Saturday, February 27, 2010


Well, we didn’t get the accumulating snow on Thursday, but a huge system moved in Thursday night and was comfortably settled over the area by Friday morning, bringing snow and worse, high winds. Radar on Friday afternoon looked like a pinwheel spinning counter-clockwise over the Mid-Atlantic, with the "pin" stuck in New York City.

I chose to give myself a half day at work, given that at times throughout the morning I could barely see the huge, dark evergreen near the end of my drive less than 1/10th of a mile away…

(This isn't the view out the front door. This was a neat snow pattern on the window glass.)

By 1 PM travel was relatively safe, if you didn’t count the idiots on the road who were not only not allowing for hazardous driving conditions (downside of living in the country is serious blow-over from farm fields that don’t typically get—or typically need—snow fencing) but were not even following the basic rules of the road such as speed limits and double yellow lines. (I was only doing 5 under at the time, an allowable caution given the amount of snow/ice/slush on the road.)

Hard to tell how much snow actually fell, but enough so that the drifts were rather impressive. (I could have done without the little one that was coming in under my front door.)

On a positive note, the woodcock of an earlier post was spotted digging through the slush in the back yard just before the weather turned really nasty. Others have been reportedly heard displaying in the county; I thought I had heard a brief "peent" myself the other night.

And the goldfinches have been slowly turning yellow over the past few weeks.

[photo would be inserted here if the cats would stop leaping up to greet me every single time I try for a photo and spooking birds off the feeder just outside the window]

UPDATE to the UPDATE: 6:30pm, Saturday. At least three woodcock peenting, twit-twit-twittering and whirrrrrrrrring in (around/over) the yard. They certainly do like calm evenings and (nearly) full moons.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Thursday: Snow. High near 38. Breezy, with a northwest wind between 13 and 22 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


This Afternoon: Periods of rain or drizzle.

Tonight: A chance of rain.

Wednesday: Mostly cloudy.

Wednesday Night: A chance of rain before 9pm, then a chance of rain and snow between 9pm and midnight, then a chance of snow after midnight.

Thursday: A chance of snow before noon, then a chance of rain and snow.

Two weeks after the Blizzard of 2010… Steady rain most of the day—as if the past three or so days of sun and 40+ temps weren’t bad enough. I’d rather have snow. (You will notice that I never did take down the snowflake flag.)

I do believe the pond at the edge of the fields behind my house (the dark spot just below the uppermost line of snow in the top middle section of the photo) is going to—if it hasn’t already—meet with the rising water on my side of the ditch separating the two properties…

I have been quietly savoring the highly-likely possibility that tick and flea populations will be knocked waaaay down this coming year as a result of all of this winter’s very cold cold-snaps and heavy snow cover. (We have really, really high concentrations of ticks, and the fleas were especially bad this past year.) After studying my back yard from all angles out my windows today, I began gleefully anticipating ducks swimming around (wood ducks? It’s happened once since I’ve lived here) and really, really happy frogs…

(I added Gray Treefrog to my yard list this past year! Don’t know which one, though, Northern or state-endangered Southern, as I haven’t heard them calling yet and CMC has an overlap of both populations of the identical looking beasties. But of course Southern is difficult to find around here—it’s at its northenmost range in NJ. Sometimes ya gotta wonder about status classifications…)

And then it finally occurred to me that we are going to have one helluva year for mosquitos.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


A week after the last of the significant accumulation of snow (anything under five or so inches no longer counts as "significant" in my book), I finally made it over to the beach.

We have fine, pale sand along our coast, but it isn't this pure white... This is still a significant accumulation of snow on the dune crossover. The beach itself was clear of snow; the water is, relatively speaking, warm and there have been quite high tides (due to weather and moon phase) that have washed the beach to the base of the dunes (rather nice ones in this part of town, I might add).

But the dunes themselves still held on to the cold white stuff.

The recent snow has transformed the landscape all around, and no less so the marshes here in Cape May County. Given that we are at sea level pretty much everywhere (except for highway overpasses), I knew that trying for a photo taken from a height of five feet or so wouldn’t do the scenery justice. So on my way back from the beach I stopped at an old place of employment, said hello to the volunteer at the door, and raced up the center's observation tower. I’d forgotten in the past ten years how much I dislike the spiral staircase, and how breezy it could be four or so stories up, but the view was certainly worth it, even if most of the snow was gone and the waterways were open. Panning roughly east to west:

For more information on the open-to-the-public nature center with the great view, please visit The Wetlands Institute. These photos are dedicated to JZ and BOTB; the Institute's tower was the inspiration for their own marvel, which you can read about here: Julie and Bill's Tower.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 38.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 40.

Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 38.

Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 40.

Monday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 41.

I’m not "yucking" the sun—far from it—but where, exactly, is all of the melt water supposed to go?

This was the view out my back window after the late-December snow liquefied. It has always been wet back there (but farther back, closer to the old ditch in what used to be a hedgerow between agricultural fields) when I bought the property 12 years ago, although even that almost completely dried up in the droughts of the past few summers. But now I’m not sure if my house still qualifies for the required set back of 50 feet from wetlands…

It's snowing again at 8 this morning.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Happy Valentine’s Day!

This photo is many years old; these two loathe each other now. Just a couple of weeks ago Galadariel (right) ripped her brother Russell a new ear notch (he’s a bully and therefore has many, but this was the best one yet—brava, Galadriel!) and I’m still picking thick scabs out of her fur. Of the four Hooligans, only the two sisters tolerate each other, and barely at that.

What a sweet Valentine, my lovely little Cassandra!

Newly-dubbed Mouse Killer and Masticator. One of The Horde—presumably Cassie, who has been maintaining an intense vigil in the downstairs bathroom for a day and a half to the point of not wanting to come to meals—caught a mouse last night. Good thing I do not wander the house barefoot in the winter, as my kitchen floor was streaked with mouse blood, a tail and still-attached bits waiting for me precisely where I stand to fix breakfast. (I have spared you photos of the grisly remains, aren’t I nice?) Having tasted fresh meat, Cassie may never want kibble again... [She did eat her kibble this morning, and is resting on her laurels close by, finally showing interest again in her now second-favorite past-time: birdwatching.]

Thursday, February 11, 2010


…Survival still in doubt.

American Woodcock. Earthworm gourmand. Alive Thursday afternoon. Tomorrow? Saturday? Next week? There’s no clear ground anywhere on my two and a half acres that I can see. Perhaps it will find some under the bushes it bobbled off to soon after I took this photo.

I have heard woodcock displaying in the yard on Valentine’s Day in the past, looking for mates. This one will be lucky to live until Valentine’s Day this year. From The Birder’s Handbook*: "Eats more than its weight in earthworms daily; if unavailable, consumes other soil invert[ebrate]s."

We have a base population of woodcocks throughout Cape May County, but deeply frozen and snowy winters hit them hard. Sometimes the best places to actually see this elusive shorebird (although found in meadows and woodlands, it is in the "shorebird" family) is when the ground freezes up and they are forced to feed in the slightly warmer, thawed earth along the shoulders of roads. (And yes, that does pose another obvious threat to their survival.)

This is only the second woodcock I have ever actually seen so clearly. The first was a bird trying to hide in a small garden under a window at a nature center where I once worked, found by a co-worker with a good eye—and perhaps a good bit more luck! Leaf litter camouflage doesn’t work so well on white snow, however; that’s how I spotted this one: by the sun glinting off a fluff ball, the color of which I couldn’t immediately place.

I still have two Carolina Wrens about the yard as well—another species considered less winter-hardy than some. At least one wren is from the pair who laid claim this past summer to the nest box seen in the photo from my south deck; I was thrilled to see it pop into the box yesterday evening just before sunset. There’s a downy woodpecker roosting in the nest box in my front yard; she moved in almost as soon as I put up the box this past fall. If you take down nest boxes "off season"—please reconsider! Cavities are used by birds for more than nesting…

* The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds by Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye, 1988. My most favorite reference book. A must-have for anyone even remotely interested in birds, it goes the step beyond a field guide to give you detailed feeding and breeding information in a quick and easy format for, as the title states, all North American bird species.


I love snow I love snow I love snow... I really do ... (Do I still sound convincing? Nah, not to myself, either.)

[Truly, this photo does not show the near white-out conditions during the afternoon of Wednesday, February 10, 2010. It does show that as much as I wished to, I did not go out to refill feeders...]

I love the snow, but I do not enjoy living in fear of another power outage - and here at the house it was only out for a mere 16 hours on Sunday; thousands of places in the county are still without power today, Thursday. I can rough it if I have to and am prepared, but captive bred for generations or not, I worry about my "tropical" cage birds. And there are only just so many buckets and containers of water one can have stacked about waiting to be tripped over or fallen into... (Ah, the downside of a well – you need power to get the water out of it. And if you think I'd go out with a hand pump in this weather--! I'll trip over buckets, thank you.)

May we have just a little respite? Please? As much as I am enjoying the time off (or would be, if I didn't have a nasty head cold that is making me feel like a Nyquil commercial), I've already used up my allotment of snow days for 2010 and am making serious inroads into my personal days...

[This storm came from a slightly different direction than the others, and slopped up the glass doors on the south-facing deck.]

And I've the digging out to do all over again; trails I laboriously stomped out to the shed and around to the birdfeeders are mostly filled in. We gained another six or so inches of seriously blown-around snow yesterday - that after a few morning hours of pouring rain.

The snow is lovely, but with what has likely been the wettest year in a very long time, I worry where all the water will go when this frozen precipitation starts to melt. I’m greatly appreciative of our sandy "soil" during times like this, and I’m happy to have my officially designated wetlands back and (hopefully) to have a good recharge of the aquifers. (Alas, that all this wet was too late to stop that house from going up in that low spot out front a few years ago - their septic system is raised and the resultant runoff is the process of creating a new wetland right along my fenceline - or to save the few trees that succumbed to the droughts a couple summers back.) But the mass runoff will certainly cause many problems elsewhere in the county in the weeks to come… Although, given the size of the plowed piles all over the place and snow's insulative powers, we may be graced with a slower melt down than if we had had less snow.

(Speaking of flooding, I have finally posted the images from the aftermath of coastal flooding brought on by a November Nor’easter last fall… Scroll down through the blog to the bottom and click on Older Posts for them, or use the index at the top right of this page and select 2009. Woo-hoo, we've made it to Page 2!)

I do not consider myself a superstitious person, but I believe I’m going to take down that snowflake flag today.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Snow Removal Services.

Tree Trimming/Removal and Landscape Services.

Bird Feed.

Gutter Repair/Installation Services. (Guess I don't have to worry about those gigantical icicles anymore!)

Monday, February 8, 2010


I love snow, truly I do. Good thing, too, having just come out of the fourth major storm in less than a year to hit Southernmost NJ, the third in just 8 days. And there's another one due as I post this.

In and of itself, snow is a miraculous thing, and the fluffy glittering stuff we have had recently is beyond beautiful. (Even pelleted snow is fascinating in its own right.) Blanketing my property, almost any kind of snow makes my relatively attractive acres magical. Here's how it looked on February 3, 2010, with ten or twelve inches topped by an additional three or four:

[part of my two-and-a-half acres]

[what's left of a tulip poplar seed pod]

[monkey balls! aka, sweet gum seed pods]

[another part of the yard]

I don't mind being out in it - properly dressed for a reasonable amount of time - whether to clear the walk or the bird feeders or just to marvel. Oh, to have snowshoes, though! Every successive storm seems to bring us a bit more snow than the one before. But who ever thought one would actually be able to use snowshoes, SNOWshoes! in southernmost New Jersey - and more than once in a year, never mind, say, once in a decade?

Luckily, I don't even mind driving in snow. One of the reasons I own a honking big truck is so I am able, if nothing else, to reach the state highway on which I live - I have a terribly long, unpaved drive, which blessedly keeps me well away from said highway - and to get about reasonably well once on asphalt.

(This photo is from a few years ago, but it shows how far off in the distance the road actually is. I can turn over 1/10 mile on my odometer from one end of the drive to the other.)

Although state highway or not - one of the few major roads into the county, period, or not - one winter they failed to plow after one of the deeper snows. Okay, so it was the last in a then-unprecedented number of storms that season and they likely ran out of funding by the time the "really big one" hit. But still… Even my Expedition (see the theme? My first car was also a pick-up truck…) had trouble with that one.

Hah, if only they knew what was in store a few years later…!

They hadn't been in any great hurry to plow after the first real storm to hit Southernmost NJ this season, either. This was the condition Saturday evening, January 30, 2010, of State Road 47, four hours into that particular blizzard. It hasn't helped that the recent storms have hit on weekends.

Ah, I underestimated the state and local highway departments… They learned their lesson with last week's "blizzard", and were prepared (on my way home from work, I passed a truck filled with salt and with plow down before any flurries had a chance to stick to the ground!) and plowing throughout the real blizzard this past weekend. The highway was cleared during and after the couple of feet of snow we received February 5-6th. Indeed, I could hear traffic moving quickly on it even on Sunday. But… But… But how was I supposed to get to the road this time?

Heck, how do I even reach my truck???

Sure, I have a 4x4. But the snow was up to her bumpers! (Ah, my poor little birch tree, that has survived years of its new growth turning spotted brown all season long when all the other birches in the yard have succumbed to disease… Flattened flatter than ever. *sniff* One main branch is definitely split; I haven't made it around the tree to free others.)

I love snow. Truly, I do. I really don't mind clearing the truck all that much, if I think of it as playing in the snow. I DO NOT, however, enjoy removing 13+ inches of it from off the top of The Great White.

Oh, there she is! Rats. Where I am supposed to put all of that - and still expect to be able to move the truck?

My next house will have a garage. A garage that will not be so filled with useless detritus (like my sheds-note the plural) that the truck has no room to rest in protected, snow-and-frost-free comfort.

I love snow, but these days I really, really hate clearing it off my truck.

Not that I could go anywhere once I did, because the entire length of the drive was still buried under 3 feet of the stuff. I was sinking to my knees and still not hitting bottom anywhere and everywhere I stepped. I knew I should have bought snow shoes right after last March's snowstorm! (Ooh, winter clearance sales! Perhaps I can still get some. Assuming it will stop snowing long enough to have deliveries made sometime before spring…)

Ah, but I have a secret weapon… One of my neighbors is in the earth-moving business. His backyard makes me think he had lots of TONKA trucks growing up. We're rural residential and they really aren't supposed to be there, but a great neighbor with a bulldozer and ever-increasingly snowy winters? I'll put up with the trucks; after all, it's the new house between us (that neither of us wanted) that has to look at them!

And so I chased down the neighbor (wishing for snowshoes all the way) after he cleared said mutual neighbor's drive and returned home. (Hmmph! Okay, so it was his brother doing the actual plowing. But then, they left me stranded the last big storm, as well... Time to pay the boys, I suppose. Gladly!)

Do I have to tell my boss I can get out now?

Hmm, with the drive taken care of, I really should get the gutters fixed…

Before those daggers - ok, more like swords; that's not a small window - of ice drop and hurt someone, or take out the bird feeding station that's almost directly below.

Speaking of dropping, the trees didn't fare so well with the first round of heavy, wet snow...

My poor, poor white pines! That particular one was *sniff* gorgeous. If they survive, they'll never be the same. And I think their falling branches took out a couple of dogwoods foolish enough to grow in their shadows. *sniff sniff*

Eh, those cedars needed topping before they came too close the lines anyway…

Those snowy mounds in the middle of the frame are my huge, unpruned and out of control, taller-than-I-am forsythias. "Were" my forsythias? How hardy are those things, anyway? Guess we'll find out.

My stout little pin oak is laughing at the snow-grabbing evergreens, still holding onto its own snow without a branch out of place to spite the lesser trees.

The shed is doing an even better job of hanging on to its winter blanket (although it has slipped a little).

I have a love-hate relationship with weather forecasts, but I should really learn to pay attention to the birds at the feeders. They know when bad weather is on the way. And the birds aren't the only ones to appreciate an easy meal once the snow is on the ground...

The doe and her fawn where there long enough to catch Cassie's and my attention, but Momma D bolted as soon as she realized a human was watching her. Her little one stayed a bit longer, and only reluctantly wandered off to follow her. I imagine she was under cover way in the back yard, bellowing at the kid to "shake a leg or I'm leaving without you!" (I love venison, but I like watching deer hoofing it around the place just as much as I like it on my plate. I still hold on to the hope I will see again the eight-point buck and his larger, deformed-rack friend who showed up before hunting season…)

I have been able to get out to keep feeders filled the past few days; ground feeding with so much snow around has been trickier. Not a good sign that the birds are hitting the feeders hard again, though. I'd like to think it's just because a flock of grackles has found out I'm a soft touch, but given the past week or two, I think I will not be so complacent.

Everyone stay warm and safe, and I'll be back when I can!