Sunday, January 29, 2012

Icy Walking.

1-29-12 VERMONT: For January in VT, it’s not that cold at 32°, but with the wind feels colder. The snow surface is hard and icy and walking the pasture treacherous unless you stamp your feet with each step to break the crust. We have had snow, rain and more snow and the temperatures have been repeatedly above and below freezing. The surface has thawed and frozen over and over. Still, it’s not a harsh winter, yet.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

All's Well That Ends Well.

1-28-12 VERMONT: We have been here two days, both action filled. We arrived Thursday afternoon, turned on the water, but there was none. We usually turn off the water in winter when we’re not here to prevent the drains from freezing. I checked the circuit breaker—OK, I checked the valve again—OK, so I concluded that the problem must be the water pump.

A modern drilled well, our is about 180 feet deep, has an electric pump at the bottom to pump water to the house on demand. We called Valley Artesian who arrived quickly and confirmed that it was a problem down the hole. We used bottled water for basic drinking, cooking, washing overnight and in the morning.

The well guys were back early and had the pump out and found a frayed electric wire to explain the failure. Because our pump, at 25 years old, was over the usual llfe expectancy, we replaced it with a new version, and a few minutes later, had water. The first water was filled with sand or grit because the activity had disturbed the aquifer. A new water filter I had put in a month ago turned from white to black in a few minutes. We are still using bottled water for drinking and tooth brushing, but the well water works for showers, washing, dishwasher, etc.

Today the electric went out.

We had a bit of a snow to add to the five inches on the ground, then freezing rain to get everything icy. I feared we would get a lot of damage, but didn't.

Glazed Apple.

Today is partly sunny, the ice is gone and the view is back.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sam 1997-2012.

1-27-12 VERMONT: Our friend Sam, short for Samantha, a name that she never answered to, died in her sleep early yesterday. For the past year she had been losing her agility, her hearing, her vision and her stamina.

Once, she could run down the middle of a stream, without seeming to look for the rocks, and never get wet. She loved the car, and if you parked in the driveway leaving an open window, she would be in the driver’s seat when you came back. After an early career of car chasing, barking sprees and all-nighters in the pasture, she settled in a more sedate routine of only barking at trucks, especially ones with flashing lights.

She had an incredibly thick coat, much thicker than the goldens, and needed combing once or twice a month to remove the shed fur that was still on the dog. Each grooming would yield enough fur to make a whole new dog.

We adopted her at about age two, according to the vet. Since she came with no history other than stray dog, St. Huberts ID’d her as ‘border collie’, but that was no more than speculation. On two occasions, I saw very similar dogs, but neither owner knew what the mix was either.

Even thought she was sick, deteriorating and had no chance of recovery, it’s still a heart breaker. Even though it was her time to go, it never gets easier.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dare I Say,"Mild Winter?"

1-25-12 SHORT HILLS: A couple of warmish days after the rain and the snow is gone except remnants of the plow piles in the driveway. The forecast is generally mild for the next week but for a possible wintry mix later this week. We are more than a month past the winter solstice and this winter is so much milder than the last one—but there’s a month to go. Vermont tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snowy Owl.

1-23-12 SHORT HILLS: Here’s more for the birds. The NYT has a story this morning about Snowy Owls moving south. It’s not another global warming story, but about hungry birds hunting for food. They usually live in the circumpolar, arctic regions eating lemmings, among other small animals, but the lemming population has crashed, as it periodically does. The birds have been seen as far south as Kansas and even Hawaii and across the US from Oregon to Boston. This type of occasional migration is known as an irruption.

Here in NJ, we had snow a few days ago, but it’s warmer today, and the snow is turning into fog. Rain is forecast for later.

Here's a link to the NYT article to the right:

Snowy Owl, from the NYT-1/23/12, looks like Hedwig.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Enchanted Island.

1-16-12 SHORT HILLS: On Saturday we saw The Enchanted Island at the Metropolitan Opera. The production is a pastiche, a new production made by stitching together music from prior operas, a tradition of the 18th century. In this case, Jeremy Sams and company used music of Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau and a few other baroque composers and Shakespeare’s plays The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with new lyrics, in English, from Mr. Sams to create a feast for the eyes and ears embellished with electronic effects and graphics.

It is set on Prospero’s island and has ship wrecks, sorcery, storms, spells, duets, quartets, mermaids, animals, deep-sea adventures and everything else you expect in an opera.

If you can’t see it live, try the HD movie events. Clips below....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Galapagos-1983, Fernandina.

1-14-12 SHORT HILLS: These pix are from an island in the Galapagos that we didn’t get to this trip. Fernandina is the westernmost island, the newest, with an active volcano and the youngest lava flows. This spot, Punta Espinosa, is on the northeast corner. The day we were there was teeming and foggy adding to the otherworldly look of the place. It’s all lava, black sand and surf with only an occasional, scruffy cactus.

Because of the rain, I had my Pentax SLR in a plastic bag with the corner cut off for the end of the lens. Focusing and adjusting the f-stop was difficult, and the footing was treacherous, hence the marginal quality of the images. This bleak spot seems to be paradise for the marine iguanas and the flightless cormorants. The cormorants are only found here and a few spots on Isabela and are vulnerable as a species.

Colony of dozens and dozens of Marine Iguanas, all black, enjoying the weather.

Another big bunch of iguanas.

Two Flightless Cormorants in silhouette, necks flexed, a common posture.

Cormorant with neck extended. The ship is visible beyond the surf, faintly seen through the rain and fog.

Black Sand, lava flows, sea lion or two in shallow water.

Flightless cormorant facing right with neck flexed and chin on chest, stubby, right wing seen on end.

Standing cormorant, flying pelican. The darkest masses on the far shore are bunches of iguanas. People on horizon.

Cormorant, same pose, facing left, wing folded. Iguana closer to the water.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Frigate Bird Gets Fed.

1-13-12 SHORT HILLS: There are some good shots in the Galapagos-1983 Album. [The link is to the right.] I’ll post a few entries over the next few days using them, to supplement the stories from last week.

Here are a few. These big birds are Frigate birds. They’re so named because they steal fish from other sea birds by diving at them after they make a catch. The males have that red organ on their necks that they inflate during mating season. The females have a white chest. The immature birds have white heads. The immatures hang around the nest tree waiting for the female to return with fish. I don’t know if the males participate in rearing the young.

In this series the female returns to the immature bird with a fish in her crop that the immature gets for dinner. A second immature, either a sibling or a non-relative is on the far right in some of the pix, the second immature tries to steal the first immature’s meal after the female leaves.

"It must be almost dinner time. I wonder where Ma is?"

"Hi, Sweetie, I'm back."

"Have you been a good immature frigate bird?"

"Where's my dinner, Ma?"

"O, I see it now."

"Outta my face, bro."

"Wait for you're own fish."

Thursday, January 12, 2012


1-12-12 Short Hills: I looked at my slides from our March, 1983 trip to the Galapagos. They were, obviously, film, not digital, and somewhat deteriorated. The colors have faded, and the image quality was poorer than I remember. I took digital pix of some of them and edited, attempting to restore quality, with partial, at most, success. Some of them are up in a Picasa album, [Galapagos-1983] with a link on the right. I'll do a post with some of the images later in the week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Galapagos Birds III.

1-10-12 SHORT HILLS: Here are the last of my Galapagos birds. There are a few repeats. I think we saw, and ID’d, about half of the birds listed in the guide, Wildlife of the Galapagos, J. Fitter, D. Fitter and D. Hosking, Princeton Univ. Press, 2000.

I will dig out my slides from our previous trip and see if I have some different birds to add in another post.

Again, the captions show—Island, Species, resident status. I think some of the Plovers were in winter plumage and some in breeding plumage. Anybody have a different take?

Baltra, immature Egret, resident.

Santa Cruz, Smooth-billed Ani, introduced.

Santa Cruz, Wandering Tattler, migrant.

Isabela, Whimbrel, migrant.

Isabela, Semi-palmated Plover, migrant.

Isabela, Black-necked Stilt, found only in Galapagos.

Isabela, White-cheeked Pintail, found only in Galapagos, subspecies found elsewhere.

Isabela, Black-necked Stilt, found only in Galapagos.

Isabela, White-cheeked Pintail, found only in Galapagos, subspecies found elsewhere.

Isabela, Common Gallinule, resident and found elsewhere.

Floreana, Sanderling, migrant.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Galapagos Birds II.

1-9-12 SHORT HILLS: The weather here remains unusually mild for January and dry. Here are more birds from the Galapagos. The captions show Island, Species, Native status.

Floreana, Lava Heron, found only in Galapagos.

Floreana, Great Blue Heron, found elsewhere.

Floreana, Semi-palmated Plover, migrant.

Floreana, Black-bellied Plover, migrant.

Floreana, Yellow Warblers in boudoir, found only in Galapagos, subspecies found elsewhere.

Espanola, Hood Mockingbird, found only in Galapagos.

Espanola, American Oystercatcher, found only in Galapagos, subspecies found elsewhere.

Espanola, Semi-palmated Plover, migrant.

Los Lobos, Small Ground Finch, found only in Galapagos.

Los Lobos, Yellow Wharbler, found only in Galapagos, subspecies found elsewhere.

San Cristobal, Galapagos Flycatcher, found only in Galapagos.

Genovesa, Wandering Tattler-winter plumage, migrant.

Genovesa, Whimbrel, migrant.

Genovesa, Ruddy Turnstone, migrant.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Galapagos Birds.

1-7-12 SHORT HILLS: I have presented the journey, day by day, and won’t dicuss the ghastly trip home with canceled flights by LAN airlines, but we did get home, sort of on schedule, 12-31-11.

Since I have only shown a small fraction of my pix so far, I thought I would do more Galapagos birds. Not the iconic ones, boobies, penguins and frigates, that I have already shown, but some of the other ones that we saw. Many are found only in the Galapagos, some have similar relatives elsewhere. Like most of the Galapagos animals, the birds are much more approachable than they are elsewhere. You get better pix.

I have tried to ID them all, but it’s easy to confuse immature of one species with adults of another, and a lot of adults are similar, plus plumage changes with gender and season. So, I am quite willing to be corrected on IDs. I have noted the island, my species ID, and how unique to the Galapagos they are.

Santa Cruz, Brown Pelican, subspecies widely found.

Santa Cruz, Cactus Ground Finch, found only in Galapagos.

North Seymour, Western Sandpiper, migrant during Northern winter.

Genovesa, Galapagos Mockingbird, found only in Galapagos. [above and below]

Genovesa, Lava Gull, immature, found only in Galapagos.

Genovesa, Galapagos Dove, found only in Galapagos.

Genovesa, immature Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, related subspecies found elsewhere.

Genovesa, Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, related subspecies found elsewhere.

Genovesa, immature Swallow Tail Gull, found only in Galapagos.

Genovesa, immature Lava Heron, found only in Galapagos. [above and below]

Genovesa, Large Ground Finch, found in Galapagos only.