Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shell Study.

When I was younger, I never understood how the owners of the little shore cottages I saw on the walk from our bayside cottage to the beach could possibly have collected enough shells to line their yards with huge, entire whelks and the biggest clams ever.

It wasn't until I moved down-a-shore full-time and took a walk on a winter beach that the answer was revealed: They don't rake the beaches in the winter, and winter storms toss up all sorts of wonderful stuff... Like whole, huge shells. (The downside is that more often than not, there's a lot of man-made trash out there too. I was discouraged from beach walking for awhile because I hated spending my time picking up and hauling off a bag full of trash, but I felt guilty if I left it where it lay...)

My Thanksgiving walk provided me with quite a bit of good photo opportunities (with very little junk!) if not so much in the way of beach combing. The weather has been violent enough that very few shells were large or even in one piece.*

[Clicking on the photos should take you to a photo-scroll with bigger images!]

(I often shoot wide to give myself composition options,
but sometimes I have a terrible time deciding how to crop a photo...)

*Yes, I did pick up the fabulous black scallop (entire down to its "ears" and pre-drilled with two holes for turning it into jewelry)--black from spending years (decades or centuries, in fact) buried in marsh mud before being brought back to the surface. Barrier islands migrate, and you really don't want a lesson here on how, do you?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving = Beach Day.

Found myself in Avalon on Thanksgiving Day, so I decided to take one of my once-or-twice yearly walks on the beach. (You would think living here I would go more often, but it isn't often that you have the place more or less to yourself.) Didn't actually go far, unless you count the wandering circles I made as things caught my eye. Avalon has had very good, long-standing dune policies, and a near-miss by a strong hurricane (or Nor'easter. Or both, as Sandy was...) really shows why the little borough goes to so much trouble to maintain a good dune system. (They even have old dune forest in some parts!) Other than a remarkable lack of the usual trash (not that it was gone completely), the beach I was on survived very well. Sure, there's sand missing and there's a new sand bar just offshore, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I expected.

[Clicking on the photos should take you to a photo-scroll with bigger images!]

The ghost crab obviously made it out of its now-penthouse hole.
But did s/he make it back up...? It was a rather steep ascent.

Peeps (and gull) taking advantage of the protection from the wind
offered by new six-foot-high beach "cliffs".

Lots of shell fragments, lots of foam, and an incoming tide...

A braver soul than I!
(Dare I say smarter? It wasn't really all that cold,
and sand should be walked without shoes.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Will Work For Peanuts.

Although they are more insect specialists--just look at those long thin bills, perfect for prying into nooks and crannies in search of nibbles--wrens (Carolinas at least, like these) will eat other stuff if the opportunity arises. For instance, when you've put out high-fat and -protein packs like peanuts... The wrens have to work a bit, using that bill as a hatchet to break the nuts into smaller pieces, but apparently it's well worth the effort: They are at my peanut feeders almost as much as the birds better equipped to deal with such food. (Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and woodpeckers, with their bills designed for cracking, crushing and grinding.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Good Deed Done for the Day...

Back to the water with you, baby...

Loon legs are built for swimming, placed far back on the body for propulsion through a liquid realm. This is a fantastic adaptation if you are chasing your supper under water, not so good if you get grounded by bad weather or bad luck. Loons and other similar diving birds can't stand up, which makes it impossible to take-off from dry land--or in this case, the shoulder of Stone Harbor Boulevard.

This bird was a bit thin but not emaciated. This shouldn't have been unexpected, actually; both Common (probably what this is; bill shape in photo is deceptive) and Red-necked loons, northern breeding species, overwinter here and this one may have just arrived recently. It also might lose the tip of its bottom bill (which was cracked and bent sideways--looks like it may have crash-landed beak-first), but otherwise it was very feisty. Alas, it was too feisty for closeups. Rats rats rats, because it had the most amazingly rich crimson eyes and really neat feet. (Also, the softest head feathers ever. It was like petting a velveteen rabbit, even softer than my softest cats.)

And it yodeled just like in all the movies... Only even more pitiful: "Doooon't eat me! Put me dooowowowowown! OoooOoooOoooo...."

Very fortunately for me, although it wielded that bill like a saber, unlike herons it didn't go straight for the eyes. Pretty good aim at other body parts, though... Crazy strong, too, and bigger than I remember from the last time I was carrying a loon. (Not that I make a habit of that, but it's just another one of the perks of living at the shore.)

Luckily, it can push itself forward with those feet, which it did very effectively when it realized I had finally put it down about ten feet from a nice big creek in the marsh. Alas, it had to play otter to get into the water because nearly everyone's docks have been destroyed, I hadn't put on my boots--which were, incredibly, in the truck--and I know better than to step onto marsh mud; sank to my thigh once about 30 feet from where I put the loon back.

[Note to self: Add large pet carrier to the collection of stuff riding around in the truck; or, at the very least, just empty the large container holding the odds and ends and use it. (Besides, NJ law now requires animals to be restrained in vehicles; I wonder if anyone noticed the large bird flapping around the cab?) And add a pair of safety glasses to said container. (Never fear, I do not handle things like Great Blue Herons without back-up.)]

Monday, November 5, 2012

Weathered the Storm...

Came through the hurricane relatively unscathed; never even lost power at the inland house. (You'd think winds like that would have brought down all of the dead limbs in the tulip tree, but nooooo...)

It was close, though, in Avalon; damn good thing Grandfather wanted the foundation a bit higher so he could store his little Boston Whaler under the house off-season. The one pier is more or less in the neighbor's marsh, the floating docks are in the neighbor's yard (you can see one of them below, behind the boat) and the older pier needed re-decking anyway...