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Posts Tagged ‘Birds’

April showers are nourishing all the perennials we just planted, but if you are a migratory bird looking to nest in Florida, you’d be plain out of luck. Wading birds like egrets and herons depend on fresh, clean water from rivers meeting the sea in estuaries on our coasts for their food supply, and scientists have been putting on waders to count their nests this time of year. Considering Mr T’s deep cuts to the EPA, this Audubon report is troubling:

The latest South Florida Wading Bird Report, which was published last week, offers signs of trouble for the birds and the places they live. During this nesting season, which ran from December 2015 to July 2016, surveyors were disappointed to find 26,676 nests total. That’s just one-third the number of nests tallied during 2009, one of the best nesting years in decades, and the lowest nest census since the 2007-2008 season. Of the indicator species, only two (Great Egrets and White Ibises) met their nest recovery goals. The only bird to show an above-average nesting season last year was the Roseate Spoonbill. http://www.audubon.org/news/floridas-wading-birds-had-terrible-breeding-season-last-year

We had a Great Blue Heron swoop over our Rumson garage every morning to fish in the Shrewsbury River. When you live so close to the ocean, you begin to notice the rise and fall of tidewater by the line of black silt on your Corgis’ short legs, which would sometimes cover their bellies. “Swamp Dogs” was our affectionate term for Toots and Blaze. My sister Kay was kind enough to immortalize that mother/son duo in a 1993 watercolor.

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But it’s the long, stilt-like legs of Great Egrets that are helping them navigate the rising seawater levels due to Climate Change.

And now we have a circus/barker/climate/denier as the Leader of the Free World who would like to dismantle and disrupt the federal government, and return power to “the states.” I’ve always wondered why Republicans even pursue public service when they hate it so much! If any of you are still wondering about the loss of Arctic ice or if keeping that house your aunt left you on the Jersey Shore is a good idea, take a look at Leonardo diCaprio’s interactive global temperature map. It looks like there may be a quarter of Rumson left after the flood. Seriously.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming sets in motion sea level rise that will profoundly threaten coastal cities across the world,” explains Dr. Benjamin Strauss from Climate Central. “[Our map] shows the incredible stakes and urgency of our climate choices.”

https://www.beforetheflood.com/explore/the-crisis/sea-level-rise/

Now that you’ve put in your city, and the visual has sunk in and maybe you’ve “woke up” think about these cuts to the federal budget. Keep calling your legislators people, dig out your Wellies (English for waders or rain boots), and start looking for higher ground while planning your retirement

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While eating a burger at Bob’s flying club last week, I happened to meet a young entrepreneur. Eric Walden was all decked out in a uniform, with wings on his shoulder and his cap. Then much to my surprise, I saw him again last night on the late night local news. The anchors’ hook was something like:

“Have you ever wanted to fly like the rich and famous?”

For the vast majority of people, commercial flights are the only option, but Albemarle County pilot Eric Walden is hoping to change that by making private flights an option for people who aren’t among the richest in the world.

“There’s a whole lot of other people that have the need and the desire to travel privately, but a lot of them don’t know that it’s available,” said Walden.       http://www.newsplex.com/content/news/New-Charter-Flight-Company-379228591.html?

With expectations high for more airport delays and missed connections this summer, I’d say he started the right business at the right time. Walden owns a turbo-prop Daher TBM 850 that can carry up to five passengers. He can fly higher and faster than Bob’s Piper Arrow, and if say five people wanted to split a ride to Nantucket, the price compares favorably with commercial tickets – AND there is no time lost waiting in TSA lines!

Walden has been flying for 25 years and comes from a long line of aviators; his great-grandfather first flew a monoplane in 1909. The name of his charter flight company is Little Hawk Logistics.

And speaking of birds, I’ve had a bluebird battering my windows lately. He, or she, is staying at the back of the house for the most part, on the first floor. One day I was using Bob’s computer to do some book editing, and between the bluebird knocking and the generator recycling itself, I could barely think! In researching this problem, it seems it is male birds fighting off their reflective rival, and once a female is attracted and a nest secured the window battering should stop. Unless it’s a cardinal?!

Here are some ways to prevent this behavior:

  • Decals or paper shapes placed inside or outside the window
  • Strips of tape, plastic or paper arranged in an irregular pattern
  • Soaping the outside of the windows either fully or in a pattern
  • Placing non-reflective screen outside the window 2-3 inches from the glass
  • Adding one-way transparent film or opaque plastic to windows
  • Repositioning an outdoor plant or flower basket to block the window view
  • Closing outside shades or blinds if possible

It’s another rainy day on the Blue Ridge. In fact the headline before the story on Little Hawk Logistics was, “Rain Fifteen out of Last Seventeen Days!” I guess I am not alone in feeling like mildew is spreading at my feet and rust is clogging up my joints.

So let’s dream for a moment about the sunny future of aviation this weekend. If you’re anything like my hubby, you will love this story out of Germany. It seems they are developing the Lilium Jet, a small helicopter-like plane for private use – think The Fifth Element! It will be to aviation what the Tesla is to the auto industry.

“The company’s aircraft concept promises flight without the flight infrastructure. It will require an open space of just 225 square metres — about the size of a typical back garden — to take off and land. The Lilium Jet can cruise as far as 500km (310mi) at a very brisk 400kph (248mph), and reach an altitude of 3km (9,900ft). And it recharges overnight from a standard household outlet.” http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20160512-the-flying-machine-in-your-back-garden

Here is the Love Bug preparing to go over her Checklist for departure to CHO!

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When we first heard about the German jet crashing into the French Alps, we were horrified. I asked Pilot Bob what could have happened? No need listening to all the speculation on cable news, when I have my very own pilot across from me at the dinner table.

He told me it must have been a sudden loss of cabin pressure. And when he talks, I listen. When the Piper Arrow gets above 9,000 ft, Bob whips out the oxygen and everything is fine. So I asked him, how long would you have to be sentient (yes that word just popped into my brain last night over Thai food) at 38,000 ft? How many minutes before one would pass out from lack of oxygen? “Fifteen seconds,” he said. The pilot would have fifteen seconds to grab an emergency back-up oxygen mask right next to his head in the cockpit. He added, “At 60,000 ft your blood would boil.” Thanks.

And then the news this morning. I could barely drink my coffee. Somehow it was better to think that Germanwings Airbus flight 4U 9525 dropped out of the sky, one minute after reaching its cruising altitude, due to some mechanical difficulty. But listening to the French Prosecutor, visibly shaken, putting his head in his hands, tell us that this was a deliberate descent by the co-pilot, left me feeling sick. He locked the cockpit door. He manually took over auto-pilot to begin the descent. He continued breathing and never answered his radio or the ramming on the door by his senior pilot.

So naturally, I called Grandma Ada. http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/mar/26/germanwings-plane-crash-investigation-press-conference-live-updates-4u9525

And Ada told me a story. Yesterday she went to her gym, and she spoke with a Hasidic woman about the fire in Brooklyn that took the lives of seven children in an Orthodox Jewish family. This is an ancient question; why do bad things happen to good people? The woman didn’t really answer, she kindly took Ada’s hand, and told her we need to do more mitzvahs – more good deeds, more acts of loving kindness.

Maybe that helps some, but either this co-pilot was psychotic and suicidal or he was a terrorist; either way this is a mass murder. If it turns out that the ‘interruption’ in the co-pilot’s training was due to a trip to Yemen, or some other terrorist training camp, I feel myself turning into a hawk. Forgiveness is not a word in my vocabulary at the moment.

Still, despite the headline-grabbing nature of airline crashes – especially mysterious cases like Flight 4U 9525 that were cruising along at high altitude – flying remains easily the safest form of travel ever created. A professor at MIT last year calculated the risk of a passenger dying in an airliner crash as 1 in 45 million. By way of comparison, the National Safety Council puts your lifetime odds of dying as a pedal cyclist at “merely” 1 in 4,982.   http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielreed/2015/03/24/germanwings-airplanes-flying-at-high-cruising-altitudes-rarely-crash/

If you need to chill out after a morning of bad news, may I suggest you click on to the nest of a bald eagle in PA. Two eggs were  spotted this Valentine’s Day and you can see her feeding her baby hatchlings in live stream!! http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1592549&mode=2

Hanover PA nest

Hanover PA nest

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It’s not everyday that my whole family gets to walk around NYC, on a holiday weekend, when anyone with a car has long since left this piece of the Apple. The Bride thought the city looked beautiful in its abandoned state: an older woman was slowly pushing her small dog in a fancy pram; decorated, horse-drawn carriages were lined up in front of the Plaza waiting for tourists who never came; and out on Sue’s upper-East side terrace, where she had planted 35 tomatoes in painters’ tubs, a nest of baby birds was singing to us. It’s one of those strange, paradoxical moments in time. In the midst of grief, sitting shiva in the middle of this concrete canyon, we realize there is still beauty.

And that’s probably what we are meant to do, reflect on my cousin’s life through our own lens. Someone said she wasn’t a political person, but I knew better. Because around Ada’s kitchen table we let our political hair down, and Sue was always in the middle of the fray, leading the conversation. Maybe with her NYC realtor/colleagues she didn’t voice her opinions, but her family and close friends knew she had the heart of a liberal. Which is why my conversation with the cabby of my taxi on the way to Penn Station was apropos.

He was from Africa. He spoke French “officially.” He got his BA from Baruch College in the Flatiron District and was going to get his masters soon. Just as soon as he gets his green card…

And to wake up at home this morning and hear all about President Obama’s meeting with Gov Perry in TX and speculation about Obama’s decision not to have a “photo-op” holding refugee children at the border yesterday made me feel sick. Particularly when I saw Perry quickly swivel his chair out of sight as the CNN camera started rolling at that meeting with the POTUS. God forbid he should be seen like Gov Chris Christie – embracing our President. Of course Perry would like a picture of Obama holding children he is “…about to deport” as one commentator said.

Because to a politician, it’s appearances that count. And the optics of immigration isn’t very pretty.

My cabby told me there is a French saying about things you may want in life. Bit by bit, the bird builds her nest.

Father and Daughter in NYC

Father and Daughter in NYC

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To the town of Moore, OK – Please accept my sincerest apologies for Wolf Blitzer. Did you see the part where he asked a young woman with her 18 month old if she thought God was with her on Monday because she had the guts to get out of her bathtub and get into her car and drive south, away from that tornado. And when she didn’t answer fast enough he kept pummeling her with this most important question, “Was God with you?” Finally, she smiled and said, “Well actually I’m an atheist.” Sorry Wolf, guess God didn’t run that twister into 2 elementary schools for kicks and giggles either.

This is what I was starting to write about on Monday night; not the sounds of a tornado and the bloviating sounds of carnivorous reporters. I was going to tell you about the sweet country sounds of Spring.

I have a beautiful sister, Kay, who has lived alone in NYC for far too long IMHO. When she visits me, the silence of the country is deafening. No taxis, no jackhammers (well there are the woodpeckers), no gun shots or calls for help. I take that back, we do have hunters shooting in the woods on occasion. No, really, she finds our little mountainous region a bit too serene for her taste. Not much to do, except maybe go to the Earlysville firemen’s spaghetti dinner, or the farmer’s “City” market in Cville. Well not anymore.

This morning I was helping Bob plant a few fig trees in the lower forty. By “helping” I mean I was directing and supervising and cleaning up. Our soil is Albemarle red clay, as hard as bricks and mixed in with flint rocks as big as baseballs. Added to that, I have a bum right shoulder. Lifting and hauling my beautiful little 20+ pounder Love Bug around the last couple of visits has taken its toll. Some physical therapist should invent the grandmother workout – prepare your body for the most lovely, intense physical labor ever! And Jane Fonda should NOT do the video. Here she is very proud of herself for pulling herself up in her crib after a nap! 264582_10200580364125708_198299485_n

Anyway, I was in the woods with Bob when I turned and saw these big, ugly, larvae-looking brown bugs clinging to a small evergreen. I dropped everything and insisted that Bob get his glasses and get a look at them. It’s happened. The cicadas are here!

I’ve been hearing about it on the news, every 17 years la de da. I really didn’t pay much attention, but sure enough, here it is in black and white: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2013/05/13/theyre-here-cicadas-are-emerging/

It’s been raining for days and the ground temperature must have just hit 65 degrees. Bob said, “Listen.” So I listened and screened out the  usual noises of tree frogs and crickets and those pesky woodpeckers and various birdsongs, and underneath it all was this whoosh. Whoose Whoose Whoose. It’s like I wanted the Rocker to come and record it, it was that good. It was like a helicopter getting ready to take off in the distance…it’s the cicadas…

photo copy 3

And that, coupled with the magnificent red cardinal who’s been banging his head against my guest bedroom windows for almost a week now, should put my sister at ease. His mate must be nesting nearby, and he’s telling that mirror reflection of himself to go take a hike. He sits on the sill, then will fly up, wings extended in glorious crimson and attack the window! It’s the territorial imperative at its finest. I thought about that for a second. We could really end all war if we could just get over this territorial thing.photo copy

So please Kay, come back to Virginia. We love you and want to see you.

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Last night, while making dinner, I heard Bob yelling from the living room, “You’ve got to see this, there’s a hawk…” and in the middle of my beans and rice he’s rushing into the kitchen to point out the commotion. Let it be said, I heard the commotion.  There is no TV in the kitchen so I can conjure up culinary delights quietly and without much fuss. One of the first questions the architect we unfortunately had to fire asked us was, “Do you want an open plan kitchen, or do you like this space separate?”  Since I actually cook in my kitchen, pots and pans everywhere, I thought it should be my haven of peaceful mess and creativity. “Private kitchen,” I said.

Turning off the burner, I spied a bunch of black birds buzzing around a tree, having a good old fashioned spring squak-fest. Following Bob’s finger’s line of sight I saw it. At this point my dear husband is proclaiming it to be an eagle. The American Bald Eagle is his favorite bird, really if he could be reincarnated he’d come back as an eagle and soar around on thermal winds. The hawk/eagle was just sitting very haughtily on a dead branch while these pesky black birds were telling him to move on. Bob quietly retreated to fetch his camera and here he is:    Osprey Web 20130508

When we were first married, we lived on the edge of a bird sanctuary in Pittsfield, MA. Wild Guinea Hens would visit our bird feeder and peck around on the ground to give us a show. Later, when we moved to the Jersey Shore, a Great Blue Heron would fly out over our garage most mornings for breakfast in the Shrewsbury tributary. When I discovered 2 old prints of these birds at an antique fair, the hens and the herons, I had them framed and hung in VA.photo copy 4 photo copy 5

Still not sure what bird should represent our Blue Ridge mountain home, I’ve been deciding between the Cardinal, the Blue Bird or the Woodpecker, all very abundant on our land. But truth be told, red-tailed Hawks are almost always flying in the valley.

After sending off the picture to a local birder, we were delighted to find out that this hawk/eagle was actuallyan Osprey!

The last time I saw an Osprey was in Martha’s Vineyard, nesting on top of a pole. But sure enough, this bird of prey likes to migrate through these parts in the spring and fall. Still we’re told, they are rarely seen in the Ivy Creek Natural Area which is a part of the  VA Birding and Wildlife Trail. http://ivycreekfoundation.org/ivycreek.html

Well we missed the annual meeting of the VA Society of Ornithologists, but I’m going to tell Bob to send his picture in to the eBird site http://ebird.org/content/va so they can document the Osprey’s fight path. Maybe he’s heading back to Menemsha pond, where the toddler Bride and I would dig for clams.

And a footnote: yesterday the Bride found a bird in her bathroom. It was a beautiful day so she had left her back door open; luckily she shooed it out the same door!

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When somebody new asks you, “Where are you from?” do you hesitate? I did when we first moved to Cville, but now I say without hesitation, “New Jersey!” It’s usually followed up by how my part of the Jersey Shore is nothing like that reality show on MTV. During our post-Help book club dinner, a woman was talking about how she doesn’t miss California (well except for the weather) and how much she feels at home here in the Blue Ridge. I asked her how long it took her to feel, “…at Home.” She replied ten or twelve years…so I’m halfway there.

Recently I signed up with Patch.com in order to stay connected with my old community. Rumson is where a Great Blue Heron would perch on our garage before heading towards the river for breakfast, elegant Snowy Egrets would strut their stuff in the nearby pond, and a neighbor would serve hot chocolate to the kids assembled to skate in their yard. It is where I served as a School Board Member and wrote numerous Town Columns for the local newspaper. When I return to the sound of a commuter train and the smell of the ocean, I always feel right at home back in the beautiful Garden State.

Which is why I was surprised to find that Bob’s Virginia tomatoes are every bit as delicious as a Jersey tomato. The world famous Jersey tomato had no equal in my mind. But the squash are almost done, and he’s harvesting tomatoes like nobody’s business. While I read in Patch about the stars all over the houses in Fair Haven (right next door to Rumson), and think about how they had plastic pink flamingos in their yards once upon a time, I’ll share the most simple recipe for Tomato Mozzarella Salad. You must make your own vinaigrette:

  • 1 or 2 minced garlic cloves
  • a spurt (1/2 teaspoon) of Grey Poupon mustard
  • chopped fresh herbs – tarragon is best, but thyme and sage will do
  • a few turns of fresh sea salt and pepper
  • About 1/4 cup each of balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Now you whisk everything except the oil together well, then slowly drizzle in the EVOO. I like the small Ciliegine Mozzarella balls and certainly it helps to sprinkle some fresh basil leaves overall. Enjoy.

And speaking of birds…one of my favorite activist columns helped to reverse a Borough ban on feeding “migratory waterfowl.” In other words, our kids could feed the ducks again! Ah the power of the pen, and the mighty tomato.

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