Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fire walk with me

I'm sure you all heard about the big forest fire in South Jersey a few weeks ago. We do snake trapping in that area so I followed the story pretty closely. One of our sites got completely burned but the snakes all survived. I had been itching to go down and check it out. It is a long trek so I was hoping to tie it in with work stuff. Today was day, since I was 30 miles away. What I saw, was impressive. As usual, the pictures don't do it justice. You could still smell the charred mess and it went for miles upon miles.

The Pine Barrens are meant to burn and burn frequently. The sandy soil doesn't hold moisture so it dries real quick. The pine trees are adapted to fire, to the dryness and low nutrients of the soil. The pine trees are so adapted to fire that some species won't allow their pine cones to open unless a fire comes through. I'm talking about fires that are quick moving, frequent, and don't result in an inferno...unlike what recently happened. But I did see and take some open pine cones. So hopefully by the next spring, it'll be a carpet of little pine seedlings everywhere.

Many years ago, I dragged Cokane and company to the Pine Barrens (see pic above). One of our stops was the Pine Plains, where the tallest pine trees are a maximum of 6 to 7 feet. I'm not sure if they ever figured out why the trees were so small...super adaptation to fire, poor soil nutrients, or unknown???? It was a pretty cool place and I had been there before on a field trip from Cook College. One of my classmates told me a story of how some people had taken a special "trip" there and it was very easy to get lost since everything looks the same for miles and the trees are so short. Well, the Pine Plains got clobbered real bad. I'm not sure it'll ever be the same (see below). It'll be a long time before we know if there will ever be the Pine Plains again. But each of my stops along the side of the road, I heard at least one bird calling..I hear you eastern towhee....I hope you can make it work..

Monday, May 28, 2007

My other job

The past month or so 99% of my free time has been devoted to installing laminate floors in my condo. Everyplace except the bathroom has been transformed. I've had my fair share of numerous muscle aches, bruises, scrapes, and bonked fingers. If anyone is looking to lose weight, I highly recommed a major project like this. Between this project and my field work, I think I've lost between 5 and 10 pounds. Besides the laminate floors, I also felt the need to repaint most everything. The painting was a major project. I still am on touchup duty after putting in the trim and accidentally bonking the walls with the hammer.

Then to add to my challenge, I had to lay down plywood everywhere except the kitchen and front entrance. That way I wouldn't have to remove the unbreakable ceramic tile and 3 layers of linoleum.

All I have left is some door molding, which I need to special order, and other odds and ends. Somehow, all by myself I managed to install the flooring in the kitchen. That meant I had to jump the oven and the fridge over the flooring. But I would be still working on the plywood if not for my fabulous friends and family. Everyone had their own special talent. Cheryl was the most determined and Ben, her boyfriend, provided the needed brute strength. YL Steve was the best cutter and Patty was the most improved and the best sander. Cokane was the best carpet cutter.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Baby-fest continues

We were turtling today. Again, no turtles for me. But that's fine. I have my own collection of frogs for my entertainment. We got to see another fawn and before I could pet it, it took off. Then my newest co-worker stumbled upon this baby screech owl (above). He scared off the parents and the baby was left alone. Baby was snapping its beak, pooping, and making weird baby screechy noises. Very cute. We were like the paparazzi below it. Five different cameras were all going off.

We then ventured off to a turtle control site. It's a place where there are known records for this rare turtle. It was tough to find it, but I managed to find the spot and called everyone over. It lead a series of bottomless pit areas. Everyone "took a drink" at some point. Y'know when you overtop your boot. It was real tough walking in this muck. You take one step and sink down...possibly endless unless you find a lucky rock. Then you attempt to extract the back foot by wiggling it around to loosen it. Kind of like walking in peanut butter or very thick choco pudding. Then attempting to find our way back to the car, we scared a robin's nest and the two chicks jumped out of the nest. They can't fly yet so we scooped them up and replaced them. Here's my chick I rescued..all squeaking and upset. Although it's looking pretty serene in this pic.

If you haven't noticed, a bunch of flowers are out in bloom. It's great. The autumn olive shrubs are finishing up. But they give the air a strawberry marshmallow smell. It's awesome.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Today I was back out doing the grassland bird survey. Too much walking again but we stumbled upon two fawns. The top one probably was just hours old. We scared the hell out of mom and she took off running and exacuating her bladder as well. Maybe it's a way for her to find her way back to her baby. The bottom fawn was in full still mode and I even petted it a couple times. I had heard you can pick them up when they are small. But I knew the fawn would hate so I reluctantly left it alone.

BTW my red-headed woodpecker is still around but he's being coy. He just kept his distance even when we played his call on our "heckle-box" as birdman calls it. It's this giant speaker attached to a mp3 player. When you play a species call, it's supposed to cause them to come closer to try and fight this invader. No such luck this time. We probably played the call way too loud and scared it.

Yesterday, we were turtling and didn't find a single turtle. But we did find a red-winged blackbird nest complete with cute light blue eggs. Looked like easter candy malt balls. Then at home, I saw the cutest baby bunny which was smaller than my fist. I wanted to catch it and snorge it but it got away.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Frustration central, how may I direct your call

The past day or so has been choke full of random frustrating moments. First I finally confronted my father on the damage he and my brother caused to my albiet old VW golf. They drove the golf over the ramps and it caused some dents. They neglected to tell me and I had to ask what happened. I guess they were hoping I didn't notice it and y'know since I'm a girl I wouldn't know the difference. It's funny that they caused more damage to my car in 11 years than I ever have. First, my father refused to apologize. His reasoning is that if it's an accident, then no apology is needed. Um. Ok? So if I intend on doing something, why would I apologize for doing so. And of course he has no intention on paying for the repairs. Nevermind the fact, it raises the question of what other damage has those two monkeys caused, that I haven't noticed. So I'm helping myself to all his tools he left at my place during my laminate floor installation. Yes. I am intentionally taking his tools and I have no apologies...consider them hostages.Then last night at about 4 am, WWIII began at my condo. Or at least it sounded like that. A helicoptor was flying low over my condo and the surrounding area...for about an hour straight. All my bottles and glass objects suctioned to my windows were shaking and rattling for the entire time. Then it culminated in a final super low flight over my condo with sirens following it. Ok. So what the hell was that about? Is there a suspect on the run? Is the copter about to go down? Are we being invaded by Pennsylvania? No idea. And I had taken a nyquil last night since my allergies were bad. So it was loud enough to wake me from that nyquil coma.

Then they are paving my parking area. It never fails that right when I leave the house in the morning, they are doing something right in my spot. So I have no place to walk. Last week, it was a massive grinding machine spitting asphalt bits. Today it was heaping un-smushed piles of asphalt. I had to take a flying leap over this steaming and sticky mess. All I know is that asphalt is officially gross. Then I get home and my garage is wide open for no reason. The guys disengaged my automatic opener (without my permission) and I can't get it back. So I call the condo association and they're closed (must be nice). I leave a lovely message and then I call the paving company. I get a human and she's takes my info. Time for round 2 with the opener. I pull my rav4 out of the garage and park it on the street (cuz you are not supposed to be in newly paved area and I proceed to get asphalt bits all over it). I am wrangling the opener and finally a reprieve. Two burly paving guys come walking over and save the day. They fix the opener and peace has been restored.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


My work occasionally sends me to the urban environments. I don't particularly enjoy these garbage ridden, stinky, traffic snarled, and sketchy people environments. But the Bayonne site I went to, was actually a positive experience. It's the big Military Ocean Terminal peninsula that they are looking to redevelop it with basically a new town. I'm sure it'll be way outside my price bracket but it looks well planned with pedestrian walkways along the water, open space, public transportation, and a mix of residential and shops. You get views of the water, a golf course that looks like Scotland, the Verrazano Bridge, and of course Manhattan.

While there, I did some snooping around and found the Intrepid aircraft carrier in dry dock. I didn't take a pic since it's not that exciting. They also had a 9/11 memorial that was a present from Russia. This memorial for whatever reason freaks me out a bit. It's giant and I feel like that big silver teardrop is about to fall on me. And the big pic of Putin there makes him look like he's planning something. But maybe he's just not a smiley type of guy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The elusive tree-hog

Today I got to assist with a rare grassland bird survey with the birdman at a giant site. Now I am not great at birding. I'm still learning and I'm sure the birdman was dreading having me tag along after my numerous misidentifications and the infamous "Hey. What bird is making that noise?" His response "That's not a bird. That's a squirrel." But that was a LONG time ago so y'know and I had a good laugh about that. I've been listening to my birding by ear cds and I've almost mastered them. I almost ready for more birding by ear . I'm not so hot looking through binoculars since I have a hard time finding the bird in the view finder (it usually flies away just as I locate it) and my lens keep fogging up. But we found three rare grassland birds. I'd like to think that I helped located one species a bunch of times by my trusty ears but I'm sure the birdman would be skeptical of that.

Then walking by the woods I hear what I think is a rare woodpecker. I have never heard or seen it in real life...just on my cds and a stuffed toy which makes it call. I almost didn't want to say what bird I thought it was for fear of laughter. But I said it and was correct. Woohoo! It's a red-headed woodpecker and it's call is a loud "Queer!" No. Seriously. Check it out

Later we spotted a healthy looking coyote. He was so far away we needed binoculars and the birdman's fancy spotting scope. The coyote was so frightened of us and took off running full bore even though we were very far away. So that was cool. We don't see coyotes very often.

We walked for what seemed like miles. The site was over 600 acres. So that's like 600 football fields and we walked most of it. I request a horse and dog for the next visit. A horse for me to ride on and a highly trained dog to flush the birdies out of the grass.

Then birdman goes "There's a groundhog in that tree." Wait. What. I need that in the spotting scope. Sure enough there was a groundhog way up in the tree. I'm not talking like 5 feet up on the trunk. He's way up in a big tree (see pic below). I really don't know what to say about that. Not sure what's so fabulous up in a tree for a groundhog. Weird stuff. I guess I'm seeing evolution in the works.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Turtle love connex

I was out turtling again last thursday. Unfortunately my phone died very early on and I didn't bring a real camera. Just as well since it was a lackluster turtle day for myself. The rest of the gang did great. We...I mean THEY found 11 turtles. I found only 2. I went the whole morning without finding any turtles and was having my own pity party..."I'll never find a turtle and I won't find any this season. Waah." Everyone else was finding them everywhere and just a few feet from where I was walking. But finally I found 2 in the afternoon. Phew. So these little guys seem to be on the prowl. I hooked these 2 kids up. I'm hoping these 2 hook up since they found them so close. The boy in this pic is the box turtle in my previous post.

You can tell a boy from a girl by looking at their bellies. If there's an indentation, that's a boy. Girls have a flat belly.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Around this time of the year, I spend quite a bit of time looking for turtles. There are 2 rare types that we search for. One type likes to hang out in streams and stream banks. The other more rare turtle involves walking around wetlands that have a lot of muck. Most of the time it's just a struggle not to step in a bottomless hole or fall in. My pants always end up covered in smelly mud. We are also supposed to stick our hands in these bottomless holes in the desperate and futile attempt to locate a turtle. However, there are unfriendly snapping turtles that are more than willing to take a finger off. The guy in the top photo is an extremely large snapping turtle capable of taking off a bunch of fingers. I think his head is the size of my fist. These guys can even eat ducklings, frogs, and turtles. Obviously I try to avoid these guys.

This year has been not very exciting. Usually there's a bunch of frogs and other critters to keep one entertained while walking around for hours. Not this year. Not sure if it's the end of the world or if these snapping turtles have made meals out of everyone else. But we did find a box turtle (below pic) who was not shy. He was flailing in my hands and didn't once hide in his shell.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ant War 2007

I thought after my victory of ant war 2006 that they wouldn't dare come back for round 2. But I was wrong. Even though I've sprayed around the outside of my place, I guess that wasn't good enough. So they're back in the kitchen cruising around with my apparent purpose or target. It's the real little guys. I've sprayed again around the outside and used the natural clove stuff inside. Of course they just move to avoid the clove stuff. Now they are hanging out around the house plants thinking they can hide for me.