Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Working Hard at Tuckerton

This week, I have been working with Tuckerton Seaport Museum to set up a new cash register system for their gift shop. Tuckerton Seaport is a cute place in Tuckerton - north of Atlantic City on Route 9 - that shows visitors the back bay lifestyle from years past and today.  They have displays in the museum and also a village set up of old houses and storefronts which is pretty cool.  Out back, they have a dock and various boats that baymen use for clamming and duck hunting (yes, duck hunting).   They also have a chicken coup and 2 goats in a pen to show how people would have kept their own livestock for eggs, milk and meat. The gift shop is terrific too with lots of duck decoys and other nautical items to purchase.

This year, the Seaport was asking to help raise Bobwhites to repopulate some areas of NJ with the bird.  They had over 100 eggs which hatched and now they have the Bobwhites in a "flight cage" out back.  Here is a photo of some of the birds:

Bobwhite fledglings

The guy that I am working with to set up the cash registers had to go feed the Bobwhite on Friday and of course, I said that I would help.  We both went into the pen.  While I was snapping photos with my iPhone, Nick went to refill the water dishes.  I was just happy to keep shooting photo and video like this:

Bobwhite in the shelter

Little did I realize that the back door was open while I was filming - look again - and the little birds were escaping one by one in single file like school kids during recess!  Aahhhh!  I yelled for Nick but I couldn't get close to the door without scaring the rest of the birds out, so I just stood there watching them go outside one by one until Nick ran over and closed the door.

Next thing I know, the 2 of us are trying to herd the Bobwhites back into the pen where they obviously didn't want to be.  Picture me waiving 2 pirate shirts - yes pirate shirts - at these little birds while Nick used a fishing net to catch them one by one.  Hysterical!  Meanwhile, other visitors are staring at us and other staff are trying to explain the situation by saying "this never happened before"  and stuff like that.  I think we got them all back into the pen.  If not, keep your ears open for the sound of  "Bob - white" next time you are near Atlantic City.

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Lowest Point Yet

Well folks, I am officially at my lowest point ever.  Rock bottom.  In despair. Can't get over it.  Need some sort of make over.  Here I am at 48 years old and unable to complete a hike in the woods without sweating, gasping, and shuffling my way up the last "bonus" hill.  Embarrassing is an understatement.

It started with an email from Frank stating that he was excited that Connie and I would be in Potter county over July 4th and could accompany him and Norm (both older than me) on the next leg of their hiking circuit on a trail called the Donut Hole.  I was excited too.  It was an opportunity for me to hike with some really nice people who had experience hiking these mountain trails.  The trip was scheduled for 6 - 8 miles and we all anticipated being back to the camp in time for an afternoon swim in the stream. 

We were all set to leave at 5:30 AM (which turned into 6:15) and get on the trail early (which turned into 8:40 AM) with a great group of hikers including Frank, his son Jamie and new wife Katelyn, Frank's daughter Erica and her husband John and their 2 children, Justin and his girlfriend (another, younger, stronger, faster, prettier Linda), and me (the older, slower, fatter Linda) - and of course Roxy and Jamie's new puppy were in tow too.  Off we went - up, up, up, and up some more on a steady incline which lasted a loooong time.  I was immediately the last one in line.  The younger, faster, prettier people were soon out of sight . . .

I managed to pass Frank at one point during the long uphill (click the Play button):

Frank, Frank, Frank hiking the Donut Hole trail

Once we got up the first hill, we went up some more, then some more.  Then finally, it leveled out a bit.  The group was still way in front of me.

Hikers on the Donut Hole trail

The young and fit people kept going, following the trail which had not been used in quite some time.  It was overgrown in most places forcing the people in the front of the group to look for the orange trail blazes so that we didn't end up lost (like they did last year).  The trees with the blazes on them were missing in some places which made me glad that we were with experienced hikers. 

Mind you, I was just huffing and puffing along in the back of the group.  Frankly, they could have been going anywhere and I would have just followed along.

Good news - A Rattle snake crossed our path!  How is this good news?  It is GREAT news because it made everyone stop hiking for a few minutes while we watched the snake and I caught my breath.  Good news because Justin saw it before he stepped on it.  Good news because everyone in the group got to hear that sound that you know is a primal warning even though you never heard it before.  Good news that young and old alike stopped dead in their tracks when the shshshshshshhshhhhhhhh broke the sound of our footsteps (and panting).  Young and old alike instinctively grabbed the dogs and the kids (not necessarily in that order).  Good news that the snake coiled up and sat there while we all got great views of this magnificent creature.  Good news that I happened to bring the iPhone and my camera along too.

Rattle Snake - Part 1
And really Good News that Justin has a snake as a pet, so he knows how to approach them without getting bit or harming the snake.

Rattle Snake - Part 2

Rattle Snake close up
We spent about 5 minutes with the snake and then it was back to the hike at break neck speed.  I spent some time in the afternoon acting like I was bird watching and taking pictures of bear poop just so that the group didn't think that I couldn't keep up (which I couldn't).

 Bear Poop on the trail

By this time I was sweating so bad that I couldn't see through the salt that was streaming into my eyes. Roxy was panting behind me full of sticky sap from the ferns.  It was beginning to look like I would hold up the group when Frank declared - "oh good, another bonus"!  "Bonus" to Frank means another hill.  I wanted to cry but I was too dry to produce tears. . .

Up, up, up we went.  Then up some more.  This time, it seemed like we were going straight up.  Everyone was out of sight now - the pretty people, the children, even Frank. All out of sight.  I shuffled along like an old woman.  Frank broke the sound of panting and temple pulse by yelling that they had found the Fire Tower!  This was good news.  It was all down hill from there.

After another mile of downhill hiking, we came to the end of the 11 mile trail.  There was an old, rusty pipe protruding from the side of the hill at the roadside with spring water streaming from it.  I did the unthinkable.  I filled my water bottle and drank it.  Giardia be damned.  I'll deal with that later.  Water never tasted so good.  Neither did the beer that Frank treated everyone to when we arrived at the Wharton Tavern.

Mortified doesn't begin to describe how I felt after that hike.  But remember, none of the pretty people were having hot flashes!  I had a great time.  A hike to remember.  We will be talking about the Rattle Snake forever.  The pretty people won't remember that I was holding them up (I hope).  I'll get over the hot flashes (I hope).  I can't wait for nest year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Finally - A Summer Post

Have you missed the blog?  If so, sorry about the lapse.  If not, well maybe I'm wasting my time here. Oh well, I'll tell you a story anyway. It has been almost a month since my last post - mostly because there hasn't been anything birdy to report.  Same old stuff happening in the yard at home and at the beach. There is only so much you can write about Laughing Gulls on the beach before it gets really boring.  It is very interesting that late June and early July are pretty void of bird activity that is worthy of a post.  The other reason for the lack of posts is that I have been walking/birding without lugging the camera due to the excessive heat here in the Philly area.

The good news is that Connie and I headed up to her cabin in Potter County over July 4th week in lieu of the shore. We had a great time birding, hiking and riding motorcycles. Guess where all of the warblers go after they pass through Cape May and Philly?  You are correct if you guessed Potter County.  We tallied 67 species of birds which included 12 species of warblers - Ovenbirds protecting their nest, Blackburnians all around the cabin, Black-throated Greens and Blues, Chestnut-sided along the mountain vistas, quite a few Magnolia warblers who obliged by sitting right in front of us, and good looks at Hooded warblers which are usually heard but not seen.  We also heard alot of Cuckoos in the woods this year which is always a good sign since they are some of the only birds that eat those dreaded tent caterpillars.

Here is the Ovenbird defending its nest when Roxy and I got too close.  I think this is the male since he was the first to object to our presence.  Check out his orange crown feathers which are standing up to make him look fierce.

Here is the other parent chattering from the other side of the trail trying to lure us away from the nest area.  I never did find the nest - which I am told looks like an oven (hence, the name of the bird) and is usually on the ground near a tree trunk.


Male Hooded Warbler - Potter County

We also get to see Black-capped Chickadees in Potter County. You may be thinking - "who cares?" Well these birds are different from the Chickadees that we see at home which are Carolina Chickadees.  They look ALOT alike to the point that only really experienced birders would be able to tell them apart, but they sound different which makes it possible for amateurs like me to make a correct ID.

Black-capped Chickadee

My favorite sparrow - the Chipping Sparrow - had babies all around the cabin.  I almost stepped on this one before it flew up into the pine tree.

 Baby Chipping Sparrow - notice the short tail and dull color

We watched the parents scurrying around catching bugs to feed the growing babies.  The birds even came up to the screen door to catch bugs.  I thought they wanted to come into the air conditioning for a minute to cool off!

Adult Chipping Sparrow - with a bug in its beak ready to feed the baby

Lots more to tell you about the trip.  Stay tuned for more in a day or so.