Wednesday, January 19, 2011


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...