Friday, January 30, 2015

Yannick Nézet-Séguin at NJPAC.

1-30-15 SHORT HILLS: Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a Quebecois, is the new, two-plus years, Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and is credited with bringing it out of bankruptcy and restoring it to prominence. He is young, ever-smiling, buzz cut, short, muscular bundle of energy on the podium. We heard them last night at NJPAC.

They did Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Shostalovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 Op 102, and Selections from the Suite from the Gadfly, Op 97A. YN-S got a lot out of TPO and the piano soloist, Kirill Gerstein.

For once, the audience at NJPAC didn’t applaud between movements. The house was one-quarter empty, and we were almost alone in the second row. You, who didn’t come, missed a great concert. We haven’t heard much Shostalovich in the past, but will look for him in the future as well as our new hero Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

We got a new inch of snow last night, which got me outside this morning to shovel the driveway. Deep freeze predicted for tonight.

Sunset after the big storm, nice sunsets often seem to happen after storms.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

NJ Saved from the Storm.

1-27-15 SHORT HILLS: The storm has come and gone, but here it was far from the blizzard that was predicted. It hit 20 miles, or so, to the east leaving NJ on the western fringe. We got about six inches of dry, powdery snow without a lot of wind. It was about 20° last night. Eastern Long Island and Boston are getting the brunt of the storm.

The dogs have been frolicking in the snow for two days, and we were out with them today. There doesn’t seem to be any tree damage from the storm. We’re waiting to be plowed out, but I cleared the street drainage sewers even though there won’t be any melting for at least a week. All the travel bans were probably a good idea because the street plowing was done quickly.

White-throated Sparrow is puffed up to stay warm and sheltering in the lee of the house near the feeders. [above and below]

Four of a kind, plus two female cardinals. Can you find them?

After the storm, the sky is clearing and there's still some wind, but less than 24" to 36" of snow.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Terrible Storm Threatens East Coast.

1-25-15 VERMONT: Yesterday was warmish, in the thirties, with no wind and some sun. I had a nice snowshoe walk with the dogs in the pasture. Today is ten degrees colder and windy so it feels like 12°, too cold for an outing.

Earlier yesterday we visited Denny and Laura-Beth in Etna, NH and then hosted Ann and Roger for a Tanzania slide show and dinner. The previous night Donna and Bruce and Phyllis and Arnie came over with dinner to watch the show, and this afternoon Diana and Steve, Bill and Janet and Andy and Katie are coming by for the same pix.

Our plan is to head to NJ early tomorrow morning to avoid the predicted blizzard tomorrow night.

Thetford - 1-25-15....

Friday, January 23, 2015

January Days in Vermont.

1-23-15 VERMONT: We came up yesterday for the first time since early December, and the house and everything else are intact in spite of running out of propane while we were in Tanzania. That situation was handled by our wonderful neighbors while we were ogling giraffes.

There is about a foot of snow cover, quite crusty and iced over in a few spots. Today was fine for snowshoeing around the pasture, as it was about 30° with almost no wind. After we arrived yesterday, a Barred Owl flew out of the woods to perch on a big sugar maple in the sun. He/she posed for about half an hour—another chance for the new Sony.

It was supposed to be sunny today.

Ready for the Arctic? Are those sled dogs?

Can you see the Barred Owl?

There he is...catching some rays.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Birds and Cameras.

1-21-15 SHORT HILLS: After some very cold weather, January has been a little milder. We had a bunch of rain that started as freezing rain and coated all the trees and shrubs with ice, as well as the roads, but melted overnight and caused only minor damage. A dusting of snow is forecast for tonight. We go to VT tomorrow.

I bought a new camera, a Sony Cyber-shot with a 50x optical zoom and a 20 megapixel sensor, DSC-HX400, in the hopes of getting better telephoto pix. The Canon, PowerShot SX50HS, did a nice job in Tanzania, but some shots in full zoom and/or low light were sub-optimal. The Sony takes a long time to process a shot.

The first three of the following images were shot with the Sony from inside the house on a sunny day. The second three were with the Canon from outside on a cloudy day and from three times, or so, farther away from the feeders.

Sony - Chicadee.

House Finch.

Downy Woodpecker, female.

Canon - squirrel.

Bally and squirrel.

Tufted Titmouse.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Night at the Opera.

1-12-15 SHORT HILLS: The trip to Tanzania was most wonderful in the fullest sense of the word. The entire group enjoyed it fully. We are finally back on EST. Winter here is about average as we get to mid-January which if halfway to March 1 from December 1.

We were at the Met Opera last Friday to hear The Merry Widow, composed by Franz Lehár. It is set in Paris in 1900 and premiered in 1905 in Vienna. The Met’s production is gorgeous with lavish sets and ornate costumes and is set in the actual, original period intended by the authors. It is an operetta, and so there is dialogue as well as singing and dancing. It stars Renée Fleming, as she nears the end of a great career, as well as Kelli O’Hara and Nathan Gunn.

The first act was a dud, dull as dishwater. The three people sitting in front of us left at intermission, that’s almost $1000 worth of seats abandoned. The plot and libretto are quite predictable and as inane as most operas. The second and third acts were livelier and more fun with dancing by the Grisettes from Maxim’s. It is not a good vehicle for Kelli O’Hara whose talents are better suited to Broadway, and who doesn’t compare well with Renée Fleming.

Speaking of Broadway, it was only about twenty years later, the 1920’s, that Cole Porter and others were writing charming, brilliant and witty songs that make this piece feel dull, heavy and leaden.

It was a very cold night and the audience displayed very little stylish finery, but a lot of down and warm clothes, a little fur, and most women wore pants instead of gowns.

Met lobby.

The bar.

Opera goer agog with anticipation.


The stage at Intermission.


Tanzania - the end.

This is the last picture from Tanzania. on to other things....

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tanzania XIII. Birds from the Serengeti.

The Serengeti is a high plain about 100 miles east of Lake Manyara. It's dotted with lakes and rivers now in the wet season. The tree density varies from moderate to sparse. Here are another bunch of birds. Many of the birds we saw at all three stops, but I have avoided repeat pix for the most part.

Hildebrandt's starling.
Marabou stork.
Speckle-fronted weaver.
Superb starling.
Von der Drecken's hornbill.
Ring-necked dove.
Great spotted cuckoo.
Lappet-faced vulture.
African pygmy falcon.
Steppe eagle.
Rufous-tailed weaver.
Little bee eater.
White-browed coucal.
Roller - European? Lilac-breasted?
Black-lored babbler.
Blue-capped cordonbleu.
Crowned lapwing.
Fischer's lovebird.
Yellow-throated sand grouse, male in front.
Grey-breasted spur fowl.
Long-crested eagle.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tanzania XII. Birds from Lake Manyara.

Lake Manyara is only 30 miles from the Ngorongoro Crater but is forested, except for the lake shore, and at lower elevation, about 1,500 ft, and so is a different habitat with different birds. Here are some that we saw.

Glossy ibis.
Silver cheeked hornbill.
Black-winged stilt.
White-faced duck.
Grey heron.
Collared pratincole.
Little egret, Great white egret.
Squacco heron.
White-breasted cormorant.
Lesser jacana.
Long-tailed fiscal.
Pangani longclaw.
Masked weaver.
Red and yellow barbet.
Three-banded plover.
Black bishop.
Southern ground hornbill.
Pied avocet, sandpipers?
Grey-hooded kingfisher.