Monday, February 20, 2017

Springish in Jersey.

2-20-17 SHORT HILLS: When it was warm over the weekend in VT, it was hot here with temps near 70°. The snow that was covering the yard is completely gone, small remnants of the plow piles are still present in the driveway. Today was cooler, about fifty when we got back from VT.

It may well be too early in the season, but lots of plants are responding to the warm weather. Snowdrops are actually blooming in one spot and in bud in several others. Vinca minor has a couple flowers out. Buds of trees and shrubs are swollen and starting to open—viburnum, currant, chestnut, elm, spicebush, andromeda to name just a few.

The next couple of days are predicted to be warm with cool nights, but harsh weather is clearly possible and probably likely in the weeks to come. Temps in the teens will damage a lot of the stuff now rushing to open. This is one pitfall of climate change.

New blooms: snowdrops, Vinca minor.


Snowdrops are up. These are the first of lots in our yard.

Vinca minor one of two early flowers.

Elm tree branches with buds about to pop open with flowers.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Warming up in VT.

2-19-17 VERMONT: Yesterday and today have been warm, in the fifties. The snow has melted a little, but all the roofs shed their snow and icicle load with loud, resounding thumps. We were out in the pasture both days on the snowshoes.

Last night Judy gave a dinner party for Jane and Ken, Ann and Roger, and Donna and Bruce—I tried to stay out of the way. But after dinner I showed the Antarctica pix, everybody claimed they enjoyed the show. Actually, no one fell asleep. Today other neighbors are coming over to see the pix.

Scott was here to clear the doorways after the roofs shed the snow. We go back to NJ tomorrow.


Looks sort of like a Rothko?

Gus and Maizie making more trails.

Judy checks out the small pond.

Bally in deep.

On a sunny, warm day the metal roofs shed the snow.

'Sit. Stay. Staaay.'

Friday, February 17, 2017

VT in the Snow and Sun.

2-17-17 VERMONT: What a difference 300 miles makes. We came up yesterday to two feet of snow, powdery snow, with huge plowed and shoveled piles. Today we have bright sun, temps in the twenties and only a little wind.

We snowshoed around the pasture with the dogs. The dogs loved it. The pasture is crisscrossed with dog tracks. They dig holes, they bury themselves, they chase each other tirelessly. I forgot to take the camera out on the walk, so no dog-frolic pix.

We had dinner at Laura-Beth and Denny’s last night with Jim and Brooke and Honey and Bob. We must have had fun because it went til ten, a late night for geezers.

I filled the feeder yesterday, and today the chickadees are swarming all over it.


Hungry bird.

Enough bright sun to get us to snowshoe the pasture.

Yesterday mostly cloudy over two feet of snow.

Icicles of doom hang over the doorway. I can probably pull them off with a roof rake.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The End Is In Sight.

2-15-17 SHORT HILLS: It’s not really two weeks since I last posted, but just a few days because of all the Antarctica posts that I put up. That said, there’s not much going on here. After a mild January, February has provided some snow, maybe six inches. It’s now down to three inches with a layer of ice on top from a freezing rain. The freezing rain dropped a lot of small branches, but I haven’t seen any major damage from the ice as yet.

 Before the snow and rain, the snowdrops and daffodils were showing about an inch of stalk. The feeders have been busy, I’ve had to fill them about every other day. It’s been the usual customers and a flock of grackles a few days ago, who haven’t been back for an encore. There have been no penguins at the feeders.

 February is the month when I get tired of winter and long for some spring. Two weeks to go before March 1, which always means that it’s time to prepare for the warm seasons. I already ordered corn seeds and pond chemicals. Vermont tomorrow.


Feeding finches.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Antarctica XII.

1-28-17 STANLEY, FALKLANDS: We docked early this AM at Stanley, the capitol of the Falklands. The entire population of the Falklands, is less than 3000, most of them in and around Stanley. We were off the ship, on buses and delivered to town before 8 AM. Things were incredibly quiet early on a Saturday morning. We walked around a few blocks, almost all there is, hit a few shops when they opened, and then were back on the buses for the trip to Mt. Pleasant Airport.

The airport is part of a military base and handles a couple flights a week. They got us there at about 10 AM for a 2 PM flight on LAN to Punta Arenas. In Chile we got off the plane for immigration and customs and then back on the same plane for the flight to Santiago. We were at the Airport Holiday Inn at 11PM for a late dinner and big, soft bed.


Stanley Cathedral with whale-bone arch. Nice lupin.

Stanley P.O. When's the last time you saw a phone booth?

Stanley. Quiet Saturday morning.

Lupin love the Falklands.

Well, this is a Garden blog.

1-29-17 SANTIAGO, CHILE: After breakfast, the three of us took a bus to downtown Santiago for the sights. Santiago is in the Andes at 1700 feet elevation and has a dry, hot climate. The population is over 5 million.

It’s mid-summer there now and hazy, hot and humid. The bus ride went through poor sections of the city. Every dry, dusty, empty lot is a garbage dump with homeless shanties, graffiti covers everything and there is a general need for repair.

The center city is cleaner and more prosperous looking with less graffiti and a bank on each block. The people are better dressed. It being Sunday morning, there wasn’t much bustle. The central square has some interesting buildings and a cathedral. Steps, sidewalks, streets are all crumbled in spots and the whole city needs infrastructural repair work.

After a couple hot hours in the sun, we taxied back to the hotel to wait for our evening flights to Houston for us and to Kennedy for Val.


Santiago, Chile. Cathedral at Plaza de Armes.

Santiago, Chile. Santa Lucia Hill.

1-30-17 HOUSTON, TEXAS: We landed early, went through U.S. immigration and customs with only a few hitches. We boarded our flight for EWR on time, but got booted off because the pilot’s chair was broken. It took a couple hours to fix it.

1-31-17 SHORT HILLS: We ultimately got home at about 5 PM last night. Today I’ll start the story of the adventure….

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Antarctica XI.

1-27-17 SAUNDERS ISLAND, FALKLANDS: Our last expedition started after another early breakfast. Saunders Island is much like the last two in that we landed on a low land between two higher sections. It’s about a mile across, mostly sand, eroded from the sandstone bedrock. Part of the east side is fenced for sheep. It was overcast, but with no rain, a gentle wind and warm temps in the thirties.

We saw all five of the penguins native to the Falklands, which includes our first glimpse of the King penguins. We also saw another solitary Macaroni penguin, this one embedded with rock hoppers. Gentoo and Magellanic penguins were also present. We saw chicks of all the penguins except the Macaroni, and chicks of—skua, steamer ducks, upland geese, Magellanic oystercatcher, and dolphin gull.

I got high enough on the east side of the island to see the rock hopper rookery where the Macaroni penguin lives, which was high enough to see most of the island and the ocean beaches on both sides. I didn’t continue up to the albatross rookery here, because we saw one yesterday at Carcass Island and because it was a hard climb.

After a few hours of bird watching, we went back to the ship for lunch and began checking out and wrapping up as we motored to Stanley, the capitol of the Falklands.


King penguin, our seventh species. These are much taller with orange highlights.

Three kings.

Another king.

Saunders Island, another sandy neck between two beaches.

Red penguins.

Brown skua, adult, minding a chick in the foreground amidst the sea cabbage.

Dolphin gull and penguin chick.

Falkland steamer ducks, flightless, with chicks in a nest.

Kelp goose, female.

More kings.

Magellanic oystercatcher guarding chick.

Oystercatcher chick.

Upland geese, males in white.

Rock hopper penguins with an ambassador from the macaroni penguins, center.

Wooly penguin.

Whale sketeton, mandibles in front.

Gentoo penguins out for a group swim with the Vavilov in the background.

Gentoo penguins saying what a great swim that was.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Antarctica X.

1-26-17 CARCASS ISLAND, FALKLANDS: Our second outing of the day was in late afternoon. The wind had picked up to about forty knots, and it felt colder even though the temps were about the same, it was still sunny. The island was similar in composition and geography to the previous one. We again walked across a narrow neck from one beach to the other.

The new penguins are Magellanic, our sixth species. They nest in burrows that they dig near the beach. We also saw dolphin gulls, brown skuas, Gentoo penguins, Falkland steamer ducks, upland geese, a yellow/grey finch, and another tussacbird. After dinner we had another sunset. There were whales and dolphins in the afternoon.


Carcass Island has similar sandstone bedrock with 'stone' river flowing downhill and tussac grass near the beach.

Carcass Island. Two geese flying out of the tussac grass.

Weathered sandstone. Some of the layers show 'cross-bedding'.

Sandstone leaves a nice sandy beach for the ducks and penguins as it weathers.

Falkland steamer ducks are flightless. A local, identical duck is not flightless.

Magellanic penguin, species number six, has white stripes on the head and chest, black bills and a pink eye ring.

Magellanic penguins dig burrows like this on to raise chicks. This strategy wouldn't work on the Antarctic peninsula.

Magellanic penguin at its burrow.

Tussacbird flirting with us again.

Upland goose, male, showing green feathers. The female is napping.

White-bridled finch, one of several small birds on this island.  With no trees available, they all nest on the ground or in the grass. They survive because there are no introduced rats or cats.

Falkland Brown Skua is very hard to tell from other brown skuas.

Another nice sunset, it gets dark earlier now that we're further north.