Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow weekend

We got our first real snow in years this weekend. Friday after work was spent doing the outdoor errands that needed to get done. Seems like everyone else had that idea. The snow was supposed to start early on saturday. I woke up and the sun was shining. I checked the weather and for some reason my area was in the donut hole of snow. Snow all around but no snow for us. So I took advantage and cleaned out my car. By afternoon the snow started and kept going. Looks like we got about a foot of snow. The news coverage last night was totally ridiculous. One channel felt the need to extend the snow news to an hour. Lots of reporters in different reporting that it was indeed snowing and that you shouldn't drive. I sure did get a lot done around the house this weekend, but I'll be sure happy to leave the house tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Squirrel cam

The camera has been up a few weeks. Here's what we caught so far.
Can you spot the squirrel in one of these photos? Squirrely came back a bunch more times. I'm certainly getting my exercise in by climbing this mountain to check the camera.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bear #4

I was enroute to check my camera trap and was travelling down bear highway as I call it. This is the same road I saw two bears from the car a couple weeks back. I've been down this road a few more times and hadn't seen any bears. I think that's because I was a passenger in someone else's car and we were driving the speed limit. Today, I was solo, driving slow, and looking for bears. I hit paydirt. There was one on the other side of the road. So I pull over and jump out the car. It was big and had two ear tags. It probably means it's gotten in trouble two times. I just hope that three strikes doesn't mean it's out aka dead....but it probably does. Da bear was rooting around in the leaf litter and took a minute to scratch it's butt on a tree. I called over to it a couple times and it only stopped and looked over at me once. Clearly I was not a threat or food to it. I actually was quite boring to it. The only time it got scared was when a tractor trailer went by, but it only scampered a few feet. Most of my photos came out horrible. Apparently, mist, super zoom, target partially hidden by trees, the threat of being hit by a car, and shaky hands always means a blurry shot. This is the only in focus shot. I did manage to shoot two short videos. See the combined effect below.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My first camera trap

I bought my first camera trap on the company's dime. I had found a potential bobcat den this past week during our big walk about. Bobcats are endangered in NJ so it's important to make sure it's real a bobcat den and not something else. I figured I'd test it out at my parent's place since they have a ton of deer, turkeys, and housecats.
I came back sunday afternoon and 43 photos had been taken. I knew at least a couple were of me setting and removing the camera. Even mourning doves would set the camera off. The only mystery photo is the one above. There's a blurry figure on the ground just to the right of the bird feeder. I think it's probably a raccoon from the size and shape. As you can tell, the housecats are clear as day.

I just hope the camera doesn't get stolen or eaten by a bear. It is along the bear roadway we drove along last week. On Monday, I'll set it up. It seems everyone in my group wants to come along for the setup. I'll be sure to post any good photos...assuming neither of my fears come true.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Three bears and no photos

Sorry folks, I was not able to obtain photos during my three bear sightings this week. The first bear was seen on foot and by the time I spotted it, the bear was barely visible in the woods. However, it was a lot closer when we first approached the area, but I oblivious to it. Makes me wonder how many other bears I've been oblivious to. Y'know with it's soft and padded paws, they can be silent walkers. The only thing that drew attention to it's presence was a chipmunk scurring across a log and making a ruckus. The last two bear sightings were in the car and moments apart. One bear was hoofing it up a wooded and rocky slope and another was in the was heading to the road. I heard today another bear was on that same road today. It's like a bear convention or something. I'm half tempted to drive that road this weekend to spot a bear and get an actual photo. Although it's tough to drive and bear watch at the same time. I'd that person driving like 5 mph on the non existent shoulder with the hazards on.

I've spent the entire week out in the field hiking many miles. Someone I've managed to keep up the energy to keep going. I kept saying that by friday, I'll need a walker and a wheelchair. Nevermind the predawn wakeups. But I see the light at the end of the tunnel and we should be able to finish up tomorrow. I am demanding at least one bear sighting. I've been spoiled this week since the last bear I saw was a couple years ago. I'm not counting the ones that I've heard or near misses. Here's some photos that shows what sort of hills we've been climbing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I heart pumpkins

On Halloween, I and company headed off to the giant jack o' lantern blaze in NY. It was different that I imagined in my head, but in a good way. First off, I apologize to any small child that got knocked to the ground or pushed out of the way in my dark photo frenzy. The photos really don't do it justice. We spent a good 45+ minutes walking a meandering path that was surrounded my oceans of jack o' lanterns and various themes.

All I know is that I came out of there with a ton of ideas for carving my own jack next year. Mind you I've carved exactly one or possibly two jacks in my life and that was only in graduate school. As a child, we were not allowed to touch the pumpkins. My mother said that the pumpkin would last longer if it wasn't carved. I guess she was hell bent on making that pumpkin last until past Christmas.
I also plan on fully investigating the nearby Sleepy Hollow cemetary. But alas, the weather was very wet for this Halloween. Better luck next year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The less traveled road

I got my full workout this week just by going to work. I've walked 10+ miles in four days over not the best terrain. I've bled (not loving the massive rose thorn that was completely pushed into my pointer finger on my dominant hand), been bruised, battered, and I am very happy it's the weekend.

Today was supposed to be a solo day, but I'm thankful I had my birdman co-worker with me. The day started off with clearing brush, tree parts, and logs from a woods road (see above pic) that would eventually lead us to the powerline that we were working on. We helped navigate our vehicles past fallen trees in spots where we couldn't move the fallen trees. I lead the charge in my girly suv. I quickly regretted the decision to drive both our cars when I spotted a mucky and watery span in the road. I was 100% sure I'd immediately get stuck or slid into the woods. Surprisingly, I made my way past it with some minor sliding and skidding. Alas, there was a zillion more deep puddles and as I squealed along I sort of felt like I was in a suv commercial. Except, I really didn't mean to be there and was driving a mostly inappropriate vehicle. I had to go fast enough to make it across the puddles, but slow enough to not bottom out or go horribly off-course. We arrived at the powerline and started to gather up our field gear. I quickly realized I couldn't find my cellphone. Birdman called my phone and we didn't hear it ring. It must have fallen out of my pocket when I was brushclearing on the road. We decided to both drive back and I decided that I would leave my car near the beginning of road to avoid having to drive that crazy drive twice. Sure enough the phone was near the closest brush clearing and was inches from being run over on the initial drive down. Phew! I will say that birdman's more capable subura gave a much smoother and assured ride. If we end up doing a lot more work in this area, I may just have to bite the bullet and drive one of the company's mega suvs out there. Aside from the morning's initial hiccups, the day was enjoyable. The area we were in was remote and full of cool rare hawks and woodpeckers. We also enjoyed the different plants and I even found a possible turtle eggshell and owl feather.

We even found this old VW bug way out in the powerline miles upon miles from the nearest road. Pretty soon that punchbuggy will go completely back to nature.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bloodletting and ladybugs

I spent the past two days line walking. Many miles were covered and my feet and muscles are feeling the burn. I made the mistake of not wearing carhartt pants yesterday and my knees are now covered with 20+ red thorn pricks. Nevermind my hands that repeatedly and accidentally groped thorny branches.

Here's some typical vistas along the line near my neck of the woods. It's been nice having a commute that's a maximum of 15 minutes. But alas, the more ground covered, the commute will grow.

The next outing will be the most difficult. There's major river crossings (too deep for kneet boots), many miles between parking/access roads. Nevermind the potential for vast and flooded wetlands. I've already been to areas that I'm sure rarely see humans.
By this afternoon, we seemed to be covered in ladybugs. When I got home, there was a zillion ladybugs on my deck. It's an infestation of cute bugs. Sure beats ticks and mosquitoes anyday.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The last of summer

Chilly morns and eves abound. The insulated rubber boots, jacket, warm mittens and friends have been broken out. I've seen my breath outside on those brisk morns. It's officially the beginning of autumn. By afternoon, the last gasps of summer warmth is present and all the warms layers are slowly removed. Pretty soon the jacket will be a requirement for the entire day.

Field work has been plentiful and I've walked many miles already along the new powerline job. Things have been relatively uneventful. There's been a giant hornet nest that was avoided at the last minute. Sorry no photo for that! Deer have plentiful and a tragi-comic event was witnessed. A seated doe had spotted me, jumped up, and ran head first into a chain link fence. She fell on the ground, but thankfully sprung back up and ran off. If she had only originally remained seated, I would have never had known she was there.

Above is probably the last turtle of the year. This poor thing had an injury to it's shell and I was very surprised to see it considering how cold it had been that morning. Below is a type of daisy I had never seen but it sure it pretty. The flowers are like a good 2 inches across and vivid purple.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The boring zone

Field work in September has been mundane or cannot be captured well via photographs. Half the time I was battling my way through deeep and thick muck that required hip waders. Taking out a camera was the last thing on my mind. Thankfully I didn't fall in since every step was precarious and at a random elevation.

The boring zone should change this week when another very large powerline job will begin. For better or worse, it'll be close to home. I'm keeping my fingers crossed we won't get accosted by angry property owners or stuck in a pick up sticks mess of cut saplings. Both of which were the norm along other large powerline jobs.

The excitement at the office this week was a photo of a mountain lion attacking a buck that was supposedly taken just across the border in Pennyslavania. Mountain lions do not occur around here so it was a hot topic. I won't show the picture even though it's not that graphic. There has been some mountain lion sightings in NJ and the surrounding states. They are likely released pets or something along those lines. But once these critters do make it here, and they will, field work will have an added danger. The photo was one of those classic my sister's husband's friend's co-worker took this. Turns out the picture originated from a hunter's camera trap in Texas. Phew!

So in the meantime, here's a couple shots at one of my relatively boring sites taken this week. At first, I thought the above head was some sort of stinging insect nest. Nope. Just a freaky unnessary head in the woods. I also saw all sorts of old barn structures. This one had all sort of carving at the top. Likely kids going to town.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Somewhere in this top pic is a turtlet on its way to independence. Can you spot Almond? Shortly after this pic was taken the few blades of sedge gave way and Almond took a dive into the pond.

I've had Almond and Macademia since the end of April. I kept them in a small plastic container with an actual rock, no filter, and in the kitchen. That meant daily briefly container cleanings. Last time Cashew and Peanut lived in the basement with an elaborate set up of lights, timers, filters, foamy floating rock, and the displeasure of lugging the tank up and down the stairs for biweekly cleaning. Did I mention the lugging of water up and down the stairs.

Macademia featured here in these two pics was originally the larger and calmer turtle. Mac also had the pastel shade of orange and the big black dot on its belly. It seemed that Mac wanted to stay a turtlet forever since growth was difficult and at times nonexistent. Mac's shell started out at a little over an inch and ended up about 1.25 inches over a span of 4 months. En route to their new home, Mac mostly stayed still and quiet in its cup and just watched me. Mac was very eager to start a new life and quickly jumped into the water.

Almond on the other hand started out the fiesty runt with that vibrant orange belly. Almond was a voracious eater and quickly outgrew Mac. Al's shell started out under an inch and grew to over 1.5 inches. Al's a biter and out of the water loves to nip at anything that's put in front of it's mouth. I let Al take a bite on my finger months ago and it was precious, quick, and painless. When my BFF Patty came over a couple days ago, I wanted to show her my biting trick. Little did I know that Al meant business. Al grabbed on tight and held on for minutes. It was painful but entertaining. I was taught a lesson and was ready to grab tweezers to try to open Al's mouth back up. Interestingly no mark was left on my finger and no blood was drawn.
The whole drive to their new home Al was scratching and trying to get out of the cup. However, once Al was put on top of the tussock sedge it didn't want to leave and stayed still. Eventually Al fell through the blades and was seen swimming around.

I'll check on them as much as I can before the real autumn kicks in. I'm sure they are happy as clams in their new digs. I've seen babies their size there this year so they'll have some companions to show them the ropes of being wild.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nearly final destination

A little before noon, at work we heard the roar of sirens and then later helicoptors. We are all used to it since we are so close to a major highway, other big roads, and a hospital. I was leaving for lunch and encountered the UPS guy at the front door. He relayed the story that a small plane had crashed into the local mall parking lot. When I say local, I mean I can walk there if needed. I rushed back to my desk to grab my camera and headed straight there.

It was a scene as expected. Tons and tons of firefighters, police, and EMTs mostly just milling about. The plane had been foamed and the pilot and passenger, who were reported ok, were long gone.

When I got back into my car, the first song on the radio was "Rock the boat" by Aaliyah, which was the video they were shooting in Bahamas. On the way home from the shoot, their plane went down killing Aaliyah and many others. Weird stuff.

After work, I swung back around the all the news vans were out in full force. Of course, the plane and all signs of the crash were gone.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Real summer

I was briefly back out doing more plant surveys. They were cut short thanks to the heat and other boring reasons. I can't say I was sad to be indoors during our short wave. I could usually handle the morning but by lunch I'd start get loopy. I'd stop caring and I'd be ready for a nap. Here's some more cool fungi about.
This is a ravaged tussock sedge, which is a clumped sedge. Some small critter must have made a nest in it and I can only assume a bear was determined to get at it.

Tomorrow I head into extreme mosquito zone from what my co-workers have said. Hopefully it won't be that bad but I'm already preparing for the worst.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The teenagers are loitering

At the Great Swamp, the baby wood ducks have sprouted into adorable teens. They make the cutest cooing type noises as they manically dabble around. At that to the list of something I could watch for hours. I really should have shot some video to capture this, but now I have a zillion not so great photos instead.
For work, the rare plant surveys continue. I was out solo today sweating it out and hoofing up large hills and over rock outcrops. I was in bear and rattlesnake country and in the middle of nowhere. If I fell or something happened, I would be miles from the nearest road and in dense swamp or brush on top of that. I actually did end up falling on a slimy leaning boardwalk over the deeper part of the swamp, but I'm fine. I've fallen three times in the past week. The soles of my rubber boots must be past their prime and worn down. Good times! The goldenrod was almost as tall as me. Love the bees and other pollinating stinging insects at face level! Thankfully I made it ok and I stopped by the black vulture nest on my way out. The teenagers were out lurking on the rocks. I gave them a pep talk and they flew off.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Today we were back out doing a rare plant survey. With all this crazy rain this summer, the fungi have really outdone themselves. I really wish I had taken that fungi ID class back in college. But I just make up names for them. Above is "orange slices" and below is "car wash sponge". Not pictured here is "french fries" and "golden french fries."
The weather held steady at hot and humid in the morning. I had heard on the weather report that thunderstorms were predicted in the afternoon. I foolishly decided that this report didn't apply to me and left the rain gear behind. Of course, the heavens opened up in the afternoon and at a point miles from the car. Thankfully we had some warning so cell phones and camera got secured in a ziploc bag. My paper field guides got stowed in a water resistent backpack and we braced for the worst. At first, the rain was caught by the trees and we remained relatively dry. Then the trees could hold no more and we started getting wet. It was refreshing in the beginning. But then the intensity increased and we quickly hit saturation. We were being powerwashed. Nevermind the thunder while we carried large metal sticks in the woods. At first, we were going to finish up our work in the rain since we only had one small spot to do. But once it got to the point we couldn't hear each other talk from a reasonable distance and the ground became very slippery, so we quickly headed back to the truck. We hunkered down for at least 15 minutes and the rain eased. We finished up (without our metal walking sticks, field guides, or camera) for the final leg and even went and did another very small site after that. Of course we stumbled upon another box turtle chowing down on some fungus so I couldn't get a pic of that happy chap.
But here's some pretty cardinal flowers we found in the morning. The pics don't do it justice. The red so vibrant it is almost florescent red.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mystery plants, berries, mosquitoes, and more

Today I was out again doing a rare plant survey. Almost immediately out of the truck we were assaulted by swarms of mosquitoes. They didn't care how much bug spray or how strong it was. I did bring my fashionable head net, which helped a bit. I'm sad to say my arms and neck took the brunt of the assault. Thankfully later in the heat of the afternoon, they tapered off for a bit and I could take off my head net. But I will remember this site not for the mosquitoes, but rather for the extremely large and juicy blueberries. There were also black huckleberries (also yum), blackberries, dewberries (which I think I ate but I'm not sure what happens during a berry feeding frenzy), and black blueberries. Yup. There's something called a black highbush blueberry. I didn't totally key out the shrub, but I know it exists so I'm pretty sure I ate some of them. Here's a pic of some of those large and juicy blueberries...not the black blueberries though.
Above is a mystery non-plant. It was growing all over the boulders and I'm not sure if it's a lichen or fungus. It sure was cool looking though.
We stumbled upon this lady box turtle chowing down on some fungus. It was a bit awkward and I felt like we were intruding on her private gorging so we quickly moved on.
Last there were a ton of cool fungus out. These are one of the few pics that came out mostly focused.