us along the rocky beach, seeing tropical fish.

We motored on to Bartolomé, chaperoned by an octet of frigate birds and a pair of dolphins. We lunched on the boat. Bartolomé is a younger island with lots of uncolonized brownish-red lava fields. After arriving, we spent a few hours on the beach by Pinnacle Rock, some of us snorkeling. That rock is the iconic image of the Galapagos. On the beach there were trails left by female sea turtles laying eggs. Some of the snorkelers saw a shark, everybody, including the shark, swam off in a different direction. They also saw a swimming penguin. We share all the beaches with sea lions. We all saw a skate, or manta, platter-sized, in the shallow surf.

In late afternoon we zodiaced around Pinnacle Rock and saw a pair of the Galapagos penguins and then climbed the resident volcano on a set of steps that weren’t there on our last visit 28 years ago. There were lava flows of pahoehoe lava, lava bombs and lava tubes, mostly unroofed, and lots of parasitic, tuff cones, little secondary sites of eruption, and a nice sunset. The island is barely colonized by tequelia, a small gray shrub, and a few cactus and a few lizards.

This male frigate bird was giving us the eye, checkin' out our boat before either of us had breakfast. That red thing on his neck is inflated during mating season and is attractive to the lady frigates.

Oops, land iguana on North Seymour, we did see some in the wild.

Blue footed booby. Now why did they call it that?

Baby blue foot.

Ladies, here he is.

Snorkeling-North Seymour Island.

Small ray in shallow surf near Pinnacle Rock.

Galapagos penguin, male, also near Pinnacle Rock.

The flank of the volcano on Bartolome, sparsely covered with first colonizers.

Pinnacle Rock is the root of a volcano remaining after the rest has weathered and eroded.

Friday, December 30, 2011

We're Back on Line.

12-30-11 GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR: I have pix and insightful analysis [?] of our trip, and I'll also tell you what we did. I'll post one day at a time, to build the suspense-like a TV serial. Anyway, It would be a massive up-load to try to do it in one shot.

12-23-11 ISLA SANTA CRUZ, GALAPAGOS: We had an airport delay of about two hours this morning in Guayaquil, but everyone dealt fairly well. Eventually we landed at Baltra, went through customs and baggage inspection and started on our journey to Santa Cruz harbor by bussing across the island over the highlands to Ayora, a city of 20,000 on the south side of Santa Cruz, home to the Charles Darwin Research Station that is charged with protecting the tortoises.

The vegetation on the island changes with every hundred meters of elevation, going from dry to lush. Ayora is also home to souvenir shops, bars, restaurants, galleries, hotels, dive shops and the harbor where our boat, Estrella del Mar, was waiting. After settling in, we did the Darwin Station and then some of us did a lot of shopping. Before we saw all the tees, we saw sally-lightfoot crabs, sea lions, marine iguanas, tortoises, land iguanas, lizards, finches, pelicans, cactus, in flower, and, of course, dozens of the tortoises at the preserve.

Sea lions are everywhere. They're like deer. They climb up on anything to sun bathe and warm up. Any dock, boat, rock or town square is fine with them.

The marine iguanas are almost as ubiquitous as the sea lions, soaking up rays everywhere. We hardly ever actually saw them in the ocean. They vary in color and size from island to island.

Sally Lightfoot Crabs are also omnipresent, on every near-shore rock.

The Galapagos tortoise gets as bigger than a wheelbarrow and lives 150 years.

The land iguana is rarer than the marine iguana. We saw none in the wild. This one is from the Santa Cruz reserve.

Cactus in bloom, being explored by a cactus finch.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Guayaquil Airport.

12-23-11 GUAYAQUIL AIRPORT: We got here at 7 AM for our 9 AM flight to Baltra, the airport in the Galapagos, which is now delayed until 10:45. Bummer. At least there is Wi-Fi here, so I will be able to post on the way back.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Blue Snail in Guayaquil.

12-22-11 GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR: We all, fourteen of us, flew in last night, arriving at different times, ended up at the Oro Verde Hotel for a day before going on to the Galapagos Islands. A bunch of us, defying the need for a nap, walked around the city waterfront and marketplaces. Many souvenirs were purchased. Most of us spent the afternoon in the sac or the pool, or both. After dinner at a local restaurant, Blue Snail, translated, it was time for bed and the flight to the islands tomorrow.

I’m not sure whether or not there will be internet available after today, so all subsequent posts may have to wait until after the vacation.

Some random scenes from Guayaquil, a bustling, gritty, fume-filled city.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice at JFK.

I couldn't let the solstice past by without a mention.

We, all fourteen of us, leave for the Galapagos Islands this evening. Tomorrow morning we will, hopefully, be in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The next day we fly to Baltra in the Galapagos.

I suspect posts will be infrequent, but the diary will be kept and pix will be taken. All of them will be posted at some point, but that may not be until our return.

Have a good holiday.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lincoln School Xmas.

12-19-11 SHORT HILLS: Today Judy did, what is becoming, her annual Xmas visit to Lincoln School second grade, Ms. Catalano’s class, to bring the dogs, Nick and Gus, and presents for the kids. I tagged along to help with the second dog and to help with the heavy lifting. I was pleased because Ms. Catalano served rigatoni in tomato sauce with meatballs, sweet sausage and garlic bread to the class and visitors. All the other teachers in the school seemed to find a reason to drop by her classroom today.

Judy goes there twice a month to help with reading lessons, the kids read to the visiting dog, which makes the lesson more fun. Presents from us were little framed pictures of the dogs and bookmarks of golden retrievers to help with the reading work. Each kid also got a stuffed animal, mostly from families in Thetford and Norwich, VT that had out grown the toys. Fuzzy creatures also went to the other second grade, pre-K, K and first graders.

Second Grade at Lincoln Elementary School, Newark, NJ with Ms. Catalano, Nick and Gus.

Hard Choices.

Everyone seems happy with their new friend.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

APHC and BXL-2011.

12-18-11 SHORT HILLS: We heard the DiGiallonardo Sisters do some great carol, modern revisionary, renditions in three part harmony. I especially liked “five onion rings”. We loved them and everyone else on “A Prairie Home Companion” on Saturday night with Bill and Lynn and Roger and Leeza. The evening has become an annual event for the six of us, followed by dinner at BXL, next door to The Town Hall on W 43rd.

We are all pleased that Garrison Keillor is not retiring at the end of the year. The other guests included Joel Grey, Klezmer Conservatory Band with Itzhak Perlman, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, and all the cast regulars, including Richard Dworsky and the Guy’s Shoe Band. The two-hour show flies by.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Carol Sing.

12-15-11 SHORT HILLS: We have visited cathedrals, churches, temples, mosques, synagogues from Quito to Tbilisi over the years, including St. Peters, St. Isaacs, St. Pauls, Chartres, St. Marks, Notre Dame but just as impressive as all of those is The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ. Newark? Yes, Newark, beset with a variety of problems, and working through them, it, nevertheless, can boast of a world-class cathedral.

We were there for their Choir’s carol sing yesterday, accompanied by their Chamber Orchestra and Organ. Judy and I both love the music, if indifferent to the expressed sentiments, and the show they put on. They do all the old favorites, as well as some less familiar songs from Spain, Italy, Poland, and well known French and German carols. The soloists were magnificent. I must say, sometimes, for a moment of two, the organ sounds like cats fighting it out.

It’s open to the public, obviously, and they’re doing it again tonight. We recommend it.

Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, NJ.


View from our seats in the west transcept.

Choir at work.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Concert and Play.

12-11-11 SHORT HILLS: It’s turned a bit cooler, seasonal really, but we are not yet adapted. Today is sunny, in the low thirties and no wind.

Friday we heard the London Philharmonic at NJPAC do the ‘Emperor’ Concerto with Emanuel Ax and then Brahms Symphony 4 [E minor] conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, a great program beautifully done. But there’s more…

Saturday we saw ‘Cinderella’ , the Rodgers and Hammerstein version, presented by the Packer Collegiate Institute Middle School. The evil stepmother was portrayed by Lucy Rosenberg.

In the yard, I found some more storm-related pruning to do yesterday.

Theatrical Faces.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Don't Slouch, Tree.

12-8-11 SHORT HILLS: The sycamore tree, damaged by TS Irene, that I wrote about in September was never removed by the power line people. Even though damaged by the storm, pushed about 20° to the north, it kept its leaves through the rest of the season and shed them in normal fashion in October. The tree seemed to be healthy even if tilted. I decided to see if it could be saved.

I used a ‘come-along’ to pull it back to vertical, anchoring the lines to a sturdy beech that was in the plane of the tilt. The tool is a crank with a big mechanical advantage to pull heavy stuff, like trees. After I straightened it up, I set three anchors in the ground on the south side of the tree and tied lines to them from about ten feet up the trunk. It is once again upright.

The big question is whether or not the root system was too damaged by the manipulation to function. I’ll try to remember to mention it in the spring.

Lazy Tree.

Now standing at attention.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Pool Clean-up.

12-6-11 SHORT HILLS: We’ve been back in NJ for a couple of days, it’s warm again, in the sixties, but raining today, so I’m in the house.

Yesterday I got to look at the pool cover after the tree limbs that filled the pool were removed by the tree people. They didn’t get to the pruning of the broken and hanging branches in many of the trees, and will need to come back for another day. With the big debris out of the pool, I was able to get the accumulated leaves and small debris off the cover and onto the pool deck. The yardmen showed up for the last clean up at that time, and they removed all that debris from the pool enclosure, and spread the leaves on bare spots in the yard. The branches went to the dump this morning, another carload.

Unlike our neighbors, I don’t see the fallen leaves as a clean up problem, but as an opportunity to build up the organic layer at the top of our soil column. Our soil is a mixture of glacial till and weathered basalt and needs the organic contribution of the leaves. By mid-spring they will all have disappeared.

We saw “Hugo” last night, and both of us loved it as a touching tribute to the early film maker Georges Méliès and story of Hugo Cabret, the orphaned boy clock winder of a Paris railway station. It is done in 3D which seems unnecessary. On the way home, through the fog and rain, we admired the seasonal decorating on a house in town enough to take a picture.

Pool cover resembles a sieve. About half of the 28 panels have been punctured.

Nicely done trimming.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Decorated Trees.

12-3-11 VERMONT: It has gotten colder, down in the twenties at night, and the pond was frozen over the last two mornings. Coming home from the tree lighting last night there was a brief snow squall. Before that we had dinner at Yama with Denny and Laura-Beth. I have re-discovered the secret of surviving in the cold—dress with many warm layers.

The Glee Club caroled at the tree lighting, singing all the usual suspects. Hanover is decked out for the Holidays with lights and more carolers on Main St. All the stores in town were open late last night to take advantage of the tree lighting crowds. The Hanover Inn has a huge model train display that was packed with kids.

Tree lighting in Hanover plus carols from the Glee Club.

And another tree....

self decorated.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Beginning of the Cold.

12-1-11 VERMONT: Now it’s beginning to feel like December. We drove up yesterday through the end of the rain, and woke this morning to 30°. After a week of sixties, it felt colder than it should have. I did a few odds and ends outside and had to come in to warm up. We are totally non-acclimatised to the cold.

Things are still wet here with puddles in the pasture and yard and the ponds full and draining. It is an almost cloudless day with a slight breeze and got up to about 40 this afternoon.

With the leafless trees and empty beds, everything has a neat and orderly and inert appearance. All our herbaceous friends seem to be sleeping until March.

We have dinner tonight with Debbie and John, tomorrow, after the tree-lighting/Glee Club, with Denny and Laura-Beth and Saturday with Ken and Jane.

Evening sky yesterday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Mud.

11-20-11 SHORT HILLS: We’re getting more rain. November is already above average for rain fall, and our very wet year continues. It is still quite warm, in the sixties again, but a colder, seasonal weather is due soon. We go to VT tomorrow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Warm Spell.

11-27-11 SHORT HILLS: It’s been at or near sixty for the past three days and very pleasant. The yard is still muddy from the rain, but the warm spell has resulted in a bunch of wild strawberry flowers and a dandelion opening up in the lawn and a few, scattered forsythia blooms.

The forsythia are the last ones to dump their leaves, at least in this yard. With all the other deciduous plants bare, I have found lots more dead fall from the storms lying on the shrubs. The town finally got to our street to pick up the huge pile of branches, but we are still waiting for the tree people to get here for the big clean up and pruning.

New blooms: dandelion, wild strawberry, forsythia.

Forsythia always puts out a few after a warm spell in the fall.

Forsythia is one of the last to go bare and demonstrates the yellow pigment in the leaves that it shows in the flowers.

Witchhazel is a late bloomer. These small flowers become noticeable when the leaves are down. It has a cluster of three flowers, each with four petals and four of crepe-paper tentacles.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Times Square.

11-23-11 SHORT HILLS: More rain for the past three days, and it’s pretty soggy in the yard. We are still waiting for the clean-up of the broken branches. All the leaves are down, and the gutter have been blown out. I have done a bit more pruning.

We were in the city Saturday to see “Relatively Speaking”, the show with three one-act plays by Ethan Coen, Elaine May, and Woody Allen. The tunnel gods were in a benign mode, so we flew in and had time to kill in Times Square—a show of its own, including, that night, a wedding.

We enjoyed all three playlets. The Woody Allen was the funniest, a succession of one-liners, starting from the point, in a way, where “The Graduate” stopped, but with a few twists.

I got a few emails about a nice article in the Valley News about the Geology web site, link to the right.

Times Square, NYC. Noisy, Glaring, Garish, Crowded, Glitzy, Vibrant and totally Over the Top.

Perfect Place for a Wedding?

Friday, November 18, 2011


Laurel, a friend from the SC coast, saw my picture of the stag and raised me by three bucks.

Velvet covers the new antlers.

And a pair of bobcat kittens with three deer makes a full house.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Near Deer have no Fear.

11-16-11 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday’s sprinkles have turned into steady rain today with more rain tomorrow. It’s warm, in the fifties, the weather gods seem contrite after inflicting that disastrous storm on us.

Speaking of the storm, we are still waiting for clean up and removal by the tree care folks of the big, huge, branches in the pool, and pruning of the traumatised trees. I have removed all the stuff that I can handle and created, in the process, a huge pile of debris in the street waiting for the town to collect. Many similar piles are waiting for pick up all over town.

Our roses are still turning out red, white and pink flowers, and there are still little yellow flowers of wild strawberry in the lawn. The birds are back at the feeders in full force. We have had lots of deer activity in the yard which keeps the dogs alert.

Copper Beech turned to gold a few days ago, now the leaves are cocoa brown.

This doe was actually lying down and eating ground cover, perhaps ivy.

The stag was in the same area as the doe the next day and appeared to be eating pachysandra which would be very unusual for deer. That night I startled another deer in the same spot, but that one didn't pose for me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yard Work-NJ.

11-11-11 SHORT HILLS: I came down on Wednesday and spent yesterday dragging broken branches out of the yard and up to the street. Judy pitched in with the schlepping. We have an immense pile now waiting for the town to pick up or the tree folks to chip up.

But there’s more—now I can continue to cut down broken branches that I can reach and add to the pile. I sliced up a downed medium sized wild cherry yesterday. Each pruning takes broken wood off some smaller tree or shrub that has been bent over and damaged by something bigger leaning on it.

Yesterday was warm and sunny, last night cold and rainy and today cold and sunny and windy.

Burning Bush and Black Chokecherry make and red and orange sandwich.

The row of Burning Bush are quite dramatic, even to Nick.