Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I just can't win

I was back at the big lake and beavers galore site. It's my third visit and each visit comes with its own mishaps and setbacks. I'm usually remember everything and I'm the person most likely to carry everything that one could possibly need in a day. I'm beginning to think this site has a curse of mishaps.

Day 1 - I grab the wrong pile of maps and data sheets. So all the maps and datasheets I need are sitting at the office. Thankfully, I have an aerial photograph of the site. Of course, the aerial photograph doesn't have the original wetland delineation and it means I'll have to rewalk that portion of the site to take the datasheets later. I initially forget my camera at the car and have to go back for it.

Day 2 - The first day I drove from the office to the site. So taking a different route straight from home, I miss the exit because its number was wrong on the web directions. I take an alternate exit and wrongly believe that it is quicker to fumble my way through the scenic back way rather than turn around and go back to the correct exit. I end up driving in a big circle and run down a squirrel. I'm 15 minutes late meeting my co-worker and surveyor.

Day 3 - Even though I leave 10 minutes early, somehow I'm still 5 minutes late to the site. I try to call my coworker to see where he is, but it goes straight to voice mail. He calls back and we eventually meet up. He is stuck in bad traffic and comes late. We flag a small wetland and then decide to walk the big mountain. I discard my light rain coat since it was warm. We make it up the big mountain and it starts to pour. Neither of us has any rain gear or water resistent gear. It then starts to hail. The rain doesn't stop and we get to the car 30 minutes later. I call the office and find out this rain just formed right over my site. We are drenched and decide to head back to the office. I have a change of heart about 5 minutes down the road. I frantically call my co-worker but he repeatedly doesn't pick up. I get gas and some lunch and head back to the site. I call him again and he's back at the office. I convince him to come back and things are going well. Weather is great and I'm starting to dry up. Then he drops my camera in the water. Thankfully it's my work camera but its game over for it. It's the swamp in the top pic that killed the camera.

Here's a cool shed made of logs and morter.
Here's the last photo before the camera mishap.
Here's what the pictures look like after the drink of water. Nevermind the camera won't zoom. Looks like I'll be rewalking a part of the site for the third time.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Unsuccessful quest for Pale Male

Perhaps the most famous red-tailed hawk is Pale Male. I've watched specials about him but never had the chance to see him in real life. I knew that I'd kick myself if I never had the chance to see Pale Male before his time would be up. There was no set agenda for the day so I thought it was a perfect opportunity especially since I wanted to go to Central Park anyway. The weather was awesome and I was joined by Lioux on my lazy outing in NYC.
Here's a couple distant shots of Pale Male's nest. It's just under the roof above the center window. Nobody was home but I still peered into a avid fan's spotting scope. Clearly I'll need a longer time commitment to sit and wait for someone to make an appearance. I'll be back! I'm glad that there's the committed folks that keep up the watch. There's some real jerks out there. I hear through the grapevine that this year's clutch of eggs may again be unsuccessful. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.
The cherry trees in full bloom action. I still can't get enough of that. It's amazing how well tulips do when they are not eaten by deer. They look so perfect that I wonder if it's fake.

Here's Han Christian Anderson's duck friend...he was far more interesting.

These couple of buildings symbolize to me authentic NYC buildings. I can just picture people hanging out on the fire escapes, yelling out the windows to people passing by. These buildings are just tall enough for the residents to observe and care what goes on in the streets below, which results in less local crime. Unfortunately, super tall skyscraper luxury condos are taking over the streets. It's a bit depressing to see this happening and I don't even live there. Someone living on the 20th floor in a luxury condo isn't going to care what's going on in the street below.

Friday, April 25, 2008


We have this site in New York that is so big and owned by such a large company that there are ATVs that we can use there. I am one of last of my group to be at this site. I suspect because people probably think that I'd drive the ATV too fast....well not yet. There aren't any helmets but we really should have some...especially for the boys! I've never been on one before and here's my very brief training sesh in the parking lot. There's no power steering and you control the gas using your thumb. Your thumb sure starts to hurt after awhile because you continuously have to press down. I only nearly ran off the trail once...but that was in the beginning. My coworker was less than impressed with my granny pace but I felt like I was riding a tractor on steroids...complete with uncontrolled anger and aggression. Any moment I could hit a bump and be launched off it. It was also difficult to adjust to not to panic at water hazards, large rocks, and really uneven terrain. It'll take awhile to get over driving at a tilted angle. But I survived and I'd like to think I was going at the perfect speed by the end....meanwhile my coworker was doing donuts at the all turns way ahead of me and even nearly rolled the ATV.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Beaver and donkette

I got to go back to the big site with the awesome lake and beavers. I'll need another day out there as well. Thankfully most of the work is done though. It still was a lot of walking and the day didn't start out great. First the directions told me to get off at an exit that didn't exist. So I took the next exit and thought I could fumble my way through the backroads to the site (which was the way we came the first day). The scenic tour as my father would call it. Problem was that the street names didn't match my road map. I ended up going around in a giant circle, ran over a squirrel (it was insane and ran between my front and back tires), and was like 15 minutes late to meeting a co-worker and the surveyor. But I eventually made it and the day began.

I found another beaver lodge (see above pic). This one appeared to be occupied because once I approached it there was a lot of activity in the water. Look at this cool beaver unintentional art. It's like a palm tree. I should cut it down and sell it.

What I was really excited about was seeing the baby donkey. I don't know who the daddy is because there were no adult dark colored donkeys. The donkeys, pony, and mini horses were all very polite. There was no biting or other bad behavior even when I was completely surrounded. I must have took like 10 pictures of the baby donkey. None really came out well since the bugs were causing it to itch and contort into uncute photos.

This little mini hourse is called the General. They say the General is semi retarded and should have never been able to walk. See his weird leg. But it looks like the General is living the high life and spends his time generally annoying his companions but sniffing their butts and stuff. He's also covered in grass.
The vanilla colored mini horse is the General's mom. She's pretty.
Nevermind all the above fun distractions, the wetlands on the site are nice....which is rare. I could waste days there just looking for turtles and other critters.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Duke Farms

Some more astute readers should be able to catch on that I've been to duke farms before for work. We did a lot of work there last year and I finally took their tours to learn more about the estate. I had some idea of what the tours would be like. We would be travelling via bus and I thought there would be stops and we'd get out for some photo ops. Well good news first. The early spring flowers and flowering trees were in full glory.

The bad news is that there were no bus stops to get out. We were allowed once to go to the open bus door to take a pic of this remote controlled waterfall. This below pic is through the glass at my seat.

This is the same view from the open bus door. Notice anything weird about the below pic? I ALWAYS see waterfalls that fall right into a lawn. So yes, it's a closer shot. But it's a horrible vantage. Plus only three people got up to take a pic.

We did take another tour which we were allowed to walk around a small portion of the estate and surrounding woods. Here's a burned down hay barn now used as a sculpture garden. I'm sure its amazing when the vines are blooming.

Duke seems to be at the forefront of green thought....at least for NJ standards. They are planning a whole bunch of renovations and upgrades to the property. The new revamped tour will have stops on the bus tour where you can get off and hang out. They have special meadow parking areas that look like hayfields but can hold cars without having the cars be stuck in the mud under normal circumstances. So I'm really looking forward to these new changes and the green building design.

There were a bunch of daffodil types that I had never seen. These had a peach colored interior.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bronx Zoo

We headed to the Bronx Zoo on this perfect spring day. Aside from the wide range of exotic animals, this zoo is a great place to just go have a nice walk to enjoy the scenery. The cherry and redbud trees were blooming. Daffodils were still blooming and the forsythia was out in all its glory.

One of my favorite critters is the red panda. We lucked out that it was lunchtime so the panda was very visible.

I know that there are melatinized gray squirrels on the Princeton campus. I never actually saw one of them until today. Here's a squirrel living the good life....free but protected in the zoo. It's like a bonus to see all the wildlife living within the zoo accidentally.

Another big draw is the tigers. I could probably spend half a day just watching the tigers.

All of my previous visits to the zoo, this black leopard has always been asleep on the log. Plus everyone else that I know who's been the zoo has said the same thing. I was surprised to see it fully awake and walking around. Too bad they can't seem to keep the glass clean. But I do like the accidental glowing eyes effect from the flash.
I certainly wasn't going to pass the reptile house. Most of the stuff in there is quite impressive. They have a native US alligator snapping turtle which can get up to 220 lbs and many other massive snakes and turtles.

All seemed very quiet with the wild african dogs. Everyone was in full nap zone....until.....
a tiny house sparrow landed too close to one of the dogs (we think). Then all hell broke loose! Everyone was up chasing, running around, and yelping. The bird was long gone but it didn't stop the fun.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beavers and friends

So our insanely busy season has started this week and will go until June 15. It's turtle season plus a bunch of other threatened and endangered species surveys are going on or starting up. Papers, files, voice mails, and emails are already stacking up. Of course, everything has to be immediately attended to! But I had the chance to spend the day outside at a beautiful site very close to the office. It's a giant piece of mostly hilly woods with a big lake. There's a couple houses, a golf course complete with ponds, and some farm animals on it as well. There was a four day old donkey (donkette!) that I didn't get a real close view of...but next time. Snakes, turtles, and rare hawks abounded. By the afternoon, I was in such turtle zone that I had a hard time focusing at the task at hand which was delineating wetlands. I saw a tiny painted turtlet the size of Cashew when I first got her. I nearly fell in cooing and ahhing over the spectacle of seeing it swim in a pond. The one downer of the day was that we were swarmed by tiny flies. Thankfully I had my head net and wore it most of the day. When I finally took it off, I was overwhelmed by the brightness and clarity of everything.

Beavers had made this lake home. There were lots of chomped or nearly chomped trees. We found the lodge and there was at least one dam. Once we were done, we could either walk all the way the lake back to the car or take the so called shortcut. The shortcut was balancing along the beaver dam across the lake. I wondered if it was really a shortcut by the length of time it took me to cross the hazard covered in shrubs that threatened to push me into the lake.

Well Fiddle dee dee! The fern fiddleheads are coming up.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Why I need a real camera!

There had a been a nice thunderstorm that early morning and it brought some rain. The sun was out and it was warm....perfect turtle scouting time. Sure enough a bunch of turtles were out. I took many shots on my point and shoot at full zoom. Clearly the above shot above is not what I hoped. It's like borderline camera phone quality.
The closer shots came out 100 times better. I happened upon a garter snake. I was hoping to get it next to the blooming trout lily but it had other ideas in mind.
Here's the only decent shot of turtles I got.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The turtles are out

It's official...well officially the season to start looking for the super rare turtle happens next week, but the other turtles are definitely out. The fever and unfortunately the competition at the office has begun to find the most turtles. Don't be alarmed. These pics are from last summer. It's just that I forgot my camera during the last field outing and my co-worker didn't feel the need to take any pics of the painted turtles he caught.

Seeing those painted turtles made me feel bad about Cashew. The wild turtles were out having fun and doing their turtle thing. So I set the date for Cashew's independence. It's literally Independence Day or sooner if the food runs out. It'll give me enough time for some more training and for her to grow. Yes. I'm really starting to think Cashew may be a girl. I'm also thinking of releasing Cashew to my favorite turtle pond. I was apprehensive about that because there is a snapping turtle that has a head literally the size of my fist...big enough to eat a little turtle. But I'm hoping Cashew will grow another inch or two before then.
I did get a chance to check out my co-worker's turtlets....and I do mean turtlets. They literally have not grown at all since they hatched September. I felt so bad....like I wanted to scoop them up and take them home and feed them. It would so bizarre to have a twin brother/sister that is like 4 times as big as you....or still be the size of a newborn years later. Something is just not right there. If you recall, this was Cashew at the bottom of a paper cup when I first got her as a hatchling.

Now Cashew's got weight and her shell is about 3 inches long....a long way from a nickel sized shell.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I had a typical day of multiple sites. I could post some awful pics I took of flowering red maples , but this video that I found is far more entertaining. Spring is definitely here with a ton of trees and shrubs sprouting. The birds are going crazy and I called in a bunch of birds real close using the sure fire psssst noise. It's a slight variation for getting the attention of your pet cat or people for that matter....just pucker your lips more. I swear it's the universal "Hey you" animal noise and calls birds in for some reason. I find it most effective in dense cedar woodlands where the birds have to come in close to check you out. I can practically reach and grab a chickadee they came in so close. In order to enjoy this video, you must have sound. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bear Condos

After my back aching day at the fancy farm, I had a very full day ahead of looking for salamanders and frogs along the big powerline job. My back was still aching bad enough that I was concerned that my full work day outside would do more harm than good. But I figured it would be better to be walking around rather than sitting at my desk all day. Most of the sites we hit were relatively easy walking distance from our vehicle. But come lunch time, my coworker suggested we hit one of the epic journey sites. I didn't want to be a big baby and had curiousity to experience it. I popped a couple advil just to be safe and stuffed my face with some snacks since we'd be heading into real bear country. We are talking no roads, treacherous terrain, poor cell phone reception, and minimal trails that will require a chainsaw to drive up farther. Looking at a map, I see that our trip was about 3 to 4 miles round trip. Speaking of bears, here's a bear scratching post. Note the three claw marks.
After we visited the pool and found the frog eggs, we headed across a broad wetland and a protected stream. I said that I'd like pee in it and made it safely across the first time. It was deep enough that you had to find a good spot to cross as to not overtop your knee boots. I did remark that the underwater rocks were quite slippery with algae. On the way back I was less fortunate and I slipped on a rock and fell in. My left boot took a full drink, my right foot took a small sip, and my left arm got wet. Thankfully, my cell phone, camera, field note books, and maps made it out dry. I only have one small bruise and my back survived in one piece.
Our next stop was a talus slope, which is a collection of large boulders at the base of a cliff. To me, it was bear condos. There were so many good spots for hibernation dens. I'm not part mountain goat, so scrambling over small car sized boulders proved to be a challenge. I will say it's far easy to go up. Our mission was top secret, but I will say I got to see porcupine quills. I've never seen a porcupine in NJ or anywhere except a zoo. I was really happy our mission was over real quick because I kept thinking about how one of these boulders might shift and start tumbling down or a boulder will fall off the cliff. There was even still some ice left in some bear condos! Crazy.
This epic journey may have to repeated several more times. Turns out that broad wetland we crossed could be habitat for some of super rare turtles. I was laughing the first time we crossed out saying "I'm real glad we don't have to survey for turtles out here. The walk in and out would be insane."