Monday, April 30, 2007

Old School

One of the benefits of having a job that involves the outdoors is stumbling upon old stuff. Large farms usually have at least one farm dump where it's a treasure trove of old bottles and other goodies. I found this old building today while turtling. It's actually a pretty small building...about the size of my kitchen. I have no idea what this building is for. Right now a very small stream runs through it. It has 2 windows and 2 doors. One door is up if this building had 2 floors? Next to this building I thought at first was a root cellar...but maybe it was later converted to a well house. All very Blair Witch Project. Although I was alone, it was not dark so all was good. Even though this building was choke full of old tires, I'm happy the kids didn't get to it with their graffiti and beer cans.

Here's an archway from perhaps the old house.

Lastly, the biggest and possibly the newest was a big barn. It had a lock on it otherwise I'd be all up in there.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

spring rocks

I can't help but notice all the great flowers blooming. You got cherry, daffodils, forsythia, and magnolia rocking out. But you also have the small guys in the woods creating carpets of color....lesser celandine, spring beauty, and ground ivy. Yeah sure the yellow ones in this pic are an invasive weed but as far as invasive plants go, they sure are nice and they don't have thorns.

Love is also in the air for my amphibian friends. We stumbled upon this toad porn the first turtling outing last week. Sometimes the guys get a little too demanding and end up drowing their ladies. We found their eggs too which looked like a necklace. So there's been a lot of lovin' going on in that puddle.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Early spring I get to go out in the seasonal wetland pools and look for frogs, toads, and salamanders. These seasonal wetland pools are called vernal pools and can receive additional protection if they contain certain frogs, toads, and/or salamanders. The first year I did this survey, I couldn't find anything. Ok. So I heard some common frog making like one peep once. It was a big downer. The next year I went out and the very first pool I went to I found frog eggs. I couldn't believe it since I had such bad luck the previous year. But each year gets better and better. Here is some salamander eggs. Looks like a giant phlegm ball but still cool.

Here's a bunch of different salamanders chilling together. The small ones you all probably familiar with if you every moved a log. By the time we were done with our survey, the big guys escaped from this dish and the little ones looked all like "We didn't do anything wrong. It was them."

Now the eggs are hatching...even in my hand and probably by next week they will be little tadpoles and juvenile salamanders swimming around.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Backstreet's back alright

On saturday, my cousin talked me into going to the local country hangout. It was apparent that this was a VERY popular place by the super packed parking lot. After forking over a ridic cover charge, we were whisked to an alternate realty full of tight and light colored jeans, auto parts shirts, and other fashion don'ts. Boots and cowboy hats of any variety were practically mandatory. Matching outfits were optional but encouraged. They were filming a commercial for the place that night so we might be lucky enough to be in this probable local cable access channel commercial. It was a struggle just to walk around since it was so crowded. I made the faux pas by walking along the edge of the dance floor to get to the adjacent tables and received a loud "Go around!" Mind you I was not the only one walking/standing around the edge. I guess they knew I was an outsider by my lack of mandatory apparel.

For whatever reason there was a mainstream high school punk cover band in the room with the mechanical bull. That was entertaining for a brief moment. The dance floor full of rotating characters was far more exciting. Each song had its own choreographed number. Singles rock out in the center and couples rotate around the edge of the dance floor. You must comply with said dance routine. No originality is allowed. Then I thought I heard it all when backstreet boys' "backstreet's back alright" song was busted out. Again this song had it's own choreographed number which everyone knew. Whether it matches the video, I can't say but I bet it does. I'm pretty sure another backstreet song was busted out later on. Aside from watching the dancing, you get to see the battle plan for the singles. Step 1) locate object of desire, Step 2) dance near them, Step 3) wait for positive response, and lastly 4) if positive response is received, ask for a couple's dance.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When geese attack

Back at the big estate and we were finally finishing up the wetland delineation on this gigantic property. Yesterday we had hung flags along a stream and right where I wanted to put a flag was a Canada goose and her nest. At first I thought she was dead since she had her neck lying on the she was trying to be as flat as possible. Nope she was just hiding from me. My co-worker Heidi provided cover while I placed a flag like 10 feet from her nest. She never moved and all was good. Today we decided to move the flags far away from the stream. Heidi got one side of the stream to do and I got the other..the goose side. Heidi was far far ahead of me since I had all these side tributaries to deal with. I should have known it was a bad sign when I fell into a groundhog hole right at the start of my task. The area was covered in knee high grass and there were hidden holes everywhere. But my ankles and I survived that. Then I saw the male goose fly in just when I was getting close to the nest. I should have known it would be trouble and sure enough it was. He was hissing, tongue sticking it, manically flapping, and then attempting to attack from the air. She was standing up, hissing, and flailing about too. I was screaming like the girl I am and attempting to ward off the attackers with my long soil auger. Nothing was going to stop them. But I got my flag and retreated. But I had another flag maybe 20 feet away and attack part 2 commenced. More screaming and flailing about but I got that flag too. Here's a pic of the happy couple. She's on land sitting on the nest and he's in the water making sure I don't come back.
Now you are all probably wondering..Canada goose?? Isn't it Canadian goose? Nope sorry. According to the birders the common name is Canada goose. I think the common name should be the most commonly used name. Apparently not. And why is it American crow but not America crow if you follow that logic. No idea. Just acknowledge and move on. And FYI, there's no such thing as a sea gull. It's just gull. Once I said sea gull to the birdman at work and he goes "If it was by the bay, would it be a bagel?" yuck yuck yuck. And lastly, your pigeon is really rock pigeon. It used to be just rock dove but I guess the most recent change has been to rock pigeon. I would have loved to be at that important conference...I'm just sure the love of my life would have been passionatetly arguing for the name rock dove. They're like the John Cougar Mellencamp of birds. Or is it now John Cougar or John Mellencamp??? Can I get a John Mellencamp Cougar? So I make sure to use the names Canadian geese, sea gull, and pigeon as much as possible to the birdman. And each time he just sighs and shakes his head.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Even more farm animals

I was back at the big estate on Thursday. Although we were pretty much done with the farm part, I felt the need to re-visit it multiple times on Thursday. That and my co-worker Heidi is going through some personal issues and she was silent, sullen, and spaced out all day. On Monday she had run out of the office crying and said that she couldn't even talk about it. Hope all works itself out but I sure was in some desperate need for cheer and real interaction that day.

On Thursday, they had 2 goats out. There was the cute scared white one that had to be on a leash. I just wanted to scoop the white one up in my arms and take it home. The brown one (you can see it's butt on the left side of the pic) could have cared less when I approached it nor take a break from it's tasty grass it was nibbling. I think it was leash-less. When I petted the brown one, it wagged it's tail and when I stopped petting it the tail wagging stopped too. The white one was only able to sniff me and that was too close for it's comfort. Note the homing pigeon's cage/broke down trailer type action in the background. This all brought back a petting zoo memory of when I was a small tot when goats tried to eat my clothes. So I insisted on being carried throughout the petting zoo to escape the nibbling goats.

We checked in with all the horses and they were more friendly this time around. It's funny how every individual animal has it's own personality. One horse kept biting its neighbors for no apparent reason. Then there's the brave one that's always the first to check the new people out. Usually it has a buddy that lags behind and waits for the "all clear" sign and then comes up. Here's a pic of a mom and I guess her year old colt. Very cute and fuzzy from winter. It's neighbor..another horse was so skittish we couldn't even get near the fence and it would bolt. So it was a game of musical cracked corn chairs for those three. Scaredy horse would bolt and run for the farther cracked corn. Mom and colt would run to other cracked corn. Later and repeat.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

old money

We've been working on this wetland delineation in an extremely large estate in southern Somerset County, NJ. I would say it's comparable to the Rockefeller estates. It has the typical large estate house and other random old homes. We've been there since the fall and the property includes greenhouses, statue gardens and randomly placed statues, many artificial lakes and waterfalls, at least one pet cemetary, and several farms including all your favorite animals...cows, horses, ponies, at least one very loud donkey, homing pigeons, chickens, guinea hens, dogs, and farm cats.

This past outing, my female co-worker (lets call her Heidi) and I took the company truck..affectionately called the "exploder". She's pretty brazen as to where she drives it since it saves us walking. But we've been lucky. We have not gotten stuck but we did hit this small ditch that probably should have blown a tire out. We were distracted by cute barking dogs in the distance. We had some nice whiplash action on that bump. We have also been kicking the boy team's ass with the number of wetland flags hung. I think we hung like 50 wetland flags in less than an hour which a record for me.
Day 2 comes and I get a call from my male co-worker (lets call him Carmine). first thing in the morning. Carmine says that he got his Rav-4 stuck and needs our help. We find security (a rarity on a site) and ask for help, since our truck does not have any tow straps. Carmine and our other co-worker "the birdman" had already made an attempt and are super muddy. For whatever reason, there's a tarp wrapped around the wheel. I don't recommed using a tarp to provide traction. We slowly attempt to make a Roman road of logs. The whole time we are thinking that a tractor is coming to help so half the time we are just hanging out. An hour passes and we've manage to move the truck 50 painful feet. I'm driving since I'm the lightest and no help pushing. After we drive on top of the Roman road, the logs become one with the mud and we can't reuse them. Finally another truck comes but they are driving the same muddy route. It's a dualie..y'know four wheels on the back axle. Carmine goes to stop them but it's too late. Now they are stuck too and it's worse then us. BTW the guys driving that truck are perfect plumber types/WWE fans complete with cigarettes, beer guts, plumber's crack, colored mirrored sunglasses with that florescent piece of plastic across the top. The 2 guys are now pissed and say that they weren't even supposed to help us. So we get back to building our Roman road and after one final push we get it free. It was quite the drive to get the truck free and avoid the other truck in reverse. I wish I had a picture of my tracks because it sure was snakey.

suit and tie not required

I am an environmental consultant in New Jersey. That means I get to spend quite a bit of time outside in the wilds of NJ. Most of time I delineate the boundaries of wetlands. Wetlands are protected so property owners and developers want to know how much wetlands are on their property and where exactly they are. The fun times of years we get to do threatened and endangered species surveys. That includes birds, amphibians, and reptiles surveys. Typical obstacles are thickets of prickers, falling/getting stuck in the water/muck, ticks, mosquitoes, bears and other large animals, and of course people. In this blog, I'll attempt to retell some of the more memorable past field outings and keep you posted on the latest events.

Like this photo. You would never be able to tell from this photo, that's a big bear hangout. That stump in the front of the pic was recently torn up by a bear. There's bear poop everywhere and in the fall, it smelled like a zoo. I get to go back there a few more times and perhaps even at night..yikes.