Birding Again

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American Bittern

I really enjoy birding (or bird watching, if you like that term better).  However, I had very little spare time to get outdoors and bird while I was completing my master’s degree.  That changed a couple weeks ago and I took my first opportunity to visit a favorite spot – Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge includes an eight mile wildlife drive that, sadly, was mostly closed for repairs.  However, there were still some really good birds along the parts that were open, including this very cooperative American Bittern.

 

 

 

 

Life Gets Busy – Sometimes

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Happy New Year’s Eve!  It has been a few months since my last post and, yep, it has been busy.  But I am missing my blog and that’s probably a good thing.  As I make up the list of stuff I want to change for 2016, being here a bit more ranks very high.

Here’s a shot of one of my favorite lighthouses – Barnegat Light.  I was there a few days ago with a group of friends, birding along the bay.  The weather patterns of the past few weeks have been very unusual, unusually warm, and the “regular” winter birds were not there in the number or variety that we anticipated. Still, it was a very good day – a bad day of birding is better than a good day at work!

I will get deeper into the reasons for my absence in following posts.  Until then – I hope you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

That took longer than I expected……….

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Sunrise in the New Jersey Pine Barrens

I really could not have imagined that it would take me nearly a year and a half to get back to blogging.  When I finished the post back on the last day of 2014, I expected to take a few weeks off and sort out the result of my big year.

It was a great year and, in addition to learning more about birding in New Jersey than I ever thought possible, I also learned a bit more about myself and the direction in which I wanted to take my life.

What, you ask, did I learn?

To perhaps repeat myself a bit, I learned that (from a birding point of view) I am neither a chaser or a builder of birding lists.  Before the slings and arrows start – I am not saying there’s anything wrong with either activity.  Some folks (including my non-birding wife) enjoy the thrill of the chase and can’t really get excited about simply taking a walk in a park and looking at the “same ole birds”.  Some folks enjoy keeping long lists of the birds they’ve seen, where they saw them, the first and last dates of each year’s observations…and so on and so forth.

Not me.

But learning what I enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) about birding wasn’t the only lesson of my New Jersey Big Year (the blog is still up, by the way, if you want to give it a read).  I discovered that I am truly passionate about nature and climate, and protecting both so that my children, grandchildren, and their children will have a planet worth living in.

Energized by these new self-discoveries, I been busy since my last serious period of blog postings.  I completed training to become a Volunteer Master Naturalist through Stockton College (now Stockton University) and spent several hours last year volunteering for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) at Edwin Forysthe National Wildlife Refuge.  I also continued volunteering for New Jersey Audubon’s Citizen Science program, completing breeding surveys of grassland and pinelands birds.

Perhaps the biggest step, through, has been my enrollment in American Public University’s Master’s Degree in Environmental Policy and Management.  Since June of last year, I have completed five courses toward my degree, expanding my understanding of principles such as environmental economics, adaptive management, toxicology, research techniques, and environmental law.  As you might guess, my graduate studies have taken up an enormous amount of time and left very little for other things – like blogging.

I have decided to take a few weeks off from class work to refresh and re-energize – and I am liking it.  It feels a bit odd not to have a paper due, or a quiz to take, or a forum posting to write.  But odd is good right now and the last couple of weeks have convinced me I was ready for a break.

So what am I doing in my free time?  Attending my grandkids’ sporting events.  Catching up on some reading.

Blogging!

And generally working through a few ideas for the next phase of my graduate work.  I have nearly finished all of the “required” courses and am now moving into to “concentration” portion of my program.  I have a bit more flexibility on which courses to take, which means it is truly decision time for choosing the direction of the remainder of my program.

I am also participating in a Massive Open Online Course or MOOC which is focused on the reasons some people use to justify their denial of science, especially climate science.  Whether you call it global warming or climate change, our planet is experiencing human-caused (anthropogenic) warming and serious steps are necessary to address it.  This course focuses on several areas including (taken from the web site):

  • How to recognize the social and psychological drivers of climate science denial
  • How to better understand climate change: the evidence that it is happening, that humans are causing it and the potential impacts
  • How to identify the techniques and fallacies that climate myths employ to distort climate science
  • How to effectively debunk climate misinformation

I am enjoying the class thus far and learning quite a bit, without the pressure of tests, papers, or grades.

That is what I have been up to over the past several months.  My plan is to get more involved in blogging again and time will tell if I am able to keep it going (this time).  I hope so.

I also hope that you’ll take a few minutes to drop me a note – what have you been up recently?  Any big or small changes in your life?  I’d love to hear all about it!

Until next time….

Greg

Greg’s World – Waking Up

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Hello – Again!

How have you been?   I’ve been busy – My New Jersey Big Year has been a great adventure and gave me a new appreciation for my adopted home state.

About this time last year, I put Greg’s World on snooze patrol to allow more time for blogging and writing Facebook posts about my big year.  As My New Jersey Big Year wraps up, it is a good time for me to start thinking about next year and all my other interests and hobbies that have gone wanting for time or effort.

A lot of non-birding stuff happened since last December and I can’t wait to tell you about some of the other things I’ve been up to – the local tourist in me has been busy finding and exploring new places.   My interests in botany and genealogy have been rekindled, too, and I’ve got some new stuff to share.

I’ve read lots of blogs over the last several months and want to share a few of those with you.   South Africa is in the news today with the passing of a great, great man – Nelson Mandela.   So I’ll start off with 2Summers, a blog about life in Johannesburg, South Africa written by American Heather Mason.

I took the photo at the top of this post on a very, very cold morning last January.  Sunrise is a particularly favorite time of the day for me – whether I’m enjoying a cup of coffee in my warm kitchen or watching the day awaken in a frozen field.

Everything seems possible as the morning sun creeps above the horizon.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy Heather’s blog and I would love to hear your comments.  It feels great to be back!

Greg

 

 

Marsh Birding

 

Wet areas like marshes and swamps are extremely productive for a variety of plants and animals, especially birds.  Many species of birds live out their entire lives near these wet areas.  Here is a juvenile Black-crowned night-heron which, according to Cornell University’s All About Birds website, is one of the most wide spread species in the world.  According to Cornell,  “With a range that spans five continents, including much of North America, the Black-crowned Night-Heron is the most widespread heron in the world. It is most active at dusk and at night, feeding in the same areas that other heron species frequent during the day.”

This young fellow simply stood on the mudflat and watched me as I took several photos.  He didn’t seem at all preturbed by my presence or any of the dozens of cars which drove by while I observed him.

Double-crested cormorant is another common species along the New Jersey shore.  These birds are experts at fishing but must leave the water periodically to allow their feathers to dry.  Unlike most other water fowl, their feathers lack the natural oils that would help keep them afloat.   As they remain in the water, they slowly become less bouyant and will gradually begin to sink.  You can tell how long a cormorant has been fishing by how much of his body remains above the water’s surface.  Looks like these two were just getting started.

Clapper rails are very secretive bird and are much more often heard than seen.  However, at low tide , you might get lucky enough to find one foraging along the water’s edge – like this fellow.  The body of Clappers, like many of the rails, are laterally compressed  so that they appear very thin for their height.  Ever heard the saying “thin as a rail”? 

This bird hung out for quite some time along the water’s edge and allowed me to capture this image.  All together, a pretty neat day in the marsh!

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmers are summer residents of the Jersey shore, breeding in areas protected from beach goers and pets. I usually find them in late summer as they are preparing for their long commute to winter homes along the shores of Central and South America.  Skimmers feed by flying near the top of the water with their lower bill partly submerged. An encounter a small fish causes the Skimmer to snap shut its bill, hopefull catching a tasty meal.

According to Cornell University’s All About Birds website, “the remarkable bill of the Black Skimmer sets it apart from all other American birds. The large red and black bill is knife-thin and the lower mandible is longer than the upper.”   I watched several Skimmers feeding in the shallow waterways of Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago and managed to snap some photos as they skirted along the water’s surface.  Their flight is deceptively fast, so tracking them with the camera was a challenge.