Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I'm speechless.

I'm so spitting mad, I don't know where to start.

If I hadn't recently brought in a little girl, I would have left whoever-these-folks-are a note on an empty cat house.

If we weren't having pecking-order issues a month after bringing in the new girl, I still may have left these folks with a note on an empty cat house…

At least--at the very least someone has left shelter and water for this lovely little girl. The food, however, looked like tuna (very bad for cats) and it wasn't the freshest.

The shop sign says they are open on weekends. But what about the rest of the week? She was so starved for attention that when she realized I was talking to her, she started across the road towards me--a dead-end road, to be sure, but what driver looking at the beach is going to see a little cat step out in front of them?

And what about the skunks and possums and raccoons who are all larger than she is?

What about the coyotes I know for a fact live in that neighborhood, for crying out loud?!

I'm an indoor-only cat person, if you haven't guessed it by now, and I barely tolerate indoor/outdoor feline husbandry.

But to leave a domesticated, needs-human-affection as much as shelter and food for its well-being, lovely little creature like this out on her own, especially in the winter, is…is….

...breaking my heart.

* For those of you not in the know, Sunset Beach is famous for its Cape May Diamonds--very pure quartz pebbles found on this particular beach. I know better than to name the strays...


Given that we have a northeaster on the way (again) and given the fact that Nor'easters are notoriously capricious, I took advantage of the mild (read: neither raining nor sleeting nor snowing) weather--hey, 48° feels balmy after 7.5°!--to head to farther south than I usually go running errands. Since I neglected to check if one stop was actually open (it wasn't) I decided to turn left, instead of right and homeward. This took me to the end of the state known as Sunset Beach. It was too early for sunset and not precisely the best daylight (hazy, milky sky with the sun barely peeking through and rather high up--spring is coming!) but good enough for photo possibilities.

And thus, I present this use for now-unwanted Christmas trees… Anything to build up a dune, I suppose.

Looking up and out from the attempt at saving what little beach there is here (without spending millions of dollars), we find...

Our concrete ship. Er, what's left of our concrete ship. Yup, concrete. Concrete floats if you form it into the right shape. Simply web-search "concrete ship cape may" and read all about this fascinating piece of maritime history (WWI)/experimentation (well, they couldn't use steel, you see...)/oops (it wasn't supposed to be put there, exactly; they meant to sink it, just not there).

A remnant of the next war; Cape May MidAtlantic Center for the Arts runs tours at the restored and opened-to-the-public watchtower. There is also a bunker, a huge, also-cement, once-buried fortification off the beach in Cape May Point State Park that I must photograph sometime before it falls. It used to be inland (and underground) quite a ways but is now standing on its pilings out at sea and has been inaccessible for about twenty years now. (Although how far on or off the beach it is at any given time is dependent upon whether the sand on that stretch of coast is coming or going, with or without millions of dollars to help move it…)

As a little girl my mother spent summers in Avalon with her grandparents, and she remembers enforced blackouts along the coast and hearing gunfire out at sea. Even when I was little, everyone we knew with a shore house kept a canister of Crisco by the door to take the tar off your feet: well into the '60s you'd come off the beach with black soles, there was so much oil/fuel in the sand, left over from the '40s. (And other decades of poor transoceanic practices, I'm sure.)

I saw three ships a-sailing... (Click on the photo; there are three shadowy ships on the horizon.) Given that there is probably even more traffic out there now, we should be grateful the beaches are as clean as they are. (And the unfortunate amount of trash I see these days obviously started out on dry land.)

Not too bad for an unplanned photo trip, if I do say so myself. (*phew*, because I remembered the camera and forgot my binoculars. Again.)

Monday, January 24, 2011


Is this really necessary? I feel I'm doing rather well learning how to appreciate Winter. Let's not push the matter…

At least there was no wind! (Actually, that's probably one reason it got so cold in the first place; wind helps keep night-time temps warmer than those of a clear, still night.)

Believe me, I'm feeling for all of you starting the morning with negative numbers. I don't know if my thermometer would even be able to register negative numbers…

PS: My house really isn't 59°; I had taken the unit outside to try for a non-flash photo. It hadn't recovered yet.


Argh. So close...

1. Pay attention when you have the fleeting thought "full moon--check rising time" so that you can be prepared.
2. Prepare for full moon rises by learning how to photograph the moon with the new DSLR.
3. Remember that you had the fleeting thought "full moon--check rising time" early enough so that you can get to the beach on time for it (whether you are prepared or not).
4. Curse Murphy's Law that states the sky will be cloudless for moonrise when you aren't prepared for it (and the corollary that it will be cloudy when you are).

Friday, January 21, 2011


For those of you who didn't know, Google provides its Blogspot bloggers with access to their blog statistics--the who, how, why, what, where of the blogosphere. (Anyone can use the service, actually: you just add a tracking code to your website, courtesy of Google Analytics.) It's all quite interesting, being able to see where my readers are, what browser they are using, when they stopped by, how long they stay on my blog (on average), what they read while here, how they found me in the first place--oh, yes, Big Brother is watching! (Your computer habits, at least.)

Many thanks to Recylced Photons for the free advertising, and welcome to any visitors from there who have stopped in and stayed!

But how on earth did links to my blog show up on a movie review website and on this other website whose purpose I have yet to unravel...?

Thank you for the nod. I think. My apologies if you didn't find what you were looking for when you dropped in. Not my fault, those links.

If nothing else, those visitors are helping color in my blog's world map!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We interrupt this dreary gray wet winter with a bit of sunshine as Sandylion hams it up for the camera...

Sandy was an outdoor cat that an acquaintance was kind enough to take to the county shelter for their low-cost neuter/spay program when he showed up on her doorstep along with his mother and siblings--hence the notch in his ear. He then decided he wanted to move into my house rather than be a barn cat; seriously, he spent most of one January night throwing himself at my windows. I finally got a hold of him and refused to give him back. I've had him three years now; I don't think he regrets either of our decisions, do you? (Footnote: His mother and all of his siblings are either dead or missing now...)


Pick your precipitation: snow, sleet, rain? How about some fog for good measure, as the rain (and close to 50° temps) disposes of what was left of the last snow? Don't worry: if you don't like it, it will change in a day or two. It was mild enough on Tuesday that I puttered around in the drizzle for a bit (sans camera). Took me until that evening to realize it was so pleasant because there was no wind...!

Is this really an improvement over all of that snow? Hmm…

At least the neighbor won't have to plow me out (again)!

Not so lovely next door as it was last week.

The moisture and warmer temps, while making a mess of the leftover snow, brought out a wash of green in the bare trees, even in January.

Looking closer, we find lichen. Lots of lichen. I believe I mentioned it earlier, and how much it likes our climate and habitat hereabouts.

I'm really liking the lichen…

And the lichen is loving this weather!

Really loving it.

[Why on earth do I know "celadon" as a color of green? It's a pottery glaze; I'm not all that into pottery. And it wasn't a Crayola color--I checked. The lichen is almost a celadon. Maybe mixed with sea foam? Sorry, it's a girl thing. My guess is that biologically it didn't much matter what color the deer/mastodon/whatever was so long as it could be killed and eaten, so men never really developed the eyes to see or mind to care what color dinner was. Women, being more gather-and-grow oriented, really like our colors. Lots of colors. With lots of names.]


Last week, anyway...

Ah, now that's more like it… Just enough snow to frost everything beautifully without any real activity- or safety-hampering accumulation, and not enough ice to cause any trouble despite the overnight precipitation veering randomly among rain, sleet, and various forms of snow with a chaser of South Jersey "breezes" (read: 20mph winds).

Perfect! Hours of morning sunshine added the finishing touch.

My grandmother once covered a short-needled Christmas tree entirely with pulled-apart cotton balls to get this effect. To this day, that tree remains one of the most stunning Christmas trees I've ever seen. (To this day, no one in my family has ever tried to duplicate the look. *lol*)

The snow (sleet, ice) allowed for nearly everything to be coated in sparkling white. (One of these days I really must do something about the multiflora rose--the midlevel bushes seen here--that is overtaking the yard. Alas, the white-throated sparrows were bouncing all around these thickets; the invasive, aggressive plants do provide wonderful shelter throughout the year.)

Luckily, the sweet gum and wild cherry trees are doing nearly as well as the non-native rose in reclaiming what was once an agricultural field.

I hear many people, including fine naturalists--outdoorsy people by definition--fuss about the dreariness and unprepossessing face of Winter. I've done it myself. While allowing that a considerable amount of the season can be rather unpleasant, with vistas like this even the worst complainers surely must admit that there is still much beauty and even color to be had!

And you never know what you may find when you get out into it. I was shooting the rising sun through the young sweet gum forest (not enough rain and not enough mowing over the years to keep once-designated-wetlands easily-viable wetlands) when I happened to glance up at the flowering cherry branch above my head and found it covered in "flowers"!

Fungus is fascinating stuff, and this delicate little specimen is delightful.

More color--an unusually bright green in wintertime. It only takes a bit of moisture to bring out the color in the various sorts of lichens to be found clinging to almost every tree around here. (And other surfaces; there's even one little patch on my roof. Not withstanding some serious droughts in recent years, we typically have a rather humid climate and lichens do very well.)

Mmm, more lovely winter colors courtesy of my neighbor-across-the-highway's house. Cape May's primary reputation is Victorian, but the peninsula was settled well over three hundred years ago. Outside of the City of Cape May, where successive fires left nothing much standing of pre-1870's architecture, you may easily find two hundred plus year old houses scattered about, quite a few of which don't look much different than the during days when they were first occupied. (Admittedly, the utility lines [and the cell tower you can't see in this shot] do detract somewhat from the illusion.)

If I might point out the tracks you may have noticed meandering down my drive in the above photo… Contrary to popular belief, I have not brought inside every stray cat who wanders through my property, as evidenced by those tracks. (A good many of them are actually rabbit tracks.) There is still at least one cat out there, who apparently includes a circumnavigation of my house on his daily rounds. I have set limits on myself: no more boy cats--they may be sweet, but they are, and cause, too much trouble in our house.

I'm very happy that the wildlife tracks far outnumber the housecat tracks!

On most occasions, anyway. I'm not sure if the wild and domestic mammals met up while coming or going out from under the shed or if the cat was merely investigating interesting smells. The cat doesn't stick around, but I did know that a coon or possum (perhaps both? that could get interesting…) had set up house there.

I love possum feet! (The rest of the beasties are pretty neat, too. Except for all of those teeth… Possums have an inordinately large number of teeth, which they know how to bare with incredible menace at anyone who displeases them. And they hiss. And growl. Especially once they've grown up. But even the adults have really cool feet.)

I know some people stumble across my blog because of the key words "Cape May" and "wren" and turn right 'round again when they don't find a birding blog based in one of the most avian-rich areas in the world. One of my intentions was to get out and highlight all that is good about the natural wonders of this county. But with a property like this, I often find it difficult to go beyond my own survey markers.

At least one of the neighbors chose to build his house closer to the highway than to my house, and left the back of his acreage go wild. So far his heirs have done the same. (We were never able to talk him into selling me this bit of ground. If the stars are kind, it will not be subdivided and/or I'll eventually be able to afford to talk somebody out of it.)

I know I am incredibly blessed by all that surrounds me just beyond my doorstep, but most of us needn't go too much farther to see Nature in all of her Winter splendor. So….Get out! Pfff, get cold: it won't kill you, and you just may find a new appreciation for a season that is here to stay for a considerable part of the year whether you like it or not.

*Photos from January 12, 2011. I really need an internet connection at the house...